1) You might be robbed. It might not be a human being who robs you. You might be walking along the side of the road, swinging a bag of perfectly ripe bananas in your hand, when a monkey runs up behind you and makes off with all the bananas. The monkey might immediately bite through the bag and into the bananas to mark his territory and make sure you don’t want those bananas anymore.
2) You might buy baggy cotton pants in bright colors. You’ve been to India and you’ve got the pants to prove it.
3) You might get used to eating with your hands. Or you might not, and just make a mess at every meal.
4) You might become accustomed to reduced personal space. Why do we need so much air between us and the rest of humanity anyway?
5) You might go rafting on the Ganges in Rishikesh and you might fall out of the raft. In the process, you might inadvertently drink a bit of Ganges water and then you might spend the evening worrying that you have e. coli. The following day, your mother might write you a terrifying email about how parasites can enter through the eyes, ears, mouth, nose and other orifices. You might realize after 24 hours that no sentient being is living in your ears.
6) You might start to feel like a celebrity as Indians whip out their cell phones to snap photos of you or with you, with or without your permission.
7) You might stand in front of the Nanda Devi on a clear day and pinch yourself because this cannot be your real life.
8) You might be looking for the ever-elusive garbage pail to throw away a banana peel when a passerby instructs you, “Feed it to a cow!” You might be skeptical, but you might learn that the cow enjoys the banana peel.
9) You might get addicted to chai.
10) You might devise many divertissements on an 18-hour train, like trying to remember how to calculate square roots and the names of all your college suite mates. (You might not be able to remember either of these things.)
11) You might eat your weight in mangos.
12) You might stand in front of the Taj Mahal and pinch yourself because this cannot be your real life.
13) You might get wet while walking under a tree on an otherwise dry, sunny day. When unable to identify what has dripped on you, a lady in the street might point up and say, “Monkey.” So you might be either peed or spit upon by a monkey.
14) You might start crossing the street to avoid monkeys.
15) You might be thrown off course by a tout, even with all your travel experience and common sense and wits about you.
16) You might catch the Indian enthusiasm for meeting new people. What could be more wonderful than big smiles and kind words? Touts are a fringe minority.
17) You might get used to hearing fellow travelers say things like, “I met a guy last night who said he was born on Venus and I believed him,” or “I’m going to go into the forest to find a nice rock and just be.”
18) You might bond with fellow travelers and new friends by talking about your respective digestive health.
19) You might see the Dalai Lama up close and pinch yourself because this cannot be your real life.
20) You might leave India thinking you’ll never go back but after a few months, you might miss the unique blend of chaos and shanti, the daal and chapati, the smiles from strangers, even the long, dusty bus journeys.
You might not realize it when it’s happening, but India might get under your skin.