This is it!! The first day. Excited, we get dressed slowly-enjoying every last second of naked coolness we can. As usual, for this trip we all are given designated areas of research and expertise. It’s like the A-team. Only in our case the “M” team (Muppet) and the only heist we really get involved with is smuggling booze in and out of temples in backpacks. So as always, Karen is in charge of tech services. I make sure we have back up batteries, internet, postable pictures and contact with mom. Nicole is obviously logistics-making sure we have every upgrade money can buy, shes the “keeper of the itinerary” and all around answerer of questions and cheat sheet provider for all paperwork. Chris makes the friends-because when in a foreign country, you need a point of contact in case someone gets the ricketts and needs emergency drugs or you lose all your money or something. Nicks and I certainly aren’t going to talk to anyone- so Chris is it. Then Gary’s job is local customs research. So for example for this trip he did research on the type of clothing we can/should wear. Almost every week Nicole and I got an email with a snippet from some website saying that we have to be covered up to some extent on this trip. In public Shorts and short skirts are a no no-must be pants or leggings below the knee. Shoulders are not to be exposed. No cleavage. Scarves at all times that can be worn as coverings if necessary. And the behind must be covered by your top if in leggings or pants. It was relentless-the emails didn’t stop. Not that we regularly dress like whores, but I guess we are short dress and low cut top type women. So he is very concerned that we stick to custom. As are we-so we set out shopping for long flowy tops and stock up on leggings. I brought 12 pairs. As did Nicole.
So today I have on a very long-almost to the knee- top with 1/4 sleeves and black leggings and a scarf. I’m warm before I even leave my room. Nicole comes out in the same- sweating-like a non whore in India.
We meet for breakfast and start with purell and Pepto bismol shooters. Then make it to the Buffett and to our delight there are nooders this morning!!! Yay!! So we load up like savages and enjoy every minute. However I think Chris and gary enjoy more then we do- our beautiful waitress can’t stop staring at my man. And finally she gets up the courage to say to Chris, “your eyes. They are so blue. They are yours since birth?” Which I think is her way of asking if they are colored contacts- and also if Chris will have her babies. Then she indicates the same to Gary. My crap brown eyes almost roll out of my head. Like honestly-so you know how hard he’s going to be to live with now? And today is our 19th wedding anniversary. I’m already going to have to show up in the wife department today-so could we keep his expectations low ?? Honestly!! His eyes twinkle and he says, “yes, their all mine. 100% Chris”. GAGGG. Yes they are beautiful-but treat em mean and keep em keen you know? If she wasn’t so cute I’d be spraying purell in her eyes and slapping her with this curry. After I make him go get me more nooders for punishment for being so damn attractive, Nicole and I set to work trying to make each other jealous with the things we have packed in our bags for the day. Pringle’s-check. Deodorant-check. Bandaids – check. Road beer-check. That’s when Nicole gets a -I’m about to one up you sister grin on her face -and pulls out a random wooden fan that we had bought at a market in China and no doubt buried somewhere under all the other useless China rickrack we bought there-never to be used again. “Betcha your super jealous of this…”. Thing is, I also came across my EXACT SAME fan when I was packing when it fell out of a carry on bag in the back of my closet. And I also packed it. In my bag. For today. So I pull it out too. Laughing so hard we can’t breathe. It’s amazing how two of the most different sisters you will ever find can have the exact same brain. Funny, and a little scary.
The boys are busy trying to see if they can pick out our other tour goers. For the first leg of the trip we are with 6 other travelers. This is always terrifying. Because you never know who you’ll get. It’s like vacation Russian roulette. We play “oh lord I hope it isn’t the guy with the southern accent and the ‘Make America great again’ T-shirt over there… or that woman who is refusing to sit down Until they assure her this milk has no milk in it. Because she’s allergic to milk but also needs milk on account of her asthma”.
We have a meeting time of 8am to meet our group and tour guide-and to our pleasant surprise- our group is quite nice! 3 people from South Africa, 2 from New Zealand and 1 from Australia. Most middle aged, and one older couple from New Zealand who I like right away. Then we meet our tour guide. He’s a certified Indian cowboy-with a Tom Selleck mustache and 10 gallon hat. He says his name-which kind of sounds like the name of a city in Bangladesh-but then tells us we can call him Sami. Oh no. His name is cowboy Sam. And that’s what I’m calling him. End of story.
Cowboy Sam tells us all of the ins and outs of money exchange, where we will find ATMs and where we will eat etc. Then gary says, “is it okay that us guys are wearing shorts today?” Because we’ll be going into temples and such. Then cowboy sam takes out a symbolic hammer and starts to put the first nail in Gary’s coffin. He says, wait for it, “oh yes. You can all wear anything you like. It’s hot-so ladies-you are able to wear anything that keeps you cool-if we go into temples there will be robes provided for you. It’s no problem.”
Gary goes a little green. And Nicole and I set to work plotting his death. All the while blinking rapidly to keep the sweat out of our eyes.
