Dussehra Travels

My whirlwind tour of the Northeast has come to an end and I am back in Delhi.

How was the trip?  Overall, I would not relive the experience, but I would gladly go back to Meghalaya and Sikkim (definitely Sikkim).  Assam produced two bad experiences so I have no desire to go back there.  I will explain.

Initially I was fine going to just Sikkim because that is where I wanted to go because 1) It is really cold there; and 2) I wanted to look for specific bangles there for my mom (which I found).  A — my friend that took me to the Valley of Flowers — threw Meghalaya and Assam into the mix.  When I asked him about the plans, he sent me a cheeky photo that said “the best travels are not planned” or something to that effect.  I thought that’s what it was — that he was being cheeky.  He wasn’t.  Aside from Kaziranga on the first day, we had no plans.  And even that didn’t go through — as soon as we arrived in Guwahati, his friend in Shillong called and said to do Shillong and Cherapunji first because of one reason or another, so we headed for Shillong as soon as we landed.  Did we have plans there?  No.  A kept asking me, “So what do you want to do?” and I kept saying “I don’t know, I’m not the one who planned this part of the trip.”  I just wanted to see the root bridges.  The first day, we took his friend’s motorcycle and went out to Cherapunji with no plans.  We passed Elephant Falls which I wanted to go to, but he said his friend said we could do that on the way back.  “Okay,” I said. We didn’t make it to Elephant Falls because we didn’t head back to Shillong until about 5:00pm after aimlessly driving around trying to find things to do.  We eventually saw Arwah caves (which was a 4/10 at best) and Nohkalikai Falls (which was probably a 3/10).  Needless to say, I was already in a sour mood.  On the second day, we got a cab and did the root bridge (though not the one in Cherapunji), a village, and Dawki Lake.  Dawki was nice but since it had rained, the water wasn’t translucent which is why A picked the lake to begin with.  Later that night upon returning to Shillong, his friend took us to his friend’s house where we danced and sang — that was probably the best part.  But A was the only one who sat out.

After Meghalaya, we passed through Assam again and wasted a day trying to find things to do around Guwahati.  The taxi driver said he would take us to a waterfall and ended up taking us to a waterpark.  Did we have swimming attire?  No.  So we had him take us out of the parking lot.  We went to a Balaji Temple, then stopped by a small dock to take a boat out to a small island to see another temple.  I think that afternoon we took an overnight bus to Darjeeling.

We arrived in Darjeeling at about 6am — after a three-hour ride from Siliguri — and wandered around looking for a hotel.  Another thing I love, just love about A (can you hear the sarcasm?) is that he doesn’t book hotels ahead of time — he’ll wait until we’re there and then look for one.  Not smart.  We finally found one, and it was a crappy room for 1,700.  It smelled like wet cloth and mold.  The only plus was that I was able to get hot water for my shower.  A doesn’t get why I need to take a shower every day “even in the mountains” because it’s “so cold” up there.  I’ll complain more about this thought process later.  After a short nap, we woke up at 12:00pm and again, A said “What do you want to do?” and I said, “I don’t know, because you picked Darjeeling too.  I said we could have bypassed it but you wanted to come here.”  He was a bit taken aback by this statement since I was so soft-spoken the two other times we had spent time together (each about four days in length) but this is what happens when someone irritates me.  Anyway, we wandered around outside and first ate.  After, he asked again: “What do you want to do?” to which I said, “I already said I don’t know.  You choose since you picked Darjeeling.”  We eventually got a taxi and went to the zoo.  After the zoo, we went to a tea estate where I bought eight bags of green tea for people back home.  After that, since he had seen a rock climbing set up on the way to the tea estate, and since he is into mountaineering and such, A wanted to stop there.  He paid Rs. 100 (I think) to scale a rock in about thirty seconds, take photos of the view, and come back down.  When he arrived at the bottom, he said “I thought it would have been more fun” and I said, “It’s a tourist set up, of course it won’t be intense.”  We left Darjeeling for Sikkim that evening.

By some miracle, A had a friend book a hotel in Gangtok so we were set up that evening.  The next day we had planned Tsomgo and another lake but right as we were leaving, we were informed that in order for a foreigner to go to Tsomgo, they needed to be with at least another foreigner.  That didn’t (and doesn’t) make sense to me because I’m not sure why you would want more foreigners in a border area.  Since that plan was shot, the taxi driver that brought us to Sikkim ended up taking us to small waterfall (Lhasa) and Rumtek monastery.  The second day in Sikkim, we again had no plans.  A kept dogging me about it, asking “What do you want to do?” and I said, “You know, I told you to plan and you didn’t.  And now we have no plans.  I’m honestly fine staying in the hotel and reading my book and relaxing.  I wanted to come to Sikkim for the bangles and to relax, and I’m fine doing that.”  And he retorted, in some astonishment, “All day?” and I said, “Yes.  All day.  I’m fine doing that all day.  Sikkim is the place I actually wanted to go to.  I wanted to come here — Sikkim was my main destination.  You picked Darjeeling, Meghalaya, and Assam without plans, not me.  I’m in Sikkim to relax.”  After walking around Gangtok a bit more and finally finding the bangle for my mom (a bangle of various metals roped together, with silver dragon heads at the end – my host mom told me it’s a Sikkim speciality) he asked me again, “What do you want to do now that you have the bangle?” and I said “I’m fine relaxing, I said that already” and I just stood there staring off.  He went off to a tourist office to find things to do, and just then a man crept around my shoulder (not creepy like I’m making it sound) and said, “Kahan ja rahi hai?” and I said, “Uh…” and right then, A came back and decided we’d go to South Sikkim.  They (the man who approached me, and his two companions – a man and woman) were going to West Sikkim and offered to take us for only Rs. 500.  We ended up going all the way to West Sikkim with them, and on the way stopped at another tea estate.  They were all Nepali and ended up being my favorite people we had encountered.  The woman was particularly sweet and we ended up exchanging numbers and taking countless selfies (I’m surprised that the selfie culture is bigger here than in the US!).  We made one stop in South Sikkim and it happened to be the place I wanted to visit: Tathagata Tsal.  We reached Pelling at about 7:30pm or so and had dinner near the hotel.  A drinks regularly and had a bottle of whisky in his jacket which he needed to drink outside of the main restaurant and at the bar on the deck; to this, the woman (N), said “Do you drink?” and I said “Very rarely, usually only on special occasions” and she said, “Drinking is very bad!  No?  I think A is drinking outside” and I found that very cute and endearing for some reason.

