When we were planning a trip away, the thought entered my mind that I’d like to go somewhere different, somewhere that might expand my horizons, a part of the world that is nothing like what I’ve previously experienced, and in India, I certainly got what I’d wished for.
Words & Photography by: Simon Bray.
It’s hectic, intense, colourful, exhausting, confusing and beautiful all at once. Every time we thought we had it sussed out, it surprised us again. We’d sought advice from friends who’d visited before, the most prominent being, ‘Don’t let any locals know it’s your first time in the country’, not because of any malicious intent, but purely that as tourists, we were a walking business opportunity. This was made perfectly clear to us when our rickshaw driver (who earlier in the day had informed us not to trust any rickshaw drivers) took us to one of his relatives houses (textile business), sat us down, closed the doors, offered us drinks and wouldn’t let us leave until we’d bought something. Which is how I ended up (being forced into) buying a custom hand-made suit because I didn’t want to be trapped in that room any longer. This is all on day one.
Luckily, Miles the Duffle Bag came to the rescue. I was offered the option of getting my new suit (it’s actually very nice tweed, best fitting suit I’ve ever owned, lovely lining too) shipped home, but I wasn’t keen on giving them any more money, so I opted to carry it on my back for the next three weeks. I packed it up into my bag (with room to spare) and lugged it about, a reminder of India, its people and that I should do my best to avoid any similar situations over the coming weeks.
In total we spent two weeks travelling around the historic cities in Rajasthan, before visiting Delhi and then heading off for the Andaman Islands. We were only spending a couple of days in each city and getting about on rickshaws and trains - carrying everything on my back in between - so having something fairly light, compact and durable like Miles the Duffle Bag was just right - and looked way better than my wife’s giant backpack!
Some days in the city were just too overwhelming and for a couple of nights we retreated to a homestead on a farm just outside of Udaipur, two days of bliss amongst the relentlessness of modern Indian life. A chance to eat some wholesome food (still curry, but with veg grown on the farm) and take some photos.
Three weeks sounds like a long time to pack for, but when you don’t need jumpers and jeans, you can fit a surprising amount into Miles. My main worry was actually reading material and cameras. As a big fan of print, it took longer to decide which magazines to take than which clothes to pack. I didn’t want to be carrying and worrying about an iPad or laptop (and I certainly didn’t need the distraction from my new surroundings) which left the laptop compartment of my bag empty for my copies of Avaunt, Boat, BJP and a couple of Swedish crime novels. The wide carry straps and tough material meant that it always felt secure, and the smaller internal pockets and clips meant all my valuables were well out of reach from any potential prying hands.
Our three weeks were spent exploring historic castles and palaces, revising stories of maharajas excesses and complex religiously fuelled civil wars, exploring local markets and discovering that you may not be able to trust everyone, but the people of India are beautiful and life-giving.
Having seen the stories of its history it was hard not to ignore that so much of modern Indian society strives to be more like the West. A rapidly developing economy supported by mobile technology that will take much of the city dwelling country forward at the risk of leaving behind the less connected rural areas. We couldn’t help but come away with a wider understanding of how millions of people in this world live day to day, as well as a fresh appreciation for all that we have at home and that actually, you can carry pretty much everything you need on your back.
I’ll be compiling a selection of photographs from the trip and releasing them in a publication, to find out more, keep an eye on my Instagram.