The Craziest Things That Happened in India

India was, for lack of a better word, the most hard-core trip of my life. At various points in my six weeks I was struggling to breathe from the stench of cow shit, vomiting from (many) bouts of food poisoning, violently shivering in a wind-whipped tent, nearly passing out from sunstroke in the Himalayas and doing vinyasa in 110-degree heat.

 Travel writers wax poetic on how India is a Technicolor, multi-sensory travel experience- and yes, it is that. But for me, India was much a spiritual overhaul as it was a descent into chaos.

For better or worse, shit went down.

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A human-powered ferris wheel. No biggie.

Here are the craziest things that happened to me in India:

I left my wallet on the plane in Delhi.

This one is kind of embarrassing. I’ve only been to, oh, 38 countries, and boarded countless international flights. But after passing customs in Delhi, I realized I was sans wallet.

After two hours of frantic waiting, an airport employee returned the wallet to me with all the credit cards intact, my confirmation number written in blue pen on the leather (a funny story to tell when I pull it out nowadays).

I will forever be grateful to the kind employees of Indira Gandhi International Airport.

I was attacked by monkeys on an early morning run.

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Per our Indian wellness pledge, McCall and I woke up at 6 a.m. every day to run. One morning, we passed a trash heap and a pack of macaques leapt out and corralled McCall. Hissing and baring their teeth, McCall kicked at them and yelled, “HEY!”

Seconds later, she shouted “RUN!” and we started sprinting back towards the yoga school.

Later, when I regaled the tale to my uncle, instead of being shocked that I was attacked by monkeys, he said, “Wait. You went running at 6 a.m.?” Ha.

And just in case you’re ever attacked; leading primatologists suggest you “Form an “O” with your mouth, lean toward them with your body and head, and raise your eyebrows.

Also, apparently monkeys are more afraid of men than women. That’s not even fair.

I saw a corpse floating in the Ganges

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We were standing at the edge of the Ganges in Rishikesh when I saw a white shape floating quickly down the river. As it came closer, I saw it was a blue-tinged, water-logged corpse.

While my yoga school classmates claimed it was a cow, sorry guys, it wasn’t- it was a human corpse with a head full of black hair.

A week after the corpse incident, my classmates wanted to take a dip in the Ganges, which up until that point I was all for. But considering the corpse we had just seen, I opted out. Everyone called me a square.

 I went white-water rafting with an infant.

Every day at yoga school, I would watch as white-water rafters drifted down the Ganges in bright blue rafts. “I want to do that,” I sighed.

So one day, to my delight, we headed down to the Ganges to white-water raft.

Soon into our rafting trip two Indian families boarded the raft, the men in blue jeans and loafers, the women in saris. And to our dismay, one woman was holding her ten-month old daughter.

The child was terrified, sobbing hysterically as huge waves rained down upon us. “Pani, pani!” said the mom, pointing to the water.

Also, as an aside, most Indians can’t swim.

Anyway, maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I don’t understand the logic in bringing a baby white-water rafting.

I nearly died in the Himalayas.

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Okay, okay. Maybe I’m being dramatic. But I could’ve at least broken a leg.

One morning we were hiking down a snowy hill, and I fell and slipped. After sliding down about 15 feet, heading for the edge of the mountain, I managed to grab hold of a rhododendron bush.

And thank god, as there wasn’t much past it.

I was circled by men at night in Delhi.

In India men have a curious habit of forming a circle around you, as if they were corralling you. It’s rather terrifying.

After dinner in Delhi, my friends (one girl, one guy) and I stopped at the India Gate. We were just walking around the park and stopped to do a few yoga poses. Within seconds, a group of about 15-20 men formed a circle around us. My guy friend grabbed us both by the arms and pushed his way out of the crowd.

My guy friend was genuinely shocked. “Is this what you girls go through all the time?”

(Note- my female friend I had would never have gone to a park at night alone, and only went because we had a guy with us. Unfortunately, we still live in world where two women alone in a park at night in India is a very bad idea.)

I had a guru.

How could I talk about India without mentioning my guru and meditation teacher, Swami Ji?

Swami Ji, who referred to me as “sluggish baby”, is one of the funniest and good-hearted people I’ve ever met in my life.

A lover of selfies, Swami Ji would have us pose as a class while he took a selfie with his 13.1 megapixel smartphone.

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He liked to meditate anywhere and everywhere. I can still picture his voice perfectly; whenever we asked a question, he would reply, “Yessssssss… baby…”

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He introduced us to many forms of meditation, including moon meditation, in which we laid on our backs, stared at the moon and then closed our eyes and tried to remember the moon. And laughing meditation, in which we laughed hysterically for an hour straight.IMG_7987

Thank you, India. It was real. And crazy.

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So what about you? What’s the “craziest” country you’ve ever been to?