Pelling was my favorite part of the trip.  It wasn’t A’s cup of tea since it was mine — relaxing.  The night we arrived, I asked a hotel employee, “Garami pani hai?  Shower ke liye?”  He smiled a lot and said yes, and I thought it was because he and N were talking about how surprising it was that I knew Hindi, considering I was from America and not Nagaland as they had both thought upon meeting me.  Later that night, I had issues with my tv so the same guy came up (“B,” from now on).  As he fixed my tv,  he asked how I was liking Sikkim and I said I absolutely loved it (I did and do).  He eventually said, “You should stay.  You should marry someone in Sikkim in stay!” and I was like “I wish I could!”  The next morning, I went looking for breakfast and B walked me to a restaurant where I gorged on four slices of toast, a masala omelette, and chai.  After that, A asked if I wanted to eat and I spitefully said I had already eaten.  He wanted to see the monastery and Rabdanste nearby, so we did that.  He went to have lunch and I went off on my own to explore Pelling.  When I returned later in the day, I went straight into my room and watched tv, doodled in my notebook, and just lied in bed eating apples I had purchased earlier in the day.  It was amazing.  To be polite, I asked A if he wanted to grab dinner with me and I eventually knocked on his door when he didn’t answer my message.  He was sleeping.  I had thentuk (delicious) and Tibetan bread.  The bread was a breakfast item but since I had asked about it anyway, the server said “We aren’t serving it anymore, but I’ll have them make it for you.”  I apologetically (truly, and multiple times) kept saying no and that it was okay, and that I could do without the bread but in the end, I had a feast of egg thenthuk, Tibetan bread, and ginger honey lemon tea on a cold, rainy Sikkim evening.  Of course A got back to me midway through my meal.  I walked back to the hotel in the rain, bought more apples, and spent my night eating apples, watching more tv, and doodling.  Lovely!  Absolutely lovely.  Pelling was my favorite.

The next day I went looking for breakfast again and B was smiling at me from the counter.  I didn’t think anything of him until he asked me about Facebook and then for my phone number.  That’s why he was all smiles!  But I’m a foreigner, so I’m not sure why he asked anyway.  Since I’m a foreigner and will never see him again, I did give him my Facebook information (showing I’m engaged, vomiting photos of me and my fiancé and our small family of two dogs and a kitten) and number (Delhi number).  A and I barely talked all morning and we sat across each other, me eating my aloo parathas and him drinking his chai, not saying anything.  He knew I was and had been upset, and I did not care.  To this, my fiancé said I should have been more forgiving, but I’m convinced he only said this because as my fiancé, he knows how b*tchy I can be when I get into my moods, but I’m not sure why A wouldn’t think I was serious when I said I wanted plans.  He runs a company that’s basically that — he takes people (locals and foreigners) on day- or week-long treks that include extensive planning, sometimes going on planes, etc., and so I expected him to be good about this.  He was not, and I did not and do not feel bad about my cold demeanor, especially since this mess of a trip ended up costing me about Rs. 20,000.  Anyway, then we left for Siliguri — or so we thought.  It was impossible to get a taxi from Jorenthang to Siliguri so we ended up taking a private cab.  We were supposed to have arrived in Guwahati at about 6:00pm.  Due to multiple jams, we only arrived in Siliguri at 8:30pm and needed to pay (well me, since A ran out of money) Rs. 14,500 for a private cab to Guwahati since our flight was the next day (today).  We reached Guwahati at 6:00am and that was that, and now I’m finally back in Delhi.

When we got the hotel in Guwahati this morning, I asked if we were getting separate rooms.  In an irritated manner, A said “Why?  Why do you insist on two rooms only for a few hours?” and I sighed and said “Whatever just one then.”  Why did I insist on two different rooms the entire trip?  Let my ranting begin:

A is a pig.  When he hung out in my rooms the time we were together for VoF, he basically trashed my rooms.  He would smoke and get his ashes everywhere and not clean them up, and then he would leave the butts everywhere.  The time I went down to his room to use the washroom right before we left Ghangaria, there were cigarette butts and ashes all over his room and cigarette butts floating in his toilet.  And this is at the hotel of someone he knows.  He knew the owners of all the hotels we stayed at and still disrespected their rooms.  I also don’t smoke, so his smoking in general was irritating to me.  Secondly, he likes to talk a lot.  I don’t.  I like to relax by myself, especially at night.  So obviously, the separate room was good for this.  Lastly, as I had mentioned before, he doesn’t see the need to take a shower in the mountains since it’s cold.  I do not think he took a shower at all since we left Shillong — that’s about six days of no showers.  By the time we reached Pelling he had a smell resembling wet clothes and sweat (plus his cigarette smoke).  I do not want to share an enclosed space with someone who smells.  Today, the smell was even stronger and even as we sat on opposite ends of the room, I could smell him in our Guwahati hotel room.  I am not even joking.  I am a very clean person and I need to shower every day, no matter what.  If I go to the gym in the morning, I’ll take a full shower then — soap, shampoo, conditioner — and I’ll take another full shower in the evening before bed.  I don’t care if it’s cold — a daily shower is a minimum for me.  Any time he walked by, I would hold my breath because I could not handle the smell.  Needless to say, sitting together on the plane ride back was near torturous and anytime he made any slight movement, the smell grew stronger.  Again my fiancé said I needed to be more forgiving, but again I said, “No, you do not understand.  It’s been nine days of this.”  A is also a bad listener.  In Gangtok, our cab driver dropped us off at Lal Market and said that for us to get back to our hotel, we needed to walk “upar aur uske baad, right” meaning, on to MG Marg and right.  When we went up, A kept asking me where to go.  I said, “He said up and right.  We went up, so now we need to go right.”  He kept asking, “Are you sure?  Do you know where we’re going?” and again I said, “He said ‘up and after that, go right’ and that’s what I’m doing.”  Again he asked, and I finally said “Were you listening to him as he spoke or not?  What did he say?  He said ‘up and right,’ didn’t he?” and he said “Oh yes, yes, I guess, yes…” and even after that, he called the hotel and asked for directions and said “Yes, we are going the right way” and I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they were going to fall out of my head.  A bunch of things like this just boiled over nine days and I don’t think I’ll be seeing A again before I leave.

