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India – a land of dramatic contrasts

22 July 2017 4 Comments

I have just spent 10 days in India coaching a couple of training camps. I’ve never been to India before and had never really cared whether I did get there, but an opportunity came up so I went for it. I thought why not, I may never get another opportunity. I sure am happy to be home, and I don’t think I’ll be going out for a curry anytime soon.

I have coached Deepak Raj for five or six years and watched him develop as an athlete and in recent years as a coach. Deepak has taken five hours off his first Ironman time while training in the squad. He has now done eighteen Ironman races and coaches quite a group of enthusiastic athletes in India.

When I call India a country of dramatic contrasts, this feeling hit me as we drove from the Bangalore airport to the hotel. The boutique hotel where I have stayed for the first week is recently built and first class inside, but right next door there’s a guy having a bucket bath at the back of what is loosely called a restaurant. The view from my window is of a vacant block covered with rubbish and old building material.

On our first drive to the swimming pool we passed plenty of wild dogs roaming the streets,with cows and even a herd of goats foraging through the piles of rubbish on the roadside. Then the pool was a well maintained indoor twenty-five meter pool with a fully tiled interior, clean water and change rooms.

On my first evening I spent some time outside the hotel just watching the chaotic traffic. Five lanes travelling towards a Y type junction with every second one honking on the horn. Motor cycles with two, three or even four people on them, weaving in and out of trucks, buses and “tuk-tuks” (the little three wheeled motorised rickshaws). Then the surprise move every now and then, someone comes up against the flow of traffic, either on a motor scooter or in a car. The traffic just honks and goes round them, no-one gets mad, they just adapt to what they have in front of them. I think we can learn from the attitude of the drivers, not the road rules or the honking.

All of the athletes I had contact with are so passionate about their new sport, and so keen to learn whatever they can. We’re spoilt here with the availability of quality pools and relatively safe places to cycle. But the Indian attitude of adapting the what they have available is very strong.

I have never seen so many roaming animals, I saw lots of cows along with donkeys, goats, pigs and wild dogs everywhere. The wild dogs appear to be very closely related to our Dingo’s (wild dog of Australia), same colour, some body size, same curled up tail, main difference is their ears are not quite as pointy as our Dingo’s.

The traffic is simply chaos, compared to Australia, but it works. In ten days I saw only one minor accident, but I saw a thousand possibilities for accidents. The pollution is more than I had witnesses anywhere. The hotels I stayed in were first class, with the most helpful staff. The people I met were all very respectful and friendly.

There are poor people, but there are lots and lots of hard working, very successful people as well


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