The only time the thought of visiting India crossed my mind was during the trip to Zanzibar talking to my WeRoad tour leader Teda and her experience there. I was terrified, scared, not at all attracted. However, it must be said that I have never stopped myself and started studying this country and why I should have visited it. It was another life, the idea of taking so much time off from work certainly wasn’t in my head yet. I believe that the decision to take a break from work and try to radically change my life and my habits has had a significant influence on dusting off my curiosity, desire, recklessness in undertaking particular journeys. The transition to being out for three months, well, that came suddenly.
Not having any kind of expectations from this land, I choose not to face the journey alone and reach out a backpacker tour, also to create a “lighter” mood and why not also give each other a hand. What emerges once landed in New Delhi is disconcerting, and I don’t understand whether it is positive or negative; completely disoriented by what is happening around me. The air is full of soil dust, the sky is never completely clear, it looks like a photo with a perpetual patina of an unidentified color between white and brown. Horns, just incessant horns and traffic. It looks like an organized hell, but ready to swallow you if you take a wrong step. Everything is seasoned with the thousand smells of cooking and spices that intrigue you on the first day, you would like to taste everything, but after ten days you just want to go home, open the spice drawer in the kitchen and throw it down from the balcony regardless of any passers-by.
The difference between the old city and the new one lies in the concept of living space, but not in the population density, which remains above any conscious thought. 38 million inhabitants flock to this metropolis slightly larger than Rome every day. Their cultural concept is to live in a small space, possibly next to each other, or above. It’s amazing to see everywhere I’ve been in India that people don’t have any kind of problem living crowded together on a daily basis. Whether it’s on the street or in shops, on motorbikes, tuktuks or trains; always and exclusively interlocked with each other.
Gwalior and Orchha are mainly famous for their forts and temples. With the group we are able to immerse ourselves in local life, “village festivals”, in the markets, breathing a bit of real India away from organized tours. The sunset over the temples at Orchha was unexpected; it is suggestive to see how the sun colors the spires in red and accompanies it second after second as it goes hiding behind them. The sunrise at the Taj Mahal, on the other hand, I expected to be as impressive as the palace itself. Thanks to the sky not very free from the perpetual Indian mists. In any case, the common factor that made me think the most is the infinity of children on the street, as dirty as I’ve ever seen in my life, in the mud, thrown on the ground undressed. What makes the difference in my soul are their eyes and gazes, so deep, almost hypnotizing, whether they’re in their mother’s lap or not; they are truly a godsend. All these sensations devastate me with the same impetus as they excite me. Being able to give them a smile, playing with them, buying them clothes or a cookie is the best I can do. The Sanjay slum in New Delhi is pure science fiction for us westerners. No description of what my eyes, nose and ears have experienced would be exhaustive. Almost the entire amount of the visit is donated by the non-profit organization that organizes the day to the colony itself, mainly dealing with education for children.
I would like to tell those who cannot afford to travel about cultures and lands far from our lifestyle concepts, through my diaries and photographs. There is no salary that can compare with the emotions that mankind can give you.
Indian food deserves a separate chapter, but actually my stomach, nose and palate didn’t allow me to taste everything. It’s really all too spicy, impossible to describe the smells that pierce all your senses making you numb, eliminating any sensory faculties. I’ve never been sick except when, in perfect timing, I decided to vomit at 3 am in the filthiest trashcan at the most improbable train station of my life, just before boarding the night train that would take us to Varanasi. Those are the events I will never forget.
I won’t be going back to India anytime soon, but not for the swing of emotions, but to give priority yoother destinations. In any case, what I have lived, seen, I will carry as baggage, as an example of renouncing the vices and unbridled consumerism of the west.