India, one week in
India assaults my senses one moment, then soothes them the next. It creates a roller coaster of emotions inside me. Sometimes I want to say it is chaos, sometimes that it is absolutely beautiful, but all of the time that it keeps me off balance. Each day here is filled with so many ups and downs, which is why I said India can be a roller coaster.
I have spent one week here and I have moved around a lot, from Delhi
and now I am in Jaipur.
The roads are crowded with pedestrians, dogs, cows, carriages being pulled by horses, tuk tuks, bikes, bike taxis, motor bikes, cars, and buses. Any vehicle that has a horn honks it, ALL THE TIME! I watch as a lone car speeds by, horn blasting nonstop as though trying to clear a path through a traffic jam that isn’t there. Sidewalks are full, lined with bazaars (markets) selling all kinds of colorful cotton and pashmina textiles, foods and also cheap plastic made crap. Selling everything and anything.
I watch cows walking up and down sidewalks or maybe just taking naps in the middle of the road. I also see goats tied to columns. Goat and cow poo are a common obstacle and learning to hop over, step around is a necessary survival skill.
There are lots more people walking but also many poor people sleeping, everywhere, anywhere. And it is pretty much impossible to look around without seeing garbage, garbage on top of roofs, on the streets, in piles, littered everywhere.
I am sure that I will never forget the smells of India, on one block I get a strong wiff of delicious Indian spices and just two steps from there the strongest smell of poop or pee. So now mix them together, along with thousands of other smells and sights to get a small idea of this unique place.
As a tourist I am often harassed by some tuk tuk drivers, pulling over asking where I am going and trying to pick me up (from what I hear this is not unique to me). As a female traveler I get stared at all the time, some innocent just curious looks but many are not so innocent. I have been touched or even ‘eve teased’ as the Indians call it, on several occasions. I have also been followed for long periods of time where the man just won’t stop following or asking me questions no matter how long I ignore him for or no matter how many dirty looks I shoot his way.
So far many of my descriptions probably sound a bit overwhelming and terrible, but, that would be a very incomplete picture because of course, India is also so beautiful. I think it just takes some time to see beyond the comparisons to ‘back home’ Then I can see and appreciate and love the beauty.
For me it happened yesterday which is why I have decided it was time to share with you. Let me tell you a bit about the day I had so you can see the range of ups and downs within just one day.
My travel partner and I had met a Scottish man the previous day in the street and ended up having lunch with him. During our conversation he spoke about his hotel that it was cheaper than ours so we decided to move there. The day started great since this hotel move was saving us some money, instead of paying $8 we were now going to be paying $5 a night each. The new hotel owner was extremely friendly and instead of pushing some sort of tour on us he pleasantly showed us on a map, how to walk to where we wanted to go. As we walked I realized the constant honking was no longer annoying me, and there were less tuk tuk drivers stopping to ask where we were going. We visited the City Temple and Hawa Majal which are structures rich in history, both were beautiful and intricate.
As is very common in India, many Indian people came up to us and asked to take pictures with us, which for the most part made me you feel like a celebrity. At least until I had taken about 50 and finally got so tired of smiling for all the strangers (I totally feel your pain Paris Hilton).
We then found a Dunkin Donuts which was awesome, and people watched as we drank our teas/coffee and ate our warm honey buns. The day was going pretty great. We found a street with very colorful purses and scarfs and skirts and decided to take a look. One of the men invited us further into the shop to look at more purses and textiles and we did. He showed me all the different designs he had for saris and told me he could show me how to wear one. I picked one design I liked and he started to wrap the Sari around me. Well, the man became extremely inappropriate in the way he touched me and I stopped him and we left. In one moment my day went from sweet to sour, I felt totally violated.
This was not the first time a man in India touched me inappropriately, as there had been previous grabs of the breasts and rubs on the butt, but this one in particular was absolutely foul. I found myself completely shut down. The next 30 minutes to 1 hour are a blur to me and all I wanted was to be home or away from all the chaos. My friend walked me to a quieter place and eventually I was able to compose myself. For some reason we walked down a little street and my friend asked me if I wanted to turn around and I told him no, so we continued on. After walking a bit we came to a sign for a temple. We walked in and there was a guru singing with musicians and many people sitting on the floor watching. We were invited to take our shoes off and come in. A man pulled us to the middle where the floor was covered in different color flower petals, the ceiling was decorated in ornate designs. Locals began joining us and soon we were all dancing and laughing as they showed us what to do. People were all singing along and clapping and it was absolutely beautiful. For several moments I forgot about all the garbage, the chaos, the harassment, and I experienced one of the most joyful moments of my life.
After the temple we headed back to our hotel and on our way a man began to follow us for about two miles of our walk. The man continuously kept trying to talk to me and I would ignore him or pretend not to speak English or Hindi but the man did not care and kept asking what hotel I was staying at. At times he would say bye and pretend he was going in a different direction but we would then see him following behind again. He finally came up to us again and told me “you have sexy look sexy figure” and finally left. The rest of the night was without incident and all in all I would call that a pretty good day in India.