THE JUXTAPOSITION THAT IS INDIA (added 19.12.09)
Ok – so here we are in Udaipur, one minute I was asking where an internet cafe was and the next minute I am sitting on the back of some random guys motorbike speeding down the narrow roads – and here I am, writing to you from an internet café in India- a camel has just walked past me & to get here we were dodging pigs, goats, donkeys, cows and a lonely elephant was wandering the streets. Yes my friends, we are definitely in India!
We have had the best day – our train plans that we had organised in Brisbane fell through, so after staying at the Ritz hotel last night which was deluxe – seriously! – the train company organised for a driver to meet us at the hotel, drive us 6 hours to where we are now, after stopping at his family’s home to have chai tea and meet his family, none of whom could speak English yet still welcomed 4 scraggly travellers into their house with open arms. He then took us to a textile factory where we were treated like rock stars for 2 hours and had a range of clothes made for us.
Udaipur is amazing but let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s hope I can tell my story before the next power outage arrives and I loose my whole email. (AGAIN)
Arriving in India – we were all tired from our stop over in Bangkok, but still laughing as we witnessed our first taste of the Indian transport system, when we are literally thrown into a cab, our luggage is shoved in the boot which wont shut but that’s ok because another man appears out of nowhere with some rope which he loosely ties from the boot to the tow bar. As we drive off wondering what we have got ourselves in for, we are laughing at the utterly chaotic yet seemingly organised systems in place here. We venture into the unknown, giggling and wondering if we will actually have any luggage when we arrive at our destination.
Our laughs abruptly stop, it only takes 5 minutes to get the real feeling of India – the poverty we have heard so much about is thrown into our faces – and as the decrepit old shanties line the streets, tears threaten to line my cheeks. It pains me to see human beings having to live like this – yet the people emerge happy and smiling and it really makes you question your values in life.
We arrived at our hotel to discover the train tickets we had prebooked and paid for in Brisbane had not yet arrived – after majorly freaking out, we go to get breakfast (a selection of fried spicy something’s that made me wonder how my stomach would cope for another 3 weeks) and arrive back to our room to receive a phone call from Mr Raj Bajaj who is trying to locate our missing tickets.
Thinking that it was my brothers prank calling us from their hotel room, my boyfriend puts on his best Indian accent and says “oh yes raj thankyou very much please how to help you etc etc” – this went on for quite some time until we finally realised (due to the fact that both of my brothers were in our room, and Ami was still on the phone) that indeed this man was actually called Raj Bajaj and did know where our tickets were.
We discovered that our good mate Ronnie from the front counter had them there all the time – it must have just slipped his mind – I wanted to give him a piece of my mind – but hey we are in India and on day one its quite easy to see that the work ethic is a little different from my homeland.
India is a land of contradictions – they drive like maniacs yet are placid by nature, the beggars come in droves banging on your taxi window as you are stopped in traffic, while a brand new BMW roars past you on the other side. It is hard not to feel guilty every time we refuse a 10 year old boy selling something for 50cents to support his family, and to feel utterly horrified as a young girl is slapped hard on the back by a policeman as she is putting a bracelet on my wrist and asking me to buy her food as payment. How do you know what is real and what is a scam? How can you be sure that your actions won’t set bigger wheels in motion and a seemingly innocent act on your behalf won’t have devastating consequences on someone else?
Mumbai is filthy dirty and chaotic, yet from all of this stunning smiling girls emerge in beautifully coloured saris – it’s amazing. People live in cardboard boxes that still have TV’s in them, and everywhere you turn there are children laughing and playing.
Fear starts to grab hold of you as you are sitting in the front of a taxi with a grumpy driver – you are not wearing a seatbelt (there aren’t any to wear), from your right a bus is about to crash into you, with no signs of slowing down, the driver suddenly puts on his brakes, precisely 2 seconds later another taxi hits us from the left – not hard, but hard enough to send our driver into a fit of rage – with his hand on the horn he speeds the whole way home – trying to dodge or hit people the entire journey we never were quite sure.
I think we actually were travelling at about 120 k’s, yet we somehow managed to get back to our hotel in one piece, luckily for me my brother was sitting behind me holding on to my car door that didn’t actually shut and my other brother was hanging on to me so I didn’t fall out of the cab.
From Mumbai we caught a 14 hour sleeper train to somewhere we could not pronounce – after following the instructions on the train – we fold down our “backrest cum beds” – ate some chips ‘golgoopa’ style and arrive at our destination – Bhavnagar. The lonely planet suggests not many tourists go here – I think it would be safe to say they have not seen a tourist here since 1964 – we were stared at, asked our names and where are we from by EVERYONE in the village – and the personal highlight was being mobbed by a whole school – literally – who all wanted our autographs – they swamped us making us sign our names on their hands, until the security man had to blow a whistle to get them all back to school.
My legs hurt from squatting; my tummy hurts from laughing – our feet are black from dirt and my hair smells like curry –
This in India – this is travelling – and this is what we love.