Journals from India: Delhi to Agra

The following are my unedited personal memoirs written during the time of my traveling from Delhi to Agra. Though written in instances of mental and emotional strain, perhaps vulgar and short-sighted at times, I feel that they are a measurement of personal growth of which there was plenty. This is part 2 of 6.

November 21, 2015

I’m here in Agra now, staying like 0.2 km away from the Taj Mahal. The train ride was good.

The countryside between Delhi and here wasn’t all that interesting, but I sat beside a Hindu girl from Ukraine that was saying some real profound and beautiful shit that it was way too early for. Her name was Anukzishna, and she moved to a village in Uttar Pradesh to become a publisher of Sanskrit texts for her beloved faith. I watched through glazed, and crusted eyes while she told me about different Hindu beliefs.

“There are 3 layers of Chakra: Animal chakra in the gut that all living things have. Creative and action chakra in the chest. And mental or spiritual chakra everywhere above the heart,” she said.

“There are about 140 interpretations to the Hindu faith,” she explained, “each one like a spice. They work together to embellish the food of life.”

She told me a few different Hindu tales, one in particular struck a chord with me. Shravankumar who carried his parents around the world in a yoke because they asked him to. What have I done for my parents? Hinduism makes a lot of sense. It’s what a religion should be. It doesn’t work out of fear, it works out of true self-betterment. It’s all about beauty and humans and this weird questioning we have.

She left me on the train when she jumped off at a small station in the middle of nowhere, not using the platform but hopping down directly onto the tracks and into the small patch of woods beside, careful not to snag her silks on the branches.

I napped for the rest of the way, then took a rickshaw to this hotel by the Taj gate. I think I’ll have a cup of coffee and explore a bit.

***

I just got back from seeing Agra today. I was alone for the most part. I think this will prove to be the hardest part of my gap year. Part of me just wants to get to Kochi to make friends and settle down, it’s just becoming difficult to convince myself that India was worth it, I think I just left the best thing I’ve ever known in Tanzania.

There’s some serious character development going on in the story book of my life right now, though. I decided that I was tired of being mopy and having a headache, so I made myself make friends.

I walked a long way to the ticket booth to get my entry ticket for the Taj Mahal. When I finally got back I walked in the gate and there it was.

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The Taj Mahal.

I really don’t know what to say about it. Beautiful, magnificent, divine – all the things that have been said before, but when I saw all the people with their friends and families enjoying an experience worth a lifetime at one of the wonders of the world, all that marble turned to dust. To be honest, I was kind of miserable.

I had to get out of this maze of bad thoughts, or I knew that I would kick myself every day for not really seeing the Taj Mahal when I was here, so I went to the side-museum walked up to the first dude I saw and said, “Hello.”

Immediately a million times better.

We started a conversation. Then his friend walked over. I made a joke and we all laughed. Then I walked outside and took pictures with a family of strangers.

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Inside the Mausoleum I began speaking with a German girl about her travels. She was on her way to a wedding in Mumbai.

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Then when I walked back out I really saw it. The floral pattern of eternal paradise, the sun striking the snow white marble while the green river behind churned slowly with veins of yellow light.

All of the people around me were as amazed and speechless as I was – what sort of love had inspired such a creation?

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Happiness found me after all, and as I walked back to the ticket counter cloakroom to retrieve my stuff I ran into Ben and Kyle, the guys from America that I met in Delhi, just walking down the street. Put yourself out there and see what happens.

They were psyched to see me, as psyched as I was to see them. We had lunch, and then walked around the Agra Fort and down a road through the forest by the riverbank till we got to a huge Bazaar. As we walked we passed bands rehearsing in fields for the next festival, as well as monkeys and dogs scavenging for food in the streets.

The Bazaar was an intricate web of streets stretching for kilometers in every direction, every block lined with shops from corner to courtyard selling plastic recreations of gold necklaces and toys and packaged sweetbread. Every road was a flowing canal of people enveloping entire temples. Monkeys ran along the powerlines while children screamed ‘HELLO’ at the top of their lungs. It looked how I imagine the Mall of America on Black Friday would look, minus the sanitation and also the white people.

