Months of preparing and planning are already behind. Lots have been read and watched. Plans of moving around in India are drawn. Heavy backpacks are meticulously packed. Uneasy feeling of anticipation for the moment of encounter with absolutely different culture, tradition, customs and people accommodated the soul.
The moment of meeting something that would utterly change some things in consciousness and life was about to come.
To India …
I remember waiting for the flight to Almaty at the “Boryspil” airport. Everywhere around were the families and couples and lonely passengers, clad with chic, moving their big roll alongs, setting off after announcements to Antalya, Hurghada or other resort destinations. As for me, I was sitting with two enormous tourist backpacks and a laptop, wearing a sports T-shirt, a flannel shirt, simple breeches and trekking sandals, and felt a little like Cinderella, whereas stepmother with sisters prepare for the ball…
10 hours later, going in a far too small taxi, accompanied again by our two backpacks and now two unfamiliar Indians, trying to solve the problem of checking into the hotel, soaking in sweat, trying hard to breathe in moist and dense air, periodically getting wet under the pouring rain, plowing through the streets ankle-deep in muddy water, I couldn’t care less about my appearance. ☺
There is an opinion that from everyone, who sets their foot on India’s ground, this extraordinary country takes its “toll”. It means that something, that doesn’t go in their plans awaits every unprepared person. Perhaps, it is true. And perhaps it’s just the “polarity” of the new reality.
I will never forget my first day in Delhi. Of course, now, having successfully returned back home, all those ludicrous adventures that happened to us on that very day produce a smile on our faces. But back then… Back then it seemed as if the whole city was screwing with us, and every single Indian plays the fool, and we’re going in a taxi through the pumping city having a specific goal, but somehow without result. Typical “fresh chicken” we were, as Indians call white tourists-novices.
We were very unfortunate to arrive in Delhi in the anticipation of the Independence Day. In this connection the city was preparing for a widescale celebration (Indians are usually very patriotic and all kinds of celebrations are the most important part of their lives), that’s why central parts of the city were securely closed by police. And to our disappointment, the hotel we booked beforehand was in the restricted area.
Worth mentioning that at the moment of our arrival we couldn’t orient ourselves at all, and were forced to rely on our cabman. He offered to take us to the travel agency and try to contact our hotel from there, asking whether they would check us in after all. Hotel confirmed that it couldn’t accommodate us. Shoot! How about telling this earlier?
Using guidebook, we called other hotels getting only that they are fully booked in return. We were shocked. We couldn’t understand how the city of 25 million people was unable to take in 3 tourists. Frustrated head tilts from our new Indian acquaintances said “Independence Day”. We were helpless on the outside and outraged on the inside. “What now?!” we resented, life didn’t stop because of the Independence Day. We were mistaken.
Stubborn cabman drove us around town for a long time after that hoping to stick us anywhere (but more likely hoping to earn more money). I’ve no idea how long it would’ve gone in if it hadn’t been for the Czech couple, whom we met in the next “travel agency”, where infinitely complaisant Indians tried to make a deal at any cost, even send us off to the Taj Mahal. We were so happy to meet those guys and hear somehow “native” language, that we even forgot that we could speak in Czech, clearly annoying the “helpers”, who gathered around. Czechs found themselves in the same situation, only a day earlier. Therefore, they told us about the place where we could stay for the night, rest our tired bodies, take a shower and straighten out things. Thank you very much, our accidental reencounters! We broke the circle of going from one Indian “helper” to the other ☺ It was as if to break the circle of earthly incarnations!
Our problems with the hotel should be placed against the background of a truly “Indian” city. Not just a city, but a megalopolis. Suffocating moist air filled with smells of exhaust, deafening din of horns (Indians love to horn – it’s like a conversation between the drivers), clatter of rickshaws, Indian jibber-jabber…
And everywhere around are the people! They walk, plod, lie, sleep, eat, beg for money, stare at you, constantly offer something, totally oblivious to each other. To accept such a reality time is necessary.
