On The QT

India; The First Step

Blogger: Katie Burke

Katie is an aspiring writer who is originally from Galway. She has been travelling in India for the past two months. She has had an eclectic journey including everything from experiencing the culture shock of Delhi to teaching baby Buddhist monks in Dharamsala and so much in between. This blog covers the highs, the lows and the hilarious of each site and situation visited and reveals the madness that is India from the naked eye of a first time visitor.

From the beautiful colourful chaos of the bustling streets of Delhi to the sprawling snowcapped mountains of Himchal Pradesh. The roving eyes of Indian men, the bright smiles of slum children, the open pleasant faces of the Tibetan community of Bir. In only 18 days I’ve encountered such an eclectic mix of people, places and personality that it’s hard to believe my adventure is still only in it’s infancy.

My journey began in Delhi airport as I anxiously scanned the wall of name placards that awaited me in arrivals. My natural pessimism insisted I had been duped by the volunteer company I’d found online and would surely be left there for dead. But thankfully, as always, reality proved less bleak and there in front of me with an uncertain smile stood Capil the driver with my name and my peace of mind held firmly in his hands.

The car journey that ensued is one I shall never forget. As one of four wide eyed volunteers gawping out at the new world that awaited us, our pampered Western ideals being slowly eroded with each corner we turned. There were people everywhere; groups of men squatting at roadsides, whole families on motor bikes with tiny children wedged between their parents, men urinating openly, people sleeping on the side of the road, semi naked children playing in stagnant water by the road side and women in beautiful sarees carrying the weight of the world on their heads. And then there were the animals. Skinny, sad looking, red eyed dogs. Cows of all sizes strutting in between cars. Donkeys and pigs and goats strewn across the dusty roadsides, cheeky monkeys eating fruit on rooftops of tarp and families of hens forlorn in dark doorways.

The noise was unending with continuous beeping of cars, yelling of street vendors and screams of children. The heavy smell of burning rubbish, urine, faeces and rotting fruit, all wrapped up in a heavy smog, another ever present entity in the city, shielding it from the sun, imprisoning it’s inhabitents to a life in continued squalor. Namaste Delhi.

And so my first week continued with the above as a constant backdrop. Both the beautiful and the bewildering, the ridiculous and the sublime to be witnessed side by side with each new experience. Each encounter as interesting and intoxicating as the last.

To me Delhi is a city that awakens every sense, in which one is seduced and repulsed in equal measure at each and every turn.  Delicious food and toxic water. Elaborate white temples beside roaming dirty slums. Three hour traffic delays due to never-ending, beautifully ornate wedding parties. Rows of limbless beggars outside sites of outstanding architecture. Colourful silk sarees wading through open sewers. An eternal paradox, beguiling and disturbing all at once.

My favourite excursions included; visiting the lotus temple, being one of 15 people in a tuk tuk, drinking sweet chai, eating with my hands, having beautiful henna tattooed on my arm, seeing a Bollywood movie, becoming accustomed to the Indian head wobble, learning basic Hindi and visiting the wonderfully warm children of the slums. All of which was slightly tainted by being constantly stared at, filmed and photographed. Being accosted by beggars, feeling generally unsafe and being regularly ripped off in each shop and bazaar I visited.

All in all the good and bad balanced each other out and  I was happy with my experience. Although as happy as I was to be in Delhi, I was equally delighted to leave. My new travel partners; Jess, Bruce and Willow, completely shared my sentiments as we watched a large comfortable bus pull up to take us twelve hours North to Dharamsala. We threw in our bags, stepped out of the dirt and everything slowed down. Apse milken acha laga (nice to meet you) Delhi, now for something completely different.

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