Delhi - 1/24- 2/3
One evening, when Varanasi was starting to wear on me, I received an email from my friend Vikrant, who had just arrived in Delhi. He wanted me to join him, but the only train out of Varanasi left that same evening. With little time to prepare, Katia and I grabbed a rickshaw and bulleted to the train station. We waited for hours in the foreign tourist line. It turned out to only be a few Korean tourists, but it took hours…not exaggerating. Coupled with that, the power started going out every 4 minutes, which delayed it further. In the end, I got a ticket. We raced back, did last minute packing, and then returned to the train station. There I bid Katia goodbye, and boarded the train for a 14 hour journey to Delhi.
I stayed with Vikrant at his family’s home again. In the morning, Vikrant’s friend Sonjay picked us up, and the three of us piled into his little red car and headed out of Delhi and into the mountains. We stayed at a Buddhist retreat in Dehra Dhun (beautiful but COLD), then drove further into the mountains were the temperature continued to drop! We busted a flat in Chomba. Due to the flat tire, no spare, and snow, we opted out of going further to Gongotri (the embryonic source of the Ganges) and went to Mussoorie. There we stayed at a beautiful 19th Century summer home that is refurbished as a hotel. Then headed back to Delhi.
I really enjoyed our 3 days together, racing around curves, past Rishikesh, and up to the mountains.
The hairpin curving roads barely clung to the terraced cliffs, with sheer drops just below.
Our conversation meandered from karma and religion, to Vikrant and Sonjay’s school times, and onward and upward.
Time past quickly as we drove 20 some hours over those 3 days.
On Sunday, we returned, and I again was asleep at Vikrant’s parent’s home.
Monday, Vikrant and I went to meet his cousin Priya. We saw a western movie, Eastern Dream, and then wandered a book store, before grabbing diner. Vikrant’s friend Sonia joined us and the four of us put away plate after plate of Indian food. I let them choose. Tuesday, I accompany Vikrant to his family friend Tito’s house, where they fed me lunch while catching up on Vikrant’s life and my travels.
As it turns out, Vikrant’s parents needed some space though, and having 2 guests was too much. So, after a quick morning run to the Sai Baba Temple to meet Pradip, and meeting the Tibetan artist who prepared art for Vikrant, I piled by bags into a rickshaw and headed for Pahargange. I booked back into Vivek Hotel. I was going to meet Vikrant that evening, but he received a phone call from a friend of his who wanted to take him to his father-in-law’s village. I did not think it was possible to change my flight, so I passed on the invitation to go to a village for the weekend.
I was alone again, and had 2 days before going to Mumbai for AJWS orientation.
I entered one of periodic “funks” which is a combination of loneliness, homesickness, and feeling like an outsider.
Although traveling brings its share of excitement and newness, there is the other side too.
I think its mostly feeling like one has no “roots”.
I miss my friends back home and my family. I want to curl up on my parents’ sofa and watch movies, return to a prior life when I was “comfortable.”
I wandered down the streets of Pahargange.
The streets were busy, crowded, and noisy.
I bought some cookies and found an internet café to attempt to reconnect with my family and friends.
As I was emailing, Vikrant emailed me, told me they were leaving for the village in the morning, and that he was coming to get me.
I couldn’t say no.
I ran across the street, piled all my stuff back into my bag, and joined Vikrant again.
I left the hotel without even staying the night.
In the car, I met Debasis. Sonjay was there too. We went to Debasis house to pick up his wife Shruti, then headed to Smokehouse for drinks. Smokehouse is the closest thing to a club that I’d seen since India. Women in tight jeans, men in jeans with button up shirts, sweaters, and blazers. We settled into a table and I had a drink. It had been a long time, I was tired, and so I opted for a red bull and Vodka. After a few hours, we returned to Debasis house, grabbed a few hours of sleep after an amazing 2:00 a.m. dinner, then I was back in the car for another 4 hour ride. We picked up Debasis’s father-in-law, and drove to the family village.
As the token white-guy, I was a point of curiosity for Debasis’s father-in-law who took great pleasure in teasing me. It was sooo cold still. We spent the 2 day sightseeing bird sanctuaries, schools, temples. In the evening we shot partridge for dinner, then tucked into the semi enclosed garage and sipped whiskey, engulfed by back draft campfire smoke, and ate heartily.
When we returned, Debasis and Shruti put me up one more night, fed me. They were wonderful hosts and I so appreciated their hospitality.