I have only been in South India for a couple of weeks, but I immediately felt that there was a huge cultural shift between North and South. It’s not just the food and climate though that makes South India like a different country to me, it is the people and the environment. I appreciate I have only seen a small part of the South as yet, but for me it is light years away from where I have come from.
First thing that became apparent was how clean the streets were. I have previously talked about the pollution I saw in Northern India here and here, but there is still a lot about the environment there that I have left unsaid thus far. Whilst South India is far from being pollution free, the streets here are visibly cleaner. I am yet to encounter large piles of rubbish or step in animal faeces in the street. The streets appear to be much better looked after by the people, with no sign of people abandoning their plastic to the streets anywhere and everywhere. I am certain this contributes to how beautiful it is in the south, the land is free to be seen without being covered in a sea of garbage.
There are some things about the environment here that are also taking some adjustment after being used to the North. There are no cows on the street here, I have so far seen only one, but goats are everywhere. Like the cows they are harmless and certainly leave a lot less of a mess. I am also still yet to see a monkey, something I am very grateful for (they scare the living daylights out of me)!
Another welcome difference I have noticed is the way the men behaved. I have talked about Indian men before and it caused some controversy. I stand by what I said, but perhaps I should make an addendum now to take into account what I have experienced in South India. The men here are either more polite than those I encountered on my travels in North India or better at hiding their behaviour. I am thankfully yet to see public urination, spitting or nose-picking. I am not sure why this behaviour is so different here, possibly education is a factor, or perhaps there is something else going here culturally in the way people are raised.
However, the biggest difference that I have noticed about the men is the way they behave towards me. When I am approached by a shop-keeper or tout, I don’t feel I am being ogled, they don’t slowly look me up and down and I certainly feel less harassed. Once again, I am not sure why this is so different but it is a welcome change.
The next thing I have noticed is the women… they are visible. In the north, I always felt like women were invisible, particularly in the evening. Here in the south I see them everywhere, in public transport, on the streets, working and going about their daily business. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the men behave so differently, women wandering the streets is not a foreign sight to them, but a normal part of everyday life.
The south also appears to be more affluent than the north. People look much better fed, the housing looks better and there are less beggars on the street. Poverty is still definitely here, but it is far less in your face than I found in north India. This may be because the population is more sparse here creating an illusion of affluence.
From what I have been told and based on what I have read on the internet, there is more educational infrastructure per capita in the south, which is likely to be a major contributing factor to the improved environment. I have to say, it has certainly made a huge difference, enough for me to contemplate whether perhaps it is somewhere I could call home in the future.