Acrobat: One who is skilled in feats of balance and agility in gymnastics.
In India time is very different, on our first day we already felt we had been in India for at least two weeks. The street is faster, your mind doesn’t even have the capacity to process half the things and you have to give up along the way. Imagine yourself being miniature and falling onto an old vinyl record going at 78 r.p.m., as you spin you try to grab onto something only to fall off hopelessly, well thats kinda what India is for a first time westerner like me.
So, day 11 and I feel like i’m living here, i’ve seen so much already. My boyfriend went to the pharmacy and tried to explain my ailment, he came back with little orange sachets of something called ORS and as he told me his fascinating tale about the inside of the fridge where they store medicine I noticed the ORS expiry date is 2004. The medicine is sealed and in powder form and i’m desperate to get back to normality so who cares.
We got back to Amritsar Junction, and boarded the train, I don’t know the name of it but on the ticket it said PTK DLI EXP.
I had missed so much, Amritsar was two visits to the Golden Temple, peering into the Martyr’s well at Jallianwalla Bagh (the site of the 1919 massacre) and paying 500 rupee for 2 Snapples in a western style cafe. (Tip: If something isn’t on the menu and is displayed in a place your eye is bound to wander then beware, they’ll rip you off bigtime). Oh well, I did have the Punjabi countryside as a consolation as we headed through, and on our way, to Delhi. Every now and then I noticed little blue war planes had landed on the roofs of houses only to realise they were water storage units in the style of things like planes and animals. I did see people and tractors and the flat landscapes, everything I had imagined. Sitting across from us was an older, fed up looking man in disheveled clothes, a teenager in a light blue turban( who made sure we noticed his mobile telephone), and a moody looking man in khaki who was clutching onto his briefcase and looking down at people through his thick lensed glasses. As the train raced along boyfriend asked:
“So, which religion are y’all?”
I just wanted to be swallowed up right there and then. I don’t know if this is an insulting question in India, the disheveled man turned out to be Hindu, the teenager Sikh and old Mr Grumpy Hindu. After answering . . . . . silence returned. We decided to play cards and some people giggled when they noticed I was cheating. Old Mr Grumpy got off somewhere near Ludhiana and I just thought “Thank You Lord!” We travelled on through the afternoon and then something truly astonishing happened. We could hear drums, the people sitting near us seemed to roll up their eyes thinking “Oh no, not this” but we turned into two little meerkats, our heads popping up over the chairs and scanning the carriage trying to see who was making the commotion. It was on my wishlist, The Nats!!! The little girl was fabulous, about four years old, she danced along the aisle of the carriage, her face painted red, clownlike. She was doing a little dance, putting one hand on her hip, the other behind her head and all I could think of was Betty Boop and the caricature of Mae West “Come up and see me sometime”. She tried to do an acrobatic stunt only get stuck in a metal hoop, and then she danced along the carriage. I think everyone had noticed our enthusiasm as they all began to laugh too and enjoy the moment. We took some photos of her and as she moved on I thought about her, wishing that one day she will find some sort of happiness in this super country.
Ludhiana in the Punjab, a place I will return to.
We pulled into Old Delhi train station. I’m aware that I’m feeling better but don’t want to push my health to the limit. We walked towards the prepaid rickshaws, a tout told us the booth where you pay for the rickshaw was closed but we could already see the man who works there writing out the “paid” vouchers for the people in line. We handed our voucher to one of the traffic police and he told us to follow. We followed him onto Mukherjee Marg where he waved down an empty rickshaw. The driver obviously didn’t want to take us if it was prepaid but the traffic officer told him he had no choice. So, we stepped into the rickshaw-from-hell. I could see him fuming in the mirror as he drove in his rage, like a mad man, at one point we hit the back of a bus, I was waving my finger in the air and yelling to him:
“Slow down!! You know what you are? You know? You are an an idiot, an I.D.I.O.T!”.
This made him laugh and he slowed down. We got back to Paharganj and headed to the hotel in the alley. The men working reception look pleased to see us and asked where we had been this time. They’ve gave us an upgrade, same price but with a view onto Main Bazaar. I feel really glad to be back in Delhi. It’s as hectic as London and New York, hmmm, thinking about it I would say that Delhi is WAY MORE HECTIC than London and New York COMBINED, the energy is out-of-this-world and I feel at home.
We’ve just chilled out on the roof top restaurant all evening, the Delhi skyline, the night every now and then lit up by a firework signalling that Diwali is imminent. Evenings in Delhi are the best, just when the city and people have cooled down but still as manic as the afternoons. We have decided to stay here for the remainer of our vacation and explore everything this city has to offer.
I’m figuring out that what makes India so unique and memorable are the people, sure the monuments are impressive in their own super-iconic ways but they are just a backdrop to what is really going on.