Anyway…I’m glad to be back in Delhi (e.g., familiarity).  I really, truly loved Sikkim, though.  When I come back to India, I’m definitely spending a fair amount of time there.

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Weekend Trip to Uttarakhand

Last Thursday evening I caught a night bus to Dehradun and spent Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday traveling around Uttarakhand.  I planned the trip since Eid was (WAS) scheduled for Monday, but on Thursday (after my host father had made the appropriate arrangements for my travel) my university emailed us saying that Eid would be on Tuesday and that we’d have class on Monday.  I hate missing class unnecessarily, but it was totally worth it.

Originally my host father was going to put me in touch with a guide in Uttarakhand that could take me to the Valley of Flowers but by some miracle, a family friend of the man who owns the company in charge of coordinating my Study Abroad program between my university in Hawaii and the one in Delhi just happened to be traveling to Delhi on Thursday to see his sister, so he (I’ll refer to him as “A” from here) agreed to accompany me.  We later found out that both he and I were nervous about setting off for a three-day trip with someone we were to meet just minutes before boarding our bus.  I was supposed to head back to Delhi on Sunday evening but for various reasons, I ended up staying until Monday evening.  A and I really hit it off and he asked me to stay one more day, but I really could not since I had a paper due in one of my classes today and needed to get back to Delhi to work on it.

Anyway, we reached Dehradun at about 4:00am Friday morning, where A and I went back to his home where his mother made us chai (I drank about fifteen cups of chai in four days).  After our morning chai, we boarded another bus for Joshimath.  The bus ride was ten hours long and I was so sick that at one point, I was fully convinced I was going to stick my head out of the window and vomit.  A was able to jump off the bus for a bit and get me some medicine which really worked and I was able to enjoy the last two – three hours of the bus ride after that.  After arriving in Joshimath, we had dinner (paneer and chicken – mmm!) and stayed the night at his aunt’s house.  I was scheduled to stay in a hotel in Joshimath but his aunt insisted I stay at her home and not waste money on a hotel.  That was my first experience with a separate bathroom (meaning, it was right outside of the main house so I had to walk outside to use it) as well as with taking a shower sans running water.  She boiled water for me which I mixed with the cold water that was stored in the wash room and made do with that.  It was oddly comforting, though, and I totally didn’t mind it.  It was actually quite relaxing.

On Saturday morning we had breakfast (lots and lots of toast) and headed off for Govindghat around 10:00am (we were supposed to have left at 7:00a, but Am overslept and I didn’t want to wake him).  It was very hot by the time we started the trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria, so we ended up taking mules and reached around 4:00pm or so.  Being bored twenty-somethings, we drank in my hotel room until I was in bed buried in blankets because I was drunk-tired and very cold (going from somewhere like 90-degree Delhi to 60-degree Ghangaria was not easy on me).  A was nice enough to go downstairs to a restaurant and fetch dosas for us since I had mentioned wanting dosas earlier in the day.  After eating, we sat on the deck outside of my hotel room and talked until about 1:00am.  I’ve never seen so many stars in my life.  Even on a quiet beach on Oahu late at night, there are never that many stars visible in the sky.  It was beautiful.

We finally worked our way to the actual valley on Sunday morning around 9:00am.  The trek in and out took us about five hours.  We missed the valley in full bloom by  couple weeks (the weekend I went to Masuri last month would have been the perfect time to go, actually) but I still enjoyed it.  A kept apologizing for the lack of flowers, but I was happy with what I saw.  The valley was a type of nature and beauty inaccessible to me in tropical Hawaii, so I loved it even with only a few flowers still in bloom.  It drizzled the entire time we were in the valley and it was just under 60 degrees.  After coming back from the valley, I gorged on a bread omelette (two eggs and FOUR slices of bread!) and veg pakodas (and chai, of course).  We caught mules back to Govindghat since we were running short on time but the rush was no use – we were trapped in Govindghat for the night due to a landslide.

On Monday we made our way back to Joshimath and Dehradun.  Instead of taking a bus, we took a cab from Joshimath to Dehradun which was a lot more pleasurable.  There’s something about spending ten hours with the same strangers that’s both funny and comforting.  On the way to Joshimath on Friday, A’s aunt (his other aunt) picked up a khira from a road side stand between Dehradun and Karnaprayag.  As I was feeling sick at the time, I didn’t eat much of it but what I did taste was delicious; as a result, on the way back to Dehradun I really wanted to pick one up.  We passed by the same area too late and the shop keepers had packed up for the day; luckily, however, the taxi driver was nice enough to take me to another shop he knew would be selling them so I was able to pick one up and take it back to Delhi.  We reached Dehradun around 10:00pm; A’s friend met him off Rajpur Road and had brought A’s motorcycle so we could hurry and head off to get momos up the street (the name escapes me – “Singh” is part of the name).  He said they’d be the best momos I’d ever eat and that I wouldn’t be able to stomach Delhi momos after eating those, and he was right.  We had chicken and cheese momos and veg and cheese momos, both were amazing (and very rich).  Each plate was about Rs. 110 for six pieces (totally worth it).  I got on a Delhivali bus at 12:30am and was back in Delhi — unfortunately — by 6:30am on Tuesday morning (I finished my paper on time).

