Whether you belive in love at first sight or you believe that love grows with time , either way you can't help but to make a decision after you've been to India. Frankly you can never go to India and return back the same way, it is impossible.
Its early morning when our flight lands at Chhatrapati Sivaj International air terminal, the weather is hot and humid. As I que for immigrations I decide to take off my jacket not sure if its the heat or the excitement on being in Mumbai. Finally I am allowed entry ,as our taxi slowly makes its way outside the airport INDIA slowly unvailed itself to me. The first thing I notice is the deafning hooting noise from cars, not only that but as we make our way through the crowded streets of mumbai suddenly I notice cars from every side of the road ( the roads could roughly hold 3 lanes but there is almost 6 lanes); black & gold rickshaws, buses, minibuses etc. I am puzzled as to how can one drive in this chaos. As if the traffic wasn't enough I soon notice a shear number of people filling every other available space on the road & pavement.Woman in their saris, man in their suits, little boys in their khakhi school outfits, girls in their dungarees. Its all too much to take it, I try to appreciate the scene before me, but I am lost for words. This is definately more than what I had anticipated... yeap this a dream come true.. this is MUMBAI. finaly we safely manage to arrive at our hostel which was situated not far from the airport, after checking in we jump into a Rickshaw with intentioions of going to the city centre only to be dropped at a train station inorder for us to catch a commuter train. As we join the que to purchase the train tickets, a train approaches with the scenes to be forever imprinted on my mind : 'people ,people ,people squashed on each other like sardines ; I notice that I can only see man in the coach just before me.. I then wonder where are the woman (confused) , shinny metalic boxes are hanging out of the windows as well. We stood there speechlesly and looked at each other and in unison we said: 'No lets take a taxi'. Don't get me wrong I would have loved to take that train but I couldn't understand the logistic of getting on it train, the best option was definately a taxi.
I notice a few things: signs : 'do not spit as spitting causes TB' , immediately I see a man spiting some 'red stuff' yuukkkk. I then understand the sign .Like all relationships its not all bad, since I am vegeterian I am in food-heaven. We locate an affordable resturant, I feast only to pay later with an upset tummy that evening. After our meal we decide to stroll from the Chhattrapati Sivaj Terminus (VT pronounced weetyy ) station to the India gate. We get lost in the happenings around usm the locals are living up Mumbai as it should: lovers are holding hands, children are holding their parents hands, people taking pictures ( of themselves and soon of me) we loose track of the time and before we know it its the rush hour in Mumbai. Due to the shear amount of traffic no taxi driver is intending to take us all the way outside the city centre. It soon became obvious that our only option was to take a local bus. Finally we are travelling like the locals yeeyyyy. Catching a bus in Mumbai needs a few skills: accuracy in reading of bus numbers , the ability to Push people without feeling guilty, the abilitty to jump unto a moving bus and the magic skill of figuring out where to seat on the bus ( or the ability to ignore everyone looking at you when you seat at a wrong seat). Finally after almost +- 3 hrs we finally make it back to our hostel yeap we did get lost, but getting lost in Mumbai is not getting lost is it or is it??
As I conclude my first date with India , Mumbai has definately got me thinking , like a lady I let Mumbai sleep in its filth ,noise and chaos while I curl up and relax in my bed. As I am digesting the days hapenings I realise the following:
I love the food- the noise is irritating- frankly can't get my head around the shear number of people everywhere- certainly I am not feeling the love with India , but I am intrigued. Anyways who said you know you are in-love on the first date, afterall this is not one night stand is it?
It is when you have survived the first date & you are still interested that you realise maybe you have to give this a chance. Luckly I didn't have to wait long for a call after my first date, I knew Mumbai had apitised me and I had to get more of it. The Dhobi Ghats are our destination this morning. As we arrive we are approached by a young pretty girl who for some reason , you can mistaken as a tour guide. After that we decided to see the rest of Mumbai & window shop. We finally arrive back at VT station an hour prior to the scheduled to departure time for our train. We inquire regarding our platform and we obtained contradicting information. The train departs and we are left behind. Irritated, annoyed and frankly angry with the staff at the station who had no clue what was happening. I decide to count from 1 to 10 , after calming down I purchase another train ticket for early the next morning. Since we were leaving early in the morning we decided to sleep at the train station. You are wondering how is it possible, its easy: you locate a spot on the floor (avoiding any red marks on the floor) , You make yourself comfortable (I got into my sleeping bag) and then attempted to fall asleep. Only to be woken up by a shhhh shhh shhh sound, as I lift my head to locate the noise: its a man with a flask selling tea. It finally dawns on me that falling asleep in the station will be an impossible task but I try anyway.
