India - The Journey Begins
A land of unparalleled contradiction
Woah, is India an interesting departure from reality or what?
We landed in Delhi amidst a record heat of 121* and hit the play button on the most intense three week adventure of our trip. The hustle and bustle truly bashes your senses silly, rolls out your patience like dough under a prayer wheel, and in some situations you feel as if you’re in the back of an accelerating taxi and unable to scream, “Stop!”
And yet despite the heat, despite the chaos, everyone seems so incredibly happy that it's tough to be upset. The phenomenal disorganization actually only increases its charm, and you come to appreciate the nuances. Things like confusing but upbeat motivational messages on official highway road signs that say things like, “Stay married, divorce speed!” Or the fact that it always takes so long to get your food order that dinner morphs into a multi-hour event. Or that the rickshaws, pad-locks, and sparking electrical wires which back home would all be cause for alarm aren’t really considered broken here, and don't really need to be fixed.
What is India? I now think of it as the land of unparalleled contradiction. The acrid smoke of trash burning on the street mixed with cow dung and shrieking scooter horns is juxtaposed with a calm sense of soothing happiness among the people and the delightful food. There’s almost a childishness to the unabashed joy that people take in asking for your photo, which is at first charming, and there’s an unconscious selfishness in how mindlessly people stiff-arm and push past each other in the over-crowded marketplaces. "Indians have two personalities," our friend Amit, owner of a spice shop, told us. This place has you switching up your emotional palate like Rubix cube.
More than once I was distracted from a conversation in order to leap away from a motorcycle rider, charging at right at me (as they do with crowds), holding down his horn, blaring like some Frankish knight on the charge.
And many times Eve was pulled in opposite directions by both arms by two different mothers who both wanted to fit her into a photo with their child.
We were offered masala chai tea by complete strangers with whom we could only share a smile.
We spent time with Gujjar villagers who wanted to buy a powerful 'American-style’ spotlight to scare off tigers and elephants.
We had our pant legs tugged upon by quadriplegics on makeshift skateboards begging for alms.
We found it all garish, scary, enlightening, and utterly peacemaking. And all things considered, not so much different than other SouthEast Asian countries we've visited, in terms of traveling difficulty. India is tough, but it's not that tough, and it's far too charming and beautiful for any stories of slums or sewage to keep you away.
From New Delhi we headed North, out of the heat and the jostling masses and up into the cloud-shrouded peaks of the Himalayas which lay on the doorsteps of Pakistan and China. Below is the route we followed! (not by car, of course)