India: you’re most welcome, madame!

This piece was originally posted on on February 20th, 2015.

Usually I write you after I’ve visited a country, detailing the fun bits after I’ve had time to process everything. I’m going to deviate now, because sending you one newsletter about my current location would be most unfair. Also, the place where I’m staying has a computer and reliable wifi, which is not something to pass up. My first days in India were hard. Delhi was dirty, loud, polluted, and the most crowded city I’ve ever walked through. Agra had aggressive touts and mirrored Delhi in cleanliness.Travel was daunting; I struggled to navigate bookings and train stations, and haggling with taxi drivers every day was exhausting. And, inevitably, I had some uncomfortable encounters with men. Just when I was about to call it a day, I met a Canadian couple who’d been traveling to India for years. One half of the duo had visited 10 times, and his love for the country was palpable. The sparkle in his eyes when he talked about past trips was contagious, and after encouraging me over a delicious Thali dinner, I was convinced to stick around India for a bit longer.

Round metal platter with 6 smaller metal bowls inside and a piece of chapati on the side. The bowls have rice, red carrots, a sweet brown dessert, a curd based dish, green peas with green beans, and a final dish with beans and onion. There is a metal spoon with a filigree handle.
Delicious thali in Orchha.

On his recommendation I went to a small town called Orchha, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. There were ancient palaces all over – you could look in all directions and see magnificent, well preserved structures rising above modern buildings. The vistas from the palaces were breathtaking, and there was a strong, blue river running through the town. There I stayed at a guesthouse whose owner took a paternal shine to me, and like a loving uncle, sat with me to arrange travel and lodging in my next four destinations. He was chummy hotel owners in other cities, and they took care of me wonderfully during my visits. These two encounters were the start of a general amelioration, and today I look to my departure date with unexpected sadness.

Sandstone palace arch, gravel floor, looking out to green trees and grass, hazy white sky.
From the inside looking out of an ancient palace just outside of Orchha.

So far I’ve seen carvings of gods so huge, I only came up to their shins. I’ve driven alongside badass women in headscarves zooming around on motorbikes. I stood next to the magnificent Taj Mahal (I stared for hours, only leaving because I got hungry — there’s no food allowed inside). I’ve ridden trains through lush landscapes, and spotted resplendent peacocks chillin’ in the wild. I watched a Bollywood film with people so attractive that I might never been able to watch an American rom-com again.

High relief carving of a giant Shiva (around13-15 feet tall). Terhys is wearing a black, white and red shirt, black pants, red sandals and stands smiling in front of it.
Giant Shiva at the Ellora Caves.

This is but a small sampling of my time in India; now that I’ve set the scene, I’ll be sending you more frequent newsletters until I leave – a futile attempt to share the zillions of things I want to tell you, but it’ll have to do. In between newsletters, I’ll be uploading photos here.


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