scratching the surface of india

Brother Leo – Strangers on an Island

I’d been looking for an excuse to go to India for a while. Between work and various other trips though, the timing never really worked out. Until close friends of mine announced they’d be getting married in Mumbai. Bam! That was the opening we’d been looking for — tickets were booked quickly 🙂

Now, I should preface this by saying that in the two weeks we spent traveling around, we barely scratched the surface of India. I am not fooling myself into thinking I’ve got a firm grasp on the country. But we got a glimpse of what an amazing and wildly contrasting place it is — colorful and faded, pristine and dirty, peaceful and turbulent, grandiose and rundown, full of pleasant smells and stenches, welcoming and even shocking at times. One thing is almost certain though, it won’t leave you indifferent.

There’s no meaningful story I can weave together so I’ve selected 51 photos that give you bits and bobs of what we saw around Delhi, Rishikesh, Varanasi and Mumbai. Most images I think I’ve shared in a single post as it was hard to bring them down further, that should tell you something! Enjoy.


Welcome to fog season in Delhi where visibility at times was no more than 100-150m. One could immediately tell that this city could use some maintenance 🙂

A typical sight — packed streets and an amazing cable infrastructure.

Unlike the chaos above ground, the metro in Delhi is clean and not jam packed with people, at least off-rush hour. Easy to get around in the huge city.

The grandiose Safdarjung Tomb.

One thing I do admire about the culture — people’s broad smiles.

The analog version of Times Square.

A typical crossroad in major cities. The photo doesn’t do justice to the madness that is trying to cross a super busy road without anyone minding the traffic lights or following any sort of meaningful order, outside of honking their way through 😉

Varanasi and the Ganges.

You see Gandhi everywhere. And pigeons.

The variety of spices and things to try is staggering.

On the rare occasion that people don’t want to take a selfie with you, they ask you to take a photo of them, especially when they see the big camera. We also took a selfie, of course, they insisted 😉

Brings me back to the good old days in Bulgaria with a 10-12x price difference for foreigners 🙂

Standing in line to get into a Hindu temple. I kid you not, the line was at least 2-3km long! This was for a specific religious celebration, not your average Tuesday prayer, but still crazy. The city was overrun with people.

Hygiene is important.

So is safety…

You keep reading how you shouldn’t really try the trains in India. Well, we did. It’s certainly an experience. Pictured — people trying to get in and out.

Ganga Aarti.

Pigeon viewing?

I’m not sure what’s the practical need for the clothes, but I found it hilarious.

I’m not sure you can sum up India in one photo, but if I had to pick one shot from the trip, this would be it.

Monkey business. These guys are everywhere! And you have to be careful, they’re ready to steal your food or get into a fight in a heartbeat.

Early mornings.

National celebrations in Delhi. Quite a stark contrast to the rest of the country we saw.

What a moment!

Where to?

In transit.

Bang da bell!! 😀


The food was incredible, hands down one of the best things about the trip. Completely different to the Westernized version we get.

Guys, if it’s not too much trouble, could you please maybe consider potentially not doing all these things that put yourselves and other people in danger? We duly apologize for the inconvenience of asking you to abide by the law. Yours sincerely, the Indian government.

A little piece of tranquility. A nice get away from the rambunctiousness of the cities.

How to cook for 250+ guests at a wedding? That’s how 🙂

For every festive celebration there’s an annoying photographer (or a few) ready to capture the moment. And yes, I do fully appreciate the irony of me saying this. To be fair, I only took a photo of these guys and enjoyed the Aarti without the distraction of the camera.

Damn those buff Indian gods!

The enlightened one.

Standing in line to pee. I guess with this many people, public facilities are hard to maintain.

Best pals.

I do find it funny how ads are everywhere, even in the holy waters of the Ganges.

Everyone be doing yoga!

Antyesti or funeral rights through burning of the dead in Hinduism. Shot from afar, did not want to disturb from up close with the camera. You can go up close though, which we did, quite a fascinating sight, especially in how open to the public it is. Or how just 50m downstream people are bathing…

Colorful markets.

Hard for me to explain why, but this is another favorite image of mine. Encapsulates a lot of aspects of India for me — the colorfulness, the funky architecture, the rundown buildings, the trash everywhere.

Naps are important.

When in the area, you can’t not go and see the Taj. And despite being an overly touristic place, it is a sight to see!


Just a small, after-dinner get together.

Sunrise over the Ganges. Get up early, they said, no one would be around, they said. Riiight.

I was very temped to do this.

Still cannot figure out the e-element of this.

Most efficient way to feed 250+ people? No dishes, eat straight up from banana (?) leaves.

A gorgeous sunset over Mumbai as a goodbye on our last evening… not a bad way to end things.

To sum up, 2 weeks is not enough time to really get to know any country or culture, especially one as vast and diverse as India. But it should be enough to spike your curiosity to learn more. Hopefully this post has done the same. Now, go book that ticket!

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