Lost in tradition

August 2015

My comeback to India was indeed intense this time. On the same day I arrived in Delhi I received a phone call with horrible news: My best friend in the village had died of mushroom poisoning. I couldn’t believe it, she had a pretty good mushroom hunting knowledge.There are rumors that unhappy Indian wives occasionally mix some “special” mushrooms into their husbands’ dishes to get rid of them, but that’s another story…

She was an Indian lady, a strong woman, kind and fun. My daughter loved to go to her place to play with her grandchildren and I loved to go there, because I felt absolutely comfortable in her company. I don’t even know how old she was; every time I asked about her age over the past seven years she used to answer “40”. I will miss her hugs, laughter, company and listening to her singing and playing the dolak, especially during the Holi Festival.

southtemple

After coming back to our mountain village, I went to visit the family to offer my condolences. It was hard. And of course, as all too often, I unknowingly blundered.

When I came back from there, our neighbor told me that TODAY was NOT the right day to visit a mourning family. The good days were Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I sighed. How would I know? But being a foreigner, the family probably understood and kindly ignored my mistake.

Indian traditions and social rules are really complicated to get for a foreigner, no matter how hard you try. There are innumerable details that have to be observed and all of it depends on the region, community, family and caste. Sure you can always ask an Indian, but for them all the details just come naturally and if you do not ask precisely about any possible little thing, they will probably forget explaining it to you.

I live in India since almost eight years and I only can say that the bit I know is equal to nothing!

Where we live a mourning period of eleven days is observed after somebody passes away. Close family members are not supposed to leave the house, except for performing the corresponding rituals for the parting soul in the temple. The ladies of the household will wear simple clothes and will renounce wearing jewelry and cosmetics, while the male members of the family shave their heads; the sons wear traditional white colored clothing.

On the eleventh day the mourning phase ends and people start slowly getting back to their routine. A humble celebration is held in remembrance of the departed person and people dress up for the occasion. Exactly on that day my daughter ran away to meet the children of the family and I followed her. I didn’t know that it was the end of the morning period and was completely under dressed, my faded clothes stained with flour from baking. I greeted timidly from a distance, caught my girl and disappeared unobtrusively.

People here must think that I am a real weirdo. I am a bit of a disaster when it comes to remembering dates: I usually barely know which day of the week it actually is. I guess it has something to do that during the tourist season we open our cafe seven days a week and in the off-season, every day is a Sunday for us. Usually I forget about fasting days and most of the religious celebrations, too.

THERE ARE SO MANY!

Sometimes I only know about a festivity because our neighbor Mataji suddenly shows up with a plate full of treats in her hands. Shame on me!

Some might wonder how come that I do not have more knowledge about the Indian rituals and traditions being married with an Indian. I have been asking myself the same question and came to the conclusion that it figures that my husband left his home at the young age of eleven. He did not witness many years of deep family traditions inside of his home. Another point is that in most of the traditions there is a great difference in behavior and rituals, depending on whether you are a man or a woman.

Many times I asked my husband if I should go to this or that ceremony, what I should wear or what I should bring. He never really knew which advice to give me. He lived most of his life as a sadhu, which means that he did not live with any female presence that was not the image or a sculpture of a goddess. How would he know about how his wife was supposed to behave on a wedding, a funeral, when a new baby was born or if she was to attend this or that temple ceremony or not?

Baba also never has been a very ritualistic person himself and uses to say:

” If you are happy, then god is also happy. God doesn’t care if you fast or not; or even if you fail visiting the temple. All this, people actually just do for themselves. What really matters is that you try to be the best person you can be in your daily life ”

godonwheels

Advertisements

Alien encounters at the Embassy

August 2015

This summer I spent two and a half months in Europe together with my three year old daughter. We came back to Delhi in at the end of August, where my husband was waiting for us. It was still very hot and humid and of course as usual dusty, loud and crowded. Normally I try to get out of the city as soon as possible under these circumstances, but as it takes a minimum of 10 hours to the capital from where we live, I seized the opportunity to renew my passport which expires at the end of this year, so I could save an extra journey.

After a dusty Rickshaw ride through the heat I found myself sitting on a bench outside of the small office counter number 4 of the German embassy, where I was waiting for my turn together with a bunch of other people, mostly Indians. After some time the guy next to me stretched out his hand and introduced himself as Dr. M. He was a Westerner in his late 40’s, slim with short hair, a big nose and was wearing khaki shorts and a tank top, that might have been white some time ago. He did not look much like a doctor of any kind to me, but who knows, maybe he was a backpacking physician or something like this.

