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Why Do White People Travel To India?
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It’s hard to write an article about India – I mean, when you’re a white girl who grew up with ballet classes and whole-wheat sandwiches cling-filmed neatly in your lunchbox – without sounding like a dick. It’s not India’s fault.

It’s filthy and impoverished, existing in a state of finely balanced, bewildering chaos. One billion people live there, eating and sleeping and praying in an endless cycle of human life that is raw and rich. They don’t have time for us; they’re hustling each day to survive. And yet white people have had this fascination with that vast subcontinent for centuries. As colonialists, we lived on intricately carved houseboats in Kashmir and hunted tigers in Rajahstan. Now we love nothing more than months shitting our brains out while shuffling around in purple harem pants clutching a copy of Shantaram. And it’s really hard to explain the appeal of this, or why, even after the hippies gave up and fat, beastly Russians invaded Goa, it remains a rite of passage on the traveller triangle through Asia.

I ended up there by mistake. I was working as a nanny in New York. I spent my nights getting trashed at pretentious clubs and my days staring vacant-eyed at two precocious brats that ignored everything I said. I lived in an empty, soulless apartment with no duvet and an open suitcase on the floor that suggested I’d recently arrived (I hadn’t). By December, I was fed up. I called my parents to announce I was moving to Las Vegas with a friend. I figured I’d work as a club hostess, fill my empty suitcase with cash and rent a condo with a pool. Then India intervened.

My first trip didn’t start with the intention of enlightenment. I was bored and restless and a free plane ticket was chucked my way when a British charity decided they wanted someone to report back on their micro-finance projects. But since it’s India and toilet talk seeps into every aspect of conversation, let’s just say this: shit got real. Instead of Vegas’ easy-time sequins and sparkles, I was thrust into a culture where I was an oddity, a freckled freakshow that provoked one glossy-haired girl in Mumbai to ask why I didn’t do something about all those spots on my face. And I was alone. Without the familiar shield of friends, I lived at the mercy of several wonderful Indian families that acted as hosts throughout my six weeks in Meghalaya, a remote north-eastern state sandwiched next to Bangladesh. I slept three in bed (it wasn’t sexy). I gagged as I ate goat curry for breakfast. I spent 72 hours on a train, trying desperately to avoid trips to a fetid, crusty bathroom that looked like the apocalypse had just hit. I’d traded clubs for curry – and survived.

When I returned to London, several things had changed. One – I was skinny. Whenever white people talk about going to India, the conversation inevitably turns to how much weight they’ll lose. Isn’t that fucked up? 40 per cent of the world’s malnourished children live in India – these wretched, gobby, grime-coated kids that run around in feral packs with hands outstretched for money – and yet it’s still hard not to feel smug when family members clasp your emaciated arm and praise you for basically contracting dysentery while you were away. Two – I was judgmental. For a while, I had an internal monologue that thought deeply obnoxious things like, “Listen to my mum complaining about the English train system. It’s a shame she isn’t as worldly and experienced as me… etcetera.” Three – I wanted to go back.

My parents claim that I changed after that first trip. I think what they mean by that is I became a less frightful version of the self-centred, self-destructive whirlwind of animosity that had wreaked destruction during my teenage years.

It’s difficult to feel entitled when you’re confronted with nothing. I mean, it’s not like Indians are perfect. There’s a lot of public pissing and nose-picking and intense, creepy staring going on. Once, a man who looked like Hannibal Lecter proudly cupped my friend’s breast while she was posing for a photo. But even when the lines are long and the bureaucracy is brutal, they just get on with things. You’ve gotta respect that.

I’ve had three trips now: extended trips that involved quitting my job and throwing going-away parties in case I never came back. Each trip was different and difficult in its own way – varying degrees of loneliness, the back-breaking discipline of yoga twice a day, some nasty stomach bugs – which leads me back to the original question: Why the hell do white people love traveling around India? And I’ve realised it’s because we like a bit of adversity. That may sound rich coming from someone who has grown up in the kind of smug communities that spout liberalism from The Guardian while carefully secluding themselves from any kind of ethnic or socio-economic integration, but that’s precisely WHY India appeals. Life in the West can feel like the inside of a hamster wheel, and nothing pops that sanitised bubble of privilege faster than the sub-continent. It’s a sweating, pulsing hum of humanity, exposing poverty and degradation like a punch in the stomach whilst shamelessly seducing with a kaleidoscope of colors and an infinite cacophony of noise that echoes from the po-faced Himalayas. Rudyard Kipling, who immortalised India through classics like The Jungle Book, summed it up best: “Now India is a place beyond all others where one must not take things too seriously – the midday sun always excepted.”

