“Hare Rama” Is More than a Mantra
Coincidence, by definition, is a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time, apparently by mere chance. Mine and Lara's synchronous request to go to the 'Hare Rama', was no coincidence.
The 'Hare Rama' guest house is a well-known Indian establishment, considered to be the gateway to the promised land (at least as I was told). Located in Paharganj neighborhood of central Delhi, in one of its most breathtaking streets (and not in a good way), the infamous Main Bazaar. Generations of travelers had passed through its corridors. Which is why it seemed like a joke when the cabbie asked us: "Where is it Madam?"
A moment of giggling, followed by a moment of silence, had clarified that we were in a pickle. Today, it's hard to understand the difficulty of the situation, you would just pull out your smartphone and google it. I do admit to owning a smartphone back then, but it stayed at home with all my other valuables. The only thing I had with me was an uncharged old phone, shoved deep down at the bottom of my compressed backpack - and there was nothing smart about it. Lara had no phone at all. It was the time of internet cafes (well, in India, anyway...) and I was counting on them for keeping my whereabouts known during my trip. Just not that damned early.
So the driver wandered through every narrow alley and congested road of the Paharganj neighborhood, asking residents for directions to this mysterious place. After driving in circles for far too long, we finally reached the 'Hare Rama'.
At the moment the cab pulled up, a crowd of Indians surrounded it. They were like a herd of street salesmen, banging on the cab, shouting, and trying to get a piece of the tourists. Persistently pleading with us to come to a guest house, buy a map, take a tour, eat a paranthe, drink a chai, walk, talk, and just give them money. I was slightly alarmed with the commotion, but Lara reassured me that it was a common thing.
It was time to pay to the driver. As we handed him the money, he mentioned that he didn't have any small change. A side note: having small change in India is like having a winning lottery ticket - extremely rare and extremely fulfilling (I would imagine winning the lottery ticket to be more fulfilling , though).
Part of the "you should always haggle and never abandon a single rupee" mentality I was mentored on, prior to my trip, had put me in a suspicious and combative mind set. I was not willing to back down from getting the rest of our money from this taxi driver, or any other service provider for that matter. A decision which would come back to bite me in the ass later on.
The driver’s response to my persistent demand for the change was the immortal sentence: "No problem Madam, one minute please," as he left us in the cab and went on a quest to find us change.
Now before I can continue with the story, it's important to understand the concept of 'time' in India. While you might know time to be a very precise method to organize your schedule, meet up with other people, and know when general events occur, you’ll be hard pressed to do all those things on 'Indian time'.
'Indian time', or in its more common phrase in India - "maybe sometime" - is an elusive concept which holds no promise. For example, two trains leave the station at the same time, one heading east and the other west. The eastbound train travels at 65 miles per hour. The westbound train travels at 75 miles per hour. How long will it take for the two trains to be 224 miles apart?
Well, in India, it might take 1.6 hours, or it might take 5 hours because one of the drivers had stopped to eat a paranthe. And it might take two days - no apparent reason was found by the writing of these lines.
So the best thing you can do in order to keep your sanity is to embrace a very powerful word from Sanskrit - shanti. Shanti means peace, calmness, tranquility. And if you think about it, it rings pretty close to sanity, doesn’t it?
Back to our wandering driver, as you probably understand by now, it took him way more than one minute to come back and tell us that he hadn’t found any change.
While I was ready to send him right back out there to continue on his quest, Lara decided she had had enough of my newbie "rules of India" bullshit, and got out of the car. Afraid to lose her in the crowed, I quickly jumped out of the cab and started to make my way through the herd of salesmen.
And there I was, standing in the entrance of the dark alley that leads to the 'Hare Rama', thinking to myself: 'Well, you made it this far and you can be proud of yourself. Now let's stop this nonsense and catch the next flight back home'.