Whilst you get all kinds of travelers, backpackers and freaks in India as in any other country, there’s a special kind of sub-culture of the India traveler that deserves some mention. Tourist visas are for 6 months and, as it’s so cheap, many people end up staying for half a year, time enough to become a little freaky.
First of all, the India Traveler wants to be a Hindu. It’s one of the only religions in the world to which you can’t convert ( you have to be born a Hindu) but none the less he fervently believes in the power of mantras, sadhus and karma. He also has a strong affection for the gods, of course – especially Shiva, the coolest deity on the planet for virtue of making the smoking of dope a religious act.
To somehow show his allegiance to the spiritual ways of India, the traveler here tends to let slide their own sense of fashion and begins to dress as the Indians do, perhaps with a strong hint of saffron. That would all be well and fine but the average Indian dressed in trousers and a shirt – the loose lunghis and kameez are more typical of the average peasant and it completely confuses the Indians to see Westerners dressed as rice farmers.
Alternatively, the India Traveler may be a Goa Space Cadet and will dress in fluoro and amulets wherever he goes and play Goa Trance at loud volumes in each and every hotel room he inhabits.
Naturally, there also exists a kind of hierarchy and snobbery amongst the India Traveler Community. Ranking is determined by factors such as how many times you’ve been to India, how much you actually know about the religion and how close you’ve come to going insane. Travelers attempt to be more spiritual than each other and the extreme of this can be seen in the Italian chillum fascists who argue about points of sadhu camp fire etiquette to the point of blows on occasion.
Lastly, there’s a whole set of sayings and cultural wisdom close to the heart of the India Traveler. Some well-repeated truths are:
Everything is possible in India. (When you ask for something that you know you won’t get)
Same, same but different. (When you get what you didn’t ask for)
As you like. (When you complain about it)
Bom Shankar! ( a praise to Shiva shouted when lighting a chillum, or doing just about anything else.
Chalo (Hindi for ‘go’ or ‘let’s go’)
Chalo Pakistan! (It’s a fierce insult in India to tell someone to ‘go to Pakistan!’)
And, of course, the ever-present acha, a Hindi word meaning okay, good or I understand. Travelers use this so often that it’s practically a mantra.
Note: The Israelis must be blamed for introducing the phrase Why like this? – it’s a direct translation from Hebrew but now the Indians repeat it in traveler hang outs all the time.