Tips from James
With the tour now finished and most riders and staff back home with families or travelling onward on their own, staffer James has some tips for future riders of the Indian Adventure.
India is a big, complicated country; some may find it intimidating, and most will find it confounding. But don’t worry, if you’re scheming to do the next Indian Adventure with Tour d’Afrique, you have just enough time to plan, prepare, and study; so you’ll be ready to face anything the country throws at you and avoid unnecessary confusion, frustrations or misunderstandings. Here are a few simple steps to get you going:
1) Rewire your entire house
This may seem like a monumental task, but you actually don’t have to complete it. In fact, it would even be ideal if you didn’t complete it, because leaving a few naked wires dangling from haphazard holes in your drywall will actually create a more realistic feel. What is important is that you follow no discernible logic in the rewiring process, and that an excess of control nobs and switches are produced. Ensure that the switch that controls your ceiling fan is the most difficult to locate, and that it is impossible to turn off your TV without unplugging it. This will make you feel right at home when you arrive to India.
2) Get a grasp on Indian religions
Brush up on your gods, goddesses, deities, and their myriad of avatars. It is not enough to simply know the popular aspects of Hindu philosophy: yoga, meditation, karma, etc. Acquaint yourself as well with Islam and Sufi mysticism. Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all sprouted from this land, so you should learn a thing or two about them as well. Don’t neglect to explore the ancient history of Judaism and Zoroastrianism in the country, not to mention the influence of Christianity.
3) Pick up the local language
Hindi may seem like the obvious choice here, as it’s the country’s official language, but by now, you may have picked up on the fact that it’s never quite that simple here. While Hindi is the official national language, it’s only spoken as a native language by about a quarter of the population. Each state has its own language, bringing the total number of official languages in the country to 22, which are written in eleven completely different scripts. Truth is, you can get by with English pretty well in most places, so rest easy on this one.
4) Confused yet?
That’s fine, just don’t show it; instead, master the Indian head wobble and perplex your friends. For an explanation of the head wobble, click here.
On a more serious note, my late friend Tim Fuller had this to say of his time in India, after returning from a four-month motorcycle trip around the country:
“One thing’s for sure, when you’re in India, trying to stick to your precious ideals about what is “decent and right” behaviour will only get you pissed off. Because the billion other people around you don’t necessarily share those ideals and it has to be harder to change the ways of a billion other people than to be a bit flexible with your own moral standpoints, no? I love India for many reasons, but mostly for this: India delivers whatever you call forth. It’s amazing, if you’re feeling pissed off, outraged, frustrated, or infuriated, then believe me, India has no shortage of crap to rain down on you. But if you’re feeling wonderful, then India is packed with magic, just around each turn, and it loves to deliver. It all starts in the mind, go with the flow and learn how to steer”