So that's the end of my first three months in India, but am I any the wiser? I'm not sure, really: all I can think of is a phrase from James Hawes' A White Merc with Fins where the anti-heroine, Suzy, is joking about going to India for three months. In a fit of accuracy, she decides not to bother because she'll just end up 'losing two stone and talking shite'. Unwittingly, Hawes' description is accurate as hell.
It's easy to talk shite about India, if only because it's so full of contradictions that it's hard to be definitive about anything. On one hand I say that I very much like the people, but then again I think back to all the scams, lies, cons and hassles encountered over the last three months, and although Indonesia annoyed me more on that score, India is up there with the best. Then there's the food: on one hand it's excellent (I've always been very fond of curries and spices, after all) but it can be pretty depressing when all you've got is another bloody meal of dhal and rice again.
The health aspect, despite looking promising for a while, is terrible. I forget how many times I've been ill in India, and I've been pretty damn careful about my intake. And then there's the permanent Indian head cold, the aches and pains of being crammed onto public transport for amazingly long sessions with bad suspension, the constant annoyance of mosquitoes, the dubious quality of a lot of India's ablutions and, to cap it all, a fairly serious recurrence of my salt-sore eczema now that my Australian skin cream has run out.
But this is all part of it, of course. I'm fully aware that if I really want solid shits I can always fly home, but for some masochistic reason I've never entertained the idea. The reason is, of course, that I utterly, utterly love India, despite its inherent frustrations. Perhaps it is because of the everyday contradictions that it is so fascinating, or because its size gives it an implicit variety, but as soon as I ducked out of India into Nepal I felt a strangely alien sense of loss. The safe tranquillity of the tourist haven of Nepal is complete bliss, but I can't help thinking that it's missing some spark, and I can't wait to get back into India.
One guy I met told me that travelling anywhere else in the world after India was bound to be boring, which is why he kept coming back. I sincerely hope this isn't true, but if it is I can understand why: India has to be the most amazingly magnetic and repellent country I've ever experienced. I'm already excited about returning after my visit to Nepal, even if it means being constantly ill. It's worth it.