When I think of India , I think of ...
Cows. I just can't avoid mentioning them first. Of course I knew the pictures from India, I knew that the animals there are sacred and omnipresent. And yet I was blown away by how locally they are part of all public life.
So cows. Fat cows, rickety cows. Individually and in the herd, tied and free, lying across the road, standing lengthways along the median. It happens that you have to gently push her to the side in narrow alleys. And the question arises: how the hell did the cow get there, the steep stairs up to the temple or on this balcony?
In general: the coexistence of humans and animals. Water buffalo, monkeys, wild boar, goats and dogs live in cities as naturally as cows. And it is better to take them seriously than road users.
Everything else you hear about traffic in India is true.
Half-finished ghost houses on the side of the road, many of which have walls and floors but no roofs or facades. Lined-up stalls selling exactly the same chips and sweets. Brightly colored Shiva plastic dolls under small tent pavilions every few kilometers. Temples with flashing fairy lights and overdriven Hindu chants that spring out of the boxes next door.
Incomparable moments on the Ganges in Varanasi. The public burns to death at the Manikarnika Ghat, which left me speechless. Ganga Aarti, the evening religious ritual on the banks of the sacred river with fire and smoke, drums and singing.
The certainty that someone is lying or sitting on every traffic island and there is so little space there.
Children who relieve themselves on the street. (I recently read: In rural areas, more than 65 percent of the population do not have a toilet and the majority of Indians do not want one either, for fear that they will contaminate their homes.)
Rubbish. Lots of garbage. On slopes, in ditches, in knee-high piles in the city center, where cows or wild boars dig for food.
The Taj Mahal. To be more precise: the moment when - despite being squeezed and shrieked by law enforcement officers - you push yourself in awe through the famous entrance gate that frames the magnificent building.
This is what I tell first when someone asks "What was India like?" These are the impressions that remain. I am deeply grateful to everyone.
Many thanks to Incredible India for the invitation to India.