A beautiful Audi R8 weaves its way through New Delhi traffic, costing more than all the vehicles ahead and behind for miles. A well dressed young man in designer sunglasses and shiny shoes walks along the side of the road, trying not to step in the shit and rubbish all around him. Girls dressed in bright beautiful sarees pat down cow dung to be dries in the sun. An older woman squats down to pee in a bush, while the Taj Mahal stands majestically behind her.
India seems to me a country of disparity and contradictions, and I too am caught deciding at times whether I love or hate this country. I’ve been feeling sick from the food for about three days now, and am only just starting to feel better. It’s times like this that my mind dwells on the familiar things I’d rather have at home than be among the unfamiliar half a world away. I’d give anything now for a nice juicy Pittsburgh rare steak, with a loaded potato on the side. Instead I’m faced with the street food that got me sick in the first place, or go off to more expensive restaurants that seem tailor made to take willing tourists for all their money.
I hate all the trash and cow poop in the streets and get upset when I witness people just throw things out their window without a second thought. I tire of all the autorickshaw drivers who try to take me somewhere I don’t want to go for an inflated price I don’t want to pay. The novelty is fun at first, but quickly becomes an annoyance. I get wary of anyone trying to befriend me because of all the shop owners who have tried to take me back to their shops in the past; it makes it difficult to really let down your defenses for a genuine interaction. The pendulum swings toward hate.
Today I decided to leave Jaipur a day early for Jodhpur and I’m thankful that I did so. In my first daylight train ride, I finally got to see the Indian countryside. As we steamed westward, the scenery changed from dirty city slowly to farmland, and then finally desert. Watching the sunset from behind the window bars of our sleeper train will be one of the more memorable images I take home from India. As night blanketed the desert, I could begin to see small campfires lighting up across the horizon. The views of small huts surrounded by fences made of bushes reminded me of documentaries I’d seen of African tribes.
After a quick trip through the city, I arrive at the guesthouse. Finally able to sit down an have a late dinner, I’m glad to be in a quiet city again since Varanasi. Once again on a rooftop, I can look down and see the subdued hues of the blue city below, but it is the view above that is most striking. Looking up the mountain, I can see the mighty fort of Mehrangarh as a dark outline in the sky, towering above the city like a dark demon, backlit by the light of the full moon. It’s like something out of a fairy tale, and the fort is the lair of the evil king.
I will not be seeing the fort tomorrow, or the day after, however. I’ve instead taken the rest of my budget and arranged a two day camel safari. So tomorrow, into the desert and onto the final upswing.