Over May & June, I visited the Indian cities of New Delhi, Mumbai & Bengaluru over May and June to learn about the trade of alcoholic spirits, particularly whisky, between the UK and India and the trade barriers and conditions in India that affect this.
Although incredibly excited for the trip, the first one I have done solo, I had a few minor concerns ahead of departing. One of them was the heat! When I told a few of my Indian friends here in Edinburgh that I was heading out to Delhi in May, their facial reactions said it all. It seems that I was heading to India at the worst possible time of year weather wise so would have to be prepared for some serious hot weather, particularly in Delhi.
On the trip I learnt a huge amount. Beyond the huge amount of valuable information and data relating specifically to my topic, I learnt a lot about the vast range of varying cultures and attitudes that exist across India. I used Couchsurfing to meet local people my age to see around the cities I was staying in which offered an unrivalled chance of hearing first hand the opportunities and challenges facing India, the insanely complex but fascinating world of Indian politics, the role of tradition in family and everyday life and many other topics which was without doubt the highlight of my trip.
I wouldn’t at all be exaggerating to say that it felt like a privilege that literally dozens of young Indians showed me their cities, their friends and families and put a great deal of effort in giving me as an authentic Indian experience as possible in the short time I was with them. When planning this trip, I didn’t imagine that people would spend so much time helping me have an incredible experience and would spend so much of their own time in ensuring that I had an experience beyond that of a typical tourist but got even a glimpse of “real India” from street food and traditional music recitals to rural villages and how business is conducted.
Above is a view of the Gateway to India in Mumbai from a boat bound for Elephanta Island, the home of ancient caves, seen below.
The island is also home to a large number of not so shy monkeys who among other things, seem to have an impressive knack for stealing Mountain Dew from tourists and making a mockery of them by proceeding to finish said Dew in front of them.
A distillery visit of course had to feature somewhere in the trip! The team at Amrut Distillery (below) near Bengaluru kindly took me behind the scenes and gave a unique insight into the market and the complexities involved in manufacturing and distributing alcohol across the various Indian states. (research is hard!)