Day 1 – 20th April 2018
Having left home yesterday morning, we finally arrive in New Delhi this morning, feeling a little bit jet lagged but triumphantly happy: we’re finally in India again!
Unlike many, I enjoy long flights. They give me plenty of time to sit in silence and practice stillness.
And if not, I can always read or watch a movie, listen to music, sleep or even have meaningful conversations so each moment since we take off, including the in-between stop over, is part of the package of unusual circumstances involved in travelling and removes the expectation of being headed somewhere, since arriving there is just one more part of the constant journey of Life.
Arriving in India, I must say, is always somehow unsettling. Not necessarily in a negative way, for me. The first thing that strikes me is the special scent – to me it smells of incense and varied spices always, and this in itself has a powerful uplifting effect. It sort of switches on another level of sensory awareness.
Then, it’s the amount of people. Always so many everywhere – especially in huge cities like New Delhi! Nevertheless, I feel at home with people here. There is an intrinsic kindness I can’t quite describe, but it makes me feel welcome anywhere I go. It’s like India opens its arms wide and receives me with a celebrating heart each time I get to touch its land.
Then, at this time of the year, it’s the heat. Today, however, there is a soft breeze that lightly soothes the hot air - at least now in the morning.
Then, it is the noise out in the streets. Hooting traffic and people speaking and moving all over. Different kinds of music playing and mixing with each other. TVs going on and on like a record turning, playing advertisements, bollywood series, news… All of this is overwhelming to me. After a while I need to get away from the noise, just for a while, to breathe deeply and get ready for more.
Then, it is the heaps of rubbish sitting on the sidewalks, on the streets, basically anywhere one looks there is some sort of debris, be it refuse or potholes, gravel, stones, never ending road works and repairs that somehow often look shabbily unfinished… This is part of India and though it can be saddening, I choose to accept it as it is. Hopefully, somehow, there will be a gradual turnaround in the rubbish issue, as rag pickers keep earning their keep collecting it for recycling and as more and more youngsters start creating alternatives to the endless platic piles.
Then, it’s the intense colours. They are all around us, creating a vibrant cocktail that almost tastes like a blend of tropical fruit. Speaking of which, reminds me of the food stall vendors and the delicious mango, banana, coconut… someone selling something everywhere. I believe India has more entreprenurs per squate metre than anywhere else. There is always something to trade and young men come from their hometowns into the big cities to seek a better life by owning their own tuc-tuc or whatever else inspires them to earn a dime, thus clogging the city with excessive population, pollution, dirt and poverty, not realising that far out in the countryside, cultivating a piece of land might have been a surer and more peaceful way of putting food on the table. Homelessness and begging is rampant and the fascination for the big city turns out to be a demise rather than a new lease of life. But this happens anywhere around the world – the illusion that living in urban clusters can somehow be lifesaving or lead to otherwise inaccessible riches.
We had already booked a place to stay at today, which seemed good and clean on the photos, so when we arrive at the metro station where we are supposed to get off, we ask a tuc-tuc to take us there. It so happens he says he knows where it is, but doesn’t really. No wonder! The name is not exactly the one on Booking! On an unfinished street and in a seemingly unfinished building we find it. It has been open only for a month so at least it will definitely be clean. We wonder whether it is the place we booked, but the hotel receptionist reassures us that it is and honestly we are hot and in need of a cold shower and a short nap so we give in easily. The room is acceptable, withing Indian standards, clean enough for one night, no cockroaches in sight. Actually, last time I came to India I saw none, which means my conscious choice for the best possible experience worked out pretty fine :D
Today we have to go to the train station to buy our tickets to and from Khajuraho. When we get there, lo and behold, there are hundreds of people all over the place, sitting or lying on the ground, standing at long queues, hustling and bustling to and fro. We head to a queue and stand there patiently for a while, some men trying to cut in front of us but us not letting that happen, many bystanders staring at us as if we are misplaced, until a kind man comes to me and says we’re not supposed to be standing there because there is an airconditioned office upstairs just for tourists to get their tickets! What a mighty blessing! Choosing Love turns out to be a basic practicality of a life significantly lived, in honour for each breath.
After getting the tickets – Sleeper to go (which the assistant warns us has no AC and can get quite noisy – not recommended to tourists) and 2AC to come back because these are the only places available (2AC costs 4 times the price of Sleeper but has some very welcome amenities, such as bedsheets, blanket and pillow). One way or another we view it all as an exprience and have chosen to embrace it in its smoothest possible version, so for us it is fine just the way it is.
We decide to go up to Conaught Place for a bit of sightseeing and to grab a bite before going back to the hotel for an early night in – we have to be at the airport at 4.30 am.
After a walk around, we buy a few local pasties – sorry I can’t recall the names – and a shake and go and sit in the centre of the round “square”, so to speak. A strong wind starts whipping up and the air is so hot and polluted it becomes hard to breathe, the sun is dimmed by a greyish haze and after a short while amogst the local youngsters, who are lying and sitting on the grass, some playing music, others just hanging out with each other, we decide it’s time to call it a day and head “home”.
I love this feeling of “home” being wherever we are. It’s safe, welcoming and always the only place to be at any given moment. It completely anihilates homesickness and it creates a bond with each place we are at, now.
See you tomorrow…
Well, actually I have already told you about tomorrow in my first post of this series, so see you the following day 😊