Troy has invited me a half dozen times to visit India since he decided to meet up with our friend Christine there next month. It was a tempting invitation given how much fun the three of us had in Medellin, but I replied that I wasn’t ready. I needed more time to lapse, as though two and a half years isn’t enough to recover from the stresses of travel on that great subcontinent.
I almost didn’t go the first time, in 2008. I’d been talking to backpackers who made the trip from India, and most described Nepal as cleaner, the people friendlier. My anxieties were getting the best of me.
As luck, or fate would have it, a Canadian woman appeared atop the Pokhara mountain where I was enjoying breakfast with a Himalayan view one morning. Her advice was to “go with the flow,” as though the same four words have been passed on to India first-timers for generations.
A typically crowded street in India includes several common forms of transport, such as the auto-rickshaw, bicycle rickshaw, and motorbikes.
I made up my mind in that instant to see the country for myself. I spent 7 weeks crossing India from the northeast corners of Sikkim to the northwest border with Pakistan. And I had many amazing, spiritual experiences, until the poverty, inefficiencies, heat, pollution, cows, public urination, dust, and touts utterly exhausted me. When I flew from New Delhi to Thailand, I didn’t see myself returning to India for years, or decades, if ever.
Then I read these words a few weeks ago:
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