The Going Got Tough
03/25/2014 - 03/27/2014
Everyone, every Blog, every guidebook says there will be a moment when India gets the best of you. I was starting to feel lucky because it has been one month and every moment continues to be better than the last. I didn't think there was anything that could steal my joy and my love for India... that is until I went to AGRA to see the TAJ MAHAL.
It was my fault really because I was DOING THE MOST and thought it efficient to book 2 train rides in one day, one being a 13 hour overnight train from the TAJ MAHAL to VARANASI. Every traveler recommendeds NOT to spend the night in AGRA because the TAJ MAHAL is the beginning, middle and end of that city. I was arriving at 11:30am and departing at 11:50pm. 12 hours. Perfect! Well, 12 hours was 8 hours too long!
Do you know when all the flaws and idiosyncrasies of a new lover go from being pinch-their-cheeks cute and endearing to stupid and maddening? So, India is my new lover and we recently got into a HUGE fight because she was getting on my last nerve!!! All those things I overlooked upon arrival and ascribed to being "just the way India is" where now the bane of my existence.
It seems incredulous that an ENTIRE country can be so FUCKING FILTHY (excuse my language but I don't know a more fitting description). No, really. Not just filthy in poor neighborhoods or crowded city centers, filthy in ALL neighborhoods. And the citizens of India act like they do not even care. They throw EVERYTHING (also excuse the excessive Cap Locks. I don't know how else to convey my feelings) onto the streets, the floor, the train platforms. Inside the trains- banana peels on the seats, chip bags, crumbs. You've never seen so many crumbs. A 500 calorie meal if you scrape together all the crumbs from one train car. I witnessed a boy, all of 2 years old, throw his plastic Chai tea cup with force and conviction right onto the train platform, left over tea spilling everywhere. It is learned behavior. It is SAD. A movement is in order.
But it was not just the filth India and I were arguing over....
It was HOT which make all things unsanitary more unsanitary.
I had 2 huge pimples om my face because all the curry I've been loving is probably cooked in a shit load of butter. I haven't been able to get a decent piece of fruit since Rishikesh. Sorry no photo documentation of that ;-)
No Yoga in 5 days because I don't have a mat and afraid to do it on my hotel room floor.
The men spitting tobacco everywhere, so that i have to dodge it as I walk down the street. And the men spitting up phlegm. All day long there is the sound of men hacking up the day's accumulation of dirt and pollution and then ever so gracefully spitting it wherever they saw fit. Real sexy guys. A sure way to snag a wife.
The INCESSANT honking of horns of EVERY vehicle. Buses, trucks, motorcycles, cars, rickshaws and bicycles. All day. Everyday.
The poverty in Agra seemed to be on overload. Should not have affected me so much as it was no worse than Delhi or Jaipur but like I said everything was exacerbated. It made me question how a country lets such a huge portion of it's population live like this?
The SHIT in the streets. Cows are holy animals so when they shit the streets it's like a gift from Lord Shiva. To date, I have avoided stepping in any and I am thankful for my Mom telling me to bring my boots.
The hustling. No, for the 12 time, I don't want anything. I don't want a ride. I don't want to stay at your guesthouse, I don't want a tour of your cousin's silk shop. I don't want flowers for Puja. I don't want to buy any drugs. This one guy thought he was slick by complimenting my earrings (as if they were not like every other pair of earrings in India). He wanted a photo of them because they were "so beautiful!" But it was too dark outside to capture the picture so he needed me to come to his brother's guesthouse so he could put them against a white piece of paper to get a better picture. Another example of the banana in the tailpipe. Sorry sir, not falling for it.
And you would think one of the Wonders of the World would brighten my spirits. Yeah well, the TAJ MAHAL? A RIP OFF! 750 Rupees to enter and it does not include entrance to any other of the Forts near by. You have to pay an extra 250 Rs for that. And what do Indiana pay? 10Rs. Then they move you through the Mausoleum like cattle. Guards are blowing their whistles at you not to stop too long in one place. I mean can I live?!? I thought one guard was being nice when he flashed his his light for me to better see the beautiful floral detail on the marble wall. That was until he held out his hand for a tip. For flashing your flashlight Buddy?!? Ummmmmmmm...noooooo! Then he rolls his eyes at me like I'm the one with the problem. RUDE!
You've seen it a million times. Looks the same in my pictures too.
The Indian motel where I left my bag for the day was so gross. If you are scouting that perfect place to shoot a junkie overdosing on heroine this was the place. Yet, I was grateful because I did not pay for storing my bag. A Swiss guy I met on the the train , named Markus, let me leave my bag in his room. He was 1 month into a 10 month around the world journey. We spent the day at the Taj together playing Charades because his English was limited and my German non existent. He was also unimpressed with his Taj experience.
Not even the beautiful sarees all the women wore on their visit to the Taj were cheering me up. I was OVER India. So over it that I called my Mom and Dad! We Skyped and I whined for a five star hotel with unlimited towels and toilet paper. Actually a Holiday Inn next door to an IHOP would be amazing right now. I felt like such a baby calling them but it was that kind of day and I was DREADING the 13 hour train ride that still loomed ahead. And I was traveling SLEEPR CLASS! AS IF! From high to low, there is 2AC, 3AC, Sleeper and then Second Class. I was at the bottom of the totem pole people and on the day I felt like I was turning into a hypochondriac. I wanted to throw a tantrum.
The difference between First Class and Sleeper. First 2 photos are 2AC . Last 3 are Sleeper.
I did throw a tantrum. I was such a baby that not only did I call Mommy and Daddy but- Im embarrased to say it- I upgraded my seat to First Class. I didn't even ask either. With full Western entitlement, I boarded First Class and climbed into an empty birth, pulled the privacy curtain and stuck my headphones in my ears. I learned on the first 2 train rides that the conductor will eventually pass through to check tickets but this sometimes does not happen for hours and maybe since the curtain was closed he wouldn't even notice. But Indians are nosy and within 5 minutes, a conductor came by with about 6 Indian teenage boys peeking behind him. Before boarding, I mistakenly showed one of them my ticket to find out where my seat was. I think when he saw me board First Class he told on me! It was all good. I had no qualms paying 515Rupees or $9 for the upgrade.
But, when I woke up the next morning, with 4 hours still left of my train ride, I realized I was still mad at India. It was like she wasn't even trying! She still smelled and the men were still hacking up wads of spit. Come on guys! Even in First Class?
When we arrived in Varanasi-a magical city I had been looking forward to visiting- I was still OVER IT! I usually sit in the back of my rickshaw on the way from the train station, snapping pics of anything and everything. Not this time. India probably thought it was 'that time of the month' because there I sat with a scarf over my mouth and nose and my arms crossed UNIMPRESSED. She hadn't cleaned her act up one bit! Everyone still honking, more dirt, dust....Inside I was screaming....AAARGGGHHH!!!!
I dug real deep to keep myself from telling the rickshaw driver to turn around and take me to that five star hotel. I had researched a couple while suffering in Agra in case this very moment came to past.
I was really beginning to worry about our future, me and India. What if this want going to work out? We still have 2 months left together and if something doesn't change....well....IDK....