The adventure begins
25. 01. 2012 - Arrival to Dillí
The flight to Katar was a new experience for me, I have never flown this far and in such a comfort. The flight takes 5 hours but I got more bored on the short flights to London or Dublin.
We havent seen much from Katar except for short glimps of skyscrapers in the distance. All cars we have seen were new and top class. Pretty impressive.
Flight from Katar was similar only in a bigget plane. Around 8am we stepped on Indian soil. Getting some money from ATM, we are getting a taxi (an old, rusty microbus) and the adventurous journey to Delhi city is about to begin.
Taxi cost us only 6 Euro for a journey of 10km, but the chaos on the roads was crazier than anything I have seen so far. Riding a scooter in Rome was an easy ride in comparison with this. I tried to take some photos but I dont think they are any good.
Almost an hour later we left the motorway (or whatever you want to call it) and went still deeper and deeper into the heart of the city .. to smaller and smaller streets. The last one was, to put it mildly, a shock for any traveller- beginner in India.
The city is covered with a thick blanket of dust and smog. The little street in which the taxi left us was a sight out of my world .. dust was covering everything, hundreds of people everywhere I looked, the noise and honking deafening. The garbage on the streets. It really was a glimpse of a world beyond my imagination.
The taxi driver told us how to get to our hostel and we bent our backs and walked into a meter wide little pathway ... open shops, people buying and selling or just walking and talking .. some street dogs lying across the path .. all this in a space into which a normal size European has to crawl almost on his knees.
It's a picture of a third world country that I have seen in the movies.. you cant think of safety here.
We eventually found our hostel .. well, there is a big whole where a front wall of the building should be and instead, a fridge is fitted into the whole. We got our room - it seems ok, we gotta use a liner as the bedsheets are not really clean but that's fine. The bathroom is a different story. NO TOILET .. only the feared squat toilet.
For 200INR .. it has to do. Good night.
25. 01. 2012 - First day and night
We walked out of our hostel straight into that same little street. I want to start taking pictures but I cant get myself to take the camera out of its case. Maybe later.
As we walk people come to us from all sides and try to sell something, ask us where we are from or where we are going .. In a way I am surprised that they are not too much "in your face". I would expect it to be worse. Even the rubbish on the street is not as bad as I thought it will be. The balance between my expactations, fear and reality is slowly finding its equilibrium. Something is worse and something is better ..
A bug just walked past me on the bed! I write this tucked under a blanket. I just brushed it off ..
During the day we found a tourist office where they helped us to plan our first week of travels, we saw couple of monuments and one palace and enjoyed the tuk tuk rides.
One of the palaces made a deep impression on me, however the entrance was painfull for me. As there is a Republic day tomorrow, the check points are everywhere and also the security at all major monuments is much stricter. We have to leave all our belongings in a storage room - including our camera, netbook, money .. I have to think twice as I am still not convinced that the moment I leave my backpack out of my sight someone will steal it.
But I gotta say it is totally worth it. The palace is magnificent. This is the true India - chaos and poverty on the streets and just behind a fence there is a palace shining with gold - a pride of thousand years old history.
We havent slept for 35 hours. Well, I didnt. Lucie sleeps in any position, any vehicle and any time - basically whenever there is an opportunity to take a nap :))
We came back to our hostel in the evening and .. what a joy to find out that the water in a shower is not only tepid but boiling!! The bathroom, as I said before, is nothing like what we are used to. The water from the shower flows across the whole bathroom floor into the squat toilet on the other side.
We are tired. Deadly tired. Even though the bedsheets are not really clean, we take out our liners and blankets, lock the door and finally the time to sleep is here!! We can hear noise from the street - laughter, shouting, even music. I think .. or rather hope .. I will be able to sleep. Lucie is already asleep!
Most people when they come here first time must face hundreds of questions - what to do about desinfection, is it rude to use it in front of the locals, should you try to enjoy everything with maximum enthusiasm or should you think of what ifs, is the drinking water from a tap ok for me, is the glass clean .. questions, questions.
