80 days. 27 cities in 12 different states. 14 trains taken and over 20 buses. That has been India in a few rough numbers.
My adventure in India has come to an end. At least for now, because I really can’t wait to be back and visit the friends I leave here and the places I got left to see. India has been everything I could expect and more. Although maybe I didn’t know what to expect.
They say : “India, you hate it or you love it”. I haven´t hated. I didn’t like Delhi, that’s for sure. And I wanted to cry once or twice, ok. Things happen along the way. But, overall India has been an amazing experience full of positive things, loaded with wonderful people and I also made many friends and a few really good friends. Seriously, I cannot ask for more. But I got more. India is a country that teaches you. It teaches you a lot. And I need to register that here before it get mixed up with the feelings, emotions and teachings I get from other places.
- The first thing I learnt was patience. They say that India makes impatient to the patient and patient to the impatient. Well, if you know me, you will know I am the most impatient of the impatient crew. But India has taught me to wait. To learn that everything goes on its own way. To know that people work differently, things work differently and that in this country, everything takes time. I have waited for a train for a longer time than the actual journey. I have taken 13 hours buses where it was impossible to get some sleep or being seated for more than 5 seconds. I have learnt to respect everybody’s own time and rhythm. Oh, and I have learnt to deal with veeeery slow Wi-Fi that has been bothering me all the time. Wait, maybe I still have issues with that…
- Dealing with bugs and animals. In my first night in Delhi I learnt to deal with bugs. The place I was staying was bloody disgusting and full of mini roaches. After that I dealt with rats in Agra train station, were I had a quite serious melt down. After a month and a half, in Aurangabad, a mouse climbed my foot and I didn’t even have any reaction but shaking my leg. I actually thought about it 5 minutes after and gave myself the required recognition for such an achievement.
- Accept dead time. It has to do with the patience as well. There will be times that you are stuck somewhere, like a train, a station or God knows where… And there is nothing you can do but being there. There is no proficient use of the time. There isn’t waste of time either. Time only passes, until what eventually had to happen, happens. You can take that time to sleep, to read, to look around and to do nothing, but probably not much more since there won’t be Wi-Fi, you won’t be able to use your computer or write and sometimes it will be difficult even to read if you are in a bumpy or curvy road. You embrace the time you have and take it as it comes. And that for me was hard, because I am the queen of the productivity and I hate to waste my time.
- We all die. That’s an obvious one and probably not new. But it hit me up in a different way in Varanassi. I realised that everybody dies, no matter the sex, religion, raze…Dogs die the same than cows, the same than us. And at the end of the road of life, we all carry with us nothing. Everything is left behind, there are no belongings that make you better or worse, there is nothing you can do about it, you get to carry with you nothing. There is only one thing we take: our actions, our life, what we have done and how you behaved. And honestly, if this is the only thing I carry with me… I only want to go loaded of good actions and no regrets!
- Sharing everything: food, everybody wants you to try their food. Cigarretes, they let you have a smoke and you share them with people you barely know. Clothes, they let me clothes to attend a wedding. Anything really, there is a strong sharing sense and if you have something, you give it or share it.
- Community sense. There is a strong community sense in India. In the businesses, at work, in the street and also in the families. People take care of each other. People make strong bonds and worry about the others, and share everything with them and do good to them. I have no words to describe the strong sense they get here, really.
- I depend on the exterior world too much. Not as a bad thing, necessarily, but for example, at the beginning I was depending on Wi-Fi all the time because I couldn’t wait to keep in touch with people I love and miss. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel at night to tell them something that happened to me that day. That feeling nowadays is almost gone and I am more relaxed about the inexistence of Wi-Fi. Though I still need it. Also, my days are like a rollercoaster. Sometimes I feel I am going to the top and sometimes I am going downhill and no brakes on. And I just realised it depends on my interaction with people. The days that I am truly alone and I have nothing to do and nobody to talk to, I feel down, very down and I get to wonder what the hell I am doing here alone. While the days I am alone but I have some interaction with somebody like a chat or a cup of chai or anything really, those days are just getting better because of that. Even a simple smile exchange cheers me up. As a solo traveller, I depend on that. The days I am with friends or new friends are just the best. But I have learnt to be with myself and not to freak out so much about not having internet or not having someone next to me to comment on the things that I see. I have learnt to enjoy that one person that smiled at me and those many that smile me back. This leads to the next point, actually.
- The smile is the universal language. It opens doors. It helps to communicate when no language common exists. It goes beyond any other thing you can use to communicate. There are two things I have learnt to look at. The first one is the smile. A person smiling at you is everything, wants to be friendly and open to you but maybe doesn’t know how, or is shy, or is just simply amazed by your presence which is something quite common in a country where you are just different from everything. The second one is the eyes. There are good eyes and bad eyes. I might not be very good at spotting the last ones. But the last ones are easy to see, just because they are truthful and they have nothing to hide. And the people with good eyes will open their heart to you instantly.