We leave the hotel and have our first real taste of Delhi. I detect no smell as we leave the hotel. We were always told the smell of India would hit us in the face-but nothing. If anything-maybe a slight perfume of jasmine? But not at all the horror stories we were prepared for. Honestly- I feel like this is the first win of the trip. Stereotype broken. So silly what we westerners tell ourselves to convince ourselves we’re better isn’t it? We board a nice small 20 seat bus-all the whole being bowed to and “namaste”-d too. And quickly find out that the stereotype that Delhi is crowded and has more cars then people- that ones true. The streets are lined with rickshaw taxis and beat up brand new cars. Thousands of them. All fighting for the same lane and honking their horns. My blood is pumping with the experience of it all. Wide eyed naïveté-and at 42 I feel like that’s something you can only experience when your this far out- the feeling I travel for.
The heat is unbelievable-you can actually see it. But it’s actually not that bad? There is a haze-so direct sun is rare-and the bus is almost too air conditioned- so it’s bearable.
Cowboy sam gives us commentary of some interesting facts as we make our way to our first temple. He explains that Delhi is 17% muslim, 79% Hindu and the other 4% is made up of Seikism, Christian, etc. There are 10,000 public busses in Delhi proper , some red, some green. And the different colors represent weather they have air conditioning or not. We see many motorbikes with a man driving, and a woman riding side saddle with a small child on her lap. Weaving in and out of traffic.
The streets are also lined with MONKEYS!!! They are everywhere. Lounging and snacking. Just random monkeys. So freaking cool.
We stop and are led to rickshaws that take us to a mosque. The rickshaw ride is equally amazing and terrifying. Mainly because of traffic and small roads. But I’m not sure we could have walked it-we drive through a market, and I feel like they would have lost Nicole and I to the many camel bone and silk tchotchkes.
At the mosque we are directed to take off our shoes i pay 300 rupees (about $5-6 CAD) to take my phone into the mosque so we can take pictures. We are given robes to cover ourselves up-although I’m not sure why since Gary made us dress like the golden girls- and the boys are also given fetching plaid sheets to tie around their waist. They are so cute in their kilts. Nicole is given a pretty pale pink robe. Me? I’m given a neon yellow sheet. I look like a freaking emoji. Sigh.
Bare foot, We walk around, careful to walk on the mats provided because the sandstone floor of the courtyard and temple is as hot as satan running a fever. And we watch these happy people. Smiling and praying. Worshiping and bathing in the shallow pool of water in the middle of the courtyard. I’m not sure why, but Nicole and I find ourselves in tears. This is a powerful place- and thank you is said while we hug. We are simply overwhelmed with gratitude and guilt for our lives and blessings.
We leave the temple and are taken to the tomb of a founding mogul-a man who brought all religions together in the region. Marrying a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, sheik and Christian wife-becoming the most liberal leader India had seen and bringing together a nation of violent religiously divided people. It’s lovely with its mixed Gothic architecture of lotus flowers Along side the Star of David. Then it’s off to see the ghat on which Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after being Assassinated in 1948. Cowboy Sam explains that there are very mixed feelings towards Gandhi. He was what the Indians consider very pro Muslim and always made sure they were taken care of better then others – he was also a loud voice in the division of India and Pakistan- which left Pakistan with the most fertile land India had to offer- and has kept these country’s at war ever since.
It’s about at this point I decide I’m going to need a ghat to burn these leggings I have on when we get back to the hotel. Holy. Hot. Also, it’s about now I decide that I will be wearing Gary’s pelt tomorrow.
We leave here and go to lunch. A traditional vegetarian lunch were we have veggie dumplings in green curry, mushroom heaven in heaven sauce and more heaven in a cream sauce and just all around heaven. And beer! I think this may end badly for us at some point but so far my stomach is holding up to all the curry and spice. The reason I think it may go badly is because very bathroom in India – including our hotel and this restaurant- has a kitchen type spray nozzle attached to a hose. In the stall. Next to the toilet. I actually consider using it and taking a shower like an elephant to cool down before lunch but decide against it. Instead, when we wash our hands in the bathroom we use the air dryer that is spitting out cold air to air out our chests, holding our shirts open under the nozzle and giggling with delight until we start to get strange looks.
From lunch we are taken back to our hotel for the rest of the afternoon on our own. We are at the pool within minutes of getting back. Beers. Cold pool water. Yasss!
We meet for our anniversary dinner- lovely Indian samosas and melt in your mouth garlic naan bread. Then some shopping- we make an investment and buy huge hand carved candle holders. They are breathtaking/and no thought what so ever is given to how we will get them home. Or how many extra jobs we will have to get to pay for them. They are wrapped in bubble wrap and come out approximately the size of an 18 month old child. This should be fun.
Back to the party room for rum and cokes, Chats and feelings reconciliations. After deliberation regarding Gary’s punishment for crimes against clothing- we decide that He will be part of a ceremonial beating every night where Nicole and I slap him about the body with our wet smelly clothes from the day.
We also decide that people here are the friendliest and happiest we’ve met in our travels. And we are happier because of it. And I feel like I’ve already started to leave a lot of baggage here in India. I’m now certain that I will be unloading a lot of negativity here-assured that they will destroy it for me- and I will come home lighter and less burdened. What an incredible feeling. I feel like I’m being healed one day at a time and the person that comes home will be able to share a better side of herself- a purer happier Karen. With a purer happier husband, sister and bro in law.
And that’s just day one.