As a note, this post is just a summary of my anecdotal experiences. It in no way speaks for all of India, just what happened to me.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

54 thoughts on “The Craziest Things That Happened in India”

  1. Holy. Cow. (and now I just realized that’s either the very correct way or very blasphemous way of starting a comment about India, lol) I don’t even know which part to comment about! That sounds c.r.a.z.y. And awesome! But mostly crazy. Definitely a trip to remember, though!!
    xox
    giedre

  2. Glad you enjoyed your time in India. However, you never go wandering about, though you’re with a guy, at night in Delhi. That’s the thing everyone should know. And well you’re right about most of the Indian’s not knowing anything about swimming. :P
    While it was unusual to see a corpse in Ganga. Did you inform anyone about it?

  3. I loved reading this, because India was actually the craziest country I’ve ever visited! When I was there, I ended up joining this well-known street theater troupe in Delhi and even though I could barely speak Hindi, they invited me to perform with them. Oh, and I had monkeys come into my room and rob me, but I think that’s pretty common there!

    • Yup, just food! Parle-G crackers I really wanted to eat! I had nightmares about monkeys for months afterwards. Now, when people saw “look at those monkeys! they’re so cute!!” I just laugh remembering the monkeys in India.

  4. These are seriously crazy, though some also made me laugh. After about 60 countries I somehow made the rookie mistake of losing my passport at the Greek-Albanian border. Like, what? (I also got it back). And I have a scar on my hand from a monkey bite, ugh. My craziest country would be Uzbekistan. After loving the other Stans, I basically spent a week there cussing out crooked taxi drivers and hotel managers in Russian, haha.

  5. Wow! Sounds like you had some crazy (and slightly terrifying) experiences. India certainly gave you a lot of unique stories to tell! I’m not sure what country is the “craziest” I’ve been to, but that they each had their own quirks. Cheers!

  6. Ha! Wow, that is great, awesome, scary, creepy, and so many other things. I wonder what my experience will be like! I’m heading to Hyderabad for my sister’s wedding in January (Her future husband is Indian, she’s a white American girl). Should be interesting!

  7. Oh my god, you have no idea how much I can relate! I also saw a corpse (lying on the street in Delhi with flies eating its face), nearly died in the Himalayas (while white-water rafting in the Ganges, incidentally, when our raft flipped), and was circled by a bunch of randy Indian men (while camping in Rishikesh). I’m so glad to hear your stories, I feel much less alone now – I still liked India, but sometimes I feel like people don’t understand that I have a lot of mixed emotions about my time there, too. Crazy!!

    • WOW, that’s insane! I think I would have thrown up. And yeah, we’ve had some very similar experiences! Where you camping on the Ganges in Rishikesh? I always saw those tents and thought they looked interesting.

    • hehehe you might have seen a drug addicted man being unconscious after taking overdose of cough syrup (used as a cheap drug) its pretty common to see unconscious men lying in the streets covered with flies but definitely not a dead body in public as indian people are not that irresponsible :)

      Also try to visit Punjab and Chandigarh area sometime,its pretty neat and people are really nice.

  8. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I need a swami and yours sounds hilarious. Glad you made it out of India alive – after hiking and the creepy men situation (and the monkeys!). Sounds like quite and adventure.

  9. I can’t believe someone would bring their 10-month old baby white water rafting?! And being surrounded by 15 men in a park sounds so scary. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for my trip to India next year, but I’m not sure it’s possible, ha.

    • Haha a character in the movie Outsourced said that once you accept India, you can begin to love it. (Or something like that.) But it’s true- once you accept that the stink and the chaos are just a part of life there, the easier it will be.

  10. What an experience you had! India intimidates me because I feel like its so different from everything I know. I want to go so badly, but I am a little nervous! So glad your time was memorable to say the least :) What an adventure!

  11. Like you, I’d travelled a lot before arriving in India so didn’t expect that kind of culture shock. The whole country really does just smack you round the face doesn’t it?! Sometimes in good ways, and often in not so good ways!

  12. Oh yes, India is really special. Do you feel like despite all the crazy things that you went through in India and all the “shit” (literally and figuratively), you’d like to go back one day?

    I tell people stories about my crazy adventures in India (I’ve been there twice now) and the second they start saying “Oh gosh! it sounds like a place I would never want to go to”, I start wholeheartedly defending the country and telling everyone how I can’t wait to go back!

    • I would definitely go back- I’d love to explore the south, especially Kerala which I’ve heard is beautiful. It was one of my hardest but most interesting travel experiences- and honestly places like Western Europe don’t even feel like travel anymore when I compare it to India. India’s just a lot more intense!

  13. I saw a dead body on the side of the road in Guatemala, Zip lined upside down on an old line over a river heading to Machu Picchu, had an altercation with a meth head in Nicaragua and anytime you go in a taxi in Tehran is crazy.

