One of the biggest shocks for many people coming for the first time to India is the amount of people they see. From shops, to roads, to trains, there just seem to be too many people everywhere. It is a country of more than a billion people, with babies being born all the time, so needless to say, crowd are often one of the main things to deal with when you come to India.
Dealing with the city footpaths
While walking, you may often have to deal with the crowded conditions on the footpaths. In some places, you can choose the less crowded footpath between the ones on the right and left sides of the road. Usually places with few vendors are less crowded, but you cannot completely avoid crowds even if you travel in cars, as you will have to get out and sightsee a bit on foot. Most Indian cities are overcrowded and in urban tours you will just have to get used to this.
Dealing with the traffic
Keep enough time in hand to reckon for traffic jams and the crowded road conditions. If you have taken a taxi or hired a car and if there is more than one road to reach a destination, you can ask the driver to choose the road that’s likely to have traffic. For this though, you need to either have a local with you, or have spent enough time in the city to be knowledgeable about which roads are busier than others.
Dealing with the crowds in villages
Indian crowds are often a friendly and curious lot so whether in cities or villages, you as a foreigner may be at the receiving end of much staring. Get used to some of the unabashed staring, especially if you are travelling in a big car on narrow village roads. Many villagers may simply be gawking at the car rather than at you personally. You may also in many places get requests for being photographed. It’s up to you to refuse politely or agree to a snapshot clicked by a local.
Dealing with roads
Sometimes you will realize that road rules are not being followed. Basically people do what they want, cross the road how they want and where they want and so on. Many roads may not have zebra crossings, or the traffic may be chaotic. You will see that many of us Indians across the road in groups. Some even gesture for the traffic to stop by showing their hands up. You can fall into one of these groups and cross safely as vehicles usually stop when people are crossing roads en masse.
Dealing with the noise
Noise is one of the top features of Indian roads. Not only do you have to deal with incessant honking from vehicles but people talk quite loudly too. We Indians are a very expressive lot and we are not ashamed to laugh or talk loudly if we have to. Especially if you come from a country with disciplined crowds speaking at low volume, the sheer variety of Indian noises can take some time getting used to. If you wish to avoid crowds as much as possible, it is a good idea to choose hotels that are a little away from tourist areas or near populous places like bazaars. While the hotel may be well-run and quiet, you may often be badgered by noises from outside, unless you are in an AC room with sealed windows.
Many Indians grow up without a sense of personal space, due to crowded home surroundings or extended families, so brace yourselves if people get too close at railway stations or buses. Most of the time, it’s nothing. Is just the way people are in India?
People like to live communally.
But if people are too pushy then be firm though when dealing with crowds at service lines or you may not get the service you are looking for. Stick to your place politely but avoid getting pushed around or getting into altercations. Say ‘No’ firmly (‘Nahin’ in Hindi) to unwanted attention. Also, women need to be careful and firm about personal space sometimes, as some men may resort to groping in overcrowded buses.
These guidelines apart, one of the best ways to deal with Indian crowds is to generally give in and enjoy the flow. For people who enjoy clicking amazing photo opportunities abound at crowded traditional Indian bazaars, pilgrimage spots, and so on will love it. So, take your time and you will gradually acclimatize to the Indian crowd, its colors, cacophony and general liveliness.
Crowd can be a good thing
Finally it is a good idea to stay with the crowds. Sometimes it’s safer to be where there are a lot of people around. When you get in danger or you feel you are being harassed by someone then you can raise you voice and call for help. You will realize that people are more than willing to help. So crowds may not always be a bad thing.