Welcome to the first instalment of Beards, Brews & Bovines – a sub-blog of Steve-related musings from this trip.
First of all – on the brews front – there are very limited updates. Not expecting to have much to comment on for at least another couple of months when we get into China. The market here seems to be about 95% macro, with Indian macro lager Kingfisher owning roughly 80% of that from what I can see. There are some craft brewers here in India, but from what I have been able to find, they are based primarily in the south, and have had a mountain of bureaucratic red tape to overcome in order to start expanding. From what ‘beer bars’ we have been to, the specialty stuff is mostly European macro imports. There was one place that was supposed to be a brew pub, but from what I could see the equipment appeared to be untouched, and it didn’t seem like anyone there had a clue how to use it. In summary, my impression is that by and large at this point in time beer in India, or at least northern India, still = Kingfisher, which while indeed refreshing in 40 degree weather, doesn’t leave a lot to write about.
On to bovines. Based on everything we had read and heard, I fully expected to encounter our first bovid create relatively early on. As it turns out, Delhi, or at least the parts we were in, as I suppose should really be expected, proved to be bovine-free from what we found. What they did have however, was a near endless number of stray dogs. Literally everywhere. Most of these dogs were pretty chill and would just mind their own business, but a select few either didn’t like my scent or the way I looked and were more than happy to let me know about it. Of course, as soon as one gets fired up, they all do, and on a few occasions we found ourselves just about surrounded. Luckily there were local children nearby to shield us from our not so friendly furry friends.
Getting out into Rajasthan, we finally encountered our first cow face to face. As much as I knew it would be the case, it was still more than a little amusing seeing cattle wandering free in an urban environment. What would cause an absolute ruckus and considerable response back home is of course treated as nothing to be balked at here. We have consistently found large cattle meandering through alleyways, blocking traffic, not at all concerned with moving. Some will respond to the honking of cars or tuktuks, but the larger they are the more they know they run the show.
Which leads me to another interesting finding. Due to the size of the streets in many of the towns/cities here, it is really quite amazing how much traffic congestion just one small car can cause. Although they will fit down most of the streets/alleyways, they by and large prevent any bikes, tuktuks, or pedestrians from getting by. Many, many times, we’ve found ourselves trying to get out of the way of a car, only to then also have to wait for the parade of smaller vehicles that have built up behind it. Size definitely dictates status and priority on the roads here, meaning us lowly pedestrians are on the bottom rung and had best get out of the way of anything and everything else. It doesn’t help that lanes and even the direction of traffic appear to be 100% optional as well. Not to worry though, every vehicle is happy to remind you they are there and always announce their arrival with copious honking as they fly by you with inches to spare!
One of things I have found most interesting about India has been the people. Half of the people who approach us of course want to sell us something, but then other half just generally want to talk to us, and it can sometimes be a challenge deciding which camp they fall into, although that has been getting easier. Many people are truly curious and want to know why we are here, what we’re up to, and of course if they can provide us with any relevant information or suggestions. The other thing that was truly unexpected was just how many folks want a picture with me. While waiting for a walking tour in Chandni Chowk, downtown old Delhi, we noticed that many people were staring at me, and one lady in particular seemed to find my extremely pasty white legs very comical and entertaining (good day to wear shorts!). Folks started coming up and asking if they could get a picture with me, and who was I to not oblige? Of course, once the flood gates opened it turned into a bit of a side show. I didn’t expect to be a local attraction, but at least the lady who found my legs so entertaining got a picture to show all her friends! This has carried on consistently throughout our trip, no matter where we go. I’ve had a family wheel up on their scooter so a father could introduce his daughters to me and shake my hand, and another little girl whose face absolutely lit up when I was walking past as her family arrived for a Holi celebration. She waved ecstatically at me and was quick to run over and introduce herself. Felt like I made her day, that was nice.
Lots of love for my beard here as well, but then again, this is a country that takes its facial hair seriously. ‘Very Mughal,’ I’ve been consistently told. I can work with that! People really seem to pride themselves on their appearance here, and we have seen some very sharply dressed bearded gentlemen. Some Sikh men we passed while visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar were particular standouts! More on Amritsar to come. As someone who has been mistaken for a homeless person on at least one occasion, I took some notes…