I heard over and over again, “Everyone gets sick in India.” I thought I was immune, sadly I discovered, I’m not.
However, I only get sick when I eat, which is probably nature’s way of making sure I don’t gain a hundred pounds here because the food is delicious!
To nurse myself back to superior health, I decided to splurge (we’re talking $20/night) and stay in a nicer hotel.
I think my time in Allahabad is as close as I’ll ever come to being a princess. But I’ll take it. I’m almost certain I’m the only person staying at the hotel, even though there seems to be usually four or five people working the front desk, two or three tasked I think with tending to my every need.
When the young boy showed me to my room, he opened the door, skipped in, spread his arms and said, “Welcome to your most beautiful room!”
My palace is decorated top to bottom with sparkling white lights, as the city prepares for Diwali - the festival of lights.
Add to all of this that the easiest method of transportation is cycle rickshaw, which means I sit in a carriage pulled by a bicycle, usually causing people to run up and wave at the only white person in town, has been pretty inflating for the ego.
I visited Sangham, the place where the three rivers - Yamuna, Ganges and Saraswati - converge and also the site of the Kumbh Mela, which happens every twelve years and is the largest gathering on earth - they’re expecting 70 million people this February! It’s already bustling with people, I can’t imagine what it will be like.
The Ganges here is nothing like where I was up north. Sadly, as it travels through the country it becomes a dumping ground, a bathtub, a washing machine, a toilet and a cremation site (it’s not uncommon to find body parts floating, apparently). Unlike near the ashram, where I had great respect for the sadhus (holy men), dressed in bright orange (representing their devotion to seeking the light), sitting peacefully in meditation along the river or walking barefoot through the forest, here, it’s hard to tell a sadhu from a beggar and it is a little tiresome.
When I got back to the hotel I asked how to go about booking a bus. The five people at the front desk were adamant that the bus was no way to travel and that I needed a train.
"I thought they were all booked?"
They responded by simultaneously all bobbling their heads, which I’m discovering sometimes means yes, sometimes no. Add that to my lack of Hindi, and I pretty much never know what’s going on.
"You’ve been gone all day." One said.
"Go take a rest, come down later and we’ll book for you."
I took a shower, came down half an hour later and filled out a form so they could send someone to get a ticket. Then the man looked at his watch, shocked. “Oh my god it is after eight not possible to book a ticket now!”
And so it goes in India.
They all talked in Hindi for a few minutes and then the same man turned to me and smiled.
"Don’t worry miss. You’ll get your ticket."
I went to my room and sure enough, ten minutes later there was knock at the door - delivery of my ticket.
After walking around town all day today - and miraculously dodging rickshaws, cars, bikes and cattle - I decide to get an ayurvedic massage, continuing the life of luxury.
Afterwards, the young girl that worked at the spa wanted to do my hair and makeup, insisting that I desperately needed it.
She finished off by sticking a sparkling bindi between my eyebrows, turned me to face the mirror and said, “Now you are a real Indian woman!”
And the most glamorous person on the train this evening as I embark on a mere eight hour journey.
Next stop, Agra.