Without me asking anything, he started to explain that he had been living in India for 3 years and that he was actually a healer. It is common to meet many kinds of foreign therapists traveling or living in India and I decided to put some interest into his story; waiting there was boring anyways. I asked him, what kind of healing he was practicing. What followed, was a looong monolog:

“I do all kind of healing. I opened a clinic here in Delhi with two partners. I have already healed many famous people, like the former president of Australia. They come to me. Actually I have changed my body seven times. This body, which you see here… I just decided to take it. The guy who had it was sick and died. And then my eyes changed: Look!”

He stared at me. I looked him in the eyes; they were brown.

“Ahhhhh!” I said and thought, why not. In the end, this is India, where people change bodies all the time.

“In 2017 the world will face a big changing. I will come to clean and destroy it all and then I will create everything from the start. You will see!”

“Just like Shiva!” I said and nodded.

“Yes, kind of. If you are going to be there, you have to follow the light point and ask for Dr. M. – They know me very well. You know, actually the thing is that we are all programmed. They programmed us, a long time ago, when we were still connected to mother and father alien. Give me your hand!”

Illustration courtesy of <a href="http://talamaletina.blogspot.com.es/" target="_blank">talamaletina</a>

Illustration courtesy of talamaletina

He took my hand and performed some tickling movements, combined with some turns and strokes on the back of it. He looked very concentrated and nodded knowingly from time to time.

“Your hormones are not balanced. I just fixed it. Oh, I forgot to check your blood sugar”

And he started again to reprogram me through the back of my hand. I noticed that the Indians who shared the bench with us were observing us discretely from the corner of their eyes; for me it was the first time that I ever witnessed natives in India observing a situation tactfully. I was actually more used to be stared at without any embarrassment by Indians, often with their faces just an inch away from my own.

The situation was indeed odd and I joked

“I hope you didn’t put any alien inside of me!”

He smiled and replied “You already ARE an alien, my dear!”

Then he was called in by the lady behind the counter. Only after a few seconds he stepped out again and said

“Oh, I just asked her to bring me a cup of coffee” 

I guess this was supposed to be a joke, unless he really was a V.I.P. 

It was my turn. The AC had broken down and I was sweating intensely inside of the small room. To make matters worse, I had thought that I could pay the fee in Euros, but it was to be paid in rupees, which I did not have on me. Now, I had to go back to the Hotel and again return to the embassy. As I went off, I hurriedly said goodbye to Dr. M. and wished him good luck.

When I came back after about two hours I was surprised to see through the glass door that Dr. M. was still there, talking vividly to the lady behind the counter. Maybe he was negotiating another cup of coffee. He smiled when he spotted me and stuck his head out of the door to ask if I would like to have a cup of chai with him after the business. I replied that I had to go back to the hotel straight away as my child was waiting there. “Oh you have a child?!” He seemed surprised.

I was called into the office next, as my application was already done and I only had to pay the fee. When I walked out, I saw Dr. M. sitting on the bench next to another Western woman, holding her hand.


By the way: It is said that we Germans are a serious Nation. The German Ambassador in Delhi, Mr. Steiner, proved the contrary by creating this amazing Bollywood video, acting himself as the main character: It’s really fun and you can check it out on Youtube: German Embassy goes Bollywood

A veces el camino del yoga acaba en India

Durante los más de diez años que vivía en España llevaba una vida normalita, así más o menos como todo el mundo y tenía un trabajo rutinario de oficina al que acudía cada día de la semana como una buena hormiguita, esperando impacientemente la llegada de los fines de semana. Igual hoy en día también se considera normal pasar ataques de ansiedad por padecer el síndrome de agotamiento laboral; al menos en mi entorno no era la única que sufría de ellos con regularidad.

Llegó el momento en que sentí que ya no podía, ni quería llevar mi vida de esta manera y emprendí la búsqueda hacia algún tipo de equilibrio para relajar mi mente y cuerpo sobrecargados. Probé el gimnasio y la natación. No me gustó demasiado y ambos me dejaron igual de vacía. Decidí que si algo me ha de ayudar con mi dilema, también me ha de gustar de verdad; sino poco sentido tiene. Finalmente me encontró el Kundalini yoga. Se trata de una herramienta muy potente que incluye mucha meditación dentro de su práctica.