Photo by Pip Usher.

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About The Author

Pip Usher

Pip has been writing since she was a small kid running wild in the woods of New England but she'd prefer to describe herself as a collector of passports and master of grand schemes. Her interests include traveling compulsively and LOLing in an ironic way. Since moving to Beirut, Pip has worked with A magazine and The Outpost.

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  • Nur Turkmani

    Love this

  • alinech

    Great Article..

  • yara

    excellent hook.

  • Shane

    “Life in the West can feel like the inside of a hamster wheel, and nothing pops that sanitised bubble of privilege faster than the sub-continent.” – finely put.

  • Kanan Alexander

    Well written… wish I could write like that

  • Guest

    “India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all” Will Durant, American historian

  • Alex

    Are you fucking kidding me? What you wrote was disgustingly racist and complete crap. I’m an American that traveled to India and this is one the worst articles I read! Completely inaccurate. India isn’t “disgusting” or “weird” like the way you make it seem. You labelled the entire nation out of one lousy visit and only see it in negative light, how about the positive? India was like any other country; they had plenty of nice malls and restaurant, great architecture, fascinating culture, lots of beautiful nature and friendly
    people. Yes there are bad parts but also good parts. If you’re only going to
    travel to the bad parts of India then yes you’ll have a tough experience, it’s
    like going to Detroit then saying all of America is like that. Honestly don’t
    bother visiting foreign countries if you’re going to look down on the entire
    culture and people. This is equivalent to Americans travelling to Africa and the Philippines then adopts a child as an accessory. The problem isn’t India or any foreign country; it’s your pretentious and condescending attitude towards
    others that are different then you. Stay out of other countries if you feel the
    need to look down on them and criticize the entire nation. Trust me it’s not hard to write an article about India without sounding like a dick, it’s only hard you’re a self-entitled racist. Unbelievable.

  • truth

    no IndiA is not the motherland towards white people. white people are not from IndiA at all.lay off the narcotics.

  • truth

    to all you white people. you are crooks and made IndiA poverty learn your damn history,it was your race who plundered over 695 trillion GBP of wealth the Kohinoor diamonds,marbles,crystal throne,huma bird artifacts,and golden crown.next time you come to our country you might not be so lucky stay out of our country and go to Europe caves where you belong.!

  • Lucy Johnson

    Third world savages equal a poor, third world hellhole.

  • truth

    yes and that explains why you whites left your filthy cave to come to America a brownskinned native indigenous indian land. whites have no world if we get down and technical considering whites are not even a ancient race .funny how whites talk allot of smack yet whites are using Indians invention of language.

  • kartashok

    Go rape your dog like pig skinned f@ggots regularly do. Whites are the biggest savages on earth, EVERYTHING you have is from robbing, raping and pillaging non-whites for 500 years. Medieval Europe was the DIRTIEST and most SICKENING SAVAGE region of the world in 1500 and that’s how whites will end up once non-whites take power back from you.

  • kartashok

    Too bad you weren’t brutally murdered on your visit to India. Thank God the Jews, Chinese and Muslims are actively committing white genocide on your terrorist race.

  • kartashok

    I hope you get raped and murdered by Muslims some day, you disgusting white whore.

  • kartashok

    This is textbook British arrogance and culture, I’ve found white Americans to be VERY different from their British cousins. White Americans are practical, white Brits are snooty imperialist scum.

  • Nikhil1911

    “Powerful Empires existed and flourished here in India while Englishmen were still wandering painted in the woods, and while the British Colonies were a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark upon the history, the philosophy and the religion of mankind, than any other terrestrial unit in the universe.

    While we hold onto India we are a first rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third rate power. This is the value of India.”
    -
    Lord Curzon, British Viceroy, 190, Speech at Delhi Durbar

  • RazorIsBack

    Here bro, check this out from their own British:

    “Powerful Empires existed and flourished here in India while Englishmen
    were still wandering painted in the woods, and while the British
    Colonies were a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark
    upon the history, the philosophy and the religion of mankind, than any
    other terrestrial unit in the universe.

    While we hold onto India
    we are a first rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third
    rate power. This is the value of India.”
    -
    Lord Curzon, British Viceroy, 1901, Speech at Delhi Durbar

  • RazorIsBack

    Without India, West would have been a jungle right now:

    Powerful Empires existed and flourished here in India while Englishmen
    were still wandering painted in the woods, and while the British Colonies were a wilderness and a jungle. India has left a deeper mark upon the history, the philosophy and the religion of mankind, than any other terrestrial unit in the universe.

