The number of times I’ve sworn I’m getting a penis once we get to Thailand is impossible to keep track of. While I enjoy my chesticles and wearing dresses, I can’t survive another 12-19 hour bus drive that only stops for a ladies peebreak once.
In India (as well as many other places in the world) it is perfectly acceptable for a man to pull his pants down and urinate publicly. Women on the other hand not only have to deal with a far less efficient plumbing system, they also have either to find a toilet, or a bush so far away that no one can hear them scream if they get raped. Because, you know, vaginas are gross to look at, penises are totally fine.
Now that’s off my chest, I’d like to announce that we are currently in Amritsar. Where’s that, you say? I have no idea. Bruno said something about a golden temple and we like shiny things. Men here wear turbans and no shoes. When we arrive at 8 in the morning, it is raining and the streets are all muddy and gross. Poor barefoot guys. Of course, when the weather’s shit, there’s also only one autorickshaw driver around, and he wants to overcharge. We get to the hostel, a large apartment block full of Indians, which means it’s cheap and dirty. Oh well.
Now, ever since our psychology teacher in High School told us about her trip to India, where she mentioned that McDonald’s is a vegetarian “restaurant”, I’ve wanted to go just for that. What is a vegetarian McDonald’s like? I’ve been harassing Sara, who is gluten, lactose and life intolerant, and finally she budged today. Finding this World famous place is a bit of a struggle though, since no tuk tuk driver knows what or where McDonald’s is – what? So we need to use two different drivers to get here, since the first one just drops us off by a mall-looking place, far away from everything. Finally, when we arrive, I have a large McVeggie meal and it is 27 kr. 27 kr! Denmark should reconsider the prices, but definitely keep the Big Tasty. Oh, how I miss having dead cow in my mouth.
Getting back to our hostel is the same struggle; two different drivers that don’t recognise the name or address of the hostel, even though it’s super close to The Golden Temple. We rest after our trying day, and at 2.30, we drive to the Indian-Pakistana border for the Retreat Ceremony.
We share a car with two local couples, an old and a newlywed, and they are busy showing us pictures on their phones – Indians love to take hundreds of blurry pictures and then show them all to whoever is willing to look – and they ask to see my husband (we tell everyone we’re married), so I end up showing them a photo of the only guy that’s not Bruno on my phone: Michael from Jaisalmer on a pink scooter. Thanks Michael for sending me that picture, haha.
We get to the border, and that’s when we get seperated from Bruno. All the lines are according to gender, and there’s a seperate line for tourists – these two lines lead to the VIP section. We reunite in this section, standing on a big staircase, looking out on a long street where the two countries meet. On India’s side of the border, local women and children gather on the road and dance and run around with their flag. I recognise one of the songs as Jai Ho from the Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack. After some dancing, guards do a funny walk towards the gate between the two countries, and then open it. People go absolutely crazy with excitement, and I’ll admit I do too. I find it very moving for some odd reason.
On our way back to the hostel, the couples insist we stop by a temple. I follow them, just taking it all in, but hurry back to the car, as the driver tells us we only have a few minutes. We get back, and since Sara and I cannot eat Indian food, because it’s so spicy, we go to Domino’s (it’s close to the hostel, give us a break). This place is also vegetarian, just FIY. I have like two slices of pizza, so Sara gives my leftovers to a poor woman on the street as we head to The Golden Temple for the 9 o’clock ceremony. It starts raining again.
Now, this temple is so beautiful, especially at night. People are bathing in the water surrounding this golden wonder, kissing the ground around it, and handing out food for small offerings. Once we get inside, we are hit with the feeling of being very unwelcome, as people take a break from praying to look up and stare at us. Everything inside is golden and so beautiful. People are sitting down, praying, while men are playing instruments and singing in a circle filled with flowers and money. We have a quick look around and decide not to interrupt and invade their space anymore. We’ve lost the ever-curious Bruno along the way and have to walk the dark and narrow alleys to find the hostel by ourselves. It proves to be very challenging, mostly because we both want to set each other on fire.
Now, we are both kind of over India by now. Maybe it’s the food, maybe it’s that we feel unsafe and unwelcome too often, maybe it’s because we’re sober. It’s a beautiful, yet confusing country, and I am forever grateful that I got the opportunity to come here and have these experiences, because so few people actually get to do this. I am ready to move on though, but I still have things to see and do here, so I cannot listen to anymore complaining. I have been writing down some general thoughts and observations about India that I will share when we leave in one week. Until then, know that I miss and think about the ones that matter back home and all over the place.
Happy birthday, grandma.