¡Al principio pensé que yo no era normal!

No podía evitar de mirar a los demás estudiantes de reojo durante las meditaciones. Parecía que todos estaban sumergidos completamente en su interior, sus caras reflejando calma y paz profunda – lo cual me irritaba bastante, porque no era para nada lo que estaba ocurriendo dentro de mí! Mi mente no se callaba, era una autopista de imágenes  y pensamientos. El tremendo caos interno que se me reveló me asustó bastante y me preguntaba si está autopista siempre había estado allí o si bien era algún misterioso fenómeno yoguico. Antes de empezar a practicar al menos, nunca la había percibido. Un día después de clase me acerqué a la profesora para comentarle mi preocupación. Sonrió y me dijo que lo que me ocurría era de lo más normal y que no me tendría que preocupar.

Sketch145224146

¡Qué alivio saber, que yo no era ningún bicho raro!

El intenso tráfico  de pensamientos siempre había existido, y de hecho estaba aprendiendo a observarlo. Parecía que mi subconsciente estaba pasando por una limpieza de viejos patrones para crear espacio para algo nuevo. El recién descubrimiento de mi mundo interior me fascinó tanto que después de sólo unos cuantos meses me apunté al programa de formación de profesores.

Un día un póster que estaba colgado dentro del centro de yoga me llamó la atención: Se trataba de un viaje alternativo a la India con enfoque espiritual.

¡INDIA, LA CUNA DEL YOGA!

Curiosamente hasta este día, nunca había tenido ningún interés especial por la India, pero algo extraño pasó: Sentía la necesidad de seguir a esta mística llamada. Algo dentro de mi me decía que tenía que ir. – Así que fui.

El programa era Delhi – Rishikesh – Amritsar, un viaje que iba a durar poco más de catorce días. En cuanto mis pies pisaron tierra India por primera vez tenía la sensación de flotar constantemente por el aire: Estaba sumergida en una ola de sensaciones desconocidas, fascinada por el misterio de lo más cotidiano. Los sonidos, el olor a incienso y la vida multicolor de este lugar me llevaron a otro un desconocido estado emocional y mental.

En Rishikesh nos íbamos a sumar al festival internacional de yoga. Atendí algunas clases, pero al fin y al cabo era mi primera vez en la India y había tantas cosas que ver y descubrir por las calles que era incapaz de quedarme todo el día dentro del ashram, sabiendo que la intensa vida multicolor que marca este país estaba ocurriendo a sólo un paso detrás de los muros del recinto. Pensé que en España podría practicar todo el yoga que quisiera, pero quien me podía decir cuando, o si de hecho iba a volver algún día a India?

Así que me aventuré por las calles de Rishikesh. Tomaba chais en el borde de la carretera para charlar con los vendedores, fui a explorar ocultos rincones del pueblo y me bañe en el Ganges. Así vivía mis pequeñas aventuras día a día. De hecho Rishikesh es un lugar fantástico para hacer nada más que sentarse en un chai shop durante horas y observar como la vida de la India pasa por delante, bailando a su propio ritmo. Las historias más increíbles ocurren justo en frente de uno sin tener que dar ni un solo paso. Las cosas simplemente vienen hacía ti. Estos establecimientos también ofrecen una excelente oportunidad para encontrarse con otros viajeros y charlar un rato. La mayoría de los mochileros con quienes me encontré llevaba viajando ya desde hacía meses o incluso años… ¡y yo iba a estar en este maravilloso país nada más que unas pocas semanas!

¿Y porque nunca se me había ocurrido a mí poner cuatro cosas en mi mochila para descubrir el mundo?

Pienso que viajar es la mejor inversión del mundo: Las memorias de un viaje te acompañarán hasta el último de tus días en este planeta, mientras que todo lo que se puede comprar con dinero perderá de valor antes o después.

