Last night in India. Three months has passed. I’m in Calcutta or Kolkata.
Time has gone by fast, but at the same time so incredibly slow. So much has changed and so much is still the same.
Calcutta has been described as hell on earth. My guidebook says though, that this is an old stereotypical image of the city and after three months in India and after having seen what I hope to be the worst parts of Delhi, Calcutta feels like a pretty modern city. Unlike my entering into Delhi in this place I get a good vibe. It might be because I have slept properly on the train and get dropped off in the middle of the city at the Sealdah station, but every place in this world has there own specific atmosphere. It’s own rhythm. It’s own beating heart. Some you like, some you don’t.
It doesn’t only have to depend on wether you have a good day or not.
Sudder Street is where all the budget hostels are located, and it looks just like any other street in the city within walking distance to shopping, parks and sightseeing. When I walk around in the city it feels like walking around in any European big city except for the many people begging or hassling you with their goods.
I have, today only, been asked about fourty times to get my shoes cleaned.
That is a new record.
I have my camera with me, but when I reach Fort William, one of the remaining structures from the British colonial era, when Calcutta was the capital, I realize that I’m not interested in buildings. I OD’d on temples and such in Hampi.
Since then, I have more or less done no sightseeing whatsover and when I see the big beatiful victorian building that is in the centre of the fort, I don’t even reach for the camera in my bag. Why would I? I am not interested in photographing old buildings.
Instead I sit down next to the big park, watching young Indian guys playing soccer in the park. That feels better. After that I wander aimlessly around the area and then return for another shower.
I find a recommendation for a restaurant in my guidebook. A luxury restaurant run by one of the famous Indian chefs. Grain of Salt. I’m thinking that it might be interesting to find out how Indian cooking taste like when it’s been made by a top chef. So I talk myself into spending a small fortune on my goodbye dinner here in India.
It is, without doubt the best Indian food I have ever tried. Worth every penny. Regarding spending a fortune though, that is a relative thing. $40 is not really a fortune for luxury food including wine and a nice Captain Morgan Spiced Gold afterwards. Not compared to Sweden. It is though ten times more than I normally spend on a good dinner in this country.
India is a world of contrast, something you are reminded of all the time. I have just spent $40 for one dinner for one person. When I step out of the restaurant, the first thing I meet is a lady sitting on the pavement selling corn. Next to her three small children is sleeping on the sidewalk.
They live there. In the middle of the street.
I walk along the street, listening to Explosions in the sky, thinking about having just spent two weeks of food for that family in one meal. I meet Indians carrying shopping bags from the nearby malls. Cars driving by. The same street that many consider their home.
I could have eaten Samosas until I get full for about $0.50. I could have given all my money to these people living on the street, waiting for a new day. But I also realize, that even if I give all my money away, it wouldn’t even be noticed in this huge country of extreme riches and extreme poverty. A world of contrast.
Indians can really sleep anywhere.
That is not correct though. It would be more correct to say that people can sleep anywhere. If they have to.
There is so much we could do. So much we should do. So much we have to do and wants to do. So many expectations and demands.
We live in this constant world of thinking we should have done something different than we actually did and it is distracting us from the reality that is always here. Our suffering comes from always wishing we where somewhere else than where we really are.
Three months in India. Three months of just being here. Not somewhere else. I travel alone, but never feel lonely. I have nothing to do, but never feel bored. I’m in the worlds most chaotic country, but feel calm and peaceful inside.
Tomorrow a new country, new adventures. A new me. We never stay the same…
I had a plan to go to Taj Mahal and then further on to Varanasi. Two central sites in India that you have to visit. Taj Mahal for it’s architecture and Varanasi for it’s extremeness. After all, to achieve eternal freedom you should be born in Tiruvarur, think of Thiruvannamalai and die in Varanasi.
But, that’s not how things went. I felt after returning from my trek in the mountains that it would be nice to take it easy for a few days extra and rather go straight to Calcutta for my flight to Bangkok. That means that I could really have taken my flight straight from Delhi instead of taking the extra 1500 kilometres east, but it felt right to stay in the peace and cool weather in Dharamsala instead of slowly dying in the heat of the Indian plains and get drained of energy in the well-known chaos of Varanasi. Also, after the trek, my legs hurt like hell and with it came a fever and a headache. I was walking like I was 96 years old and forgot my walking stick, so rather than leaving I spent most of my two days in my room recovering.
