I visited Delhi at the end of March. Many of my colleagues at work are Indian expat mothers and they gave me many beautiful things and delicious food. They gifted nice clothes to me - I wore raw silk kurtas from Chennai on a 8D7N private Golden Triangle tour.
This trip is my first time in India. Dropped off first day for lunch in the middle of Connaught Place because I didn't want any tour guide for the first day. Yep, on travel forums there are people trying to scare me off thinking I would cause problems because I am Chinese (seriously).
Surprise... I fit in well. There are a couple people who approached me that seemed shady but its nothing a little self-made Bollywood dramatic acting can't fix. A stray dog guided me through the crowd.
At India Gate a Rajasthani lady vendor snapped a few beautiful red and gold bracelets on me and asked me to buy them for a modest price but they were tooooo nice and I just arrived and felt I haven't earned the right to wear such things.... and she accepted my declination and didn't push further.
I couldn't find that particular piece ever again so it's an excuse to go back and visit the Rajasthani ladies again at India Gate. Second time around I fit in well enough that NO ONE came up to hassle me. Wow.
My hotel was Clarks Inn Kailash Colony which was a bit pricey but I did want a quiet out of the way kind of place. It felt like I was the only guest of the entire hotel. I had fun taking strolls alone in Kailash Market in the early mornings where a stray dog responded well to my greeting and led me to Juggernaut restaurant where I had the best uttapams ever. I loved the temple theme.
Then it was time to hit the road, Agra for Taj Mahal and Agra Fort for a day, Fatehpur Sikri on the next and onwards on the road to Jaipur where I visited Chokhi Dhani, made local friends and visited their home till late at night - I trusted my safety and my life to my impromptu hosts and it certainly was a fun experience, harrowing motorcycle ride through crazy traffic included!
Getting to the meeting with the 'bhaiyyas' was an adventure in itself since I barely know any Hindi save for one or two words. The car went 'missing' that evening (as we joked. Actually used by family members) and they couldn't pick me up at the hotel so I hired an uber, the fare was just 137rs across town but the fun part is the driver didn't know any English.
Desperate times calls for desperate acting. I pointed to his phone on the dash, just went "GPS aachar!" and he went "THANK YOU". Hilarious!
My new friends were impressed with my story of how I had my cultural exchange at work, became Hindu, "accidentally" enrolled into a traditional dance competition... I'm sure I'll see them again one day.
In Jaipur I also visited Amber Fort, City Palace, the old observatory and was thrilled to learn a little bit of astronomy from my guide who was saving his astronomy knowledge as a party piece - he surprises foreign tourists a lot like that.
At Amber Fort people couldn't tell my gender from my appearance and some addressed me as Maharajah and some Maharani. It was harmless and funny. I joked being Maharajah for a day is not an easy job. I didn't want to offend anyone from being too dismissive nor do I want to be too approachable.
Generally in India I try and pay as much respects as possible to culture and history, and everyone was eager to welcome me as a local, it seemed.
I did not like seeing a lot of other tourists acted rude/loud to people and certainly didn't like being jammed into overcrowded restaurants with them; but then again I didn't know I would fit in well in India!
So the last 3 days of my 8 day stay - those are for self-exploration. I did wander around Delhi as a lost sheep, going to the places locals went, walked alone at odd hours to hails of "Jai Kali!" as I walked past community temples (Oh my, I will now do pooja daily in return) and in the end I returned home disoriented like I was from a different world altogether.
I spent a month sitting in my office thinking - I shouldn't be here. Friends said I acted much differerent and it's not just the colorful scarves that accompanied 'their' kurthas from Chennai. Who am I?
The lost sheep who wandered around Delhi, and paid respects to the Rajput empresses of old at Fatehpur Sikri.
No doubt, one day I'll find myself in India again, I just hope it will be sooner than the fifteen years I took to earn my passage there.
Until next time, Incredible India!