That’s… Different

As my almost 3 months in India come to an end, I thought about making a compilation of new things/concepts (to me at least) that I came across in India!

Sustainability Features

Across the different regions of India I encountered, I was pleasantly surprised by different systems in place that promoted sustainability. This included toilets that differentiated water release based on the kind of waste and outlets that have the capability to be turned off. Additionally, recent legislation banned the use of plastic bags (although sneaky supplies still exist) that has promoted the use of reusable bags; it’s also fairly difficult to locate paper towels and people are often expected to bring their own cloth for such purposes. I also witnessed more frequent occurrences of alternative energy harvesting including solar and hydropower apparently supported by subsidies for both companies and individuals. A greater subsidy also exists for farmers. Plastic straws are also a rarity!


Constant noise is characteristic of many urban areas, but the horns on the streets of India are not purposeless. In the U.S., our most frequent purpose for using our horns is to infrequently alert other drivers of changes in signal or to tell someone off for their erratic driving. However, in India horns are frequently used to simply alert others of one’s presence whether it’s the auto-rickshaw driver with missing rear-view mirrors, the pedestrian crossing at the lack of crosswalks, or the cows having their morning huddle in the middle of the road. Often with the multitude of 2-wheeled vehicles on the road, the integrity of lines separating lanes is broken and horns are used to alert lane changes and when vehicles are squeezing through. Interestingly, bigger trucks have special horn noises that are little sing-songy tunes to differentiate them from the rest of the noise (unfortunately, I was unable to get a recording 😦 ).

Metro in Delhi

Learning how to use the metro in Delhi was one of the coolest things and switching lines with ease was quite empowering. In both the regular and rapid metro, the first few carts are designated for women only as a safety measure to address prevalence of violence against women. These carts tended to be very packed especially in the morning when everyone was rushing to work, but were still less packed than the other carts.

Electronic Rickshaws

Electronic vehicles have become quite prevalent in urban India. I came across some locations in Delhi that were barred for non-electronic vehicles. And the area near the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s Statue/ Statue of Unity in Gujarat is designated only for pink, e-rickshaws driven only by women.


After struggling to open various packets, I’ve finally given up trying to open them from the top by pulling each side. Most packets, instead, open by the perforation at the top that opens down the side of the packet. Also, KitKats are wrapped in foil within their plastic covering. This could be to protect the chocolate from the constant heat of India. In addition to KitKats, everything else I’ve come across both familiar found-in-America products and not do not have high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list.

Airplane Meals

After a couple of domestic flights within India, I’ve come to learn that most domestic flights offer complimentary meals for shorter flights relative to comparable length domestic flights i the U.S..

Sun Protection

As previously mentioned, two-wheeled vehicles often rule the road. They’re accessible in price and women who are not encouraged to learn to drive cars are still encouraged to learn such two-wheeled scooters. A drawback of these two-wheeled vehicles is the direct sunlight and wind that hits one’s face. Helmets for all passengers in not enforced, so often only the driver is wearing a helmet and the other passengers are wearing scarves or dupattas.

Water System

The tap water in most Indian homes I’ve come across is considered unfit to drink; many homes have black tanks atop/beside their homes where this water is stored. This water is used only for non-ingestion related things like bathing, watering plants, and washing dishes. Thus, most homes will boil tap water to make it fit for drinking. Some homes will then put this boiled water into a clay pot with spout for a more “minerally’ taste. Some homes also have reverse osmosis (R.O.) filtration systems that filter the tap water. Complaints against this system have been that it strips water of nutrients and that it wastes water. For those that don’t have an R.O. system and boil tap water for drinking, I saw many would collect rain water in steal basins and drink it directly instead. The belief is that after the first few rains, the rain water is clean for drinking especially compared to tap water that can be further dirtied in monsoon season from overflowing sewage. Also, water is free!

Washing Clothes

From my experiences, washing clothes in a machine is not as common across India as it is in the U.S.. Many do not have washing machines and wash clothes by hand and I haven’t seen a single personal use dryer. Everyone I’ve spoken to puts their clothes out in a clothes line or inside on a rack to dry. Also came across this interesting semi-automatic washer in Chandigarh. One side is to wash the clothes with soap and the other side wrings them to be as dry as possible prior to being put up to dry on a line. This washer was kept outside.

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About Npatel

My Name is Nikita Patel and I am studying Nursing and minoring in Global Health in Penn’s class of 2024.  This summer, I will be interning with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in Gurgaon, Haryana this summer! I am studying Nursing and minoring in Global Health in Penn’s class of 2024. My co-intern and I will assist PHFI in “evaluating the implementation of the Peer Educator Intervention for improving adolescent health in India’s National Adolescent Health Programme (i-Saathiya)”!