  14. Holy crap, your trip to India was definitely memorable! I can’t help but laugh at some of these, like the image of you jogging and chased by monkeys. I have to say that macaques totally freak me out. I was just in Ubud and opted not to go to the Monkey Forest because of the horror stories I’ve heard about monkeys attacking people. Those little guys have some huge teeth. Glad you weren’t bitten! On another note, things like the human-powered ferris wheel and white water rafting with an infant just leave me scratching my head.

  15. OK, so THIS PIECE & also your French not getting fat column, go down as your epic best! But this one is in the lead! You are a humorist, innately, and when that is allowed out, it is unstoppable and incredible! Fantastic job! Cheers! – LB

  16. Wow, you really had some crazy and sobering experiences! The human-powered Ferris wheel did provide me with a good laugh, but oy!

    I think sometimes as Americans the stuff that shocks us is the “norm” in developing nations sadly. I’ve never experienced anything remotely like you did in India but definitely had my most ever quirks while traveling in Nicaragua!

  17. I still laugh at the “sluggish baby” name, that’s hilarious. Your guru is a hoot. So funny! I’m still so surprised about the body in the ganges – it wouldn’t be religious because they would be burnt. Only the “too holy” or unholy would be put in without being burnt, and not there. So definitely unusual! The baby thing in the raft is hysterical. I took some of my friends here rafting (two guys in their 30’s, my driver & dog sitter) that couldn’t swim – but like you said most Indians can’t!

    • Yeah I was asking my Indian instructors about it and it didn’t seem to make any sense! Who knows, maybe I really did hallucinate haha. And yeah, that may be my last rafting trip I’ll do in India! It’s a good story though haha.

  18. I am from India and have been privy to all the madness–men pushing you into a corner, pseudo gurus-perverts, mountain sickness, et al–quite frequently. It’s a complex, almost indescribable country for sure, and while with its amazing history and diversity it is utterly admirable, shit does go down every so often. Good on you for holding up for six weeks after all that ordeal!

  19. Getting surrounded by men is not fun. That happened to me in Istanbul and it was horrible. The rest of your stories are pretty crazy too though. I’m not sure how I would react to seeing a dead body in the river- I think I would freak

  20. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. And as many have commented, if you are from the developed world, the first visit to India kind of smacks right into your face. Getting surrounded by a group of men in Delhi is quite unnerving and scary, Delhi has earned a notorious reputation of being unsafe for women in general regardless of where they are from in the recent years. Then westerners with white or fairer skin draw a lot of unwanted, sometimes curious but uncomfortable “stares”, at times they are downright lewd and cheap. Indian men are still evolving and trying to lean to be gentlemen (or may be not) .. haha.
    Barring this experience I am sure you had a fantastic time in India and I hope you would return again, there is a lot to explore in Western, Central and Southern India too.

  21. This has to be my favourite post of yours.
    Swami Ji sounds like a mad, extremely chill, genius. I love him already.

    That human powered ferris wheel brought back memories I’d forgotten. We lived in Pakistan until I was nine and we used to go on this swinging boat-thing that was powered by human thrusting. I don’t know if you can imagine what I am talking about but yes so not would happen in the western world.
    You are such a badass for committing to such adventures and succumbing to the madness.

  22. Hi Ashley,
    I loved reading your account of India.
    Unfortunately being an Indian myself I may not be able to experience what you did.
    Its unusual seeing a corpse floating in Ganga as Hindus burn their dead and do not dispose body in water. It is also illegal to do so in India. However, sometimes poor people who can not afford a cremation they might dispose body in rivers. This sounds gross and I feel sorry that you had to go through such an experience. I have been to Haridwar and Rishikesh a number of times as my hometown was less than 200miles from Haridwar.
    It is also true that most Indian do not know how to swim. Rafting with a baby was very stupid decision. It too find it hard to understand why the parent won’t be concerned. Anyways I hope you enjoyed the rafting experience.
    Indian men have this strange tendency to “see/stare” everything/everyone that passes. Maybe India is so populous natives do not mind it now. But yes I can understand how you must have felt. Trust me this is not the first time I have heard this concern from a foreign traveller. A male traveller from France, (who I met in Indonesia) also cited the same concern.
    Being circled by men at night would have been really scare. Thankfully you had a male friend who helped you out. India gate has a nice presence of police men due to proximity to Indian parliament and president house. Shit happens!
    Did you visit Banaras (Varanasi) ? It is also a spiritual hub in India. I have visited it once but would like to stay their for a sometime to get the real feel.
    After moving from India(to Singapore) I realized how desperately I miss the colourful and vibrant culture of India. But then all cultures/places have their own charm. isn’t it?

  23. I feel laughing at you are been attacked by monkey on your morning walk. the same thing happens to us when we have gone on Gujarat Tour By Kesari Tour.
    there place call Junagadh in Gujarat where you will get a monkey and there snatch food from you. I hope you enjoy the India tour and I hope it was memorable too,

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