There are certain sensations in life that are so specific; the feelings of the crisp fresh air, the crickets, and the smell of firewood… With camping, the memories linked have such a specific associated sensation; an experience that can never be replicated outside the campgrounds.
India is the same way. For me, the natural association of memories linked to the smell, the sounds, the dense feel of the air, all came rushing back the moment I stepped off the plane.
Not more than 18hours ago, I found myself getting choked up on the phone saying good bye to Mom and Dad.
As I sit in the familiar pink room of the Hotel Namaskar, I know that my emotions will always come and go, changing and bringing new thoughts while pondering what is yet to come, on this journey of mine.
I am very happy to be back in India, again. My memories of the past will surely join me, but will change and be replaced with the new experiences I gain on this solo trip… new memories with the same senses.
As expected I had a difficult night trying to fall asleep. Irrational thoughts and fears replayed over and over in my exhausted body and tireless mind.
I decided to emerge at 7.30, despite the lack of sleep. Today would be the official start of my journey and the start of my solo mission.
It’s funny because since arriving in New Delhi, I find myself resisting the urge to play photo scavenger hunt; every familiar scene from pictures taken before…missing only my beloved friends.
Ironically, I picked up new friends for the day… The outgoingness to talk to (and or help) a complete stranger never gets old in India. Suneal approached me as I walked down the crowded Main Bazaar street of Paharganj saying hello and asking me where I was going.
I told him I was looking to get a SIM card for my mobile. My spidey senses tingled, as a part of me was a bit wary of his persistent outward curiosity; I knew that there would probably be an ulterior motive for me to check out his or his friend’s store afterwards, but I was up for an adventure.
Not realizing the amount of steps involved, I became very appreciative of Suneal’s help, as I eventually got set up with new mobile number.
His offer to have some chai was immediately followed up with an invitation me to see his store. I tagged along and entered a comfortably cool sheltered step-down shop; two young men sat leaning on a low glass display case smoking cigarettes and laughing, while another lay sleeping in the corner. The forgotten, yet hopeful jewelry and trinkets hung on display, not being moved or touched in weeks; interested in business seemed have shifted. Suneal and his friends began showing me photos of their home in the beautiful lakeside land of Kashmir. It became very obvious that they were running a travel/tour operation, extending their hospitality to all who could be seen as a profit, especially to their most recent returning customer, the man from Madrid, Spain, Eugene. I was a guest in their club house, even after deflecting their sales pitch, as the chai continued to flow and questions were asked about Obama and how hopeful we all were about the future.
‘Gene and I spent most of the day together, wandering around the windy streets of Paharganj, looking for lunch followed by the next delicious treat or chai available to be had.
Just as quickly as my induction to the clubhouse was, it came to an abrupt departure upon returning to the shop, I instinctively removed myself when they began smoking a rather large spliff with the two new Dutch customers. I was not able to thank Suneal and the gang for the adventurous day; such is life, I’m over it.
I made it onto the first of my trained-transports; heading to Gorakhpur, arriving in the late morning. I’m in AC-1 (first class – air conditioned)… fancy!... there is a cockroach crawling around on the walls.
(You've Been Gone Too Long - Ann Sexton)