There she goes. It’s been a couple months now. India has left an indelible mark upon me. She is now in my rear view mirror, and I cannot help but think what a truly epic journey it was. Sometimes in life you have those adventures and you think right before you’re about to live it, that “wow, this will be life changing.” And afterwards in looking back, all you can say is “wow, that was life changing”. And you wish you could hit the rewind button. In my mind, I have… Several times over.
It only seems like a moment ago, that I had left San Francisco for a night in Los Angeles for a day in London for fifteen days in India, for a total of twenty days on the trip (the math somehow makes sense). Yet, as we were living in those moments, each one seemed a distant memory of the ones both before it and after it, each day a lifetime of memories. A shining example of living an epic life-changing adventure.
As I hit the fast forward button, my memory flashes in my mind’s eye like a series of images appearing before me as I “shake it like a Polaroid picture”. Outkast plays in my head.
New Delhi: Qutab Minnar and The Lotus Temple were our first experiences with India. And it was a good one to set the standard, each event/monument afterwards only building upon it. The Qutab Minnar is the tallest man made structure without the use of machines; and our first evidence to the greatness of Mughal architecture. The Lotus Temple is a massive engineering marvel made up of nine “leaves” of the B’hai faith inviting people of all faiths to come worship. (There is a similar building on the north shore of Chicago that I used to bike by daily, years ago.)
Jaipur: Fort Amer was the first of the forts we saw. Until this moment when we were outside on the lake below and in front of it, I’d never seen anything like it. Inside, it was a small city (a large fort) that transported me back in time to another place entirely. I could almost see the ghosts of the people living there.
Road from Jaipur to Agra: Fatehpur Sikri – the massive, monumental and majestic city/fort that played a role in The Dark Knight Rises (which I only found out about later) and while I was there thought I was in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie. (I played Indiana of course.) If it wasn’t for the Taj, this would hands down be the most wondrous of the forts and different architectures we saw (in my opinion). Some lists I read before traveling had this as the number one thing to see in India (number two the Kerala backwaters and number three the Taj).
Agra: the incredible Taj Mahal, where over the course of a late afternoon & early evening to an early morning, we spent over seven hours on her grounds. This was the consensus number one place we visited (perhaps even ever, let alone this trip), hands down. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice. They just don’t.
Agra: Fort Agra was impressive in its own right, but had the unenviable task of following the Taj Mahal, of which nothing could compare. Still, the marble terraces were exquisite giving view to the Taj from a distance evoking images of an imprisoned king watching the structure he built from afar.
Mumbai: our favourite city by far that we just barely got a taste of, leaving it wanting so much more. Though we only spent a night there, we felt like we were living off the pages of Shantaram, having our fill of food and beer at Leopolds.
Goa: the beach, giving us a glimpse into what it would be during its high season in the winter months. Coming here then and living on the beach would be the epitome of lazily living on the beach yet with access to amazing food and nightlife.
Kerala: Mallapally – the village of my birth, now a little town. More than any other place in the planet, this place brings me home. I remember vividly being here as a child. I remember the birth of my brother here, now one of my best friends. Life here is at a standstill, where the most exciting thing is a daytime baptism, cutting down of a tree, an elephant that never came, and the food you are about to eat. To be here is to be disconnected from the world; and to be really, really happy about that.
Kerala: Thekkady was my second favourite thing we did (number three on Derek’s list). This temperate mountain town was simply beautiful with her game preserves and tea leaf estates and pepper estates. We stayed at a wonderful hotel with a view of the preserve directly from our rooms. My mother, my uncle and my friend had their very first elephant ride experience; I had my second. We went on a boat safari. We saw a traditional Kerala dance.
Kerala: Backwaters was number three on my list (number two on Derek’s list). Living on a houseboat for a day and a night is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Lazily traversing the waters amongst the stunning Kerala sceneries, having great conversations, eating phenomenal food, the monsoon kicking in late night and early morning, it was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the prior week.
Kerala: Fort Kochi is an ode to the old Cochin, with Catholic Churches & Jewish Synagogues – neither of which we saw – and Muslim Mosques and Portuguese architecture. We came for the fish, caught each day, and cooked right in front of you. I picked a thick juicy butter fish and had it cooked Kerala fish fry style. The monsoon hit us hard, dripping wet with the fish safely boxed up, we pushed the envelope getting back to our friend’s flat to make it in time for the airport going home. The fish was worth it.
Except for one day in Delhi when I got sick from a fever and stomach ache, ignoring the effects of jet lag, we were on the go every day that first week, and doing something almost every day the following week. My only regret was that we were unable to visit Amritsar to see the Golden Temple and the revelry of the Indian and Pakistani armies against each other. But if we had not taken that day to rest near the beginning of the trip, we would not have been able to do anything afterwards.
This was not a trip easily done. While we had moments of relaxation, we didn’t relax, though we did have much downtime in Mallapally. We saw more of India than most of our family and friends – and I venture to say, most anyone actually living in India – ever have or ever will. And yet it was but a taste of what we could see.
If we had to do the trip over again, we would have spent more time in Mumbai, had accommodations right on the beach in Goa as opposed to inland, and at least another day/night on the Kerala backwaters.
That’s why a trip like this is truly amazing; you know enough to know what you want more of. We wanted more of India.
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