The open road is every traveller’s best friend. Except in India, it’s more like a temperamental bestie. Every few kilometers you learn to anticipate mood swings, potholes and the frequent bullock and his family. But there isn’t anything quite like the open road in India, especially when you leave the cities behind. The beauty of the landscapes and the homes that dot it; the smiles you will often see from your window and the simplicity of a chai in a ramshackle stall in the middle of nowhere make the bumps and disappearance of the road at times, more than worth it.
Here is my ready reckoner of all the things you need to take; and sometimes leave behind, on the road in India.
- Tissue paper- You can lose the co-passenger but not the tissue box. This is your best friend on the Indian road. For one, a small bird with a big stomach issue might decide your shoulder is the appropriate spot to vent. This can also most probably happen to you. I mean the stomach issue… you are travelling through India you know. If you’re travelling in April and during Holi (the festival of throwing colour) there’s more of a reason you’d need wads of the thing in order not to look like you’ve just emerged from a slaughter house. Tissue is not easy to come by – even at public restrooms on the road. In fact especially public restrooms (more on that later). And you will need it to stay safe, clean and sane on the road.
- Hand Sanitizer. There are a million and one things to see in India. A hospital ceiling is not one of them. I personally avoid all medical issues anywhere and any time on the journey with a vengeance. A simple rule- vaporize every little mite each time you plan to eat and go-to or leave the restroom. There, you’re now a smart traveller and a new entrant into the world of OCDs.
- Bottled water. I cannot emphasize this one enough. Eat all the street food you want. Binge on all the spice you can challenge yourself to, but DO NOT drink the water served. Buy a bottle of packaged mineral water and you’re good to go (back on the road, not to the loo). Even seasoned foodies in India follow this simple rule to avoid all sorts of bugs. Besides, fifty percent of the joy of travelling through India is sampling the various regional cuisines, you don’t want to miss this.
- Patience– Well, this isn’t something you can carry, but it can serve you well on the Indian road. Girls, you may need to learn this quite quickly – the restrooms are really few and far between and usable ones are hard to find. Patience will also get you through traffic jams caused for no apparent reason and roadblocks caused by someone forgetting to remove them from the previous day. It will also get you through interminable queues at popular sights, because what you thought was a line was just a bunch of people standing and doing nothing near the real queue- which actually looks like a bunch of people standing and doing nothing.
- A phrase book or google translate. Most of India knows at least a smattering of English. But in the absence of a navigation device and actually even if you have one, a phrase book to get about is a great help. Most of the smaller roads are not yet mapped on devices, well at least the ones that I’ve been on and it helps to ask a local. Unlike my trips to Europe where finding a human to ask was more difficult than finding the place; in India, with a population of 1 billion-gazillion, there’s no such problem.