Yeap its true communication is the best key in any relationship , since its almost impossible to get correct information from officialls in India I think this relationship will require too much work- I can't stand the filth I seem to come across everywhere but I am intrigued-luckly I am an adventorous chick and adventure definately keeps me interested what else could be instore ...
Its 05:00 in the morning, finally we are on a correct train, destination GOA. As we approach our first class section of the train we are anticipating all the works only to arrive in our coach and think we are lost., yeap it is the first class which is not so first class. For a moment I wonder how life is on the 3rd class . At this moment I had no interest in finding out how life was on the 3rd class, I was simple glad I didn't notice coackraches around my coach. Again I unzip my sleeping bag, get inside it and I manage to get a few hours of sleep. Only to be woken up as the train stops, as I look outside the window I am faced with an unbelieveble scene before me: as I look outside the window, a young boy in his khakhi school uniform suddenly aproaches the train holding a bucket. He then places the bucket on the ground ( I am wondering why he has a bucket).The boy looks to his left side -right side & behind , for some reason he forgets to look to infront of him. He starts lowering his trousers, he squats , oops he is relieving himself. As I am digesting the fact that he is relieving himself infront of a whole train, sudenly the bucket moves to the right side, the right hand picks the water & the left does the rest I am still shocked .. the train starts moving and I loose focus of the boy who I believe wasn't aware we were there oops did I just see that... finally we arrive at Goa, from the dusty,overcrowded ,filthy Mumbai we are now in clean, fresh air, less crowded Goa.. what a beautiful place, we check into a hostel close by the beach its a dream indeed
I have realised that life is full of suprises: 1st class train turned out to be not so first class, just saw a boy relieving himself & just arrived in beautiful GOA wow one thing for sure I am liking this country.. could I be falling in love????
Early in the morning we decide to take a stroll around the beach & checkout the stalls...and we meet two guys:
Guy 1: 'are you up for some weed/cocaine? '
Me : 'ahaa what?'
Guy 2: Cocaine or weed
Me: with a puzzled look 'No I don't take either' ( I walk away)
I am still buffled by this offer made to me in public at day light. As I walk up and down the stalls the same guy approaches me over and over again.We then go for a splash in the sea and the evening approaches. AThere fter dinner and a movie we stroll back to the beach & Anjuna has come to life. There is a rave party going on at the beach, the music was deafening, people are doing something I am ssuming is dancing , for tonight just tonight I decide to take a seat & enjoy the occurances around me.. mind you usually I will be on the dance floor.
. ... what a date, as earlier mentioned I am an adventorous chick Anjuna is surely above my expectation yeap even though I might have to say it I think I am enjoying my dates with India. I then rest for the evening.. while trying to sleep I am toassing & turning wondering what could India have instore for our next date.. one thing I know India is kind of my type but could it be love or a holiday fling with India???
Its early the next morning, as I step out of my room I smell the fresh air, the cool breeze and the calmness of the beach. As I take a stroll at the beach I notice a few things I wouldn't normally expect at a beach: dogs lying on the beech & cows strolling by. I am perplex but I am reminded I am in Goa. After breakfast we decide to go to Mapusa for some sight seeing only to realise that the Mapusa carnival is taking place the same day. Before the carnival starts we decide to have lunch in a resturant close to the carnival route. After lunch I ask the waiter for the toilet, he points me down stairs, as I approach the toilet funny enough the smell of curry gets stronger and stronger. Finally I manage to locate the toilet and suprise suprise I know where the curry was cooked yeap next to the toilet. I don't know whether to vomit or walkout ASAP.My stomach manages to hold the curry down but my legs carry me as fast as they can. After the carnival we return back to Anjuna , by now you could mistaken me for a local, I am doing the public transport system as a local. Upon arrival at Anjuna I discover that there is a night market on the next beach, yeap I soon find myself there.
