Sick and Tired in Delhi PART TWO
‘You took the red pill’
Extract from draft book chapter about our time in Delhi in October
I sent my son some money and a message, ‘Well done, we’re both so proud of you.’ At same time, cutting the cord. You can cut the cord and still be loving. In fact doing that, rather than being distant actually sets you free. It sets you both free.
Same with my mum- little messages with pics, and no angst from me. This sets me miles and miles away. I thought being distant does that, but it doesn’t necessarily do that
Being all cosy cosy can keep you emeshed. This isn’t emeshed. It’s kind, it’s nice, it’s fairly non emotional- as in, it’s happy but not riddled with guilt or upset like before or feeling trapped by my mother.
My son’s doing better set free from me. I’m doing better set free from my mum. But with no angst to hold us in conflict. It’s so simple put like that.
Is this the magic secret, all there is to it, the how to transition from child to adult relationships that I never previously understood? How to transition from anger ridden despair teen breakdown, and overly emeshed thirty something into own life?
Yes, yes, it’s just like this.
Delhi is known for being polluted, and while we were there the air quality was particularly bad. Bryan Adams did a show and tweeted a photograph of himself, barely visible beyond the smog. We wondered whether it was better to have the ac on or to leave it off and keep the windows closed. We researched it and discovered that ac only gives a false sense of security and doesn’t get all the dangerous particulates out. We came across adverts for companies selling bottled air in Delhi. My heart went out to the people who live there all the time.
After Delhi we were going to Rajasthan for a month, a week in each city, we had booked the trains ages ago. But at least one of those cities was as polluted as Delhi. We’d just experienced a lot of pollution in Varanasi. After Rajasthan we had flights booked to go to Kathmandu, also known for poor air quality.
And there was an outbreak of Zika virus in Jaipur, our first stop in Rajasthan. Although very dangerous only for pregnant women, neither of us wanted to risk getting ill with something else.
We procrastinated for ages, the two of us struggling to make a decision, too much choice, not feeling well. Balancing what we want to do/feel up to doing in the present with will we regret not going to all those places once the trip is over. In the end we ripped up the plan, cancelled all the trains and decided to just go to Pushkar, the smallest and least polluted place on our plan.
All the trains were sold out- which was why we’d booked them so far in advance- we could only get there by bus. As there are no loos on buses we had to wait until we were well. We felt trapped in Delhi; we felt like the food and the pollution made us ill, or at least didn’t help, yet we couldn’t leave until we were well. We stayed six nights in that room in Delhi.
On our last morning we ate breakfast at the hotel sitting out into the rooftop, porridge made with water, with banana. It was so nice being out together, it felt like an outing. The past few days had been mainly spent indoors, one of us only going out for food or drink or to the pharmacy over the road. Once or twice we went to the cafe downstairs, which was a bit sad; greasy and with doors that opened into the pollution of the street.
We watched a Westerner, he lived right at the top above the dirty kitchen, completing Hindu rituals, or possibly just washing with a water bottle, we weren’t sure. We watched him doing his laundry on the rooftop. What a life. We wondered what his story was? Divorced? Living on a pension? Hindu convert? Disappeared?
That night we got a rickshaw from the hotel to catch the night bus to Pushkar and saw the Delhi smog close up.
I tried to soak up the sights of Main Bazar, the neon lights, the mopeds, the cows, I saw a cow and a calf with big floppy ears; knowing it might be our last time. I lost concentration, and Main Bazar was gone.
We were into a different area, we saw veg restaurants, pure veg places, I thought, Why didn’t we go here? Oh, yes, we were sick and ill and indoors!
And then, utter craziness, ‘worse’ than Kolkata. Cows, thin cows, cows with floppy ears, cows trying to eat non existent grass in the middle of road, like the central reservation, and licking a stone in the middle of the barrier. A group of calves eating from a trough.
Everything grey, dust, dark, dust. Buildings that looked like they had been derelict for decades or were for demolition, by UK standards. Birds nest wiring amongst them and then, a few inflatable toys, bright pink balloons, and big brightly coloured teddies wrapped up in cellophane.
It looked like a market had finished and was packing up. There was every type of transport; lorries, cars, rickshaws, oxen and cart, men with carts, and men with sacks on their heads. Men pulling carts, some with another man pushing, but some alone, with huge loads. A man carrying a huge load on his shoulders, wrapped, two leg ends and castors poked out, a chair or a table, he carried it up to the top of a ladder to a vehicle alone, then men at the top took it.
Dust, dark, dust, and traffic jams. A sign said: Men at work. Oh God yes. If ever that sign was valid, it was there. And everything within a thick smog. It seemed unbelievable how anyone survives, does this every day. How there’s any old people in Delhi.
A cycle rickshaw got caught on our rickshaw. Everyone around just shouted instead of helping. Usually touching of vehicles, even a scrape, does not result in shouting, not like in the UK. Maybe this was because it held up the traffic, and maybe it was a status thing, with bicycle rickshaws considered lower in the pecking order than auto rickshaws.
On previous night bus journey I/we were worried about needing a pee, this time, that was eclipsed by worrying about diaorriah. And then, Oh great, blood, my period started as well.
The bus depot was dusty, with rows of numbered stalls of travel agents, each with a desk and a tiny office with seats. To get to the toilets we had to go down a path to the side of one of the stalls, then along another. There were lots of men hanging about, and big dogs, and next to the toilets there was a big room with men sleeping on the floor, like a paying homeless shelter or very low cost accommodation. There was a hand washing sink outside but nothing inside the loos, just Indian style toilets which was fine, but no sinks like in the trains and not very clean. Even if I had taken a bottle of water in with me like I would on the train, I’d not be confident enough with hand hygiene to use my moon cup so cloth sanitary pads and a lungi would have to suffice.
On the bus a dreadlocked young woman across the aisle spread out a white lungi on the bus seat, it’s good to do for hygiene anyway. I did mine double layer just in case but my cloth sanitary pad didn’t let me down, as they say in the ads. The only thing it meant was not being sure if my pain, was urge to go to the loo, period pain, or hunger; we didn’t eat anything in the hours prior to the journey. But we managed the journey okay, we stopped for the loo and not eating beforehand worked.
We changed buses for the last part of the journey. Outside the window were bushy trees, mountains and desert. I saw a wall painted mauve, and another with delicate scalloped shapes cut out of the bricks, and then we were in Pushkar.
Thank you very much for reading