I am traveling with semi-disgruntled folks, all in varying degrees of feeling ripped off and taken advantage of. I am getting the best deal of us all and have to constantly remind myself for what I am paying. Without this circumstance, I might be without friends, without locals to trust and dealing with a great many more daily hassles and frustrations. As Ali said, I am paying for time, time with these new people in my life and the full experience of being f***** by India loving it.
But this Rajasthan bit is hard. I hate the way we are traveling, I hate being stuck in a tourist track, I hate how much we are paying and I am so very thankful for this experience, the people I have met and all the gorgeous sights I have seen in the past week.
Every day we have spent traveling hours by car, stopping at cheesy overpriced tourist restaurants, forts and temples. The surly norwegian quizzes the driver on how much things cost, what grows where and how long is the drive in his sing song accent. We arrive to a town just as the sun is setting and leave first thing in the morning. I have been carving out space for myself when I can, declining tours and touristy bullshit in the hopes of letting the magic in.
It's funny though, even the magic is not what I imagined.
While being ferried around tourist style to somewhere that I didn't want to go, I saw a street boy. He came up to the car window with a dirty rag to his mouth, which meant he was high on gasoline or glue. He tried a flip and fell on his back. It took him a minute to get up. Then he dislocated his shoulders in a grotesque plea. He put his face right against my window, shielding his eyes with his hand (was just tall enough to see in). I bent to mirror him, our expressions separated by a pane of glass and a short lifetime of experience: his small blank eyes, my ambivalent tears. We held our gaze and he flicked a smile that I could not decode. Waseem and Carmen in the car, tried to get my attention and spanish Agnes said "leave her alone".
I feel like a water balloon, filling slowly for weeks, and suddenly pricked by two glassy brown pins.
I have been here for just about three weeks, and this place is simply blowing my mind. In this short time, my experience has been so completely unexpected, so far from what I thought I wanted and so completely wonderful.
My biggest challenge has been letting go of certain travel ideals, and my pride. I am realizing that I am kind of a stickler about travel. I like to do things the hard cheap way, I like to ride on junky local buses and buy the tickets myself and wander around alone and decide when and where to sleep, eat and move on. I thought I came here to be alone. Instead? I have been caught up in a flow, a torrent really that is carrying me along, washing over me in spicy waves and gently eroding the chip on my shoulder. This is a current far more powerful than I.
So here I am in Delhi, last night Ali's mom slept in my bed and there is a constant barrage of yelling, coughing, crying, throat clearing and phlegm hawking coming through the walls around me. I spent the past two weeks in a warm smoky room on a houseboat in Kashmir, the whole time with a feeling that it would be over too soon.
Rajasthan is next. I wonder, what is there for me?