I noticed the clouds on my first day in Northern India, as I always do.

“You see?” I said to my mum, pointing upward as we exited the airport. “Don’t the clouds look crazy after those weeks away? They’re so close to the ground here. It’s almost like you can touch them.”

I’ve said this every time I have returned from travels, my cloud fixation reignited immediately upon landing. Light and airy, the clouds still had heft, their bottoms flat and tops puffed outward, tumbling layers of white. After the wide open skies of India and Bangkok, Montreal clouds appeared to hang by a thread, as though they would at any point come careening down, flattening me. Rationally, I knew that clouds don’t crash. But in the haze of jetlag, my face pressed to the window on the drive back to my parents’ place, I had my doubts.

“Clouds… yes…” my mother mused. “But really it’s the silence. I cannot get over the silence. It echoes in my head.”

Everyone notices something different upon a return to what is familiar. For me, clouds. For my mother, sitting in traffic on that drive back home, the quiet. No horns, no yelling, no whistles being blown and no cows, goats or camels in the road. Turning to stare out of the window, she smiled “I kinda miss the cows, though.”

Before I left for India, those who had been said the same thing to me: it will be a place that you love and you hate, that you will find chaotic and dizzying and that will leave its imprint on you for years to come.

With many years of travel under my belt, I was curious about India’s effects. I remember how scared I was to leave for Santiago in 2008, and again how foreign Southeast Asia felt to me when I first set foot in Thailand near the end of that same year. How would I react to the dichotomies of India?

I am still processing how I want to share stories from Northern India on this site. But I want to start with a long umbrella post, an overview of the quirks that made me smile and the memories that lingered. Think of it as a follow up to the pre-trip reading and notes from just prior to my departure.

The great, mostly—and bit of the ugly. Some not specific to India, but to developing countries generally. Others very much an Indian phenomenon. I can’t say I know India well at all—for starters, I travelled only to Rajasthan and Agra and Delhi. And with only two weeks and change, I had barely a chance to dig for anything all. In those few weeks, however, these are the things that stood out.