Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Director's Cut: The group email that was never sent.

I had planned on sending this email on my last day in India. But for reasons I can't remember (I think I was tired), I left it half-finished; and only completed it today, day 6 back in Australia. I figured it was absolutely stupid to send a travel email from Australia, so instead, for the benefit of those readers who were actually interested in my trip, I would post it on "Passenger". It is not my best piece of writing, with probably hundreds of grammatical errors; but if I changed it too much that would be unfair. I wrote it on my trip - the last day - it deserves, well I thought anyway, to be kept in its original form. Even if it is shit.


Dear All,
Welcome to the final instalment of these group emails from my time on the road: described by some as "massive", "lame", and "an attempt by me to develop my personal branding." So, in light of this "positive" feedback, I'll try (emphasis:try) to stay away from the rhetoric non-sense; if I don't though, my apologies beforehand.
I have become cynical these last months - especially towards group emails. They are, after all, just another ego trip - an outlet of backpackers to gloat in their glory; consolidate their experiences and give it a sense of achievement. We post our photos online - look at ME, ME, ME. (Meanwhile outside the Internet cafe, a kid has no food and is begging for a rupee.) We write our blogs - giving our travels this narrative element to it; yet the reality that we call our "adventure" is the same one where people struggle to survive. We write these group emails - for who? for what? Do you guys really give a damn what I have been doing? Or I am writing this thing, just to boost my pathetic western ego. The curse of tourism. We travel to try understand the world; yet we leave understanding near to nothing, only the superficial side that we could have gained just sitting at home watching ABC. Like I said, I have become cynical. Time to go home.
Nevertheless, with one day left on the road, I will leave my cynicism aside, I just write this damn thing. Tick off the list. Put it in writing so I don't have to explain it all again. Finish this trip once and for all.
Here it goes....
After the logistical nightmare of Tibet, Nepal was breeze; pleasant: like the warm welcoming of a mother's arms as a child. The food was delicious. (especially the Japanese). The people could actually be trusted. The landscape was stunning, despite the incessant rainfall that resulted in endless cloud cover and rain.
And in the same way when you go back to see your mother, I got a bit lazy, successfully spending two weeks in Kathmandu Valley, doing next to nothing - indulging in fresh fruit juices, playing pool with locals, listening to cheesy cover bands, and devising strategies to hide from these two random guys who keep following me around wanting to be "my best friend". Weird.
When I finally got off my proverbial couch, I managed to get a decent amount of exploring done, including spending time at Chitwan, Pokara and Lumbini. (Translation - in order - a National Park, a picturesque lakeside village, and the birthplace of Buddha). I did the usual - a combination of mixing with the locals and being a blatant tourist - enjoyable yes, but after a while, I was getting irritated by it all.
Nepal was easy: it's the kind of place that people with mid-life-crises should run away too. Or if you want to go on a trek. The international tourism market is certainly sorted there. Politically, well that is another story that I will save you from hearing in this email. The Himalayan Kingdom was certainly enjoyable, but I had this constant yearning for hard travel - the kind where you sit on 16 hours bus trips, where you don't know where are you going. Challenging travel.
Northern India
I had this rather lame idea that Nepal would somehow be a good transition from Oriental Asia to Hindi Asia. I could have never been so wrong. India was a complete head-spin. I have never been to a country that I have loved so much, yet so irritated with on a 24 hour basis. As I have said to some friends, India made China look like Pleasantville. My first stop in India, Varansai, the holiest of holy for Hindis, was like entering into the set of Lord of The Rings Circus. Cows everywhere. Stray dogs crumpling through rubbish. Dead bodies flowing down the river Ganges, including one dead baby I saw with a group of Koreans.
And so began India- I cursed my wish for challenging travel. I mainly concentrated in Northern India - through the Uttar Pradesh, up into the Northern States of Punjab/Haryana and Himach Pradesh, and a grand finale exploring the desert state of Rajashatan. Which probably means near to nothing for most of you, but culturally and regionally passed through very different worlds - harsh deserts, the modern and poorest of poor, the holiest of holy, hellish cities, Tibetan, Sikh, Hindi, Rajash, Punjab. At times, I felt like I was going to different countries than provinces. And that was only a small percentage of the country.
At this point as I write I am trying to think of highlights, but I can't think of anything specifically per se. Of course, the food, but that was a given. Perhaps I loved the way religion and life were so intertwined in India - they were one and the same. At home, you go the Church and that is that. In India, you pray to Lord Shiva on the street; In Delhi, you walk past a Buddhist, a Muslim and a Hindu monk in the space of one minute; or, in the desert city of Jaimsalmer when I was there, you burn down Muslim villages and hold a strike in a city when a farmer accidentally kills one of your cows. Intertwined.
And, of course, a thanks to all the people - only in India have I ever gotten absolute pyscho at someone for cheating me, and then a minute later, the victim happily wants to take about cricket. Oh yes, and to all those Indians who commented on how "good" my English was, thank you - I have never been so angry by one innocent statement in my life.
If it had it been for my yearning for home, I would have stayed longer in India. Six weeks is no where near enough. You need six years to see this country. But enough of India - god, it was amazing - a complete utter mind-trip to use a better word, so colourful in every way that it makes Oz look so damn boring.
The final paragraph that is meant to summarise 11 months.
Traditionally at this point - the ending of one's travels - that group-emailers usually finish off with some grandiose statement, acting like Paul Coleho wannabes - how it changed me, how AMAZZINNGGG it was (right, sloandog?), things of that nature. The travelling "ego" trip as I said before. But for once, I'll put aside my tendency to ramble, to weave travel PR, and describe it has honestly as I can...right now.
At times, it really sucked - the endless bus trips, the haggling, the hell at preschool, the occasional droughts of sickness. There were moments when I was actually bored. And then at other times, I have never felt so inspired. Natural beauty has it seemingly uncanny ability to make you feel invincible.The small rushes of adrenaline I use to get arriving somewhere, not knowing anyone or anything, knowing that somehow it would ultimately work out - its the best; I'll miss that. Umhh, so maybe I ain't so cynical after all.
Thanks for putting up with these emails. Don't worry there won't be any least for a little while.
Off to catch a plane. Looking forward to seeing all of you.

No comments: