Why like this? Arrival in India

The lost phone

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It is already dark in Kathmandu and the lights of cars and bikes are cutting yellow lines into the dusty air. Our Nepali friend is leading us through the city to find the bus that will bring us to the Indian border. A while later the old bus is leaving into the night and we are surrounded by locals, kids and a musician. But before we can sleep for a few hours a phone wants to be found again…

One of the indian guys claims that somebody has stolen his Iphone while he was sitting in the bus. The bus stops and people start to look everywhere for the phone. A little later we need to leave the bus and everybody – except us – is getting searched for the phone. We are already delayed for hours but the bus stops again: Policeman are walking in and starting to talk to the people about the lost phone. Just minutes later they take two young men from Malaysia out of the bus and the situation starts to get interesting.

In a rush all passengers leave the bus to follow the policeman and the two suspects into the night, slowly I walk behind them. A noise and somebody falls, shouting, complains, somebody gets up and I look into the bleeding face of one of the Malaysian guys. They found the missing phone in his backpack and for a moment I am sure that the police or some people from the crowd would eat this guy alive. But apparently he was just so drunk that he fall down and now he tries to make it look like the police pushed him down on the floor. Whatever…

The whole happening appears surreal. This is not anymore about the phone, this is to make an example: In Nepal nothing gets lost and we stand together. No matter for what (a phone). No matter how long (half a night). Impressive, somehow.

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The border

Burning waste on the streets, dirt and excrements everywhere and a general feeling of chaos are the first things I see after crossing the border to India. Poverty doesn’t smell nice. The paved road which led us the last hundred kilometers turns suddenly into a dirt road and the clean mountain air is replaced by the smell of burning plastic.

It only takes minutes before we get into an argument with a guy who tries to cheat on us with a bus ticket. Apparently the indians can be pretty rude if they want to, something that I am not used to anymore after being in Taiwan and Nepal. I haven’t seen anything and I just arrived to India but I already know: A lifetime is not enough to get used to this culture. On the other hand India will never get boring.


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The holy city

It was at a fire ceremony in the evening. I was sitting at some stares, watching the preparations for the ceremony when somebody started to pull again and again on my shirt. Without even looking I just said “Chello!” (“Go away!”) but it didn’t stopped pulling. I turned around and looked into the smiling face of an indian boy. He didn’t said a word and sat down next to me. In his hand he was holding some balloons that he wanted to sell. But not now. He was just sitting there, looking at me with his huge black eyes.

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His clothes were ripped and dirty and except from the few ten rupee bills that he was proudly counting from time to time he didn’t seem to own anything. After a while he lied his head down on my knee, I put my arm around him and we watched together the ceremony. When he left a while later – without asking for money but still smiling – I felt that something inside of me had changed. I will never ever again tell somebody to go away, without taking a moment to look in his eyes to see if there might be another reason than money why he is asking for my attention.

I can’t say if it was the heat of the sun or the heat of the burning bodies at the cremation, the smell from the incense or the smell of the cows everywhere, the never-ending wave of people making contact with their eyes, mouth and hands… Varanasis theatric mix of colors and movement, of noise and smell and never-ending stimuli, brings you in a dreamlike state when you are awake and doesn’t even let you have a break when you (try to) sleep.

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Varanasi is definitely worth a visit. But maybe you don’t want to make it the first  place you see after arriving in India: It can be a bit intense, especially in this time of the year. The temperature was rising one degree Celsius every day and after eleven days somewhere on the edge between heaven and hell we left Varanasi to continue our trip with the train to Delhi.

The train

I could write about the good food or about the nice people I met, while I was smoking cigarettes at the open doors of the train. Or I could tell you about the seven different classes you can book in the train. Or I could tell you about this funny guy who wakes me up every half hour, shouting “Chaiii!” directly into my ear and who serves sweet milk tea. But that is all nothing compared to what happened in the first minute after I sit down.

Do you know what is a “Hijra”? Apparently these are transgender people in India who have a “special” status in society. On the one hand side they are considered as “holy” and they are accepted as a third gender. On the other hand side they make their money as sex workers, as beggars or with “extortion”. Wikipedia explains extortions as “forced payment by disrupting work/life using demonstration and interference”. We had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand.

After finding our seats in the train I had about 30 seconds to say hello to our neighbors before somebody stopped in front of me to grab my chin and to yell “One hundert rupees!” I look up and watch at the remains of teeth, colored in dark red, belonging to a face that reminds me where people get their ideas for all those zombie movies from. I should stay calm – but my temper, the memory of a pretty bad situation from the day before and the hand on my chin is already making me talk. As soon as I find my words again I hear myself shouting the magic word “Chello!” at the Hijra.

The indian people around look at me, curious about how the situation will go on and time seems to slow down. The train is not moving. Nobody makes a sound. The zombie sits down in front of me and we stare at each other. Suddenly the strange creature begins to laugh and ask me where I am from. “…India” I say. His laughing gets louder and he points at all the people around and finally at himself. Those are all Indian people, but I am not from India, he explains. He is definitely right so far but I am still not considering to give him money so he leaves after not getting any more attention from me. That would have been the solution from the beginning: Don’t react with any emotion because that is exactly what he wants you to to do. Next lesson please…

Delhi

It is around 10am and I stay in front of our temporary home from last night, located directly at the main bazar. Rickshaws are passing by, a crescendo of horns and voices rises and ebbs away. I see lips moving but I don’t connect them anymore to the words that I hear. A part of my brain feels numb, another part is wide awake. A young women asks me for milk for her baby. A boy  asks for money. A Baba asks for Chapati. I give away some ten rupee bills, step on my cigarette and turn around, back into the hotel. Another bus will bring us to Rishikesh tonight, away from Delhi, back into the mountains. Guess I have a culture shock and I am not too sad that Delhi needs to wait to get explored until I come back next time.

The bus

After the24h local bus ride to Varanasi I thought it could not get any worse. But hey, India has always a surprise for you. We booked a “sleeper bus” to arrive in the morning in Rishikesh. Instead of seat we got a nice cabin with a mattress and for a moment I seriously believe that this is going to be a relaxed journey. Dear, I was wrong. As soon as the bus starts to move, the mattress turns into a trampoline. So we drive, sleep, jump, wakeup, sleep, jump, wakeup… Eight hours later a guy comes and screams as loud as he can “OUT!! OUT!! OUT!!”. For a moment I think that the bus got raided by terrorists but no – thats just the way he tells us that the bus has arrived. Sleep drunk and still slightly in shock we share a Tuktuk to town with some other sleep drunk travel refugees and we arrive five hours before check in time. Our room is not ready and we sleep in the reception of our place till noon.

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Rishikesh

After reading so far you should already be at the point where you ask yourself what I am doing in India if I am complaining about everything. Don’t get me wrong here, I absolutely love this country! And I also hate it. If there is anybody coming back from India and telling you that everything is nice and beautiful there than he hasn’t seen much… But if one only complaints, one hasn’t seen much either…

Rishikesh is located pretty far north, close to the Himalayas if not already in the Himalayas. The Ganges is clear and cold here and invites for a refreshing bath. Everywhere you find nice beaches with beautiful white sand right at the riverside. The nature is overwhelming: You see Peacocks flying away in the sunset or running over the street, you have all those different monkeys running around (anybody ever counted them? they must be millions over there…), you have butterflies in the sky in the daytime and fireflies at night… I start to get used to the differences in culture, only my stomach is not really getting used to anything.

While driving around in the mountains with the scooter I get an Idea of what is there to discover. I hear about Ladakh, I hear again about the Rainbow gathering, I want to go north.

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While Rishikesh seemed to be the point where India was opening up to me and showing more and more of his beauty, another beauty began to fade away. Vanessa’s call was to leave India for Thailand and once again our hearts were needed to be asked for help. While my heart was still struggling to tell me to change things, India’s call for adventure began to get louder. Thousand kisses to you, I will miss you…

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The mountains

I was to long in Rishikesh. What is it, that makes traveling in this country so slow and time go by so fast? I guess you know the feeling of time passing by so much faster when you watch a good movie: Those two hours feel like nothing to us when we are sitting in the cinema. In India this movie plays twenty-four hours, all around you, and a whole day passes by within the blink of an eye. I decided to get a ticket for the bus and left Rishikesh facing north. The Himalayans were calling once again and I didn’t knew yet that one of the best experiences of my trip was waiting for me up there… (to be continued)

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The 24/7 movie: India

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One Comment

  1. Júpiter
    July 24, 2015
    Reply

    Beautiful

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