Una mañana muy temprano, poco antes de levantarse el sol, salí del ashram para dar un paseo por el caminito de los sadhus que pasa por la orilla del Ganges. Me invadió una sensación de harmonía profunda al respirar la magia de una madrugada india: Muchas personas ya estaba susurrando sus rezos a la madre Ganga haciéndole ofrendas en forma de inciensos y flores o incluso tomando un baño de purificación en las aguas cristalinas, mientras los sonidos sanadores de las pujas matutinas de los incontables ashrams llenaban el aire con vibraciones de paz.

tK

De repente un personaje vestido de color naranja apareció de la nada. Era un joven sadhu con que ya había cruzado miradas varias veces durante mis excursiones por el pueblo. Me saludó con un respetuoso: “Hari Om” cuando pasó por mi lado. Devolví el saludo y me giré detrás de él para ver que el hizo exactamente lo mismo. Acabamos tomando un chai juntos y con este encuentro se dio comienzo a un nuevo capítulo de mi vida.

I LOVE MY INDIA

La célebre frase “I LOVE MY INDIA” aparece en la mayoría de las tiendas de recuerdos por el todo el país. Es un eslogan muy popular que adorna camisetas, pegatinas, pósteres e incluso tazas.

¡Me encanta, simplemente porque es una gran verdad!.

La India representa un pequeño universo en sí. Se puede decir que existen tantas Indias como hay dioses hindúes, que según la mitología son 33 millones!

El país se compone de 28 estados y cada estado consta de varias regiones. Hay 22 idiomas oficiales y  además un gran número de dialectos. La diversidad cultural y tradicional es inmensa, ya que cada lugar tiene sus propias costumbres a nivel estatal, regional y municipal. Me recuerda un poco al juego ruso de las muñecas Babushkas: Después de descubrir una muñequita dentro de la “madre”, se revela una más y luego otra más y de hecho nunca se sabe, cuando el juego se acabará.

Las experiencias de cada uno, lo que ve y vive por la India no solamente dependen de los lugares que visita, sino también influye como viaja, con quien y con qué tipo personajes se encuentra por el camino.

Cuando cuento de ¨mi¨ India, me refiero a mis experiencias personales. “Mi” India está coloreada por la gente sencilla del pueblo, mochileros, viajeros freaky, jóvenes y viejos hippies, buscadores espirituales, sadhus más o menos fiables, hostales sin estrellas y viajes en trenes y autobuses locales.

Total:

Es la India de las cosas súper-simples, pero complicadas.

I-Love-My-India-2014-WallpaperHe de decir que casi no tengo, ni busco contacto con la sociedad moderna de la India, ni me gustan demasiado sus grandes ciudades. Supongo que la razón porqué no me atrae, es que se trata de cosas a las que menos echo de menos cuando me acuerdo de mi “casa” en occidente.

Cuando estoy por Europa la gente a veces me pregunta

“¿Como es la India?”

y no tengo respuesta, ya que la India está llena de contrastes en todos los niveles. Creo que la India es lo que tú haces de ella, o bien lo que ella hace contigo – que al fin y al cabo viene a ser lo mismo.

Una vez fui a pasar una tarde en un centro comercial cerca de Delhi. La puerta de entrada estaba controlada por varios vigilantes para asegurar que solamente gente “aceptable” entrase en el edificio. Supongo que me dejó entrar por ser Europea, porque la verdad es que yo no parecía realmente aceptable vestida del típico estilo hippie mochilero. Solamente me di cuenta de ello cuando me fijé en el público que acudía a este lugar: Chicas Indias guapísimas y modernas en tejanos y camisetas ajustaditas y chavales peinados a la última con gafas de sol y camisas de marca imitando a los héroes de Bollywood.

De alguna manera en ¨mi¨ India la forma de vestir carece de importancia. Después  de algunos meses de viajar en plan simple pero complicado, uno ya no se da ni cuenta si alguna prenda tiene uno o varios agujeros o si la ropa originalmente blanca ha ido adaptando una escala de tonos indefinibles. Como uno casi siempre acaba juntándose con gente de su misma tribu, no se da ni cuenta de estos detalles, hasta cruzarse con alguien de aspecto ¨decente¨.

Hacía un calor tremendo en la calle y enseguida disfruté del olvidado soplido frío del aire acondicionado dentro del centro comercial. Me dí cuenta de que ya no estaba más acostumbrada a la típica iluminación artificial estéril y los reflejos de los suelos y cristales pulidos me irritaban la vista. Me pasee por los escaparates sintiéndome abducida hacía otra realidad lejana pero familiar. Había artículos de todas las grandes marcas conocidas en occidente e incluso una amplia zona de recreo con restaurantes y cines. Hasta me compré un carísimo helado italiano! Estaba disfrutando de mi pequeño dulce lujo mientras observaba la turbulenta movida en la calle de abajo a través de una pared de vidrio.

