India has one of the longest railway networks in the world and Indians have been travelling via train since 1853. Yes, it’s been more than 160 years and without a doubt, it is a quintessential India experience! And, only a maven of India will opt for this comparatively cheaper mode of transport, instead of flights, which are usually heavy on the pocket.
Another quintessential India experience is taking a rickshaw ride, wiggling its way through the slim lanes and heavy traffic. These are cheaper and faster, and one of the best ways to see the city. It may seem like a rollercoaster ride the first time, but later you enjoy the ride like an expert. Also, you may eventually end up knowing everything about your rickshaw puller, as they like indulging in small talk.
Be it shopping, travelling or anything for that matter (and, anywhere and anytime), haggling is customary in India. The first price point offered is definitely not the last one. Is it disrespectful? Definite no! Is it true blue Indian trait? Absolute yes! As they say, a penny saved is a penny earned, right?
India is home to different religions and there are holy places of various faiths. The spiritual side of this diverse land will undoubtedly delight you. And, you can claim that much-coveted title of expert if you’ve visited at least one too many sacred places.
Perhaps for Indians, the evening or midnight snacks aren’t in the fridge, rather they are on the street food stalls that are tucked away in every nook and corner of the country. To call yourself a true local, savor the street food that is super delicious (and you can rest assured that you’ll not fall ill; just don’t over-eat!).
Another thing that Indians are fond of is spicy food, even if it sets the tongue ablaze and makes you weep. Though you need to have guts of steel, but if you’ve managed to eat the spicy food, you really can live in India.
Be it sari (a five to nine yards garment draped in different and unique styles) or Salwar Kameez, coupled with ethnic jewellery (for women) and Kurta pyjama or dhoti kurta (for men), if you have worn these traditional outfits, you’ll look less like an out-of-towner, and more like a local.
India is a shopper’s paradise and shoppers can vouch for that. There are sumptuous malls, shops and flea markets. And, one of the locals’ best spots are flea markets and street shops. India has a unique and unconventional way of setting up petite street shops and stalls that sell everything from fashion to trinkets and knick-knacks. You name it, you get it. Perk: everything is affordable.
Traffic jams, busy roads and large crowds are common in India. One sight you’ll often witness is pedestrians crossing the busy street and dashing through the heavy traffic and crowds – it’s a skill in itself. And, if you’ve done this successfully, give yourself a pat on the back. Now you are a bona fide crowd or traffic navigator, who is unfazed by the busy streets.
One of the talking points among locals is cricket. In fact, Cricket is a pseudo-religion in India. Not only is cricket worshipped, but on game-day, there are road rallies and the bursting of firecrackers, if India wins a match against any team! And you’re not a true India expert, unless you’ve joined in to play gully cricket (street cricket) or have watched the sport and been a part of the celebrations.
Jugaad, literally means, hack. It basically refers to finding a cost-effective, innovative and a quick way to solve any problem using limited resources. Some even call it a ‘frugal engineering concept’. Only a true India expert can solve even the trickiest problem by Jugaad.
India is home to a myriad of historical monuments that reflects its rich past. In fact, at every nook and corner you’ll be greeted by a majestic piece of history and architecture. No trip to India is complete without visiting at least one of the historical places. Moreover, no trip is complete without seeing at least the world-famous ‘Taj Mahal’ – one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a brilliant piece of architecture, like no other in the world.
Though it’s hard for an outsider to decipher whether it’s a yes, no or maybe, locals understand this gesture of wobbling/shaking head perfectly. And, if you understand it and do that right, it indicates you are a local.
Though Indians are expert in eating with knife and fork, and have even mastered the art of eating with chopsticks, they still use hands to dig into delicious meals. Wondering why? For a feeling of satiety and happier tummy! If you haven’t eaten food with bare hands, you aren’t an expert on India just yet.
India is the land where tea is a vital element of everyday life – everyone needs a cuppa, especially in the mornings. There is nothing more fascinating and tempting than the tantalizing smell of the chai. And, if you haven’t been addicted to tea, you definitely haven’t lived like a local and are not an India expert, just yet.
Just like cricket, Bollywood is followed religiously in India. In fact, Indians never ever shy away from shaking a leg or two on a Bollywood number, be it at an Indian wedding or at a party, irrespective of knowing it or not. And, now you also follow it religiously and keep a tab on the latest Bollywood dance moves!
If you want to blend in and be like a local, then take part in their festivals that bind them together. There are umpteen numbers of festivals celebrated in India, all year-round. And, these are a perfect manifestation of India’s rich and diverse traditions, cultures and religions. That said, by involving in these festivals, you’ll not only experience the different cultures/traditions first-hand, but also seem more like a local.
You might be a tourist or a national – either way, if you’ve been in India for a considerable amount of time, then you probably have mastered more than one language, especially Hindi (although English is widely spoken and understood across India). A true India expert will know how to say, “Hello”, “thank you”, “alright”, “yes” or “no”, in Hindi.