    While we hold onto India we are a first rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third rate power. This is the value of India.”
    -
    Lord Curzon, British Viceroy, 1901, Speech at Delhi Durbar

  • RazorIsBack

    Without India you whites be jumping from trees to trees, fucking animals and child sex, bestalility even now without India:

    “Five thousand years ago, civilization of India was age-old. This civilization should be much older with many millennia of human endeavor behind it. Five thousand years ago, when the peoples
    of Europe were hauling stones across the face of the continent and grubbing out a meager existence,

    Indians throughout what is now western and southern Pakistan and Punjab, and even farther to the East, were living in elaborately designed cities, with sturdy houses, broad, straight roads, public baths, and drainage systems that were hardly equaled until the Roman era three thousand years later…. But five thousand years ago, according to archeologist John Marshal, the Indus Valley civilization was already age-old and stereotyped on Indian soil, with many millennia of human endeavor behind it. Usually we think of Mesopotamia as the cradle of civilization, but evidence suggests that the society of northwestern India, which has preserved its essential spirit over countless generations, deserve equal billing.”
    -
    Professor James Traub

  • truth

    ya you are right and that’s why America is going down the Sh-holE because whites are in it ILLEGALLY!. IndiA is about to surpass japan and become3rd biggest economy. only reason why America got to where it was because of wars and selling weapons arms. America is going to collapse and china is about to use the yuan and stop using the dollar. nobody likes America because of smelly honkys. funny thing is out of all the European countries not one has ever become a superpower in economy and yet there was nothing ever holding it back no invasion no nothing .IndiA got its independence back 70 years ago and is 3rd to the top and will inevitably pass America then china once china ends up declining through old age.have a nice pissfit while I enjoy the reality you must have to face. .

  • truth

    whats a third world when whites don’t even have a home to call their own.last I checked Europe is a fictional name and holds no grounds it certainly aint separate continent from AsiA and is a giant landmass by tectonic plate and whites are not a ancient race so whites should get the fk out of our entire non white planet.also quit using all of IndiAs inventions such as language and education which makes technology even possible.whites are sheer utter garbagE’ and have no culture nothing indigenous no religion no nothing even Christianity is not a white religion.quit using toilets plumbing and drainage that all comes from INDIA not the smelly pink skin! I will be waiting for your butthurt pissy response as i can guarantee you cant combat nor argue the reality of facts I state. quit using everything which came from INDIA especially surgery and medicine ,martial arts,music,drums,stringed instrument which guitar got its idea from our Veena instrument,religion,philosophy,rituals,meditation,orayer,handstogether in prayer,mantras,yoga,arithmetic,science,space science,commerce,accounts,documentation,decimalsystem,geometry,trigonometry,negative numbers,number zero,numbers,calculus,archery,,knowledge of economics,knowledge of Aeronautics,knowledge of politics,mythology,cotton clothing,game ofchess,radio,email,language,linguistics,grammar,literature,laws of gravity,revolution of earth,counting,third eye of knowledge,university which IndiA invented first university in the entire world you fkn white smelly jibheadedJackoff!

  • truth

    quit using shampoo that also comes from IndiA.tell your ugly hermaphrodite white women to stop wearing toe rings.whites should stop wearing headdresses horned helmets as that didn’t come from vikings that is from Nag tribes in IndiA’ if it wasn’t for us you wouldn’t have a FkG thing ignorant retard idioT’ quit using our swastika quit claiming you are Aryans.why you using all that schmuck quit using all that stuff that stuff was invented by BROWNSKINNED HINDU INDIANS not pinkskin LGBT FGTS! DeatH/ to all crackers .

  • truth

    beastiality is still being legalized in Denmark go research it.whites fk cats dogs and even horses. animal brothel is still legalized there.

  • truth

    Indians civilization is over 13,000 years old. the indian swastika is older than the Egyptian AnkH

  • RazorIsBack

    Give me your Facebook Account bro, I will tell you technology that will revolutonise electricity. Quantum Physics came from India said by Quantum Physicsts themselves:

    The unity and continuity of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of wave mechanics. In 1925, the world view
    of physics was a model of a great machine composed of separable
    interacting material particles. During the next few years, Schrodinger
    and Heisenberg and their followers created a universe based on super imposed inseparable waves of probability amplitudes. This new view would be entirely consistent with the Vedantic concept of All in One.

    Walter J. Moore in Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989) ISBN 0521437679

  • truth

    hello there sorry I don’t have a facebook account.

  • RazorIsBack

    Will you make one please? And send a link here, please

  • truth

    no. i don’t like that garbage website.

  • RazorIsBack

    Damn, ok