Last travel post from India! We spent our last few days in this strange and wondrous land in Delhi. Before lurching into India’s capital city, we spent 6 hours on a train from Jaipur. Train trips always make me feel melancholy – more than any other mode of transportation, they epitomize “journey” to me, and I inevitably find myself in a contemplative space.
However, Indian trains are also far too a) bustling, and b) revolting to allow for unbroken contemplation. Todd and I sat in one of the cheapest classes on all of our trips, and there was rarely a dull moment. Apparently, paying for a berth doesn’t mean that it’s really yours – we had endless numbers of villagers “sharing” our seats, and cramming themselves into any unoccupied space. We also watched a dizzying array of activities taking place, including a business meeting between 5 men that lasted for six hours (with breaks for sharing village gossip).
And whenever I felt too melancholy, I just took a trip to the toilet, where I was abruptly jerked back to reality.
Things didn’t get any more normal once we arrived in Delhi. I booked a place that was highly recommended on Trip Advisors, and we found ourselves in one of the most delightfully bizarre hotels that I have ever encountered. The Hotel Kabli is a converted mansion in a random residential area that appeared to be at the edge of the universe when we arrived in the cold night fog. We were warmly welcomed by the Sikh proprietors, and were soon huddling in our room under every blanket we could find – it was Delhi’s coldest day in 66 years. The next morning, we awoke to find ourselves in the middle of Kabul. There were Afghans everywhere – men chatting in large huddles, and veiled women sitting in a segregated area. We were the only Westerners in the joint. Apparently, the hotel is a favourite stopover for Afghans doing business in Delhi. The men wanted to talk to Todd, but when I joined them, it felt awkward – they weren’t rude, but I felt like I was committing a cultural faux pas.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Before we decided to move to Thailand, I was considering applying for a PhD at the JNU school of international studies. Needless to say, things didn’t work out that way, but it was neat to see the campus. It was an interesting mixture of a stereotypical university environment (political posters everywhere), and unique Indian charm (a walkway covered by a cement roof that would occasionally crumble and drop chunks on students’ heads).
We also spent time fighting for survival on the metro. I have never seen people push and shove quite like this – I finally understand how people get crushed to death in crowds. And I’ve never seen grown men dive for seats on the metro like I have in Delhi. It is a blood sport.
We arrived home in the wee hours this morning. After a short stretch of glorious sleep, we were woken by insanely bad karaoke music blasting from a celebration across the canal from our building. Nice to know that even though we’ve left India, there’s still plenty of weird to go around.