last days in india

so delhi and i are not friends.  a series of inauspicious events have conspired during my time in this city such that i feel someone somewhere very much wants me on a plane back to new york.  (which is fine by me – i’m ready to go home.)

first, after boarding the overnight train from varanasi i accidentally knocked a bed-hanger (heavy metal hanger used to suspend the middle bunk on sleeper cars) out of its holder and smashed it into my temple.  it didn’t bleed much, but a huge welt immediately popped up the size of a golf ball.  thinking on my feet, i swabbed the wound with my handy alcohol swabs (so glad i brought you), then hurried a few cars down to the pantry and commandeered a hunk of ice from the drinks cooler to put on it.  the guy tried to ask for money for the ice, if you can believe it, as i stood there bleeding from the head.  i’m lucky i didn’t have a concussion (very lucky, i’m well aware, since no one of my fellow passengers seemed at all interested in my well-being).

once in delhi, bruised but not yet broken, hoping to save money i walked an hour to the national museum in the sweltering heat only to find that foreigners pay 300 rupees to enter (indians pay only 10).  not having brought that much with me, i skipped the museum and walked another half hour to a nearby mughal tomb.  which was fine, except the bus i got back wasn’t going where i was going (even though the driver assured me it was, twice) and instead kicked me out with a 15 minute walk back to the hotel.  at which point it began to rain.

i’m a hardy traveler, these things happen, not the end of the world and all that.  today i woke up with a head cold.  i got up early to go to the red fort and jama mosque before the heat kicked in.  first, the hotel clerk sent me on a wild goose chase for the metro.  when i found myself in the middle of nowhere and tried to get directions, people had conflicting answers (yes it’s just over there, no that line isn’t running, there’s a tourist info office just that way, rickshaws can’t go to the red fort, the red fort is closed, the metro is closed, best take the metro).  this is a bit of fun delhi-ites have with lost tourists, making up stories and giving false directions.  fine, i bit the bullet and found a cycle rickshaw (who was great actually).  however, the red fort really was closed.  so was gandhi’s memorial site (i went through the museum instead).  the jama mosque was beautiful, but i wasn’t allowed in the tower because i was an “unaccompanied female”.  and i had to wear an orange smock.

it started to rain again on my way out of the spice market, so i coughed up money again for a cycle rickshaw.  this guy turned out to be a real low-life.  he drove me way out of the way so as to avoid a bridge over the train tracks.  then when he got tired he pulled over and let me out, saying that the train station was just around the corner and the traffic was so bad i’d be faster walking.  he promised it was just one minute’s walk (the last time i heard this one was in varanasi and after making a big deal out of it felt very dumb when i discovered it was indeed one minute’s walk).  so i stupidly believed this guy, paid his fare, ended up in a dodgy part of town traipsing through a lot of garbage and cow dung and traffic in the sweltering sun (it had stopped raining) for a least 20 minutes, wishing him all the bad karma i could, and refusing to pay for another rickshaw because i was so miffed at the last one.

deep breaths.  things are not going my way the last two days.  the computer i’m on just froze for ten minutes and wouldn’t let me upload any pictures.

tomorrow i get on a plane home and despite the frustrations and hassles, i have enjoyed my time in india.  the moments of peace i found with the taj at sunrise, or on auntie’s balcony at night, or watching the river go by in hampi have been all the more cherished because of the daily chaos of sights and smells and sounds that is india.  the self-serving touts and obnoxious men make my friendships with my indian colleagues and auntie’s family all the more precious.  i have not fallen in love with india in the way that i did africa, but that’s ok.  i’ve learned much here.

~ by aliciawolcott on August 12, 2010.

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