After a few hours of exploring we covered about an eighth of the entire thing, but the sun was going down so we took a rickshaw back to the hotels and I said goodbye to my friends. I got some dinner at a café across the 8 ft wide dirt street for less than $2, then fell into my bed exhausted.

You know, I’m here to find myself, but what happens if I don’t like what I find? Not saying that that’s what’s happening, but if it did, is one capable of fixing themselves? Could I disassemble myself at the elementary level and iron out the despicable things?

Or is that what I’m doing now?

November 22, 2015

Today when I woke up, I was pretty sure it was going to be garbage. Nothing planned, no one around. I was afraid of the thought that there’s no one, no friend, no embrace at the end of my travels. I’ll be just as alone at ‘home’ as I am here. Not much to do.

But contrary to the shit heap of outlook I was sitting in, I had one of the best days of the trip so far.

I got up, texted my mom, and worked out on the hotel room floor. I always feel better after I exercise, I just have to muster the initial motivation it takes to get started, which can be difficult. I felt really good afterwards, though.

I keep thinking of myself from a third-party perspective. Traveling alone, sleeping alone, eating alone, and from that different perspective I say, “Wow, he must be sad.”

“How does he do it?”

Yeah, it’s fucking hard. It’s that view that provides my greatest fear right now: that I will fall mentally to the level that a weaker person would be at.

But I’m not weak. I don’t fall.

I do it, and I live, and I smile big, and I laugh hard. I eat whatever I want, I meet whomever I want, I sleep however long I want. I sing. I see the most beautiful things in the world, and whatever sadness or adversity threatens to diminish my kickass existence, I conquer it and continue.

I forged the date on my ticket for Agra Fort and dropped my luggage at the hotel. I started to walk, but my hips and knees felt like peanut brittle because I’ve walked all day of every day since I came to India, so I took a rickshaw instead.

I ate bananas and cookies in the lawn beside the fort for breakfast, where many of the Agrans were sprawled across the shady grass expanses enjoying their morning chai or grabbing a few Z’s before their afternoon shift.

I explored the explory parts with the rest of the tourists for a few minutes and discovered that it was essentially the Red Fort reskinned, so I found some shade by a pillar in the huge courtyard and read The White Tiger for a little while.

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While I was reading a few groups of Indian guys approached me, asking for a photo. Some weren’t so courteous, and just began pointing their phones at my like I was a fight in the cafeteria. I’ve taken so many photos with so many people in so many places. I wonder how many phone backgrounds and fireplace mantles I’ll make…

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There must be a significance to meeting a foreigner here, because they treat the photos they take like a pretty big deal.

My stomach wasn’t feeling the best, so I just had plain naan at a restaurant down the street then came back to the hotel. In just a few minutes I’ll leave to catch my train.

***

I made the train, but barely. I went to the wrong station first a little late as it was, my heart jumped into my throat when I showed a station staff my ticket and he started laughing. I was really convinced that I was going to miss it.

The rickshaw puller that I found was the homie, though. He got me all the way across Agra in 10 minutes, through India traffic. He was killing it.

When I got to the right station I found my platform and jumped on the train just as the whistle was blowing. Thank God, for that auto rickshaw driver. He was so cool.

As I talked to him I realized that the rickshaw drivers are just people with jobs. I’m ashamed to say that I was annoyed by their persistence.  I’m focusing my thoughts on the grievances experienced as a tourist rather than the experience and problems faced by a person living in the place I’m visiting, so actually I’m learning nothing and will learn nothing until I change that.

These are just train journey thoughts.

In the obscurity of darkness outside and the glare from the whitelights on the inside of the train, one could look outside at the passing flat countryside and the closely packed stores all lit with a single yellow burning bulb, and think he was in Tanzania if he had a motivation to do so.

I talk to the people I meet about Tanzania a lot.

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