- I also learnt to be with myself. Before coming I knew this: how can you ask somebody to be with you and stand all your nonsense if not even you can handle yourself and be with yourself. Some people cannot be alone; they do not know how to be alone. I have never been that person, definitely not. But I was not sure if I could be able to handle myself. I always kind of thought I was a difficult person to deal with, quite particular at the very least. At the beginning of my journey I was quite afraid I would not be able to enjoy myself alone. And I suppose there was an adaptation period for this, but nowadays I feel very comfortable being on my own, making my own decisions, enjoying the fact of walking around a city only wandering or sitting down for a meal on my own and watching everybody doing their own stuff. I enjoy that now and I enjoy watching the small details or just life passing. I have also had times where I have found myself in a hotel room, alone and without Wi-Fi, not being able to communicate with the rest f the world. And I have learnt to take that time for myself. To not hate it but to use it and invest it on me. And enjoy my own company.
- Get rid of attachment. Attachment only brings suffering, the Dalai Lama showed me. I was getting crazy before for things to get wasted or done… I let go better now. Not that I exactly practice the non-attachment, as it is quite hard, but I am learning. I am learning to leave with the 10 kilos in my backpack. I am learning to not feel the desire of getting new things all the time and be happy with 2 pairs of trousers, a pair of legging and a nice skirt. I don’t need more. I don’t want to carry more. I am happy with it and make a use of the things until they cannot be used for their purpose. I accept better when things don’t work as well. But, as I said, I try. It is a difficult learning this one.
- Money is not that important. Indian people know that. They know they need money, no doubt. But they have no problems in spending more if they have more or have less stuff if they don’t have that much to spend. They enjoy themselves and are happy above all things, especially above money related issues.
- Eating with the hands. At the beginning I must admit it was weird but I found ok to eat small things with the hands. Very soon, I was eating the curries with the chapattis with my hands and it was more than fine. It was making taste the food better! But I was still resisting eating the rice with the hands. Having a spoon…I didn’t really get to see the point. But when you get invited to somebody’s house, you get there and see goats around. And then you enter the kitchen and the mum is on the floor, sitting down and cooking and having a cloth on the floor, everybody sits down for the meal and you with them, of course. And there are like two plates, one with rice and one to share and curries in bowls around. But forget about the forks or the spoons. Then, it is the time of using your hands and enjoying the taste, the touch, the smell and the sight of the food. And you do, although at the beginning it is a bit messy and you get the curry all over your trousers while trying to make it not obvious.
- Another habit I took up very keenly was the wambling head. I nod to the sides and wamble my head now without noticing! Funny.
- Change happens. Things are changing all the time and there is nothing you can do to avoid that. You actually learn and embrace it and try to make the best of it.
- And because of change happens, I also learnt that you take things now and you do it now if you happen to have the chance to do it now. Because you might think that tomorrow it can be done. But most surely, in India there will be something else happening tomorrow that can help you to get things done or can keep you busy with something else or simply things won’t work out and it will be impossible to have what you thought you would have yesterday.
- Everybody should get to enjoy their job as much as some Indian persons do. Their job consists in doing actually something that they enjoy. Or maybe they try to turn it into that, instead of doing something they like and end up hating it. For example, they love to talk to people and they get a shop and use it to get to people and chat around. They might not sell much but they don’t get frustrated about it because they enjoy it in the way. Sounds simple but it is a very hard balance to find in your life. Hopefully I will get to put into practise a bit of this.
- Trust people. This is a big one. Probably one of the most difficult ones for me because I always think what is behind everybody´s intentions and usually I don’t think anything good. It is hard for me to trust people that just do stuff for you, with no reason behind. I get suspicious of too nice people, immediately. But I have changed a bit because I know better now. I have learnt to open my heart more. I did that the day after the long wait to a 5 hours train in Agra, which made arrive to Jaipur in the morning instead of at midnight. I went out in Jaipur with my heart open to India, to forget a bad experience and reconcile. And I did, because I met many amazing Indian people, especially my friend Samir who would turn out a great guy to hang out with and the reason why I was invited to an Indian wedding and had such a wonderful experience plus a great time.
- Following the previous point, I learnt that people is good. There is 99.9% of good people out there and we only look at that tiny 0.1%. Why? Why when somebody helps you say to you that you were very lucky because you got him/her, the one that is good? Maybe there is more good people out there than what we are willing to believe. Maybe the world is notso bad, after all. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that common sense should not be applied and believe that everybody is good and everybody has god intentions.
- Lastly but not less importantly, it is not about the destination. It is about the whole path. At times it didn’t matter to me to arrive to one place or to another. I didn’t care about visiting touristy stuff and doing the must-see places or the sightseeing that the guide would recommend me. Because I was just too busy enjoying the path and I understood how important it is.
I won’t miss the honks at all times, the pollution or the heavy traffic. I won’t miss the belches at all times with indifference. Or the smell of pee at many places. Or many other things that I don’t even remember because they have not been of enough importance to let me love the amazing country India is.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted” – Bill Bryson.