It’s been an unusual day…. For a start I’m here – in India. I’ve been dreaming of this for years and now I’m here I feel I should be stupidly excited, but instead I’m fighting with my brain.
I always have a wobble when I arrive on the other side of the world alone and unsure. I wonder what I’m doing and wish either Andy was here with me or that I was at home with Andy. Which is silly because I know I’ll have a great time, but it’s an anxiety battle, that in the past, I have rarely won. This time I have tried to use all the yoga I can to fight it, remembering I am not my mind, my mind does not control me. Just because my head wants to be terrified and is telling me to run into a corner and hide away does not mean that is what I should do.
Today started when I was woken by a beautiful Indian air hostess giving me a continental plane breakfast at about 4am UK time. I’d already had a wobble while waiting to board the plane. But now after not much sleep and the realisation that I would soon be far from home and alone, the battle with the mind began afresh. But unlike other times the yoga has now given me the self-awareness to recognise what is happening before I work myself up into a blubbering anxious mess. Also knowing I have done this many times before and the energy I waste being anxious is just that – a waste of energy – has made me take stock, dive in and use the energy for exploring instead.
Arriving was easy. I found my driver and safely embarked on my journey into Delhi. I say safely… it started off strange when the driver wouldn’t let me wear a seatbelt in the back of the car saying: “It’s not allowed,” but his English wasn’t good enough to explain why. A silent, sealbeltless journey to the hotel followed as it quickly became clear that his English wasn’t up to a conversation and I had no idea how to speak a word of his language. Plus I was busy concentrating on just how close the traffic could get without actually hitting us and making absolutely sure I was looking in the other direction whenever a hawker appeared at car windows ahead.
The Hotel Kyron is adequate. Some questionable wiring – to be expected – the air con sounds like it’s going to fall out the wall and the only plug socket that works requires my adaptor to be held into the socket with a chair. The staff are very friendly, but think I’m mad because I take the stairs not the lift to the fourth floor.
My next mind battle kicked off once I was left alone in the hotel room. I didn’t want to venture out – it felt scary out there, yet I desperately wanted to explore the vibration and bustling streets the taxi had just driven me through. But the staying indoors and feeling scared and lonely was in danger of winning. So I decided to take a quick wander before coming back and sleeping a bit then exploring further. The wander was the best thing I could have done. I walked to the end of the street and just stood on the corner taking it all in. No one paid any attention to me, apart from some very cute young girls who just wanted to say hello and shake my hand. Now I could nap knowing the world outside wasn’t terrifying and I was winning the battle with my mind.
My hotel is near a huge clothes shopping area, the obvious place for a safe wander, while there would be lots of men around clothes means lots of women so the streets wouldn’t feel so full of staring men and therefore a lot less intimidating for day one. I headed into the back streets and was instantly spotted by a young Indian man who asked me all the questions the guide book said he would: “What is my profession? Where am I from? What is my name? How long have I been here?” Then the predictable: “I’ll take you to the tourist info for a city map”. Unable to convince him I didn’t want a map and the tourist office being in the direction I was already walking I found myself sat in a tourist office opposite an Indian man who told me he used to live in London. He also told me about his friends in Nottingham and cousins who got married in Potters Bar and asked me lots of questions about my plans. He soon realised he wasn’t going to be selling me any tours and after a quick chat I was on my way.
I headed for the main street, a good move. The streets were so packed with people I was barely noticed (men stared but that’s to be expected!) – perfect. I had deliberately avoided anything that made me stand out, no guidebook, no map, not even a bag and I meandered pretty much unhassled around the shops and stalls.
The only constant distraction was the traffic, it shares the road with throngs of peole and crawls along just inches from you beeping to make you aware of their presence and to remind you to get out the way because they ain’t stopping.
I walked to the end of the shopping street and could see what I thought was a market across a busy highway. I decided tiredness and heat made it a good idea to give it a miss today and headed back down the other side of the street until it came to an end at a metro station. Then back to the hotel with three scarfs in hand and a grand total of £2 lighter in the wallet stakes. I even managed to find some scarfs for 30p, now that could be very dangerous.
On the way back to the hotel I passed the now familiar young girls again who were delighted to have had two handshakes in one day – so cute.
This evening I have spent planning tomorrow’s expedition (and discovering that quite a lot of Delhi is closed on a Monday and re-planning tomorrow’s expedition). Dinner was Chicken Biryani and a nann bread from room service and a beer. Wattsapp meant that as soon as I found wifi Andy has been keeping me company via text. Now I am hoping I will be able to beat the jet lag and sleep through till morning despite it being about 6pm UK time….
Tomorrow evening I meet my tour group and the trip begins afresh…