It's hard to believe I've only been here for a few days. Already, so many moments have pushed and stretched me...but each challenge overcome only strengthens my resolve. I arrived in Delhi on Sunday morning, just after midnight. And, though my newfound friend, Zach, had offered to let me join his waiting shuttle, I opted to make my own way by prepaid taxi. So many people had warned me about the touts that would surely swarm me at the airport, but I must have done something right, because not even one approached me.
The ride was uneventful as my driver spoke little English, and I quickly realized that my equivalent ignorance of Hindi was going to present a problem. Still...we made choppy, strained attempts at conversing and I felt safe with him. We rolled into B Block around 2am and began the most laughable circling, stopping to ask no less than 6 security guards to please point us in the direction of B-67. Trying to make sense of the haphazard placement of numbers was difficult in such dim light, and my driver simply couldn't understand me when I asked him to please slow down so that I may read those few numbers that where actually posted. Nor could he understand me when I kept insisting that I could find it on my own. My repeated insistence...'really...you can let me out here'...went unheard.
After about 45 minutes of this, I finally gathered the nerve to simply open the door during a pause, smile graciously and quickly grab my pack, insisting in my actions that this futile searching was over. He wasn't keen...choosing to wait and watch me as I walked between buildings with my flashlight. Despite my enthusiastic thumbs up and the universal sign for 'go'...'away'...'leave'...he stood his ground. 'No problem...you come...address come....no good, no good, no good!' I found the building in about 3 minutes on foot...finally convincing my driver to move along once he knew I was ok.
I climbed the dark stairwell to the third floor and rang the doorbell......nothing. I rapped my knuckles loudly on the wooden door through the metal grate and waited. Still nothing. Again and again I tried....again and again my knocking was met with silence. I have no idea what time it was...likely nearing 3 am. I was tired...jet-lagged...covered in sweat and dirty from 20 hours of flying, so, after about half an hour of failed attempts, I plopped myself down upon the step in front of the door, leaned against my pack and had a good cry. I looked at the dirty floor and imagined laying myself out upon it. I was doing my best to bolster myself...to convince my tired head that such a prospect wasn't actually so bad. That was when two girls came up the stairs and stopped in their tracks when they saw me. I can only imagine how I looked then...feeling so spent and unsure. They lived next door to the flat in which I was to stay, and quickly came to my rescue. They brought me a bottle of water that, I swear tasted better than any water I've ever had and let me use their phone to call my host.
See...I had arranged for a place to stay through couchsurfing.com, and it was the housekeeper who was supposed to let me in that night as my host doesn't actually live there. Apparently, Deepa (no idea how you spell that) had fallen fast asleep and wasn't waking for anything. Thankfully, after several attempts, Kaushal (my amazing host) managed to rouse him with persistent phone calls and, voila...that big, heavy door finally swung open.
Laying myself out upon that huge bed, under that rapidly spinning fan, I considered how much had already transpired...marveling at how much I had already experienced since stepping off that plane. In that moment, I understood the mayhem I had stumbled into. The reality of my choice to make this trip was abundantly clear then...and, rather than feeling overwhelmed at the thought...I smiled in reverence for the unknown that lays before me feeling a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
The following morning found Deepa extra attentive, bringing me chai, running to the market and making me a simple breakfast of eggs and toast and, of course, more chai. I spent the day booting around in tuk-tuks, visiting Zach's side of town and wandering through random streets with a guy named Roger from Amsterdam.
Between being taken for 4 times the correct fare by my first tuk-tuk driver to having my foot run over by a rickshaw, it was an awesome day. You'd think such things would upset me, but, somehow, it all feels like part of the adventure. I know better now...I know how to demand a fair price and the bruise on my foot reminds me to be more aware. Both are very good lessons and I am deeply grateful for them.
Now I find myself in Agra. Following a whim, I joined Zach, leaving Delhi yesterday morning. He had hired a guide, not really the way I'd prefer to see India, but the way opened up before me so I simply followed. We saw too many temples for one day, exploring them during a torrential downpour that left me sopping wet for hours as I cradled my camera under my rain coat. I was thoroughly exhausted by day's end.
They left for Jaipur this morning. I was supposed to continue on with them, but apparently my heart had other plans. I couldn't fathom another day on that overly trodden tourist track, and one day in Agra felt like too little time. Yesterday, as we sped through little streets jumping from one temple to the next, I saw photographs everywhere I looked. I wanted so desperately to be walking slowly along those streets rather than so quickly passing through in an air-conditioned vehicle. So I jumped ship, found myself a room and set out on my own.
Now the adventure truly begins.