It is hot like hell here in Delhi. Fucking. Hot. If you walk ten metres you start to sweat.
I took a sleeper bus from Dharamsala to Delhi. 12 Hours. Uncomfortable is todays understatement. I realize quickly that I’m not getting any sleep, so I listen to music instead, starring out in to the air. Wondering how come we are terrified to die but not terrified to go to sleep, despite that the world actually stop existing for several hours before we wake up again. 12 hours was not enough to answer that question.
The sun is coming up when we reach the outskirts of Delhi. The road is running along the Yamuna river and industries. Concrete and cement. A river full of waste and toxic acids. The pollution lays above the ground like a fog and the air I’m breathing smells like something I know. The long enormous strings of compost being tunred around outside the office I was working in at my last job, Vafab Miljö a solid waste company. It is a sour, musty smell that twist your stomach at it’s worst.
It never really was that bad at my old workplace yet people was always calling in every few times a year these piles was turned around to breathe in new oxygen (to prevent self combustion from the gas it produces). Here, people live with the stench every minute, every day. They probably do not feel the smell anymore. There is no number to call to complain anyway.
Along the river grass is growing. I don’t know how the grass survives, but when we pass by there is a row of people squatting, doing their daily toilet needs. I don’t think the quality of the water is affected by it. The grass has probably gotten used to it too.
In every other city in India, I have met more and more human activity entering cities. Houses, stores, people. Here, I meet the ugly face of humanity, a purely depressing sight.
The absolutely worst creations of humanity and that which every day continuesly ruin our lives. Sometimes I feel that humanity really deserves to become extinct.
A feeling of disgust for Delhi is with me from this very beginning. With an entrance like this, I don’t know if it’s possible to feel differently, but I also realize that it might be because of my lack of sleep.
My train leave the same night. I have planned it in a way that I get to spend minmial time in large cities. For this very reason.
I know, of course that Delhi has a lot to offer if you give it a chance, but I also know that every city in India drains you of energy. Energy I rather save for Bangkok.
I arrive at the New Delhi trainstation and realize that it’s going to be a long wait. I find out that the budget hostels are close, in Paharganj, so I head in that direction.
Main Bazaar Road in Paharganj is a sad old story that even the Delhiites themselves would prefere to blow up and rebuild if they had a chance. It’s like they by purpose have tried to reach new levels of dirt and shabbyness and succeeded. It’s undescribable. You have to go there yourself.
I find a cheap, really disgusting room just to get the chance to take a shower and get some rest. The room has a fan, but still it’s 45 degrees anyway in the room. It’s like being in a sauna that someone has put a fan in the ceiling in for some strange reason, the heat blowing right in your face, hotter than the air you are breathing.
The only thing I can do at this place is laugh. You can adjust to any kind of environment.
On the train, I feel good. It is a relatively new train. A/C, food included, pure luxery compared to the buss and Delhi. I sleep well and wake up fresh and energetic and step out in to the next sauna. The place which by many has been described like hell on earth. Calcutta.
As you might have noticed, I’m quite a bit behind in updating this blog. It’s just been that way. I haven’t written anything for a few weeks, don’t know why, but I don’t really have any plans on how things should be. So, if I don’t have any desire to write, I don’t. If I do get the desire. I write.
When I was planning this trip that was actually one of the questions I asked myself. What happens if you lift yourself out of your ordinary context and for ten months start every morning by not having any plans for the day. What happens with a human being during this time and how is a life like that to live?
I realized that the only time in life where you didn’t have any plans was when you were a kid, but then your life was planned by your parents. So except for a few weeks here and there in life I have never experienced this. How it will look like when I get back home, what I will be then I guess is for all of us to find out. Until then, life goes on.
So, to play catch-up I’m going to post some stuff about the last few days in India, even though I’m already here in Bangkok where I walk around in a red shirt talking to government soldiers…
Since you might be wondering about that, I can tell you I haven’t really seen much regarding that so far. As long as you avoid the central parts of the city like Siam Square and Silom among others things are very calm. Of course, things might go ballistic anytime, but people in the city seem to be getting more and more tired of the problems around this, and that is not really good PR for the red shirts.