It Wasn’t All That Bad

Of course, my India experience was not all bad. Now that I have made ears bleed and have provoked people to pull their hair out, I can now focus on that other (more pleasant) side of the coin. It’s not like I entirely hated the country; like what I always say, India has so much to offer. I guess I needed to take a step back (way, way back — more of being out of the country) before I can truly appreciate some of the great things it somehow blessed me with, without my asking.

Does this mean I’m ready to go back to India? No. It just means that I have made my peace with India. Maybe I’ll go back someday, maybe never. Nothing is really certain. All I know is, I have people, places, and things to thank for.

Here are my reasons as to why my India experience was not so bad after all.

1. Thank God for friends

friends in indiaI wouldn’t have survived without a support group. These good people taught me everything I needed to know and aided me in all means possible.  From teaching me the basic survival words all the way to introducing me to the market that sold the cheapest goods, they were like my lonely planet guidebook plus other benefits. Keywords were: busog weekends, laugh trip, cheapskate’s shopping spree, drinking sessions, and mind-boggling translations.

2. My Rajdoot Pol

RajdootWhen the gang-rape incident blew over, Delhi was not exactly the most ideal place for women. I could still remember being warned by my elderly neighbor to stay indoors when it got dark. There were a lot of angry men victimizing women, specifically foreigners like me, just because the age-old patriarchal system was coming undone. Imagine my relief when I suddenly befriended this loveable stray. I named him Rajdoot Pol (and he responds to that name too). He was always waiting for me outside the gate when I was about to leave for the office and was always eager to pounce on me when he sees me coming home from work. In return, I shared with him whatever food I had and played with him even though he always looked like he just came crawling from the muddy ditch. Sadly, I never got to say goodbye to him before I left.  🙁

3. Volun-tourist stints

voluntourist stintsAlthough the main objective in India was to volunteer, I also made it a point that I will discover both the country’s secret nooks and famous landmarks. It was a promise that I rewarded myself in exchange for whatever work I have completed and it didn’t really matter if it was within Delhi or in another state; there has to be an opportunity now and then. These weekends or so referred to as ‘holiday sprees’ became therapeutic outlets and helped keep my sanity intact.

4. Skype-ing sessions

skypeing with friendsIn the past, I was not a fan of skype. In fact, my friends forced me to open an account and I always ended up forgetting my password. Whenever they wanted to talk to me online, they would tell me to log on to my skype account and it will take me forever to do so. The truth was, I didn’t like the idea of maintaining another social media account and learning the ‘how tos’ of an application always made me feel like a cavewoman. However, all this changed when I was in India. Obviously, skype became my new bestfriend during my whole stay there so I was very careful not to forget my password nor to tamper with my internet connection or else I’ll feel deprived and throw a fit.

5. Colors and details everywhere

colorsWhether it was a simple red dot on a woman’s forehead or the array of colors brandished in magnificent saris, they were everywhere. The country held true to its name, nothing was ever simple in India. Everything that the locals donned was not just some plain garb. They were always in full colors, accented with beads and detailed handwork which would put all those hyped designers to shame. You will find intricate designs everywhere even in abandoned temples, old walls and ceilings that screamed to be noticed, fields decorated with blooming poppies, dolls, bags, hands, amongst many. In most days when it felt like a drab, I was thankful for these flash of colors that somehow warmed me up and made me feel like Christmas was just around the corner.

6. Traditional Indian tea

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Traditional Indian tea and samosa for a perfect afternoon break.

I was not a tea person so imagine my surprise when I realized one afternoon that I was itching to go out so I can buy tea at the neighborhood’s tea stall. I caught my ass dragging itself down to buy a kettle of this concoction and then happily hiking back four flights of stairs which I usually despised. There was something so calming about drinking tea in the afternoon while the rest of Delhi was in chaos. The sweetness of goat’s milk went hand in hand with the slight sting of ginger and before you can say you have enjoyed it, those tea leaves would give a last hurrah by leaving you with a subtle bitter taste that would then urge you to pour another cup. Again, this is India being India as always.

7. That Jangpura apartment

roomI had electricity problems (even if my next door neighbor was having none), water dripped from my ceiling, paint flakes were falling off all over my bedroom, had a nosy neighbor who would come in my apartment and sit on my bed without my invitation, my water heater took ages before it heated up, the running water can hardly be called ‘running,’ and the smell of my neighbor’s masahla and curry seeped through my kitchen and bathroom every time they cooked — but, I loved that apartment in Jangpura B. It was mine and it was my haven after a hard day’s work.

8. Haggling capital

hagglingIf you don’t know how to haggle then you’ll be missing out 90% of the India experience. Haggling is a way of life here and in order to survive, you have to sharpen your skills and roll your sleeves to get that bargain. It’s easy, just be thick-skinned and walk away if you don’t get the price you want. Chances are, you will get your price. My trick is to smile a lot (if the seller is a man) and be extra sweet and respectful (if the seller is a woman). You can try being aggressive too but I’m not fond of that technique. It takes away the fun part of the whole experience.

What did Alanis say again? Oh yeah. “Thank you, India.”

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