I wasn’t jetlagged. 3,5 hours time difference, and then from West to East is not a lot. However, I was excited and even a bit scared, and that had messed up my rhythm and I couldn’t fall asleep in my hotel bed at Hotel Airport International in Mumbai. I couldn’t hear, see, smell, feel anything, I was isolated from the outside. So I didn’t feel or sense that I was in India.
Not until the first morning. I went downstairs for breakfast. And there it was…roti instead of rolls. Chickpea curry instead of cream cheese. Chai instead of coffee. Mango juice instead of orange juice.
At the reception, the driver was waiting. I couldn’t wait to get outside and to see where I was. I have no idea how long it took us to get to the other hotel where we were supposed to pick up two of my friends…judging by what I know now, it must have been at least an hour from my hotel at Vile Parle to the hotel in Colaba, but I had already lost my perception of time. I was just…watching, staring, listening.
And somewhere in the middle of the chaos, the noise, the dust, the honking, the non-existing traffic rules, I spotted two people at the reception of their hotel. Of course I knew that I was going to meet them there, and still, my stomach seemed to jump a little bit when I saw M & M…my friends from Eindhoven, I hadn’t seen them in two months. “See you in India” was what we’d say as goodbye. And yet, that’s what we did. We met again in India.
The ride from Mumbai to Nasik was…unique. It’s hard to say if the cows, the colourful goods carriers with Indian guys sitting on the roof, the small temples next to the road, the occasional cows, the slums, the palmtrees disturbed our catch-up-after-two-months-conversation, or if our babbling disturbed the process of realizing what was actually happening.
Then…Nasik. The place that had been categorized as “quite small place outside Mumbai” in my head. It’s actually as far “outside Mumbai” as Graz is “outside Vienna”, and with a population of roughly 2.000.000 would pass easily as biggest town in Austria.
After dropping our bags at the hotel, we were picked up again by a driver and taken to the groom’s parents’ place, where we were welcomed by the Indian family…and by more friends from Eindhoven. The level of our conversation is obviously not impacted by the continent on which they’re held.
After delicious afternoon-lunch, we were taken to the city center for…Saree shopping! We entered a small store, took off our shoes and were led upstairs where the floor ressembled an ocean of colours and materials. Faster than we’d expected everyone had picked “their” cloth which would be turned into a real saree just in time for day 3 of the wedding. Even the guys picked some wonderful Indian clothes (and each girl got another set of clothing). And shopping in India is not less exhausting than in Europe, especially when done in large groups 🙂
The evening program consisted of music and a ceremony…please forgive my ignorance, but I was so overwhelmed by everything that had happened that day, that I failed to focus on anything outside myself. So the central experience for me was to get henna tattoos on both my hands and arms.
A bit later that evening, I panicked when I realized that my passport wasn’t in my bag. In order not to cause any stress, I just sneaked out and went back to the hotel to verify that I’d left it there. And there I was, by myself, in darkness, at night, in a town far away from home, walking in the middle of the road as everybody else did, not 100 % about the directions to the hotel. This was when I realised that I felt perfectly safe. That means, exactly as safe as in Vienna, Istanbul or New York. Just because it’s India, it doesn’t mean that common sense and sense of orientation stop working. I anticipated that I would be enthusiastic and fascinated and exhausted and maybe even pissed off or freaked out by many things in the days to come…but not scared.
Oh, and the passport was in my hotel room of course.