It was such a nice weekend.  Uttarakhand is so beautiful and I know I’ll keep going back.  A invited me to stay with him and his family for Diwali.  On our previous trip to Dehradun last month, our friends had told my roommate and I that Diwali in Dehradun would be way better than Diwali in Delhi; they also said that should we come back, they would take us to Masuri so we could see Dehradun lit up for the holiday.  Those friends and A are childhood friends, so naturally A put forth the same plan.  A friend from school is also going to head up to Dehradun for Diwali since a friend of his is attending school there, so he offered for us to go up together in his car versus taking a bus.  Everything is falling into place!  I’ll most likely head to Dehradun on the Thursday leading up to Diwali but be back in Delhi on October 30th to celebrate the actual day with my host family.

A will be in Delhi this weekend for business (he owns a travel company as well) so we’ve made some plans for the weekend.  I’ve met some really wonderful people here in India and the thought of leaving and going back to my home, half a world away, makes me sad.  I know I’ll keep coming back to India, but it’ll be weird going from seeing someone in school every day to seeing them once every few years…but anyway, I really love Uttarakhand!  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my host family is also from Dehradun.  They’re only in Delhi for work purposes (who’d want to leave Dehradun for Delhi consciously?!)  Dehradun is so nice and quiet; coming back to Delhi is jarring and I’ve been cranky since returning on Tuesday.  It’s just so hot, crowded, loud, and full of smells (both good and bad).  Did I mention that Delhi is also just really hot?  Like really, really, really, sticking-your-head-in-an-oven-that’s-already-on-fire hot?  I sweat just sitting around doing nothing.

I’ll be heading off to…somewhere for Dussehra break.  If my friend will be home in Aurangabad, my first plan is to go there.  If not, A and I may head off to Kolkata since he knows I want to go to Sundarbans (I did my Hindi project on Sundarbans last Fall semester).  My roommate is heading off to Assam and Meghalaya with friends from school and invited me, but if it’s my choice, I’d like to spend my break with friends I’ve made on my own, y’know?  Sometimes I forget I’m here for school, hehe.  But being in India for just a month and a half has really made me realize how big the world is.  India is just one country but each state is so different.  It’s hard to believe that Uttarakhand and Delhi are just a few hours away from one another by how much the environment changes between the two.  I want to see as much as I can before I leave.  I feel extremely lucky to be here, and even luckier to be with a host family.  Being with a host family is very special and I’m getting an experience that a student just thrust into some dorm (or a tourist on an extended stay) wouldn’t necessarily get.  Tonight we went to Paharganj for dinner; my host sister also needed to pick up new shoes for a formal at her university next week.  I also got my nose pierced!  Naturally, I was a little nervous about getting my nose pierced in Paharganj (an area my professor specifically advised me to avoid) but my host sister got her nose pierced at the same shop so I trusted it.  I was even more nervous when I saw that the jewelry he put in my nose was just taken out of a plastic bag (versus a sterile packed piece of jewelry) and that the needle used to pierce my nose wasn’t in sterile packing or sterilized…and that the guy wasn’t wearing gloves…and that he only swabbed the outside of my nose with alcohol.  But my host sister’s nose is perfectly fine and she’s a smart gal (and I’m just a paranoid American) so we’ll see.  We’re going to get our hair done on Sunday morning.  I also cut my own bangs on Tuesday just because I felt like it.  The last time I cut my own hair, I was six and my mom was very upset about it.  My bangs turned out alright; Im going on Sunday to get my hair layered a little.

Anyway, check out these photos of beautiful Uttarakhand!

 

 

 

“It must make you think of all the people you left at home when you put that kettle on the stove with just enough water for yourself.”

At my university, I’m taking four classes (unfortunately for me, these courses are worth four credits each since they meet for four hours a week, but since my university in Hawaii is on a three-hour schedule, I’ll only get three for each on my Manoa transcript): Problems of Historical Knowledge (a historiography course), Partitions in South Asia, the State in Indian History (state-building, state formations, transformations, transitions, some social/economic/political theory, etc.), and the Indian Ocean in History (the place of the Indian Ocean in the world, its influence on people and places, and their effect on it).  For my Indian Ocean course, my professor assigned In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh.  Immediately, I was drawn into the book.  I was just as curious (okay, maybe not “just as curious,” but I was curious) about the slave of MS H.6, as well as what would eventually happen to Ben Yiju.  I was less concerned about Ghosh’s contemporary account about his ethnographic work in Egypt during the ’80s (though it was still interesting).  Right before we started the book, my professor expressed that it is one of his favorite books and that it changed the way he looked at history (my professor’s area of expertise is the Indian Ocean, focusing on Tanzania and Kachchh).  It really is a great book.  The storylines in the book are great, but Ghosh does make important points in the book about historiography, human relationships (notions of difference), and modernity and tradition (among other things).

Besides it being a great book (I also went out and bought Sea of Poppies, Flood of Fire, and The Hungry Tide – I need to get River of Smoke), it made me think about what I am doing here.  To a far lesser extent, I am kind of doing what Ghosh was doing in Egypt — though, like a said, to a far lesser extent.  While I am not working on a dissertation, I am here for academic purposes, on a mission to find something (i.e., what exactly I will work on for my thesis).  Like I said…to a far lesser extent.  While finishing the book, I began to think about how I am currently cultivating relationships with people I would have never otherwise met.  Strangers have welcomed me into their home (although on a more structured basis) and I have breakfast and dinner with them every day, and will until December.  They ask me how my day was, they playfully speak to me in Hindi to get me to be less shy about speaking it, and on Mondays and Tuesdays I ride to Connaught Place with my host father and his daughter since we all start work/school around the same time.  There is one person from school I’ve become rather close to, and he was one of the first people to formally introduce themselves to me.  I was sitting alone outside of my university’s canteen one day after school; as I took out my Hindi notebook to brush up, he and his friend sat at the table and he just said, “You’re in MA history too, na?” and after that, we slowly started talking more and since we’re in the same classes, we see each other every day and normally do something after school once a week.  On Fridays he normally drives to school since our classes end at 6:00pm and doesn’t want to take the metro at a peak time, and he’ll drop me off at a metro station just three away from mine, shortening my travel time to about ten minutes from about what would have been forty-five.  I think about how he could have bypassed me like I bypass others (I never initiate conversations) but he was friendly, and he’s been kind since day one.  He took me to Vasant Kunj earlier in the week just so I could go to Om Books for the three additional works I bought by Ghosh.

