The noise, the chaotic traffic that felt like a
death-sentence every time I attempted to cross the road, the
perpetually-burning incense: for me, India was a slap-in-the-face
that was overwhelming and invigorating.
Women in saris of every colour you could think of
were bent over sweeping rubble, glittering red and gold and
turquoise and purple in the sunshine optimistically pushing its way
through the smog. Men carried everything from buckets of water to
couches, with huge bands strapped around their foreheads to help
carry the load, and entire families managed to squeeze onto one
motorbike. Once, I counted seven people.
It was my first trip on my own; no family, no
friends, just me, my passport and my backpack. Id been diagnosed
with an anxiety disorder the year before, so India was a surprising
choice of places to venture on my own. Yet amongst this utter chaos
that theoretically should have been sending me spiraling into a
panic attack (I struggle going into my local supermarket on a busy
day), the millions of people, the sounds of cars and bikes and
markets and camels and oxen had me feeling paradoxically calm.
I was absolutely in love with this country.
Id met my tour group that afternoon; wed huddled
awkwardly in the foyer, sharing stories of what wed done that day,
contents of our first aid kits and souvenirs wed paid far too much
for. Our guide, Shiva, went through the itinerary for the
trip, and we then left the frenetic energy of Delhi that evening
and headed into the desert to Bikaner via train.
On the overnight train, we squeezed into tiny bunks
three up each wall and I stumbled across my first problem for the
trip. My bed was barely big enough for me, let alone my large
backpack. Shiva, noticing my frustration asked what was wrong,
noticed that yes, indeed, my pack was taking up an impractical
amount of space and why didnt I just leave it under the bunks with
the rest of the luggage?
It will be safe, he assured me, nodding wisely.
Well, if this man Ive known for roughly 12 hours
says it will be safe on this rickety, creaking train, it
must be safe, I reasoned.
Okay! I beamed, and with a joyous heave I squished
my pack passport and all under the bunks.
Shiva was probably unaware that my passport was in
there or else he may have provided me with less awful advice.