suprise suprise oh India wow I am perplexed by the date did I just eat a curry coocked next to a toilet, if that is the case what else have I eaten hmmm. As early mentioned I am adventurous girl. Definately my kind of a perfect date.... am I blushing .. ooh could I be, no its too soon *wink**
Finally we are ready to procede from the beautiful Goa region and make our way to Dehli due to time constraints we fly. We realise that we had been upgraded to first class. ohhooo la la as I am enjoying the benefits of being on the other side of the curtain, I wonder how the multitudes are managing on the other side. We have half a day connection in culcata we then fly to Dehli. Finally we make it it to Dehli, as we land at Indira Gandhi International aiport I am filled with much anticipation. We meet up with our host for the 2 nights in Dehli, sadly my friend is in serious need of meat. She finally manages to locate a KFC oh the smile on her face. Its the morning of the night before: the rush hour begins, green & gold rickshaws fill the street , young boys with their carts, the hooting begins. Yeap I am still India, that is reaffirmed by the fact that the streets suddenly quiten down becuase there is a cricket match : South Africa VS India (cricket world cup 2011). I am wearing my South African cricket shirt, we win the encounter with India suddenly everyone is quite besides one person ME : I scream, I shout and scream some more, finaly it seems like I have offended the lady next to me , finally she approaches me and say: 'are you sure you should be doing that' I respond what's going happen they wouldn't kill me for celebrating a win could they. yeap I am definately in India ...
Dehli is quite, culturally diverse all of a sudden I don't get too much staring at all, if asked could I stay in Dehli ... my response is: I could consider moving to India if I have to reside in Dehli.. oooppps am I jumping the gun.. We are not at the moving in stage yet BUT yeap I might be liking India
Since our host in Dehli wasn't into adventrous travelling, I sadly found my next stop this morning at a designer mall. I am confused what on earth am I doing in a Mall at Dehli. I am looking at my watch wondering how much time will we spend in this mall, finally we make our way to New Dehli train station inorder to inquire about transport to Agra. We are informed that the train is full for the morning, we then locate a travel agent . The agent informs us that there only way to travel from Dehli to Agra is by taxi, when we inquired how much that will cost us, we are informed of a reduculous amount. Nooop I don't like being taken for a ride, I say to the agent: I find it odd that there is no other mode of transport from Dehli to Agra. He insist there is none, my intelligence and common sense as a budget traveller are insulted. I walkout of the travel agent leaving my host and my travel partner in the office. I then walk to a rickshaw driver and ask about buses to Agra. He informs me the bus station is outside the Dehli but I can get a bus to agra from 5:00am throughout the whole day. I thank him , by this time my host and travel partner are outside I tell them that I am taking a bus to Agra in the morning. I don't appreciate being lied to by travel agents. I have calmed down and we decide to discover more of Dehli. My travel partner gets a chance to purchase a big bucket of KFC again since she was going through meat withdrwal symptoms ( especially since she couldn't get steak).
Who said a relashionship is smooth sailing. I have realised I don't liked to be lied to and it seems that is happening alot in India luckly I am streetwise. I am still seeing India, I can't stop seeing it just because there are people who live on lying to innocent travellers.
Early the next morning, the streets of New Dehli are calling me for a ride to Agra,we make it to the Inter state bus terminus which is almost 30-45min drive outside the city centre and manage to catch a luxurious bus to Agra. After almost 5hrs we make it to Agra, apparently the train is the best option for reaching Agra from Dehli. Upon arrival we inquire about transport to our next destination VARANASI. Afraid of not finding seats on the train to Varanasi tonight , we decide to take a bus from Agra to Varanasi (from our luxurious bus from Dehli experience we were not worried about taking a bus). Our first destination in Agra was the Taj Mahal, as we approach the entrance my eyes are glued on the price list. Apparently it is too expensive to be a tourist in India, the price difference between locals & foreigners is just too much. Anyhow I have travelled a long distance what is money compared to being in Taj Mahal afterall. As I walk through the entrance , I forget about the value of the ticket, no amount of money is worth the sight before me...WOW- wow all of a sudden this trip is worth every penny spent on it . I try but fail to take my eyes off this beautiful magnificant structure which has bewitched me. After the Taj Mahal we go to the redfort. Late in the afternoon we make our way back to the bus station for our bus to Varanasi.. ohhh dear oh dear oh dear , is this the bus?. Talk about a chicken buses, filth-filth -filth and more filth galo. Initially I get confused as to where to place my bag, there is filth everywhere.Secondly I did't know whether I should use my sleeping bag or not there is filth everywhere .All of a sudden I realise that taking a bus from Agra to Varanasi might have been a mistake but who said I should get it right all the time.I gues on the positive note this bus was very cheap but I can't really save money at the expense of filthiness. Lesson learned indeed, I force myself in my sleeping bag using my backpack as the only clean item on the bus to put my feet on and I try to sleep.
