Dealing with Air Pollution and Cultural Habits Whilst Travelling

I have noticed quite clearly that since I entered Pakistan and India the significant drop in air quality in general. In Pakistan if I blew my nose I would get similar coloured nasal mucus to if I had spent a day in Central London.The air pollution is quite visible in even small urbanised strips and urban areas with many old diesel engines, fires, burning rubbish, and smoking chimneys (from brick furnaces for example). I am surprised because although the areas I saw looked generally less developed in terms of industry, they were very busy with traffic and extremely smokey.

I experienced the disgusting habit of most of the street population of Pakistan which is spitting. I found it hard to understand why or what the point of this highly anti-social behaviour was. I have now started to see why as I woke up this morning with a dry throat, and resorted to coughing up lumps of black mucus in the toilet. It's a good job they've banned smoking in public places in India because the people already smoke enough as it is by the looks of things. I wonder if this kind of sordid atmospheric degradation is widely acknowledged by the people.

I'm looking forward to leaving the town today and heading south. I bought my first Lonely Planet guide of the trip. The one for India (surprisingly). It's a heavy book but I'm interested use it to find places of interest and also how to avoid tourists when I feel like it. It's pretty much guaranteed that people will be going where the Lonely Planet advises, because obviously nothing else exists.  However, wry comments aside, my first impressions are that it is a very well written and enjoyable reference.

I'm finding my first interactions with the general Indian population in my locality to be one of either polite 'hello, welcome to my country' or animalistic, hysterical 'hello, what is your name, what is your country' shouts by clans of small children or some genuinely bizarre encounters.

One that springs to mind is a guy who stood about 2 feet away, stared directly at me whilst I was having a conversation with someone else, and starting grunting. Yes, I mean proper grunting. If I was 15 and in my home town of Kettering this wouldn't normally mean that the person wanted to punch me. However, in this instance I curbed my adolescent primitive survival instincts. The man followed up his initial elegant greeting with a 'where, ur country?' that sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles. He continued to stare at me. I starred back into his eyes to see if I could get some kind of essence of the thought process and brainwaves going through the guys head.

I replied 'England' repeatedly to no response and after about 20 seconds the man turned, guffawed, and wandered off. My usually 'taken for granted' western conversational etiquette played no part in this cross-cultural meeting. I leave the Golden Temple today and head south using my compass.

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