I think about the people I’ve met here in just the first month and think about how these relationships can go.  I can go back to Hawaii and never see these wonderful people again or I can really put my heart into these relationships and they can be in my life for years and years after I leave Delhi.  I’d obviously prefer the latter.  It’d be even better if I could return regularly and see them, or if they could make it out to Hawaii.  It’s weird to think about how random my entry into some of their lives was, and how temporary my presence will be physically.  My host family is wonderful and I feel incredibly comfortable with them.  My friend here reminds me of my friends back home in how thoughtful he is (e.g., tugging my backpack and pulling me away from the road and cars, asking if I got home safely, etc.).  This is a very special time in my life and I don’t want old age to rob me of it down the road.  My co-worker gave me a diary (which I’ve been neglecting, unfortunately) and I’ve been trying to take pictures daily.  Inside the cover of my Sea of Poppies, I dated it and wrote that my friend had taken me all the way to Vasant Kunj after my incessant nagging and that he was likely late for his church choir rehearsal because of it.

Then, after I think about myself and my small network here, I think about other people that I know who travel frequently.  My professor, for example, does research in Tanzania and Kachchh, though more in the former.  He first went to East Africa when he was a little younger than me, and learned Swahili from a woman free of charge.  While he was there, she had a young child and to this day, he keeps in touch with them and has essentially seen that boy grow up over twenty years.  He has friends from all over East Africa, and all over India.  My friend (who was a Fulbright TA for my Hindi class for AY 2015 – 2016) has traveled extensively as well; he was born in Tamil Nadu, grew up in Aurangabad, did all of his college schooling in Delhi, then traveled to Egypt for part of his PhD work, Hawaii for the year he was with us, a cross-Europe trip after the semester wrapped up, Korea, and all over India.  I can’t imagine how it would feel to randomly enter those many lives and want to keep all of those people with me while continuing to move around from place to place.  It’s a great feeling to expand one’s world so much, I’m sure, but for me personally, I get attached to people quickly.  I’m not too sure what my point is in this post, really…perhaps that I simply realize that these are lives and people, not just characters in a diary, a blog, or photos on my iPhone.

An August in Delhi

I’ve been in Delhi now for a few days shy of a month.  I’ve been racially yelled at by men on a moped (“ching chong” means the same thing everywhere, even when you’re Japanese), I’ve been bumped/pushed on the metro numerous times, I’ve fallen victim to the sudden monsoon rains more than once, I’ve been ripped off by autowalas, I’ve confused people with my broken Hindi (surprisingly, after two years and hours of classroom time, I was at a loss trying to buy a watermelon), and I’ve been stared at walking back from the gym in a pretty modest tanktop.  But nothing was more difficult than my first month here in terms of dealing with being away from my mother, fiance, and dogs.  After about a week here, I called to have my return flight changed from December 17th to December 3rd.  The person on the other end put me on hold for twenty minutes, effectively using ALL of my minutes (especially since it was international), so my fiance called in my place and sat on hold for two hours to change my flight.  In retrospect, this was done very soon and without really giving Delhi a chance.  But for someone who’s never been away from home or their family for more than two weeks, waking up half a world away with the knowledge that you’re stuck there for almost five months is terrifying.  Nothing is wrong with Delhi, I was just extremely homesick.  Now that I’ve adjusted, I’m disappointed in myself for shaving two weeks off of my stay, but I’ll do my best to make the most of my remaining time here.  I was coming home on the metro today and as we crossed over the Yamuna, I began to think about how lucky I am to be here.  Once I really just thought — excuse me — “fuck it, you’re here,” things got a lot easier.  And by “fuck it, you’re here” I also mean adjusting my Western mind and forcing myself to use squat toilets (my host home has Western toilets, as has every home I’ve been in here).  Life is a lot easier when you aren’t perpetually anxious about using the restroom, especially when, for two days out of the week, you’re in school for seven hours and all of the restrooms in your building only have squat toilets.

So, what have I been up to?  Over Independence weekend, my roommate and I went to Dehradun and Mussoorie.  Our friend/guide from the travel company is from Dehradun (as is our host family) so he was able to show us around a bit.  His family owns a sweet shop there as well.  Mussoorie was beautiful and I was sad to return to Delhi and the Delhi heat.  Other than that, school has kept me rather busy.  I joined a gym near my house last week and have been going regularly.  The staff is really friendly and the trainers are great.  I’ve made friends in school and I went to Majnu ka Tila after class today with one of them and we had an early dinner at Ama (mala tofu, chili garlic paneer, chili fried noodles, bok choy, and tingmo) and walked around a bit.  I bought two really pretty bracelets for myself and one for a friend at home.  My roommate just left for Manali so I’ve got the room to myself until Sunday.  On Saturday I’m going to go to Flyp in Connaught Place for an Ayushmann Khurrana concert…and forcing a friend to go with me.  Ayushmann did a short tour in the US right before I left for Delhi, but didn’t come to Hawaii (of course) so I’m very excited that I’ll get to see him here!

My roommate and I are pretty different.  She’s very adventurous and I’m a homebody.  Even our host family has commented on this, and I think I make them feel a little more comfortable since they always know where I am, haha.  The other night, my roommate came home at about 10:00pm (our curfew is generally 9:00pm) and our host father gave her a short lecture about why it’s dangerous for us — anyone generally — to be out in Delhi past 9:00pm unless we’re being dropped off at the front door by a friend or ride service.  But she’s very energetic and always wants to explore, and I’m fine sitting at the dinner table doing homework, watching Netflix up in our room, etc.  I know I need to force myself to go out more, but the house is just very cozy.  I also enjoy the company of my host family.  But I do hope to go to Manali in a bit with my friend (the one who is from Aurangabad), in addition to a Mumbai/Aurangabad trip in October.  I’d also like to visit Jaipur.  Once my friend returns from Aurangabad and settles into his home in Gurgaon, I’ll be spending weekends here and there as well.  I’d also like to visit the Northeast as well…dekhenge.