I am perplexed by the filth in India but why should I focus on the negative , the Taj Mahal moment was a wow moment. I am a glass half-full kind of a chick.. and yeap I am still hooked on India..
Its midday after almost 18hrs on the bus we finall make it to Varanasi, known also as the holy city in India (holy for Hindus, Budhist and Jainas). I am exhausted, I am having aches from parts of my body I never knew existed.Varanasi is very HOT... and it seems filthier than anywhere I have been in India ( I could be making this assumption due to hunger), yeap I was hungry but a thought of food after that bus ride elicited nausea. I then notice more clearly the different social standings in Varanasi, how people relate to each other I gues I notice this more because I can't wrap my tinny head around this issue. Finally we check into a youth-hostel close to the university: The bedding on the bed looks clean, the floor looks mopped, the shower is infested with mosqitos. I try to shower while I make sure the mosqitos don't feast on me.. In the evining I decide to see the evening rituals at the Gangis. I arrive early enough just before the candles are lit. I then go to the burning ghats ( Manikarnika Ghat). My attention is devided between the boddies which are wrapped up in a white cloths, some are burnth and others are loaded on a boat and dumped into the river without resurfacing. I am intrigued as to how long does it take to thoroughly burn a human body, and what happens to the bones (yeap they get crushed with a stick).With the smell of burnth human flesh on my cloths I make my way back to the hostel, and come across a wedding proceding stunning indeed.
Wow, I am reminded that people are different and do things differently , I had an amazing experience at the burning Ghats. Not only that but I have seen how the bones are shattered after burning the body and yeap I have realised why the bodies don't resurface after being dumped in the river. Shocked but who said eveyone should be the same. Yeap India is still keeping me interesed by showing me something new everyday
Early in the morning I take a stroll to the river Gangis, joining pilgrims on their way to conduct their morning rituals. My intentions are to take a boat ride on the Gangis. As I try to take a video of the occurances before my eyes I get licked by a cow, I get frightened but no one comes to my rescue, I then decide maybe taking a boat -ride in the Gangis is not a good idea ( maybe I am supersitious but getting licked by a cow at the banks of the Gangis while no one comes to your rescue is a sign that taking a boat-ride in the Gangis might not be such a brilliant idea). I am perplexed by what I see happening before me, at the very same spot I was last night. People are shaving their hair and throwing it in the river; some are bathing in the river ; some are doing their laundry BUT the most perplexing thing : 'some are drinking the water', I am confused BUT soon I remember apparently :'The Gangis cleans itself'. After seeing the rituals I make my way back to the hostel. It is my travel's partners cousin's graduation this afternoon.Varanasi is a bit clean this morning, apparently officials will be at the graduation ceremony. From a travel budy I become a lady, my walking boots are replaced by high heels and jeans are replaced by a black sexy dress, sun screen replaced by make-up FYI: 'yeap I still got it , I am a lady again'. After the graduation we celebrate. You are now wondering, if its possible to party till dawn in Varanasi shhhhh...
What a date, I never thought I would be licked by a cow especialy infront of the Gangis, wow what a date suprise! suprise, maybe I am a lucky chick
As I take my flight from Varanasi to Mumbai I seat & digest my relationship status with India. Could it be a holiday fling, noop. I think I am in-love. If you are adventurous like me you can't help it but fall in-love with India, it challanges all you beliefs about life, human relations, social justice/system. frankly it shook me to my core but luckly my core is established . I love the diversity, oddness , I think I even love the filth ..ooops I am in-love, maybe I should update my relationship status to:== 'Thuli is in love with India' ==