Before I get into things, I have two pieces of housekeeping that need to be addressed.
First, apologies for the lack of pictures in my recent posts. From my perspective as the writer, I don’t feel the story is complete without pictures (or video of me bungee jumping) so I understand if I lose some fans (read: people who feel obligated to read this) due to my very bare posts as of late. Without a laptop at my disposal, it’s impossible to upload pictures. I hope to add some when I have access to my laptop again (which is sooner than I feel comfortable with) so keep checking back!
Second, for posts that are much better than anything I could write, check out my girl K’s blog. You remember her from Siem Reap, right?
Okay, onward and upward to India!
Even though I was sad to be leaving Bangkok so soon, I was incredibly excited to get to India, even though I was kind of lame and decided to go on a tour instead of travelling by myself. India was the original dream, a place I’ve imagined going for so, so long and the reason I started travelling in the first place. I had a feeling I would love it and, while I could never blend in and disguise myself as a local, I figured I could at least hold my own with the spicy food.
My first impression of India came on my very nice flight (ANTM and Modern Family on demand? Heck to the yes!) to Delhi. The man sitting next to me was obviously Indian and, typical Meggo, I wanted to strike up a conversation but I also knew that coming off as “too friendly” can mean something entirely different in Indian culture so I stayed quiet.
As the meals were beginning to come out, he received his specially-requested Muslim meal and I eagerly awaited my meal, thinking that it must be coming out soon since it was also a special order. I waited and waited and finally asked where my meal was when they came around to ask if I wanted a meat or vegetarian meal. As she was checking if my meal was on board (SPOILER ALERT: it wasn’t), he asked if I wasn’t eating. I told him I thought I was but I’m waiting for a special meal as well. He told me “I’ll wait until you get your meal to start eating mine”. I thought that was so nice of him but told him that he may as well start because it could be awhile before mine got sorted out.
Throughout the flight, we got to chatting. He told me that he’s a businessman in Bangkok and spends a lot of time there but his wife and children all live in Delhi. He said I looked around his daughter’s age (19) but was quite happy when he found out that I’m closer to his son’s age (22). We went through the usual: are you a student, how long are you in India for, are you married. All the while, he was dropping hints about how great his son is–very handsome, in his last year of medical school, works too hard–and how he wants his kids to marry people from other countries.
I found it sweet (although a little weird) when he gave me his card and told me to call him if I have any trouble in India or if I come back and need a place to stay. I wasn’t sure about the whole thing and I knew I’d never take him up on his offer but I thought it was very nice that he offered. He told me that I was just like his daughter so he’d make sure I was safe.
And he did. We walked through the airport, chatting and arrived at the immigration desks, which I was terrified of because of the incredibly difficult and intimidating visa process, he told me where to go and that he’d meet me on the other side. He answered my questions about the information I had to provide on my arrival card and told me it would be fine.
I went through the very intimidating immigration desk but didn’t see him on the other side so I figured he’d left and went to go get my bag. I ran into him as I was about to walk out, he shook my hand and told me again: “Call me if you have any trouble”.
I walked through customs (I guess little white girls aren’t that suspicious-looking) and saw my guide, SN, right away. I breathed a sigh of relief. I went up to him and said “I think you’re who I’m looking for”. He asked if I was hungry and I said I was because my meal wasn’t on the plane. Immediately, he offered to buy me something at the food stand nearby and, while greasy, it was still pretty good.
This might sound bad but, I didn’t expect Indians to be so kind. After being in Cambodia and Thailand, I didn’t expect much in way of manners or hospitality from things I’d heard. That was changed very quickly. Although this probably isn’t always the case since we’re staying at pretty lush hotels and eating at nice restaurants, I find people very helpful and eager to please.
After a couple days on the road, some other things began to stick out to me as well. It’s litter-filled everywhere you go. Many of the buildings are crumbling. There are goods trucks that have “Blow horn please”, “Speed 40 km/hr” and “Use dipper at night” written on their bumpers. There are some parts that make Cambodia look like a totally developed country. Men come up to me and try to get me to come to their house if I walk alone. All women wear beautiful, vibrant saris and jewellery.
The weirdest part is all the animals on the street. They’re literally everywhere. Cows, dogs, pigs, more cows, buffalo, rats, donkeys, goats, monkeys, more cows and even camels! It’s pretty cool to see a zoo on the street but it also means there’s a LOT of animal shit on the road and things for drivers to dodge. I wonder again and again why cows and dogs enjoy laying down on the median of highways and how they can put up with the incessant, raucous noise.
In some places, it’s hot. It’s heartbreaking to see little children beg or being forced to dance as their parent plays music for money. It’s irritating when there are swarms of people around, shoving things in your face and yelling “You buy! Good price!”. It’s a lot.
There’s so much to see in India that I’m disappointed in myself for booking my return ticket already so I’m unable to stay longer to see it from a more grounded perspective, since I’m travelling in an air-conditioned SUV and staying in swanky hotels right now. I think I would see a very different India than what I see now and I think I would feel more connected to it, instead of feeling like a complete outsider, living royal’s life while there are kids begging for shampoo on the street. I guess that just means I need to come back. Who’s in?!
From Bharatpur, Internets,
See you soon, Internets,