|"A Lost Sheep in Delhi" - 8 Days Golden Triangle |
Travel Agency: GeTS Holidays
This was my first time flying overseas in my entire working life, the result of having to take care of myself from a young age.
In spite of having been told all sorts of horror stories about traveling solo and the things I will face in India, none of these tall tales ever happened, and I had the rare honor of fitting in very well wherever I went and writing back a tall story of my own.
It took a while for my entourage to note that yes you can set a Durga devotee loose on the streets of Jaipur at night and only good things will happen!
While of course, everyone has their own perception of things and not everything I will tell are politically correct, know that I was very open to discussing things on the streets, in airports, at places of interest, with anyone who wished to talk. No one asked me to avoid any 'sensitive' topic and it is the first time in my life I heard my home country being discussed in a positive tone.
Here in my country, for some reason the moment you declare yourself local you are given the cold shoulder right away. Conversation stops right after declaring your age, marital status, occupation and where you live. Guess how many friends I made? Aside from the Indian Ladies at work? None.
But in India there was nothing but smiles all the way as each person I met helped me craft my travel story, and wanted to discuss more and more things about myself, for which I received nothing but understanding and helpful advice all the way even with language and cultural barriers in the way. I could not learn much Hindi as I barely had any free time this year!
Entire families laughed as I related some Anushka Sharma scenes from one of my favorite films... and I had a very special homestay with a Rajasthani family.
Why did I have long hair? Katrina Kaif of course!
Why was I wearing traditional clothes all day? My colleagues bought all these from Chennai, so I'm returning the favor by coming here!
It made me very happy to be with locals and after a point of time I was not wanting to go to those crowded restaurants filled with tourists because they would often be very loud spoiling the ambience, or condescending to someone who looked to be in local dress (me of all people! mistaken for a desi person!).
On tour in Agra and Jaipur, I felt at home exploring the old forts and palaces and imagining how people went about their daily life there. The expert local guides provided by the tour company helped greatly with the quest to bring these places back to life, with vivid descriptions, the most intricate period engineering shop talk, and a personalized course on Mughal politics...
It felt magical doing prayers at a place where no one had minded the temple for possibly centuries. The guide didn't want to accompany me there and bid me go alone, take some pictures. I followed my heart and didn't really care for the shocked looks from other tourists.
And I got the most lovely pictures of the entire trip right there. It seemed I had found my spiritual home after all, doing prayers at the palace of Jodhabai in front of everyone... to me, once a temple, always a temple. Such confidence. Who was I in my past life?
Visiting Humayun's Tomb and Taj Mahal felt to me like being invited as a guest to someone's home, and I tread respectfully in turn.
While I was at first afraid to visit Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, I was most warmly welcomed there and met a lot of friendly Muslim pilgrims - they were at Humayun's Tomb and Qutub Minar as well.
On the streets of Delhi I would receive the most wonderful greetings and compliments, and when I was lost during my first time wandering around Connaught Place a friendly stray dog showed me how to walk in the crowd. That's a totally different dog than the one above at Kailash Colony, but same friendliness. These dogs are better than some tour guides! Here's a short Facebook video of my "guide" in Connaught.
In Kailash Market one early morning I strolled alone and found sanctuary in the garden, while elderly gentlemen greeted me "Jai Kali!" as I walked past. Relating the story on Facebook I was asked what does Maa Kali have to do with the color of my kurta and I told them more stories in turn.
This friendly stray dog below helped me find the best South Indian veg food ever at Kailash Market. He was just sitting out in the middle of the road, all alone, looked at me curiously.
I did a little namaste and he came bounding over immediately. I said good morning how are you, I am looking for breakfast here. He led me in a straight line to Juggernaut restaurant which is done up in a beautiful temple theme.
A local tailor chatted me up at one of the co-op stores at the end of the week's tour, chose some scarves for me, and I was shocked to see Kali inscriptions and prints.
My goodness. I will have to pay respects at temples all week.
When it was time to leave, I was very unhappy and I would freely admit I felt depressed for a time.
I did come back home an entirely different person, says my friends, and even if it takes months and years again to find my way back, one thing is sure.
I will be back one day.
Thanks India for accepting me and making my dreams come true
This is the most amazing thing I just realized.
I never, ever once looked over my shoulder. Not even once. I felt safer in India than in my home country. I spent late nights with local bhaiyyas in Jaipur and would love to see them and their families again. That's how well I fit in!