On the day of our arrival we should’ve met with our Facebook friend, Sanjay. He flew in from Mumbai and offered to stay with us, show the city and allow to acclimatize to local conditions. We were supposed to meet at the hotel. But due to aforementioned occasions, we couldn’t. Moreover, we didn’t have the Internet to contact him through the social network. And by some disastrous mishap there appeared to be a mistake in the telephone number he gave us for emergencies – two numbers switched places…
Only around 6 o’clock, having checked in a hotel (a very relative notion in India), having gotten access to Wi-Fi, we could contact him. And meet him after all.
The “hotel” couldn’t even be nominated to be called “hotel”, it was a hole, where one could take a shower and relax at least for a little bit… Take off the backpacks and freshen up.
Falling asleep, I thanked all bloggers, according to whom I packed sleeping bags. We slept in them, first of all it was more hygienic, and second of all it brought the sensation and smell of home. Also there was this strange perception of time, as if it deformed and everything, that happened to us couldn’t be fit into one day. As if me, who sat at the airport in Kyiv last night, and me, who is trying to fall asleep in a sleeping bag in India, in Delhi, at the “La Franso” hotel, in the horrible room are two different people. Like my lovely Alice (by Lewis Carroll), I fell through the rabbit hole into the world where everything’s different. My thoughts weren’t cheerful, nor hopeful. How will I manage to go on for 3 weeks? It’s almost as long as the eternity. What did I think about?! I wanted to cry…
Front curtain lowers ☺
I think that India took its toll and was fully satisfied.
Next day was more joyous. We were with Sanjay. And although sometimes we were “lost in translation”, a man who felt at ease in this crazy atmosphere was with us, he could speak in Hindi and inform us about what’s happening in simple English. Getting to know the city wasn’t easy and smooth, monsoon season reigned and constant rains often got in a way. Therefore, it excluded the possibility to go sightseeing. Delhi’s climate is rough: it combines high temperatures, humidity and massive air pollution. A somber grey sky hangs above it without any hint of blue.
Amongst all the sights of Delhi we got to see the Qutb Minar and the Parliament’s residence. The Gates of India were seen out of the car’s window – the goings to it were closed. Before departing from Delhi to Ukraine we saw the Red Fort.
During the half an hour walk by the terrifying Delhi streets to our hotel we managed to shoot some street portraits. It’s a plus and the only consolation for absurdly useless first day.
- Without previous knowledge of this city it’s a disaster, of course. In the whole, the city doesn’t reflect the set of qualities that are stored in one’s head under the label “country’s capital”. Here, the center doesn’t differ from other parts of the city. No beautiful architecture is seen. Too many people, so many, that they inhabit the streets everywhere, even in the center. Simply mad traffic. To say that Delhi has contrast is to say nothing.
- Delhi should be a place to transfer. To see it as a separate destination for travel is redundant (as for me, at least).
- Places of interest in Delhi are the sights. The only beautiful places in Delhi are the buildings of hundreds of years of age or those built by the Brits during colonization period. One should go there early in the morning to omit throngs of tourists.
- You can temporarily get away from the Indian chaos in the shopping malls, get a proper meal and use the Wi-Fi in a café or restaurant. You’ll see completely different India inside – modern, rich and civilized. But it resembles everything you could easily see at home.
- Try and believe in your intuition while in India. It’s way better than becoming trapped in the hands of “helpers”, whose only goal is to sponge money off you.
- Have some considerable amount of money on your mobile phone (to use roaming in case of emergency).
- Leave all your expectations at home, prepare to be brave and enduring, set your mind on a positive tune and be calm. Try and laugh in the face of all adversities to come your way! ☺
Our first day full of unexpected came to an end at the minor note. But it was only the beginning, and beginnings are always tough. What I was taught during our trip is to accept my reactions. Yeah, I’m tired and upset, almost everything I planned went to hell – but I suppose it’s normal in such cardinally different surroundings of a person living in the same rhythm every day. But the sun rises the next day, my family is beside me, everyone is alive and healthy (maybe a touch hungry), our stuff’s with us, and the whole world of adventures awaits ahead!