Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

Saying Goodbye To India

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This was written in March, 2015, just as I was about to leave India for Nepal.

 

This is my last full day in India, the land of carefully shaped mustaches. As always, time flies. I can’t believe I’m moving on. I’ve spent the last few days in Darjeeling, walking up and down its steep hills, hanging out with my friend, Sayo, and trying to sneak a peek through the fog at the Indian Himalayas. It’s hard to put into words just how incredible India is – I’m almost in tears as I write this.

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I suggest everyone makes a visit during their lifetime. I can read page after page through my Lonely Planet guide and it often seems like the area, people, and food being discussed are from some far off land, but no, it’s India in all its glory. Such amazing diversity: different religions, landscapes, ethnicities, cuisines, histories, architecture, and everything in between. Modern meets traditional, liberal meets conservative, rich meets poor, the contrasts are stark.

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I’ve met some wonderful, creative, beautiful people here. I’ve also had many new experiences, such as walking a horse through hoards of traffic and volunteering at a relaxed guesthouse (thanks Johnson), meditating silently for 10 days (thanks Dhamma Setu), participating in a photo shoot in Chennai (thanks FlyPEI), celebrating Holi in Vrindavan, and much more. I spent time in the busiest of cities, on the most serene of beaches, on extensive palm-fringed river systems, scootering through rural villages on sandy back-roads, relaxing on long-distance trains, and jeeping-it to the high altitudes of Darjeeling. Hot meets cold, dry meets wet, planes meet mountains.

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At times, I’ve been so sick, and at others so very well. At times lonely. At others, alone and perfectly content. And at others, surrounded by love and new friends. Indian people are generally friendly, curious, happy, caring, and hospitable. People will help in whatever manner they can with whatever it is you need helping with. Smiles from ear to ear, heads wobbling from side to side with genuine enthusiasm. My head basically wobbles by itself during every interaction.

The food… The food! So much more than curry! To be honest, I ate a lot of other Indian foods, rather than what the West thinks of as ‘curry’. Masala dosa, idly, sambar, chutneys, pickles, meals/thalis, pongal, south Indian paratha, stuffed parota, sweets, chai, vada, street food!, pani poori, puri masala/sabji, pav bhaji, chola bhatura, chaats, aloo tikki, kheer, kulfi, biriyani, lassi, dangerously sweet jalebi, appam, and so, so, so much more. I also ate a fair share of succulent gravy curries, of course. I love how so many areas of India are basically vegetarian. The best veg food in the world. It’s great when veg restaurants are abundant, and ‘non-veg’ items aren’t the norm.

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I’ll miss wandering through narrow alleyways and having cumin fill my nostrils, returning a head wobble to a stranger, snacking on $0.20 street foods, being asked to pose in a photo with locals, navigating though the never-ending and ear-piercing traffic, being amused by the cows. One does not become so phased by the chaos, the unordinary, the unfamiliar, the atrocious after spending months in India/Asia – yet sights remain interesting, sad, revolting, and beautiful but you become so familiar with beautiful sunsets; mouthwatering food; persistent honking; touts and hawkers; smells of urine, feces, incense, and spices; poverty; pollution; lack of personal space; cows and rickshaws (auto, bicycle, human) and dogs and vehicles sharing the road; littering, and everything else in between.

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Indian women wear the most beautiful attire I’ve ever seen. Dressed to the nines. Beautifully colorful saris with elaborate patterns, adorned with anklets, bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, henna, soft scarfs. The world would be happier if India’s colourful clothing were to be worn everywhere. Beautiful people reach every corner of the globe. Of course, not all is flattering in India – religious rivalries; the dehumanizing caste system; air pollution; thousands of miles of land pollution; prevalent and unmistakable poverty. But let’s not end on that note. Tomorrow I’ll be entering into Nepal, which will the 10th Asian country I’ve visited (38 more to go). In about 15 hours, after crossing the border I should be arriving in Kathmandu on my seated sleeper bus. I know I’m lucky. I’m happy to be here right now doing what I’m doing. And it makes me ever so grateful. So, once again, goodbye to India, and hello to Nepal.

 

It’s good to reflect every now and again. It brings me back, as if it were yesterday.

 

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