Monthly Archives: December 2012

Goodbye India

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Remember when I wrote this post?

THAT girl, had clearly never been to India.

My impressions of India, before we arrived, were mostly based off friends’ tales of soul seeking journeys through the spiritual landscapes of the country. They hiked and meditated and yoga-ed their way to quiet minds and inner-peace. Each one came back tanned and blissful and regaled us with stories of their life changing experiences in India.

But you know what NONE of them did in India? Live there. They were wanderers, nomads, rovers, hippies… When the spirit moved them, they moved on. There was nowhere they had to be, and nothing they had to do. They stayed primarily in the hill stations and out of the cities and the majority of their interactions were with other international travelers.

My only other points of reference were from the senior members of my company who had visited Bangalore and returned with PowerPoints of their luxury trips (replete with pictures of Indian colleagues; nervous smiles plastered on their faces) along with the portrayal of India offered by American media.

After nearly 6 months in India I’ve learned that there are infinite ways to experience “the real India”.  The friends who came before me had experienced “backpacker India”, my colleagues who preceeded me had experienced “C-Suite India” , the images I saw on TV and in Movies was Hollywood/Bollywood India, and what Tal and I experienced was something all it’s own.

So what was my India like? It was busy and chaotic and disorganized. It was dirty and cluttered and overwhelming. It was being started at constantly, always feeling out of place, never feeling quite at home. It was a series of surprise stomach ailments, inane Bureaucratic processes, endless ridiculous struggles to complete the simplest errands.  It was the constant ache of guilt as a member of “the privileged class”, it was simultaneous self-hatred for not taking any action towards change. It was hard.

But it was also thrilling and energetic and full of hope. It was genuine and inspiring and filled with hidden treasures. It was unparalleled natural landscapes, total immersion in a culture completely unlike my own, a new perspective on almost everything. It was building incredibly special friendships, a test of my  romantic relationship passed with flying colors, an unmatchable professional experience that became so much more than just an impressive line on a resume. It was a reminder of how lucky I am to be me, it was daily opportunities to be a more generous me, a more loving me, a stronger me, a better me. It was beautiful.

On my last day in India I found myself in a hospital room sharing celebratory sweets with a glowing new mom, a proud new dad already wrapped around his gorgeous daughter’s little finger, the doting big sister of the new mom, and two ecstatic sets of first-time-grandparents. As I said my final goodbyes to my dear friends, my own tears caught me by surprise; I was sad to be leaving.

My India became a part of me.

At Last: The Taj Mahal

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It seemed the universe was bound and  determined to keep us from seeing the Taj Mahal. As you may recall, our first  attempt was thwarted by the bankruptcy of Kingfisher airline. (Hey KF, still waiting on that refund…) On our second attempt Tal and I planned to meet in Delhi on his return from a business trip. Both of our flights were delayed, but I landed about 2 hours ahead. I went ahead into the city to check into the hotel that I had (of course) thoroughly researched (Yea, I cross reference. What?) and booked online several weeks prior. At least, I tried to. When I arrived at the hotel I was told that they were fully booked.

“Thank goodness I have a reservation then!!” I laughed. I should know by now to never laugh.

“Sorry Madame we are fully booked”

“Right…but  one of those bookings is mine.”

“Sorry Madame we are fully booked.”

Silence and glaring.

“I could try to help find you a room elsewhere?”

An hour later I was rebooked into a different, very different, hotel in the same neighborhood. So much for my research.

We spent the next day wandering around Delhi and visiting with an old friend of mine from college. In the evening we made our way to the train station headed for Agra. I will never. Ever. Never. complain about a crowded NYC train platform ever again. Making our way to our car on the train was terrifying (Tal would probably use the word “exhilarating”, but Tal is crazy.) People were everywhere  and everyone was running in different directions, pushing and shoving, urinating, shouting, spitting… I saw one man climb UNDER the train for free ride. Miraculously we didn’t lose each other in the crowds, and we made it into our berth on the train with plenty of time to spare. Despite the fact that we bought our train tickets together, we were seated in two upper berths, no where near each other. I’m not sure if it was the horrified and bewildered look on my face, the unbelievably apparent reality that we’d never done this before or simply good fortune, but the man who was on the bottom berth of Tal’s seat climbed up top, and allowed Tal and me stay together.

We arrived in Agra four hours later and took a cab to our hotel. I’d booked this particular hotel because of their amazing proximity to the Taj Mahal.

The hotel was no where near the Taj Mahal. This is what I get for reading 100 reviews about cleanliness but never once looking at a map.

The next day we left our hotel just after 6am and took a very chilly half hour auto rickshaw ride to the Taj Mahal. Our goal was to get there and get through the ticket line in time for sunrise. For once, everything went according to plan. Just as we were congratulating each other on our oh-so-unique and cunning plan, we came across the line to get INTO the Taj Mahal. For some totally inexplicable reason, men and women were queued separately. While the men were being allowed in immediately, the women were being held in line.  Tal passed through the gate a solid 20 minute before I did. One of us saw the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, one of us saw the sunrise over the top of about 400 heads.

But eventually I made it in and it was worth the canceled trip, the delayed flight, the botched hotel plans,the other botched hotel plans, the cold auto rides, and the weirdly sexist wait in line. And I’d do it all again.