De repente mi helado ya no sabía tan bueno; allí abajo estaba la polución gris y sofocante, los conductores de rickshaws bañados en sudor esperando a clientes, niños sucios pidiendo limosna en los semáforos, chuchos callejeros husmeando por la basura, indigentes durmiendo en medio del denso tráfico y vacas masticando bolsas de plástico con gran placer en plena carretera.

¡Si!

¡El mundo real seguía allí!

¡Y “mi” India estaba allí fuera!

Lo que quiero decir es que no pretendo generalizar nada en este blog, aunque a veces puede que lo parezca. No existe nada en el mundo que sea mejor o peor; las cosas simplemente son diferentes y así son las experiencias.

¡QUE TU INDIA TE ACOMPAÑE!

I Love my India

NOIDA – Where the streets have no name

June 2008

After our “beautiful” honeymoon and after a short pit stop at Rishikesh basecamp, we went to visit our good friend from Belgium in NOIDA, where he was studying Film; an unknown side of “my” India would reveal to me.

He was sharing a house there with two schoolmates from Ivory Coast and India; and I really mean a HOUSE in the sense of what a house looks like in the West: It was a two storey building with American kitchen, balconies and tiled floor. They called it “The House of Joy”.

Sector 51

The house was situated in sector 51; All NOIDA, or “NO-IDEA” as it was called by the House of Joy crew, only consists of sectors, there are no street names or description of addresses as I knew it until now from India, like “Next to Shiva Temple”, “In front of the well” or “Corner OM chai shop”. Everytime I took a Rickshaw and said “To sector 40, please” I felt strange, it sounds so robotic! NOIDA actually stands for New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (what a poetic name for a town!) and lies 20 km southeast of New Delhi.

Sector 51 was like all residential sectors surrounded and protected by a wall and a couple of big gates, a sort of “rich-people-ghetto”. At Night the watchman would make his rounds and blow his whistle from time to time to assure the neighborhood that he was on the watch and everything was all right.

It was weird, but interesting for me to be in this “kind of India”. “My” India was just on the other side of the wall: Little chai shops, local Dhabas, shouting street vendors and where laughing kids were running around.

Cow in NoidaInside of the enclosure life was quiet, except the generators’ humming after a power cut. People would drive by on their racing cycles with their squashbats hung over their shoulders, neighbors were walking their Dalmatians and some people were jogging light-footed around the blog. The only thing that reminded of the outer world were the cows, which I could occasionally spot chilling and ruminating in trimmed flower beds in front of the villas.

But the House of Joy was giving its best to interrupt the silence in the neighborhood! All day there was a coming and going of people from all over the world and every night there was some kind of a crazy party going on. We had jam-sessions, face-painting-parties, Spanish nights, etc. I wonder what the middle-class neighbors thought when they saw a group of face-painted Westerners coming out of the House of Joy.

It was June and it was getting unbearable hot. We frequently sought shelter from the heat, the mosquitos and the pollution in the nearby Mall when the power went off and the fan stopped to turn. The Mall was a strange, but air-conditioned world. Baba’s eyes turned big as saucers the first time he stepped in there. Just imagine a sadhu who has been living about 15 years in ashrams, ghats and caves inside of a mall!  He had never been in such a place and marveled at the spotless cleanness, the fancy shops and of course the prices labels!

We had expensive ice cream and pizza, went to the movies and even went bowling once with a big group of people. Baba enjoyed it a lot and made the bowling alley suffering pretty much.

Noida street

It was fun to enjoy that part of India for some time; it was like a break from the dusty hippie-trails, where you are surrounded by a different kind of “freaks” most of time and naturally forget a big part of the material world, get used to freezing cold bucket showers, holes in your clothes that never will be white again and sharing your room with a variety of the local insect fauna.

However, I missed “my” India and I would never change it for a modern Indian city life.

 

I LOVE MY INDIA

i_love_my_india_remix

I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!

I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!

The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.

If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.

So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.

My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.

Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.

A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.

In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.

The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.

Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!

What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.

May your India be with you!

 

I LOVE MY INDIA

i_love_my_india_remix

I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!

I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!

The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.

If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.

So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.

My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.

Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.

A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.

In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.

The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.

Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!

What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.

May your India be with you!