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Shimuka.

One thing that everyone has warned me about is the people, that I shouldn’t trust anyone, particularly men (and well, isn’t that the case wherever you are, whether you’re in India or in New Zealand!) And I’ve heard enough stories from my sister who has been to India before to understand why. So that makes an Indian man I met on the plane to India an exception, right? Well, maybe not, but if you had to endure 17 hours on the seat next to each other and had no-one else to talk to, it’s hard to ignore the person based on stories and ethnicity alone. I had my earphone on and was listening to the last chapter of Ayn Rand’s “The Anthem” (thanks, Mark!) so we didn’t speak for the first 9 hours of the journey which stopped over in Changi, Singapore. When I boarded the plane again after two hours lay over, everyone else had left to catch another connecting flight to elsewhere and I was left to chat with this bloke, whose name was Shimuka. From Singapore to Bombay it was only 4 1/2 hours and he was kind enough to give up his window seat for my aisle seat, which turns out that he doesn’t like. He waited for me patiently at the baggage claim area when my backpack took absolutely forever to unload, carried my luggage and escorted me to my connecting flight’s gate. In a flurry of waiting in several queues and passing through half a dozen security checkpoints, I got a bit disoriented and ended up at the wrong end of the boarding gate (which turns out to be his boarding gate, not mine). I then got escorted by another half a dozen guards in various uniforms who all seemed amused at my lack of direction, and one particular lady stopped me in my tracks and repeatedly said, “sheena, sheena” which after a few times I understood to mean whether I was Chinese. I replied “Korea” to which she screwed up her face at first, but eventually she nodded her head and broke into a beautiful smile. In a way, I was really glad to be alone again.

So far, so good. It may have something to do with me carrying a bag that says “I Love God” in Hindi all over, but in any case, it seems that luck is definitely on my side and everyone I’ve met on my journey has so far been very friendly, helpful and often go out of their way to help out. I’m getting a mixture of vibes from  the locals here, but it’s mostly good.

“You are now four and a half years younger than you were before.” is what Shimuka said as we landed in Bombay. What an optimistic way to think of living in different time zones!

Monsoon.

How could we forget that it’s a monsoon season in India. “You’ve got what you wished for” said the person sitting next to me on the shuttle to the domestic terminal. Well, I had never quite seen anything like it before. It was indeed a heavy rain. Not torrential, but just a huge quantity of it, bucket loads, filling up the musty air outside. The rain here is quite gentle and lands on you like a fluffy snowflake almost, except that it soaks through your clothes before you know it. I couldn’t see the rain drops, it just seemed like the bus was going through an outdoor car was, except the flow of water was so steady it trickled down the window. You don’t even hear it. It coats the earth with invisible hands that beckons you to splash around in the puddles of water, which was the only other evidence of knowing just how much it was raining.

I arrived in Delhi. There are fruit stands every 100 metres. It’s dry, dusty, 80% of the pavements have been uplifted to be repaved in preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth games. There are women in barefoot carrying huge buckets of debris, working alongside men who are squatting at the edge of the road smoking and joking about. Rickshaw drivers are everywhere but I only saw one of hundreds that actually had a sideview mirror. Like Argentina, road markings are a mere reference point and they use horns and profanities as blinkers. Raj Mahal is some sort of a jeweller in Delhi who has more influence aka money than Vodafone to line the streets of Delhi with their promotional flags. If I didn’t read the fineprint, I would have thought this 40-something Indian lady with huge necklace was running for an office here. There is poverty everywhere, people living under blue tarps, more dust and fruitstand than you can ever imagine. I wonder where they get all these fruits from, because I have yet to see a sign of life on any of the trees I see lining the streets.

All this was from a journal entry I wrote before I arrived at the hotel. Hotel is a relative, rather than a universal term, is what I’m coming to understand. I even had someone walk into my room at around 9pm last night, but it was mostly my fault because I left the room unlocked!

I probably slept for about 15 hours straight, and I’ll probably take another 8 to feel refreshed again! This jetlag is forcing me to slow down, but in this heat, I probably will stay this way for the remainder of my stay in India anyway.

It’s all good.

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