After a month in Delhi, I’ve grown to enjoy the metro despite being pushed by people who are walking no faster than I am, cycle rickshaw rides, and phalwalas (so convenient).  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the endless horn-honking or 110% humidity, though.

Delhi x 8

I’ve been in Delhi for eight days now.  I already want to get out of the city.  Delhi is so crowded and busy and I’m totally not the city type.  Don’t get me wrong – Delhi is fun and it’s quite charming in its own way, but I’d like a break soon.  The girl who is with me on this study abroad program booked two tickets for us to Dehradun next weekend (it’s a three-day weekend in observation of Independence Day).  We’ll leave and take an overnight train to Dehradun and arrive at 5:00a on the morning of the 13th.  Our host dad runs a tourist business so he has a lot of connections, and luckily, he has one in Masuri where we will be staying.  After an hour-long bus ride, the nephew of the person in charge of the travel company our university is using will meet us up in Masuri.  He’s our age and has been seeing us every so many days to show us around.  He’s from Dehradun, too, which will be great once we return to Dehradun on Monday for our train back to Delhi.  He took me to Agrasen Ki Baoli today.  In short, Delhi is great but quite crazy and I’m ready for a break.

I only have one contact of my own in Delhi, and that is my Hindi TA.  He is from Maharashtra but works in Delhi, so I’ve been able to see him twice since arriving.  He got back to Delhi just a few days before I arrived.  He brought a nice guitar (valued $1,500+) to Hawaii from home but couldn’t bring it back since he did a cross-country trip from Washington to Florida then did a Europtrip from Spain to Germany before getting back to Delhi.  He cherished the guitar but was willing to part with it; I offered to bring it back because I didn’t want him to sell it as he had planned (I’m quite sentimental).  Anyway, he’s from Aurangabad and offered to host me in his hometown for three to four days to show me around.  A ticket from Delhi to Aurangabad is roughly Rs. 10,000 – 11,000 right now, which I can’t afford on my budget at the moment (I mean, I could, but I shouldn’t).  The plan right now is for me to fly to Mumbai during Dussehra (I’ll have a week off from school) and from there go to Aurangabad via train and return to Mumbai to fly back to Delhi.  He has a friend in Mumbai who has offered to put me up for a few days.  He’s been really helpful since I’ve been here.  I didn’t think he cared for me too much but I think that was me just being paranoid.  My birthday is right before Dussehra so he’ll be joining me in celebration.  Initially I told him that I wanted to go to Hauz Khas Village for my birthday and we settled on Summer House, but after a few minutes he suggested 4S in Defence Colony since the crowd is “better.”  By “better,” he means less hipster.  It works out anyway since I wanted Chinese food before leaving Hawaii but couldn’t get it since the dim sum restaurant near my house closed.  The beer and food there are cheaper, too.  And Chinese food is always great.

My classes formally start on Monday.  I went to campus on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of last week for an array of reasons.  I finally met my MA History batch of students on Friday and I like them.  I’m hoping I’ll make friends – I’m very quiet and I usually don’t make friends easily.  Before leaving for Delhi, many people who had been to India (including professors and classmates) told me that most people wouldn’t view me as a foreigner, but someone from Northeastern India.  I’m finding this to be very true as all of the acquaintances I’ve made at school have been from Nagaland and Manipur (and thought I was also from there).

Initially, I had booked my ticket for July 27th – December 17th.  The study abroad program ends on December 3rd.  At the time, my plan was to travel extensively by myself, mainly through South India.  I had two slight mental breakdowns earlier this week and this morning, I called to change my flight.  The woman with the company put me on hold for twenty minutes which effectively exhausted all of my talk time on my prepaid phone.  My boyfriend was nice enough to call and stay on the phone for two hours (TWO.  HOURS.) to change my flight and even put the charge on his card after I told him to use mine (a painful total of $1,052).  I know I didn’t give India enough time, but I don’t see myself being that adventurous now that I’m here.  First of all, I can’t “rough it” enough to go camping on a beach on the North Shore in a tent back in Hawaii, and I really can’t “rough it” enough to use these squat toilets or toilets with no toilet paper or toilets that look like they haven’t been cleaned since they were installed.  My mom’s craziness about germs has been passed on to me (although, not to the same extent).  India is great but I can’t deal with the public restrooms right now.  Also, I’m just too  distrusting of people.  All of the bad stories my coworkers, friends, and family put in my head before coming here really affected me and I don’t want to travel alone for two weeks.  I know most people here mean absolutely no harm, but I’m too paranoid to even put myself in a situation where I could be put in a dangerous situation even though it’s all in my head.  I’ve been ripped off a couple times by rickshaw walas (or today, a man selling purses in Palika Bazar) but they haven’t been malicious, and even though I paid more than what I should have, I contributed in some way to their living.

But back to the point, it isn’t India that’s making me leave.  I just really miss home, and I have a lot of things to go back to.  I love seeing my mom and brother every day, I love falling asleep and waking up next to my boyfriend and dogs, I love seeing my coworkers.  I have so many things at home waiting for me.  The girl who is with me is different.  She’s from San Diego and has been in Hawaii for school for the last four years, she’s single, most of her roommates moved back to the mainland, and she moved out of her apartment right before she left.  She’s a lot less attached than I am.  We’re both having fun, but she’s definitely having more fun and she’s more adventurous.  I know that changing my flight doesn’t help my effort to become more independent and outgoing, but I know where I belong, I think.  I’m an introvert, I’m quiet, I’m a homebody, and I only need my family…so, a typical person from Hawaii (haha).  My cousin is also having her first child – a boy – while I’m away (right before Halloween) so I really want to see him as soon as possible, too.  I’m having fun, but I know that I’m incomplete without my family, I guess.  My boyfriend has told me that although he misses me, he thinks I should get my mind out of Hawaii so I can fully enjoy Delhi.  We both think I’ll become less preoccupied with Hawaii once school picks up and I’m thrown back into my studies.

