India tour over.
Early this morning, my India co-travelers left to go their own ways, home or to further adventure, their holiday shopping conveniently completed and bulging their suitcases. Our intrepid guide has headed home, to see family, run his restaurant, start a new glamping venture (if any reader wants to hire a guide or have someone arrange things in India, I can’t recommend him enough). Our merry group has disintegrated, and I’m back at the hotel I first stayed in over a month ago. All by myself.
I gave myself an extra two days before flying home, imaging I’d do a little exploring on my own, imaging myself experienced now in things and ways Indian. But within half an hour of marching out of the hotel this morning, I was defeated. Without the protective padding of a guide, and as a lone western woman assumed to be on a shopping trip, I was approached every few feet with offers from tuktuk drivers, promising to take me to the best shopping, the most beautiful sites, all for only one dollar. No matter how many times I expressed my desire to just walk, “Only one dollar, I don’t have a job” was the refrain. Some drove around the block and repeated their offers. My “No thanks, no thanks, I really just want to walk,” was not believed.
When I came to a police barricade on the sidewalk that would have forced me to walk on the road and contend with the traffic, I simply turned around, discovering an effective tuktuk-free remedy at last: walk contra to traffic! However, with the honking and crazy traffic, not to mention the gigantic monkeys also strolling the sidewalks, I decided it was best just to return to the hotel. “Maybe tomorrow,” called out one of my repeat-offer tuktuks.
The first meal I had in India was here at the hotel, and it was fantastic. I have savored nearly every bite of delicious food in the various Indian states, with their unique signature specialties, and will truly, truly miss the cuisine. I had planned to have my final meal in the hotel’s excellent Indian restaurant, but when I walked up to it, it was full of boisterous Indian guests, the noise at high pitch, so I continued down the corridor to the Chinese/Japanese restaurant, which was nearly empty and oh-so-quiet, complete with gentle piped-in flutes and a bamboo/rock garden. It was a soft and gentle atmosphere, very un-India. I enjoyed it.
So, my last meal in the land of “spice, eat, repeat” was Chinese noodles – with tofu! – not baingan bharata.
So there you have it: my India in 30-something days. It’s time to head home now, time for my 40-something-hour trip back to Hawaii. Ugh. The flight, I mean, not Hawaii.
I’ve been on the lookout for a new ending phrase, and I’m going to try this new-to-me quote: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection” – Anaïs Nin. Works for me.
Next stop: Seoul! And I’m leaving the airport for a free city tour, so I can add to my tally of visited counties.
P.S. The lead photo may be hard to make out: it’s part of a very long wall of mudras at Delhi airport.