Friday, November 29, 2013

Back where it all began

It's been about 18 months since I last blogged about life in India. During my last year living here I had lost my blogging mojo, in fact it was more than that, I had lost my India mojo. I found the last year here particularly tough, I think it's because I knew my time here was coming to an end and I had mentally let go and the daily frustrations where really getting me down. I was a little bit pathetic, I would burst into tears over the most stupid things. I had lost the ability to recognise how blessed I really was, especially considering the country I was living in and how much harder life was for the millions of Indians living below the poverty line. I had well and truly switched off and was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

I moved back to Sydney in early July and I have been loving it. Even 4 months later I am so grateful for the simple things… Being able to step out my front door to go for a run, the anonymity on public transport, long hot showers, the food... oh the food. 

When I left India I wasn't sure when I would be back, and at that point I didn't really care. Don't get me wrong there would be things I would miss, but I was worn out. I knew I would be back but when? It turned out that when would be the 26th of November, the five year anniversary of the day I first went to India. It must be my personal auspicious day for travelling to India. 

From the moment I arrived at Sydney Airport I immediately felt back in the culture. India is heading into wedding season and my flight was packed with Indians heading home. On my flight to Singapore, sitting across the isle from me, was an Indian couple. In the row in front of them sat their two children (one still a baby) and their nanny/wet-nurse. Such an unusual and foreign concept for an Australian, to watch this older lady look after and feed this affluent couples' children. The connection between the nanny and children was clearly very strong. I had so many questions whirling through my brain. Such an interesting dynamic.

I arrived in India at 10:30 pm on the same day. I'm not much of a sleeper on planes so I was exhausted. Despite the exhaustion I was wide awake at 5am (10:30am Sydney time). I didn't waste anytime getting back into the swing of things. The first thing I did was meet up with the old running crew at Pansheel Park. In a lot of ways it felt like I had never left. I was expecting the weather to be cold and foggy but I have been pleasantly surprised with warm weather, however the pollution is hideous.

On day one I went with Ray to a hygiene training class for slum kids. We cruised through Delhi on the back of Paul's Royal Enfield. It seems that Vino- the sexy purple scooter, has been somewhat neglected due to fancier options. I'll be giving him some love while I am here. 
The area in Old Delhi where this project was held is one of the smelliest places I have been in Delhi. The streets where narrow and congested, and trucks lined the streets filled with fresh goat skins swarming with flies. Outside the building the hygiene class was held, the pavement was covered with human excrement. It was a confronting place and it was good to be reminded of how blessed I am.

For lunch we visited one of my favourite haunts, the Afghani Darbar restaurant…. Oh how I missed you. I ate my weight in the most delicious cuisine washing it back with lassi namkeen (a slightly salty,cucumberry yoghurt drink with cumin). I must make it when I get home.

Day two saw me back behind the wheel of a car. A driver was needed to take the development team to a homeless shelter bordering Yamunna Bazzar. I now realise my Delhi driving style is my preferred default, I enjoy the freedom of changing lanes without fear of cutting someone off, the organised chaos of roundabouts and generally driving without fear of aggravating other drivers. It's far more relaxed. Driving in Sydney scares me now, I am so aware of the 'rules' so careful not to cut someone off and I find myself being over cautious when it comes to giving way. In Delhi you can be as selfish with the road as you like and no one cares. On the drive to the shelter the Indian staff were not the best at giving directions. We headed north and then I was directed to take a U-turn under a flyover and to cross four lanes of traffic as quickly as possible. Once I came to a halt was instructed to reverse about 400 metres into oncoming traffic to arrive at the shelter. Well okay then. I've still got it.

After the session at the shelter I dropped the team to the Old Delhi project and headed back to the office. I hoped to stop at my favourite Old Delhi Lassi stand on the way, but sadly it was demolished to make way for the sprawling metro.

By the time I got back to the office I was starving! I hadn't eaten Indian food since I left in July and it was time. Steph went and picked up some Shahi Paneer and Aloo Gobi from a local vegetarian place. It was good stuff. I am not really too careful when it comes to food in Delhi. I have built up a fairly good immunity to Delhi belly over the years. With the food came the ubiquitous salad of radish, cucumber, onion and lemon. I nibbled at a few pieces before noticing it was actually pretty dirty, so I left it alone and thought nothing of it.

Day 2 was also American Thanksgiving. I forgot how social our life was in Delhi so when we were invited to a friends pot luck thanksgiving dinner I was there. American thanksgiving food is like nothing else. You might be thinking it's similar to an Australian Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, and in some ways it is. The funny thing is that the main course dishes would be considered dessert in Australia. I chowed down on mashed pumpkin with maple syrup, stuffing, and my favourite; sweet potatoes cooked with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts with mini marshmallows melted over the top. Now where I come from that would be considered dessert. I'm not going to lie, it was good and I ate waaaaay too much.
Despite struggling to stay awake (damn you jet lag) it was so nice to catch-up with some of my favourite Delhi friends. I'm really happy to be here.

At 3:30am I paid dearly for, what I am pretty sure was, the dirty salad. And I have been paying for it all morning. Argh Delhi Belly! I am hoping to pull it together this afternoon because it's Friday, and that means drinks at the Australian High Comm.

So that's where it's at.