Is it even possible to keep your routines and habits in such a different environment? More and more I am convinced that to live here .. you have to learn to live their way.
As far as food goes we are trying to take it easy on our stomachs. No problems so far there.
The first day was a rollercoaster for our feelings and senses. From luxurious Katar we came into poor Delhi neighbourhood and few hours later we walked around a palace glowing with gold in the setting sun.
P.S. Around 11pm the hotel and the streets quietened. Only whispers from the next room and a dripping water from our bathroom can be heard. The dripping water that cuts every second with a loud tap. After midnight I take out the curly wire from our hotel phone, tie it around the dripping tap and let the drops slide down the wire into the sink. One third of a sleeping pill to make sure NOTHING will keep me awake.
31. 01. 2012 - One week in India
It is incredible how quickly can a person adapt to a new environment. It is only a week we arrived to India and everything was so new and different for us, so many questions to ask, so many things to understand. A week ago we landed in Delhi. It's dirty, noisy, crowded, poor. Hygiena has a totally different meaning here. Street dogs, cows, monkeys .. all mingle together with people on the streets. oh .. yes, and squirells and goats.
A week later we walk the same streets, we see all this aroun but nothing makes our eyes to pop out or heart to beat faster. We learnt how to mingle in the crowd, how to accept things around us. You are in a different world, you gotta learn how think differently.
We cant call it a cultural shock. I think the first day was a shock. From our comfortable, airconditioned homes we got into a poor neighbourhoods where rubbish piles at every corner, begging people are standing or sitting in lines along the walls, street animals walking past with no interest in you. Your hotel should be a shelter for you, place to hide from this new reality and to recuperate but the bare walls of the hotel room only brings the reality closer to you. Yes, it was a shock. Temporary shock though. The reality has more than one dark side and by discovering the many others things turn out to be actually better and better from now on.
I would call it a double world. Yours and the real world. Yours is the world of those who came to India to absorb some of the real world. But even this reality is not "real". Yes, you walk the same streets as the locals do, you breathe the same poluted air and shop in the same street stalls as they do. But then you go into your hotel room - the island of comfort comparable with your european standards. You sleep in clean bed, you have a hot showe. But the reality is somewhere else. You see it eveywhere around but it is not YOUR reality.
Slowly we start to understand the basic rules, ways things function here. If you have money you have everything you want. If you dont have money, you are pushed to out to the marginal society. Well, that's nothing new. But the marginal society uses a different definition and criteria.
03. 02. 2012 - The pause in thought
The translation of this page is in the progress.
07. 02. 2012 - Division of responsibilities
The translation of this page is in the progress.
08. 02. 2012 - D Day
Most of you probably know what that means. For those who dont, small hint - usage of toilet roll has increased rapidly:)
I wish I could just sit down and watch the people and animals in their natural pace as the sun slowly travels across the sky. Instead, I am the one being watched.
This place is full of paradoxes. It’s busy yet somehow mellow underneath, colorful and dull at the same time, noisy but calming… it is overwhelming. I feel like a nobility walking thru the street but at the same time I am only a drop in the sea.
I am sitting in a train to Agra and the fields around are covered with heavy mist. As the sun goes up, it illuminates the scattered trees. They look like illusions, maybe they are not there at all .. it is only my imagination. The stillness and coldness of the morning is transfixing .. there is no movement except for the train. It’s like the mist is enclosing my own mind. It’s a dreamlike picture .. the contours of things are blurred.
In every city we have been to, We have seen small children with runny noses and dirty clothes around, cows limping thru the streets, people digging thru rubbish for food. I can afford compassion - the privilege of those who dont have to beg for food. I can only imagine the heaviness of the burden of everyday life that they carry. I haven’t seen anyone crying though.. not even children.
By the time I finished this article, they serve us tea and meals .. and the fog has lifted. The trees were real.
I am going to enjoy the breakfast. It’s 7.30am and the breakfast is spicier than yesterday’s dinner. Taste of India.