Bollywood. As I watch a homeless man being robbed on the street in Jaipur, I stare at two glass panes simultaneously. The television, in which a Bollywood film is playing is reflected in the polished window of the hang out space, behind which the harsh reality takes place. I experience this contrast as tremendous. Never before has it become more apparent to me how reality and fiction relate to each other. As I share my observation with my American acquaintance sitting next to me, she coolly responds that it's the same with Hollywood. Since I have not yet been in America, have no concept of reality there, and everything I know about the country comes from history books and the moving picture, this analogy surprises me. After all, Bollywood is so obviously unrealistic. Hollywood, on the other hand, at least tries to maintain a certain amount of reality, (I thought.)
Arriving in Jaipur begins with fighting for a suitable rickshaw. A critical moment in any arriving tourists experience, as you are being stormed on all sides by drivers who want to earn some money. However, nobody knows where my hostel is (no rarity). I let the rickshaw driver of my choice (crucial detail) take me to the centre and eventually get out of the car after he deliberately drives to the wrong place, does not react to my instructions and finally gets stuck in a traffic jam. Thanks to my Maps.me app, I'm well oriented. I give him the 100 rupees we agreed on at the beginning and walk away in a rage. (It's not smart to not pay them in that situation because they come back to fleece you. Ultimately they are stronger than we are and what are 100 rupees in the grand scheme of things.) Taxi and rickshaw drivers are the worst professions in the world. They are scammers and generally up to no good. It's unproductive to think about it, and yet I do precisely that.
After enjoying Christmas so much, I'm planning a similar evening on New Year's Eve. I take the beer in the fridge, cuddle up in a chair surrounded by candles, and write. I make some tough decisions concerning my onward journey and clear up my mind. I also decide to stay in India for a week longer. I'm feeling too good here, and my adventurous spirit hasn't stirred up yet. Both clear signs that I need even more peace. And since rest has become the most valuable and rare commodity on my journey, I hesitate to let it slip away again. Since my hosts are the friendliest beings, they offer me to hibernate here (like, through winter). For a moment, that thought lingers in my head, but as my budget deteriorates, my helplessness drives me to take action. I will continue into Nepal, then to Tibet, for a short week and a three-day train ride through China to Laos. Then I will almost be in Australia once my budget runs dry. With a bit of luck and volunteer work, I might still be able to do it. I would have to skimp and turn around every penny twice (which I find very difficult), but that would be worth it.
This is my second Christmas on my journey and contrary to any plans I made before, I spend it in Delhi. I am so busy with myself that no Christmas feelings occur. Somewhere in my head, I have the idea to bake cookies in order to get a little bit into the christmas spirit. On the 24th I go into the local supermarket around the corner and find no flour, almonds or eggs - not because they don't exist, just because I am blind - I give up my plan quickly. I don't have the ingredients, nor do I trust the small electric oven in the kitchen to meet my requirements. It seems too risky. My solution is Starbucks. I buy a piece of chocolate and carrot cake - because I can't decide, a pack of Oreos and Indian chocolate biscuits. Then I ask A. to show me the way to the "liquor store", whereupon he puts me in the car, drives around the corner and carefully accompanies me into the dark alleys of the dilapidated shopping center. I buy two beers and a red wine recommended by A. ("Miss J. always drinks it, it's good.") I wish I could mimic the Indian accent. Unfortunately, my imitation is an insult. I will forever smile when I hear it though.) Then I ask A. to let me out at N-Block Market. It's the fancier local shopping square (if you can call it that). I buy another cappuccino. To move a little, I go around the whole place. When I arrive at the opposite end, I see an Indian Santa Claus on a carriage pulled by a white horse. From one of the many shops a British version of Jingle Bells blares into the street and suddenly I'm in the mood. By chance, my eyes fall on a deco shop and following an impulse I buy two hands full of tea lights with lavender scent. I know exactly what I will do. I'll take a hot shower (a luxury), wrap myself in lavender, eat cake and sip red wine, read a book and Skype with my family. Not very Christmassy in the German sense, but fully satisfactory and to my taste.
My first trip to Delhi takes me to Lodhi Garden. Online you can read a lot of nice things about it, J. has mentioned it at some point, and on the map, you can find it easily. Also, it's not a major attraction and promises a relaxed visit without too many people and tourist traps. A. drives me right up to the west gate, and we make sure to find each other in the same place in two hours.