Another transit day, although this time we are domestic. I met my travel partner, Kamla, at departure gate 48 of the New Delhi airport this morning. Before today we had only conversed via email and text message, but turns out she ain’t half bad! We chatted at the gate for a while, waiting for a delayed aircraft, which we finally boarded at 10:30 am, headed for Varanasi.
One hot lunch, a brownie, two mini bottles of water and 55 minutes later, we touched down at Varanasi. A small, but efficient and well laid-out arrivals terminal. Our driver was waiting for us with a smile and a sign (HELEN KATHERINE) and a trunk for our bags.
Once we got on the road, Kamla and I looked outside the windows and then looked at each other and finally had that moment…that “we’re in India” moment. Like, are you serious? Excitement ensued in the form of consistently verbalising everything I saw in that 30 to 40 drive…
– My first Indian cow. And another cow. Cow! Cow! Cow! Look a cow! Baby cow!
– Dogs. Stray dogs. Or one stray dog who teleports from place to place, because seriously, I think Varanasi has only one breed of dog; neglected golden mutt. I’m a softy for the animals, so this is not easy to see, but I understand it’s part of Indian life.
– A woman gracefully leaning out the window of a van, packed full of people, to paint the road with her car sickness. Do what you have to do girl! I’m not judging you.
– Shops set up in unfinished buildings, selling everything. Lids for gallon buckets, Mango Sip (I still need to discover what this is, sounds tasty!), clothes displayed on mannequins that hang by their headless necks from the rafters…everything.
– Buildings under construction, using bamboo and dead branches as scaffolding.
– All the scooters and motorbikes with all the people on them.
– Dusty dirt roads also under construction and well as their newly paved counterparts, decorated with meaningless lines down the middle.
Once we arrived at Hotel Surya and got to our room, we relaxed for a few minutes before going back to reception and obtaining our WiFi passwords, then heading out for a small trek down the road to get our bearings. We can’t go to far on foot from the hotel, but after five minutes walking we found a mall. We aren’t sightseeing today, that’s all planned for tomorrow and the next day. Instead we perused the shops, getting an idea of what mall prices are for clothing and other items, so we can up our bargaining game later on down the road.
The things that seem the most mundane while at home are so often the most interesting when you’re in a foreign place. We spent a good 15 to 20 minutes in the grocery store, and left with a large bottle of water each and some Indian snacks (spent 1.40 CAD for all of it) for later in the evening, knowing we wouldn’t be having the most amazing supper (McSpicy Paneer anyone?).
Our stop at the grocery store also gave us both our first real introduction to the Indian Obvious Stare. I don’t even get glanced at back home, but in India…I feel pretty special. I received some semi-intrigued looks at the airport, but standing in the cookie aisle, a girl and her friend stopped dead in their tracks to stare at me. Stop. Stand. Stare. I actually don’t mind it. I understand how strange it can be, In a country of 2 billion people, even with lots of tourism, the chances of seeing a blue eyed pasty white female with light brown hair probably aren’t very high. On the way out, another girl blocked the door way, almost dumbfounded by what she was looking at. Literally her jaw dropped. It’s entertaining, to say the least.
We ended the day sitting by the pool and fighting hard against the jet lag.