Dirty Delhi – Delhi, India

I was so glad to leave this major India city for last. Otherwise I may not have lasted this long. We got off the train and carefully made our way out to the cabs, rickshaws, and touts. It was not the best idea arriving at 10pm but I felt safer that I wasn’t alone. I was really glad Lena was a veteran and led us seamlessly to our prebooked guesthouse in backpacker laden Pahar Ganj. I know about the poverty but it didn’t stop me from feeling alarmed when I saw the hundreds of bodies lined up neatly along the sidewalks. Most slept on newspapers some had the luxury of a scrap of fabric but most laid on the cold hard fecal crusted cement. They were all homeless and their ages ranged from 5 to 105. I was devastated that they all seemed so resigned to sleeping in the streets. I know there was nowhere else for them to go but I tried to imagine their lives. It was easier to imagine their deaths.

We checked into our tiny room where the three of us would fit tightly into the double bed before heading out for the routine water hunt. I grabbed some yogurt hoping it would quell my sensitive tummy. I was impressed when the restaurant threw in a banana as well upon learning of my digestive difficulties. I made a mental note to revisit this place tomorrow as I always try to reward good behavior. I was pretty beat but didn’t sleep as deeply as I would have liked. I consoled myself everytime I would wake to some random hallway noise or clatter on the street below. Just one more day Carmella…one more day.

The girls left on errands while I wandered in and out of shops. I found a pretty wrap skirt for 120 rupees and decided it would fold up small enough to fit in my bag. I met up with Triin and we ate breakfast at the helpful joint we discovered the night before. Next we reunited with Lena and did some more last minute shopping. She introduced us to her favorite haunts one of them being a well stocked quality shoe store. We had stopped at the smoke shop and bought her friends back home some clove cigarettes and the shopkeeper tried to entice me into buying his favorite brand. He gave me one to sample for free so I walked away puffing on a too strong clove cigarette. The shoe shop keeper gestured for me to come in as I hovered on the street watching my friend shop. I politely refused showing him my cigarette. He looked confused and said it didn’t matter if I smoked in the store. I told him it mattered to me and I didn’t want to subject other people to the fumes.

At this point, the old man’s expressive face lit up. Recognizing that I understood the dangers of smoking, he offered me a deal. I listened skeptically as I know how *deals* work in India. I was flabbergasted as he gave me a free pair of shoes if I would promise to stop smoking for three months. This was so much like my free earring experience back in Arambol, I didn’t even hesitate on taking him up on it. I don’t usually prohibit anything because I have learned that is a sure way to giving it more power. No craving No aversion is what I learned in Vippassana meditation. Generally I don’t refuse offerings or gifts, within reason. But I don’t have more than a taste either. It’s a real exercise in will power and self control. Since I don’t even enjoy smoking anymore, it wasn’t hard for me to accept the offer from the wise owner of Vishal Foot Wear. I walked out with a new pair of strappy Jesus sandals and a happy set of lungs.

We went to dinner at Mount Everest (named appropriately as you have to climb a million stairs to get to this tranquil rooftop restaurant ) we all reminisced about our travels and shared revelations. I felt quite lucky to have these two lovely ladies with me on my last day in India. After indulging in an after dinner ice cream cone, I sat on the bed and watched Lena repack her bag for the last time. She was heading home to Germany and I felt a sharp twinge of envy. A part of me wished I was going home tomorrow too. 

Grateful for humanitarians.

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