The last big development is that my boyfriend is no longer my boyfriend, but my fiancé.  Our anniversary was on July 20th and that was literally the last day I expected him to propose to me because I thought it was very cheesy.  We walked around Waikiki (and went Pokemon hunting…) and had dinner at an izakaya-style Japanese joint.  We went to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center looking for dessert and after a misunderstanding about dessert which left me grouchy, regretting buying a mediocre yuzu tea and staring wistfully at the Island Vintage Coffee shave ice stand I didn’t know existed at the base of the escalator from which I descended after buying said mediocre yuzu tea, he pulled a really beautiful .75carat three-stone princess cut ring out of his pocket.  I stared at him for probably a minute straight before saying anything.  He did get on one knee but I told him to get up as to not attract too much attention to us.  It turns out that he actually does listen to me when I talk sometimes!  I had only mentioned on one or two occasions that I like three-stone princes cut rings.  We’ve been together for five years.  For the better half of this year, I was really absent and our relationship suffered greatly because of it.  He was always trying to spend time with me and I just wouldn’t concede for one reason or another.  One night, I sat down and basically told him that I thought we should stop seeing each other for a number of reasons, and all he could say was that he didn’t want me to give up on him and that he loved me so much and just wanted me to give him more time.  After someone who’s treated you so well for five years looks at you, extremely hurt, and basically says “even though you may not love me anymore, I’m still head-over-heels in love with you and will wait until you feel the same again” (not his words, but the gist), you really reevaluate things.  I really have someone great, and he was so kind to me even after all of the times I had ignored him, snapped at him, and disregarded his feelings and desires because my mind was somewhere else.

Our wedding is in the works for next summer, either July or August.  Half of my family is in Washington and most of his immediate family (save his dad) is there as well, so we’ve asked my cousin to host our wedding at her home in Issaquah and she said she’d love to.  Her house is right up against the mountain and she has a very large deck that can accommodate a little over twenty people.  We don’t plan on having more than just our immediate families and his best man and my maid of honor (who is actually my friend Nick, who’s been my friend since we were eleven).  Her home is really beautiful.  I suggested having the wedding there as a joke but everyone in my family loved the idea, and Washington is a special place for us, so having our wedding in Washington and on my cousin’s backyard deck will make everything even more special.  We also plan to cook all the food ourselves since there won’t be more than fifteen of us at the most.  I also don’t want to spend too much money on the wedding for obvious reasons, and I only want family there because I don’t want to mingle.  I want my wedding day (ours, excuse me) to be about homecooked food and the company of family.

Abhi: Dilli mein

I’ve been in Delhi since the morning of July 29th — that is, not even a week.  For the first two and a half days we were put up in a hotel near Connaught Place.  On our first day in Delhi, Friday, we went around Delhi and saw Humayun’s Tomb.  Friday also included a cycle rickshaw ride through Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk.  On Saturday we trekked out to Agra for the Taj and Agra Fort.  The Taj, in all honesty, was a bit underwhelming for me (especially since it was under renovation).  I thought the drive through Uttar Pradesh was a bit more enjoyable.  That same night, after dropping out professor off at his flat, my study abroad partner and I went into Connaught Place where I had my first encounter with someone who set off all of my red flags.  Immediately after our guide, Priyav, departed to go back to his own home, a guy came out of nowhere and started asking us where we were from, how long we’d be in Delhi, where we were going, etc.  I answered the first question — regretfully — but ignored him after (quite rude, but I don’t think paranoia hurts when you’ve been in a country for less than twenty-four hours and are out in the evening).  My partner, however, kept talking to him because she’s friendly and too trusting and divulged to him where we were from, where we’d be studying, how long we’d be in Delhi, etc.  He began leading us away from the inner circle and where he was trying to take us was becoming less and less populated.  I told her we needed to go back for some bogus reason and he looked at me like I was being a total b*tch.  But like I said, I don’t think paranoia hurts when you’re in a completely new place.

On Sunday we settled into our home stay and the family is really great.  But being around a family made me really think about my own mother and brother, and no matter how nice the family is, they are not my family and it made me really sad.  I cried, as expected, and I cried again when I was finally able to get onto Skype with my boyfriend.  I know this will take adjusting, but I’ve never been away from my mom for more than two weeks, so that’s what I’m the most upset about currently.

We were briefed on the metro today and did our first run to the university and back.  We stopped off at Chandi Chowk for about two hours.  I finally haggled (for a kurti and rickshaw ride) and the fact that I’ve been using my Hindi more seems to also be positively affecting the prices I end up paying.

My TA has also recently arrived back in Delhi and has invited me to visit and stay with him in Aurangabad for a weekend in a few weeks.  He’s from Aurangabad but is based out of Delhi for work.  He was my Hindi TA for the last academic year and he was a great teacher.  He was really committed to really teaching me the language and I really appreciate that.  Plus, he has four dogs, and I really miss my two at home.

Travel Suggestions

Hi!

As I’ll be heading off for Delhi in three weeks (I’m so excited!) I’m beginning to seriously try to plan my excursions.  I’ll be based in East Delhi from July to December but would like to make my way out to Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab during the school semester.  I’m saving Gujarat for a school break around my birthday.  During the last two weeks of my stay (December 3rd through the evening of the 17th), my plan is to book a flight from Delhi to Kerala and from Kerala make my way back up to Delhi, passing through Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, spending most of my time in Rajasthan.  Any suggestions as to things I should see or do?  Or places to eat, since I’m not at all a closet foodie?  I’ll also be extremely grateful for any tips/suggestions regarding modes of transportation between the states (either plane or train, though I’m leaning more toward longer train rides as it means less money on hotels and a smaller credit card bill when I come home), safety tips for traveling alone (I’ll most likely be alone during my last two weeks), prices for everyday items/groceries/services, etc.  I’ve studied Hindi in school for the last two years so I’ll be able to communicate at least a little.  Any tips and suggestions are appreciated!  Thanks!

Also, this isn’t an “Eat-Pray-Love” thing.  I’m going to Delhi as part of a Study Abroad program and completing course work at a Delhi-based University toward my Master’s degree in World History with a South Asian focus.  With that being said, I’d also appreciate any suggestions for academic excursions as well!  The Archives have already been engraved into my list, in addition to a couple museums.  Thank you!

 

29 Days

I leave for India in twenty-nine days.  Less than that, actually.  I’m finalizing my Visa paperwork and I got most of my vaccinations today.  I just have to pack and make the twenty-hour trek there.

I think this is coming at a good time in my life.  I think a five-month breather from my life as it is will be really, really good for me.  As heartbreaking as it is, I think I’m outgrowing my nearly five-year relationship in the same way I regretfully outgrew most of my friendships.  While my friends from high school wanted to drink, go to parties, and have bon fires on the North Shore on Wednesday nights (I always have to be up by 5:30am Monday – Friday either for work or school), I wanted to stay in and study or do something else that was usually school-related.  But now I’m the only one of them to have earned a college degree, and continuing on to an advanced degree.  Do I think I’m better than them?  Never — they’re much nicer people and have bigger and more genuine hearts.  I just prioritized other things over what they wanted to do here and there.  They’re genuinely nicer people.  I’m tempermental and obsessed with school.  My significant has a rather cookie-cutter idea of our future.  He wants kids and has expressed this since we began dating.  He is eleven years my senior — there was a time I said we should have stopped seeing each other because I wouldn’t want to start a family until I was at least 30.  He said repeatedly that he would wait because I was worth putting off a few years of his life.  30 is only seven and half years away for me, and I don’t see myself tying myself down with children at 30.  At 30 I want to have or be working on a PhD and travel for research.  I want to stay in my office until 8:00pm because I don’t have other obligations outside of my academic work.  I see what my single professors have and I want it.  I don’t want to have to bring my children to class some days when the sitter or preschool fall through and have to both lecture and open snacks for my child.  I want to write and read undisturbed.

But I’ve fallen deeply in love with school and I can’t wait for the next semester to start.  I’ll be taking three graduate courses and one undergraduate, two of which will be with my Study Abroad Program’s Resident Director, who is also my graduate advisor.  We have a really good rapport; I took a class with him a few semesters ago and we’ve gone out to dinner a couple times.  He teaches me useful Hindi phrases I didn’t happen to pick up in the classroom and he gave me three really useful textbooks that I read in addition to my assigned readings last semester since I couldn’t take his class as it clashed with my work schedule.  The question I get the most about him is if he is Indian.  He totally is not, and he is 6’2″ with dirty blonde hair, blue eyes, and hails from the Windy City.  But he’s frequented West India and East Africa for the last twenty years for research.

I’m really excited.  I need this change.

Bharat Yatra

I often forget that I have this Word Press.  I believe I made it as another outlet for myself to express myself where no one I personally knew could really find me.  I believe that was about two years ago or so.

I don’t even remember when my last post was, but I’m sure a lot of things have changed!  I graduate in about three weeks, and I’ll be getting my BAs in Religion and East Asian History.  Tonight I’ve completed about half of my senior thesis (my last real obstacle this semester, required to obtain my History degree).  Today I also booked my flight to India.  Next semester will be my first semester of grad school (at my same university) and I’ll be spending it abroad at a partner university in Delhi!  I’m very excited.  While my UG History degree was in East Asian history, my MA program will be on Indian history.  As of right now, I’m playing with the idea of mid-19th century to mid-20th century India, so namely from the time of the Uprising to Partition.  My UG advisor (whose speciality is WWII Japanese war crimes and the Tokyo Trial) advised me that an MA in Japanese History (which I initially planned to apply for) would be difficult for me since I don’t know Japanese.  As a result, I’ve decided to jump into Indian History.  I’ve studied Hindi for two years; I started studying Hindi in preparation for my Religion degree.  I thought I would pursue an MA in Indian Religion, but my GPA was a lot stronger in history so I didn’t even think I’d get into the Religion MA program (I got into both, and went with History).

I’ve been wanting to apply for the Delhi study abroad program since Spring 2014 but I never committed to actually turning in the materials.  Not to mention, two years ago, I was in a much worse place mentally and emotionally.  I’m a lot better now, and I have absolutely no reservations about going.  I’m so excited.  I’ll be living with a host family for the duration of my scheduled program (July 29th – December 3rd).  My return flight is the evening of December 17th, so I left two weeks at the end of my trip to venture on my own.  I hope to make it to Uttarakhand and Jaipur, and maybe Gujarat if I have enough time, during school breaks, and I’m saving Kerala (and maybe neighboring states?) for the last two weeks of my time there.  Another girl is going as well and we’ll most likely be sharing a room in our host home, and my professor is also serving as the Resident Director at the university there.  He’s probably the biggest source of encouragement I had throughout this entire process.  From last semester, once he learned that I knew Hindi (and after my Hindi professor told him I speak it well) he asked me a couple times about going, and eventually I agreed earlier this semester.  Since then he’s spent a lot of time talking to me about things I can do around Delhi, things I’ll need, etc.  He also helped my revise a bunch of statements for my MA programs, the study abroad program, and an attractive $5,000 scholarship I applied for specifically for the study of India.  Fingers crossed — the scholarship announcement will be made on Monday.  If I get it, I’m going to India for five months only for the cost of my plane ticket and spending money.

I’ve always been so timid and soft-spoken.  I never do things on my own.  I always try to get the approval from people and whenever possible, I always try to get people to do things with me so I’m not alone.  I’m going to India for almost five months;  I’ve never spent more than two weeks away from my mom and brother; I’ve never gone abroad in such a small group.  Most importantly, I’ve never really traveled alone — I’ve taken flights on my own (I love flying on my own, actually) but I’ve never taken a trip on my own.  And here I am, at 22 (will turn 23 in India), and I’m finally doing something on my own…which may include trekking across such a large country on my own.  Two years ago, badly affected by anxiety and depression, I never thought I’d make it to India, and now I leave in about three months.  And I’ve never been more excited.