Over the last couple of weeks, I had a constant, furious, internal (occasionally muttered) conflict with myself. It went something like this – “Oh, I’m so comfy in my room” “Sam, you’re in India” “But I’m tired and I wanna watch back-to-back episodes of scrubs.” “Sam, YOU’RE IN INDIA. DO SOMETHING”. The feeling that I should be constantly doing something, and any down time is time wasted kept coming back to me… I couldn’t just hang out with my housemates – even going to the same place twice was unadventurous and a waste. A lie-in cued an immediate feeling of guilt – “YOU’RE WASTING THIS OPPORTUNITY, GET UP”. I ran around like a headless chicken for a couple of weeks, going to all the tourist sights I could, all the less-travelled places, talking to people, trying to learn Hindi, going to parties, using phrases like “sleep is weak”, and generally trying to suck every last drop of excitement out of the experience.
… As anyone who has worked fringe will know, this kind of energy and effort just isn’t sustainable, and leads to a huge crash – by the end of these couple of manic weeks, I was exhausted. I had to spend a weekend comatose in bed, (Scrubs seasons 1-4).
And then, I decided – sod it. There’s no right or wrong way to spend a year in Delhi, I’m not being a tourist, I’m an honorary citizen here. I have the luxury of time to see all these things at my leisure. I have the time to go out and make meaningful friendships and have long lunches with people I know already – doing it the hard way doesn’t mean doing it better! So it was that I decided it was okay to spend the afternoon in a travel café, drinking coffee with my laptop.
And then, because it was a travel café, I looked up some places in India. Two days later, a group of three of us have booked trips to Ladakh … an area none of us really knows about. Maybe we’ll hire scooters, maybe we’ll spend an evening in a restaurant talking to newly-made friends. Maybe we’ll see the main monument, and maybe we’ll decide to go for a wander round one of the many lakes or to one of the many monasteries. What I’m trying, very inarticulately, to say, is that India has taught me to chill out. Its taught me that I don’t need to rush everywhere. I can sit in a shop with the owner for an hour with a cup of chai (my love affair with chai is intensifying), and if there’s somewhere I want to go, I can go. if I’m not interested in a particular monument or market, I am in no way obligated. It’s a much more self-centred approach to being here, and (I’ve found), much more enjoyable.
Saying that, I’m hitchhiking on to a DU/Edinburgh exchange train journey round Punjab. (“I know this is cheeky, but I’m here anyway, can I come?”) – which will be done in an order, with an itinerary. This means we won’t miss major things through lack of planning – (the one downside to my approach!), but I hope the British way of sightseeing won’t feel too regulated and ordered to my Delhi-adjusted self. I’m actually really excited to show off my knowledge of India. I’m beginning to feel so comfortable and at ease here, that I just know I’ll end up being bossy and saying things like, “No, that’s too much, don’t buy that” “Try the thali” “hang on, this bit’s tricky”. I don’t have a hope of kidding the Indian students on the trip that I know what I’m doing, but maybe the arrival of a group of Edinburgh people will allow me to see how much more I know now than at the start.
Another strange thing is that many of my friends are just starting out on their years abroad – with excitement and trepidation – and I’m feeling so settled. I have friends, a social life, a uni life, a voluntary placement – they have all this to come! I can’t believe how quickly a life can be built.
And now, I’m gonna go pack for this trip. And then I’m gonna do my NGO work. And then I’m gonna do some uni reading. And then I’m gonna order food. Actually, that’s the wrong order. Food first.