Once Upon a Time in India
How I End Up in India?
So you might be wondering why India? Well, to be honest it was a completely spontaneous trip. It all started a year ago when I met Ranjit a person who nearly killed me (purely by accident) on the day of his arrival. By virtue of the fact I stayed alive (but that’s another story) and we became friends. To make the story short I was invited to visit India and it sounded very appealing due to the several factors such as the opportunity itself to visit the country I always dream to see since childhood, the hospitality that was offered to me and the adventure that was waiting in a foreign land. The idea of a magic carpet ride was truly compelling. I thought about it for couple of days and finely made my decision to say YES!
All the odds were against this crazy idea. My finances were not stable (but then again when do we ever have extra money to travel), timing was not the best because I was going to be away from home for several weeks which is something I’ve never done before. Nevertheless, my desire, curiosity and spirit of adventure overwhelmed my inconvenient circumstance. I got on a plane and flew to India where the family of my new friend Ranjit greeted us at the airport. It was quite a reunion, warm, passionate and loving! Just like in Bollywood!
What happened later will be difficult to fit in couple of paragraphs, but I’ll try. First things first, the sound of constantly beeping cars that find the honking as a mean of communication was new and overwhelming at first, but later it became a backdrop of Indian roads without which driving itself is impossible. I’ve heard that drivers refuse to go on a road if the honk is not working, that’s how important it is!
In India Kolkata became my base where I was privileged to attend numerous parties and events. And although my experience of streets of famous Kolkata was mainly through the car window, I got to witness many things I didn’t see before. Of course, the poverty is obvious and strikes you at first, but when you bypass the initial shock of it you get to see the joy on people’s faces, so maybe that’s why they call Kolkata “The City of Joy? “Kolkata (formally known as Calcutta) is the capital of India’s West Bengal state. Founded as an East India Company trading post, it was India’s capital under the British Raj from 1773–1911. Today it’s known for its grand colonial architecture, art galleries and cultural festivals. It’s also home to Mother House, headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, whose tomb is on site.” I was lucky enough to visit this place and see the room where mother Teresa humbly lived. She didn’t own much and most of her belongings were moved to the museum after her death, which is also right in the orphanage. It was such a surreal experience.
While in India I visited New Delhi, Agra, and Guwahati (Assam Sate).
The astounding architecture of ancient Agra and contrasting, always buzzing modern city of New Delhi was truly breathtaking.
When we landed in New Delhi we then got in the rental car and drove for few hours to majestic Taj Mahal! Seeing that great architecture made of Marble and gemstones, perfectly symmetrical and captivating with its glorious size, holly scriptures, gemstone engravings and incredible history was absolutely amazing! We were group of 4, Ranjit’s cousins joined us on this trip to experience Agra once again and show us around. Trip to Agra was quite fun in itself; and I’m certain about it because I didn’t fall asleep in the car on our way there, and that says it all!
As we were walking, while cutting all possible lines due to our VIP tickets and a nifty tour guide we were able to see all of Taj Mahal and got all details of its beautiful yet brutal history. Some of the interesting things I learned was the fact that Taj Mahal was built as a tomb for the Mumtaz Mahal the favorite wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Before visiting Agra, I though Taj Mahal was a palace where emperors lived. I also learned that emperor Shah Jahan was planning on building second Taj Mahal, with black marble for himself right near the white one so he could stay forever next to his beloved one, even after death. However, he was thrown into the prison and later killed by his son for spending dynasties treasures on matters of afterlife luxuries.
New Delhi Bazar and Qutab Minar
Later that day on our way to New Delhi, we stopped by the local restaurant to grab a bite. And oh god the food was amazing! I have to say food is absolutely delicious everywhere in India!
Next morning my new Indian friends decided to show me local Bazar where I picked up few souvenirs. Place was packed and chaotic, full of stands with various souvenirs for all budgets and tastes. Conveniently located food stands and small restaurants, were spreading unique aromas all around the bazar, each specializing in its own dish. We picked one and ordered some food, and to stay true to Indian custom I began to eat with my hands, somehow food tastes better that way. As day progressed we went to another site called The Qutab Minar, “…it is a minaret that forms part of the Qutab complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, India.” The origins of Qutab Minar are shrouded in controversy. Some believe it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of the Muslim rule in India. Others say it served as a minaret to the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer. Either way the site is majestic and something worth to check out if you get to visit New Delhi.
Guwahati Assam State
Trip to Guwahati was a total surprise, my companion Ranjit did not inform me about it, instead he kept it a secret till we reached the Guwahati airport, which was very sweet of him. The biggest surprise of it all was the opportunity to visit a private tea estate in the foothills of the Shillong plateau. Once we landed, we were picked up by the driver sent to us from the private tea plantation Amchong. On our way to plantation we asked the driver to stop on the road so we could pick up few fruits such as pineapples and oranges. I have to confess that I’ve never tasted pineapples sweeter and more delicious than those. When we reached Amchong, we had two young budding tea magnate inheritors who gave us a walking tour of the entire 5000-acre tea estate including the factory. Our tour included lunching, and learning the entire life cycle of tea processing (from planting to plucking to processing and eventually tasting) as well as visiting local Hindu temple built by the owners of the tea estate for their workers who lived at the plantation. I was surprised to learn that Assam is one of the highest tea-producing areas in the world, contributing 80% of India’s export and 55% of the country’s total tea production. At the end of the tour we said our goodbyes and were gifted the tea from the plantation.
Visiting Assam was a quite unique experience and I will always remember that day. I will always remember my trip to India since this was my first step out of US into another world. World that was very different from where I was from, world that was calling me to explore it and learn about it and now I’m happy to share my experience with all of you! Hope this post will awake your desire to travel and explore the world for yourself! Which part of the world is calling you?