Day 1: Leave JFK/Arrive in Delhi – Excited

 

My long overdue trip (last time I went was 20 years ago)  to India begin at JFK. I was giddy and excited — I couldn’t believe I was going to India, especially since I only decided on Monday, got my Visa on Tuesday, booked my ticket on Wednesday, and flew out on Thursday!

My friends and family around my age said the most surprising thing is that “everyone looks like you.”  I understood, but I didn’t really understand… After a ridiculously comfortable flight (on Air India!), I arrived on Friday evening in India. Customs took me a total of 20 minutes to get through, and my driver was there waiting for me five minutes later. I headed towards Old Delhi (Daryaganj) to stay with a buddy of mine from Michigan (Dinkar). I was captivated, staring at everything that passed me. I expected to be overwhelmed by the changes that everyone has spoken about in India. But, I realized I had no expectations and no image to base my comparison. I was simply absorbing everything… Surprisingly, despite the fact that I do not know Hindi and many friends call me a “white” Indian, I still felt at home — perhaps because everyone looked like me?

The first “billboard” (more like a poster) I saw when I going on to the highway was a poster of Amma (“The Hugging Saint” —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mata_Amritanandamayi). I thought this is probably a good sign, being that my family and I have gone to see her multiple times. The streets were filled with auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, and bicycles — most modes of transport filled with the maximum capacity plus one or two. Most streets have some sort of construction in progress and I could never find a single street sign (maybe I didn’t know where to look), somehow everything flowed despite what may seem like chaos to some.

I arrived at Dinkar’s place, got washed up and shortly thereafter we hit the streets to watch the first part of the Holi festival — bonfires along the street that symbolize the triumph of good over evil (I will try to find the details of the story)… We stood by a bonfire and gentlemen put a bindi on my forehead, and gulal (red powder) on my cheeks and I am instructed to put gulal on his cheeks. Dinkar tells me this is the only time that you willingly allow someone to put colors on you…

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