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”.
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.
Inside 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.
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.