So How Was India?

by maxmosher

Oh my God, I’m such a tease. I acted like I was about to post everything about my trip and then disappeared for three weeks. My apologies. You see, what had happened was that I started writing about New Delhi (twice, actually) and bogged down in the second paragraph both times, unable to go on. I had wanted to write chronologically, creating impressions for you, the reader, of all the different places we went, cities many of which I had not heard of before our trip.

But it all became too daunting. And I was working on my WORN article. And some other excuses, but they stop now. Having caught a cold after some intense days working out at the Y and a fabulous birthday (cake from the WORN girls; surprise decorated living room; the first Szechwan Chinese food we’ve tried since Peter’s mournful closing). So, curled up on the couch amidst a pile of crumpled Kleenexes, with my laptop keeping me warm like a snoozing kitten, updating my blog is unavoidable.

Well, I have some internships to apply for…

No. No more excuses.

“So how was India?” friends ask when I see them for the first time.

“Great,” I say. “Really great.” What else can one say?  

My friend Alyssa caught the right drift when she asked me increasingly-specific questions, knowing that answers would lead to different stories like branches on a tree.

But many of you don’t even know the basics of my trip, so I will start there.

Dervla and I went on an Intrepid tour of Northern India. There were sixteen of us (we eventually settled on the somewhat-lame nickname ‘the Sweet Sixteen’). The group was comprised of Aussies, Kiwis, a few Brits with us as the only North Americans. We were surrounded by people for whom Queen Victoria’s manner of speaking had left a greater legacy on their tongues than on our own.

Our tour leader was a young Indian man named Kuldeep, which means ‘the light of home’ he told us during our orientation meeting in the chilly basement of our hotel in Delhi. He was charming and Bollywood handsome, with a broad, bright smile, but with an accent which sometimes reminded me of the aliens in ‘Galaxy Quest’.

Intrepid took care of transportation and accommodation, and Kuldeep personally was in charge of getting us from the one to the other. Usually this meant coming around on the train to warn us when our stop was coming up (on night trains, we would be groggy and a bit cranky, especially if we hadn’t been able to buy a five-rupee cup of chai yet), leading us through the station, and making us huddle by the side of the road while he sorted through the crowd of drivers who surrounded him, recognizing a tour leader of a bunch of cash-dispensing white people. He’d miraculously  arrange six tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws) to take us to our hotel. Often when speaking to other Indians, Kuldeep’s smile would disappear and he would become all business.

With the tour we went to New Delhi, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Jaipur, Bharatpur, Agra, Varanasi and Kolkata. We rode trains, buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, paddle boats and camels. Der and I left the tour in Kolkata and flew to the South, staying in Kerala, Goa and ending our trip in Mumbai. I feel like the old lady in ‘Titanic’, presented with the computer animated retelling of the ship’s sinking boiled down to essentials, informing the men “The actual experience was quite different.”

Here are some pictures of New Delhi.