I was hanging out with three really nice folks earlier today (1AM-6AM), drinking while singing karaoke. Yeah, that’s life in the Philippines, karaoke everywhere! One of them has been my friend for years now, the other two (a couple), were her friends. Me and my friend have traveled to quite a few places, but not as much as the couple. They’ve traveled to a lot of countries because of their work (awesome job right!).
(Warning: Before I continue on, I just like to say that this is a long post. Probably my longest post as of this moment, please bear with me. Thanks!)
Our conversation revolved around blogging, traveling, funny stuff and more traveling until one of them said, “Convince me to go to India.”
I was actually caught off guard. It’s easy for me to convince people to travel. As I’ve said repeatedly in this blog, traveling is my passion and I also want other people to try it and experience it. I always find myself answering questions of my friends and acquaintances about places that I’ve been to, you know, the usual stuff about travel.
But I really find it hard to talk about India. I always tell them to go there if you’re ready. India is like an entirely different world. It’s like a love and hate relationship. You either love it or hate it and for some maybe both.
I bought my bus and train ticket to India in Pokhara around the 3rd week of August 2009. I bid the guy that I traveled with in Nepal goodbye and headed to the bus station around five in the morning. It was a little cold and I fell asleep again inside the cab on my way to the bus station. Upon reaching the terminal, I was surprised to see my dorm mate in Thamel with his Korean friend and both of them were also going to India. We traveled together by bus and train for almost two days until we reached Varanasi.
Advices and Warnings
Prior going to India, I received a lot of advices and I’ve heard a lot of stories from folks that I’ve met along the way. I kept on asking about the do’s and don’t’, stuff to avoid etc because I’ve read that it’s quite “hard” to travel in India. Here are some of those:
(Note: I’m not sure if they’re ok with seeing their names in a blog, so I’ll just not put it)
“It’s the perfect place to learn and see things especially for a young guy like you. India is a very special place. Go there and see for yourself.” -American guy in Chengdu
“You look too neat to go to India. You’re lucky you wouldn’t be groped coz you’re a guy but you wouldn’t escape the weird Indian stares even if you’re Asian.” -Belgian lady in Guilin
“Oh! It’s nice to travel in India. Everything is so cheap. But people do this weird blank stare, it’s scary sometimes coz you don’t know what their thinking while they’re gawking at you.” -Singaporean guy in Guilin
“My friend had his kidney stolen while he was on a train in India! He swore to me that it’s true. He woke up with a sign hanging on his neck, -Please Take me to the Hospital” and blood all over his body. I’m scared as hell to go there!” -American guy in the Philippines
“Stay aware of your surroundings. India is the land of instant karma. Oh, and be careful with what you eat and drink man, ok! By the way, you’ll see shit everywhere.” -Spanish guy in Thamel
“If there’re only two places in this world that you would visit, you should go to Jerusalem and Varanasi. Those places have strong energies. When you get there you’ll understand what I’m saying.” – Kiwi guy in Vientiane
Thoughts, Thoughts, and a lot more Thoughts
We arrived safely in Varanasi, settled in a hostel and traveled around. We drank, mingled with locals, and visited the market and all other touristy stuff. And we spent our nights at the burning ghats watching dead people getting burnt everyday.
On our first night, I was horrified with what I’ve seen. The most shocking of all was when after putting off the fire, some dogs would hurriedly ran towards it and eat the remains – left over human bones, they say it’s usually the chest and pelvic part.
Another weird, sounds funny but it’s really not amusing, was the smell. It smelled like barbeque.
My head really hurt on that first night. I was appalled with what I’ve seen and smelled. But I realized that what I’ve seen is reality. We will all die soon and dying, aside from being inevitable, is something that I should not be scared of. It’s part of our nature, its part of our life.
Having experienced and realized that life and death event, I also started asking a lot of questions to myself.
Am I doing what I want to do in life or am I just wasting it?
Do I know what I want?
What if I die tomorrow, can I say that I was able to live my life to the fullest?
I might only have one shot at this because I’m really not sure about reincarnation nor second life.
I felt an unexplainable sadness and worry on my third night. I was wondering if it was because of the emotion of the family members that I’ve observed. Even if I did not see any tears falling off their faces, you could feel the grief, sadness and hope (coz of reincarnation belief) for their departed love ones.
I’ve decided to go online the following morning and contacted my family. And then I understood the reason for my sadness.
My grandmother died on that same morning. The nice lady that raised and took care of me since I was a little boy had left us.
Tears fell from my small, dark brown, almond eyes. I tried to hold it back because there were other people inside the internet café but I just couldn’t. I logged off, paid the rent and walked out of the shop.
I went straight to the Ganges riverbanks. I closed my eyes and imagined that I was talking to her. I thanked her for everything that she did for me and said goodbye.
Tears were still quietly falling off my face when I heard some giggling voices of kids. Three little Indian kids were in front of me trying to sell me postcards. I wiped my tears off my face and started talking to them. The girl held my hand and started drawing some nice designs using some glittery gold and silver makeup like thingy.
I said, “I’m sorry but I don’t have any money to pay for it.”
She laughed and said, “It’s free!”
And all of us started laughing.
Dashing from Delhi to Manila
I went back to the hostel and immediately told the two other guys that I’ve changed my plans and I’m heading home right away. One of them said, “It’s ok, you don’t have to explain.” I know he noticed that my eyes were still red because of too much crying.
I said, “I’m going to Delhi via Agra and fly there to Manila.”
And they’ve decided to keep me company up to Delhi.
We stopped by Agra to see Taj Mahal and then hop on another train to Delhi. I booked my flight tickets when we were still in Agra. I spent a couple more days in Delhi while waiting for my flights. On the day of my departure, I hugged them so tight and wished them well. We promised that we’re gonna visit each other and we’re gonna travel again together. This time I was able to hold my tears back.
I arrived in Manila a day before my Grandmother’s burial.
Seeing her for the last time was more important to me than seeing the world at that time. Backpacking the world could always wait.
I was in India when I realized some of my greatest lessons in life.
Salamat sa lahat Lola.