I’ve been in India for a month to the day now and the fact that I haven’t even looked at my blog will tell you that I’ve been busy (and without much Wi-Fi). I’ve been busy roaming around the south, sweating from my earlobes, hopping on one night train after the other before fully recovering from the last.
At the beach in Pondicherry.
I’ve been busy finding the sweetest pineapple, lounging on the beach (under a broken Kingfisher umbrella), walking barefoot through old temples and being blessed by elephants (for a coin donation, obviously), learning how to drink beer, cramming myself and my bag (it didn’t seem this big when I left 9 months ago) into public buses, worrying about the length of my sleeves, drinking sweet sweet coffee from street stands and eating eating eating, constantly eating, all the while becoming increasingly obsessed with where one might find air conditioning.
Hanging out the door of a speeding train- the most exhilarating way to see India and get a sunburn on your left foot.
India can seem intimidating, but with friends welcoming me in Chennai, I felt at home instantly. Being with Anu and Uk in their leafy apartment was such a nice break- just being with old friends, just being- and a good breather before my hectic 15-day tour of South India.
We spent a week eating, napping, and buying cushion covers with a brief, luxurious weekend in lovely Pondicherry.
Watching a game of boules in Pondicherry
It was tough saying goodbye even though there were promises of visiting Canada soon. But there wasn’t much time to dwell as I joined my organised tour run by Intrepid.
“Don’t go alone!” everyone warned me when I told them I was going to India. So a tour was booked, expense be damned. Looking back, I would have been fine alone, but there was the comfort of having train tickets booked for me and people I knew around me on said trains.
This is a beach where singing ladies will sell you pineapples.
Being on a tour means you don’t have to think too much about where to go, stay, eat, or catch the bus. It also means you have no choice in where you stay (Dear Mamallapuram, your sweat box of a “hotel” room will always be my own personal version of hell), or how long for (Dear Hampi, two days were not enough, let me stay with you forever).
One advantage of travelling in a group: playing cards on the platform (with a stolen styrofoam box as a table) while waiting for the train.
Being on tour means you are stuck with a group of people, for better or worse. And let me tell you: there was the best and worst in this group. Some made me so happy I didn’t want to let them go, while others frustrated me to tears.
As some British dude told me in a café in Kochi: “You’ve got to let go of fear and live in love” meaning that I shouldn’t let my hatred of stingy negative people affect me, that I shouldn’t let their negativity make me negative. I don’t know about his theory of fear and love being genetically determined, but there was some truth to his peace and love spewings.
Things I learned in southern India:
-Women wear garlands of jasmine in their hair. The smell is intoxicating.
-Your eyes burn from the dust.
-When they tell you a dish is spicy, it’s spicy.
-Everyone, especially locals, will complain about the heat at some point in the day.
-You can learn to speak Russian from an Indian while in Goa.
-I am good at killing mosquitoes with my left hand.
-Riding on the back of a motorcycle (especially one without a horn, reliable breaks, or anything that works, really) is a lesson in letting go, dealing with the fact that this may be it and if you have to die, it might as as well be on the back of a motorbike in India, so hold on and enjoy the thrill. Oh, and you will get fined by the police for something or another.
-The moon seems brighter here.
-They say you will get sick at some point in your travels in India, but turns out the only kind of sick I got here was a cough and cold. That came out of left field.
-There is sugar in everything. And salt in things that should be sweet.
-There is no question that I have to come back. One month is not enough.
Everything here is in full colour.
There are cows everywhere and you get used to it.
So now I’m in Bangalore taking advantage of my friend Ranjini’s hospitality. After 7 years, nothing seems to have changed and we’re back at uni, doing laundry, drinking tea, complaining about guys, and laughing about just about everything.
I love to travel. But leaving people and leaving places is getting harder and harder.
I have always gotten travel sick on buses, in cars, on boats, and I know how to deal with it. This is another kind of travel sickness altogether and turns out there’s no pill for it.