Guess who spent 48 hours with Delhi belly?! That’s right. This girl. Because India is trying to kick my ass.
I don’t think the internet explanation does Delhi belly justice, so let me give you a quick reality check. It is not like, when you had some spicy food at dinner and have a loose bowel movement later that night. It is more like when you have can’t-get-to-the-toilet-fast-enough shooting hot liquid diarrhea every hour, on the hour, for straight two days, accompanied by a high fever, chills, a special round of vomiting, and please put me out of my misery general malaise.
Who doesn’t love that word? Malaise. I love that word.
Anyhow, if you’re still reading after tmi, I can tell you I’ve survived. A round of Ceruroxime from a doctor here has done the trick and I made it to Jaipur to start my volunteering with street kids. Sadly, it was cloudy the whole time I was in Agra so I didn’t even end up seeing the Taj Mahal up close. #bestlaidplans
Part of me wishes I’d planned a simpler trip, maybe a couple of weeks in Goa and Kerala, but that would have felt like a vacation. The pressure to make this something else has been significant. Probably self-imposed, but when you tell people you’re going to spend a month in India, you hear “It’s a pilgrimage!”, “Its like your Eat, Pray, Love!”, “Its your mid-life crisis journey!”, “You’re going to come back a changed woman!”, “This is going to be EPIC.” (Actual things said to me.)
No pressure, right?
I know, poor me, I get to spend a month in India. I’m so privileged, stop!
Facing fears all the time and trying not to be overwhelmed and distracted by the multitude of people and stimuli here… it can be tiring. And paralyzing. This is all discovery and pilgrimage.
Reading travel blogs and books, there is also pressure to get ‘off the beaten path’ to see the ‘real’ India. But the people who live here or are from here, want to make sure I see the absolute ‘best’ of India, stay in five star hotels and see the pretty sights. So which is it? Please come and please stay and please tell everyone it was amazing.
Despite the current political landscape and other issues we have as a country, we have less pressure to do this in America. It’s more of a see-for-yourself kind of place. No one needs convincing that New York City is one of the best cities in the world. Or that California has more natural beauty than it knows what to do with. Or hello, the Grand Canyon. But India gets a bad rap for, well, exactly what I’ve seen and experienced the last two weeks. Yes, what you read is true about the choking smog, about the way most women outside of major cities are seen as unequal, about the ubiquitous poverty, and inefficient, dysfunctional government services. It is also true that the newish Prime Minister, despite having had some previously unpopular opinions about Muslims, has brought a progressive agenda to help move India forward, quickly. Investments in infrastructure and cultural shifts are being implemented but it will take time because minds are not always easy to change.
So I don’t need to go to a remote village to see the real India. I’m being shown what I need to see, being given the experiences I need to have. I guess my point is that India isn’t good or bad. Its both. Its everything. And I’m grateful to have seen it, no matter.
You feel me?
A few more observations:
- Instead of donkeys clomping, my 4am wake up in Agra was the sound of metal scaffolding being tossed into a wagon. Its the breakdown from the previous day’s weddings – sometimes two a day – that took place right outside my window in the wedding garden. At about 6am, the drummers started practicing for the day’s later celebration. People got married on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. I mean, that’s love.
- At breakfast at the hotel restaurant the morning I leave Agra. Its a big tourist hotel, so a clean, well lit place, and there is this older Indian woman sitting across from me with her family, dressed beautifully. She may have been there for one of the weddings as she’s dressed in traditional sari, hennaed hands, nails done, and jewelry galore. And every third or fourth bite, she turns her head and spits on the floor. Over, and over again. I kind of loved the shamelessness about it. She looked at me once, like “WTF are you looking at?!” It is apparently a cultural thing here, the spitting. I had seen signs at the train station about ‘no spitting’ but I hadn’t yet seen it up close and personal. So close that if I hadn’t already been sick, I would have blamed her for sure.
- Driving by Jain women, dressed in all white flowing fabric, mouths covered with purple plastic masks as their belief of ahimsa (non-violence) is so serious they don’t want to accidentally inhale a fly. For real.
- Watching a puppy get run over by a car on the highway to Jaipur. With the sheer amount of animals roaming here alongside fast cars, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it more. I have, however, seen plenty of dead cows having their carcasses eaten by stray dogs. Savage.
- More people telling me I’m brave for traveling through India alone. Being a lady and all. It is true, I’ve had a moment every day that I have to remind myself I am a white woman in a sea of mostly darker skinned boys and men. (I know, where are all the ladies at?!) So when they start yelling at me and coming up to me and wanting to take photos… this is simply because of the color of my skin and my gender. Pretty weird, right? Lemme answer that for you, YES, yes, it is. But I’m starting to think people don’t mean brave, they mean stupid. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
p.s. #1 lesson learned about blogging: Do not post the same day as a major sports event, like, say, the Super Bowl
I call this photo montage “In A Blur” because this is how I felt when I lost those days to illness.
Writer Traveler Human Being