11.06.2011 - 15.06.2011
My back is dripping with sweat; my pants are stuck to my thighs as if I had just had a run in the rain and my fringe is flat on my forehead. Angie leans over and whispers “the man next to us looks like a mixture of Jesus and Father Christmas”. He has such a big, grey beard covering the lower half of his face, so I find it hard to understand his English- no chance of lip reading! His eyes tell everything- very inquisitive, kind and have a certain constant look of surprise in them. He is wearing an orange scarf; light orange pants and is without shoes. He looks like one of those holy men whose sole life’s purpose is to roam from temple to temple, on foot. We discover he’s actually a meditation teacher- has a card and is even on Facebook! Even the spiritual guys have made friends with technology. He offered to take us to a Hindu temple the following day; but we politely decline as we have made other plans.
Delhi is the hottest, dustiest and dirtiest city I have ever been in. As soon as I step outside my hotel room (and I am still in the hotel!) the heat hits me with a force like none other! I move to the outside and I am hit slap bang in the head with an instant heat-headache and every step takes it out of me. The intense air just sits there in all its glory without making an effort to make way for me as I try to walk through it. I am sweating within minutes. As I take my first breath I can taste dust, pollution and who knows what else- I have definitely cut my life expectancy down a few years. (I think I am going to start taking anti- aging pills).
But despite the heat and the dust and the fact that even before we stepped foot in India we have both been pretty sick with a stuffy nose, headaches and a cough- it hasn’t deterred us from getting the most out of it- this place is just amazing! Colourful people; interesting smells and just so much going on all the time! Wherever I sit- I see the most fascinating scenes playing out in front of me- Israeli’s walking around bare feet; a man standing in front of me, crying, asking for 5 rupees; a dog barking madly at a kid; a man forcefully shoving away a beggar from his shop; pedestrians almost getting knocked over by the abundant rickshaws, motorbikes and cars passing through and just complete constant chaos!
How does one spend their days when the heat is so extreme? At the cinema of course! Angie and I walked in midday heat, shouting at each other about where the hell we are, getting more and more bad tempered as the walk goes on… Luckily Indians can speak English, and soon we find our destination. The only movie showing was The Hangover 2. Its set in Bangkok, and it made such a difference, knowing that we had just come from there! The little things about Thailand we were able to pick up and laugh even more at…
The movie theatre was amazing! Such comfy seats that can be pulled out so you can lie a bit back and there is also great customer service (what’s new?). There’s an interval halfway through and waiters come around asking if you want anything- coke, popcorn etc.
In all the time I’ve spent in Southeast Asia- never before I have been spoken to as often as I have been here in India. All the time people (100% always men) are asking what happened to my arm; where I am from etc. We have been invited for tea or a beer on numerous occasions, but we are always skeptical as to what their intentions are. I think in time we will be able to judge them, but for now I’d prefer to decline. The salespeople are also not so aggressive like in Vietnam or Cambodia, and if I say “no thank you”, they just leave me alone. Same goes for the rickshaw and tuk-tuk drivers.
We were standing outside a “Japanese, Korean and Chinese” restaurant; the owner comes out and asks us what we are doing and if we want to sit down. I reply I am just reading. He confusingly asks “reading what?” (thinking I just said that in order to not have to go inside)-while staring at the menu on the wall written in just Korean, Chinese and Japanese. Ha! Great feeling to say “I can read Korean!” :-)
The hardest aspect to understand about India, for me, is how to deal with the extreme lifestyles that exist here. One side of the street there’s people sleeping on the ground, wearing dirty or no clothes, having no food and begging to every passerby’s. There’s the tatty-dressed rickshaw drivers whose home is their rickshaw. There are cows who roam as they please-they are the king of the road.
Then you get wealthier side with flashy jewelry and smart attire; that walk pass the lower castes without a care in the world. Initially I was shocked at how degradingly the poor were treated, but I have to admit it’s similar to South Africa. Growing up with poverty all around you, you become numb to it. In SA it’s easy for me to pretend that the poverty and suffering of people don’t exist. Whereas as here- it is constantly in my face, in my space, in my psych. Wherever I go- it’s there and it’s real and it hurts me that I can’t help them all. I feel guilty every time I say “no, sorry” to a mother and her child on her hip. It kills me inside that so many people in this country have absolutely nothing and will always have nothing and will die as nothing. I won’t ignore these people and I do want to help in some way. But for now all I can hope for is the strength to not close my eyes to them....
Right now we are at Kishan’s parent’s house in Chandigarh. We traveled last night. The bus ride was very interesting! In the beginning everything was honky dory, but them just over halfway we all jumped at a loud bang! The bus had ridden over a huge piece of granite cement and a tyre had burst- fantastic! After what seemed like forever we were on our way again. I had a guy’s ass in my face for a while and I was so glad when Kishan whispered to me “in 10 minutes we get off”. Dragging my backpack from under my feet we managed to escape the metal-clanking machine. Once we were off I realized that one of my hiking boots had fallen out of the bag attached to my backpack- it was still on the bus! Since I had the one, it seemed lame to not have the other (rather lose both then just one). So Kishan drove (his mother’s driver had met us when we got off) like a crazy man to try catch up. We got to the bus station and were just in time to get to get my shoe before the bus went off again. Yahh! :-)
The internet here (in India in general) is not as good as it was in Southeast Asia, but I will try to upload articles and photos (on Facebook) as often as I can.
Ok, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading! :-)