Posted by: Ciaran | December 20, 2009

Reasons to love travelling #10 – People

People make places what they are, so if you really want to get to know a place then you really have to get to know its people.  When I was in India over the summer I got used to everyone wanting to be my friend, ask me invasive personal questions, and try and sell me things I didn’t want or need (the pick of the bunch probably being the guy with the cat o’ nine tails outside Agra Fort).

Then, there was this little scamp:

Drawing up water from a well in Jaisalmer

I met him first in the above picture, when I was helping him draw up water from a well just outside Jaisalmer (to feature in a later Changing places post).  His first priority was to try and thieve my sunglasses and it was amusing trying to evade his attempts while also letting him try them on and look trendy in front of his friends.

I then met him again the next day when he was sat outside a temple; he ended up being ‘on my side’ in an Indian board game which seemed to be draughts crossed with snooker and resulted, unsurprisingly, in me having to buy a round of drinks for everyone.  Unfortunately, in India, you do tend to get scammed but on the most part it is fairly good-natured (and a round of bottles of lager was a lot cheaper than it would be in this country).

The culture of crafty vendors out to exploit tourists was explained to me by this wonderful man:

Myself and Riyaz in Jodhpur

Riyaz Ahmed is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met and may well get a blog post all to himself one day soon.  For the first two weeks I was in India he was my driver, guide, interpreter, and my friend.  His English was a lot better than my Hindi (though he did teach me some) and we managed to have reasonably good conversations. 

His life story was extraordinary, and made me realise every day how privileged I am by the mere coincidence of where I happened to be born.  Riyaz was brilliant; from asking me whether we had many camels in the streets of England to trying to entice me to eat neem tree, he was endlessly kind and entertaining.

Riyaz trying - and failing - to teach me yoga

He even attempted to teach me the (very difficult) discipline of yoga.  Through no fault of his own, he didn’t succeed; as the picture shows, I have the co-ordination of a sedated yak.  But he did teach me many, many things; and of all, the most was that to truly know a place, you must first know its people.

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Responses

  1. I can only hope that I’ll meet some equally kind and interesting characters on my travels – I’ve been told and can well believe that the people you meet make travelling what it is.

  2. interesting 10 reasons to love travelling…read them all. #10 is special, though.

    • Thanks 🙂 Plenty more to come, keep reading!


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