I had to get it together. Yes, I was lost in the middle of the 'Main-Bazaar’ road. Yes, it was my first day in India. And, yeah… I was having a mild panic attack. Coming to India on my own, I knew I was going to face some stressful situations and would have to learn how to cope with them. I reminded myself that it was a good preparation for What was coming ahead. I'm in a busy street, in broad daylight, with tons of other tourists. Nothing much can happen – I just needed to breathe. 'Remember to breathe.'
"You need to get a SIM card for your phone. Let's focus on that." I told myself while I was doing some breathing exercises and trying to get some oxygen before I fainted. Tom had told me to look for an 'Airtel' SIM card, and absolutely not 'Vodafone.' Because 'Airtel' works better in the north of India, or something of that sort. Of course, the only thing I could find was the opposite of what I needed. Murphy's way of reminding me that I was in India. In case I'd forgotten.
The process of getting the SIM card took forever. After being sent to another store to take my pictures, and then being told to go to another one to photocopy my passport, I had to go back with all the copies and pictures to the 'Vodafone' store and answer questions while the salesman filled out a registration form.
"Your name?" "Jane." "Last name?" "Rosewood." "Year of birth?" "1988." "Your name?" "I just told you." "Your name?" "Seriously?" "Se-ri-ous-ly…" "No, don't write that down!"
You will need to go through all nine circles of Hell to get that.
While I was trying to communicate with him, there was a Nigerian guy who was desperately trying to communicate with me. He was asking to drink from my water bottle. I thought it to be a strange request since he was a tourist like me and didn't strike me as a poor person. I politely demurred but he kept asking again and again: “Let me drink from your water!”
He was talking to one ear and the Indian salesman continued with his questions in the other.
The Nigerian was highly dramatic and told me that I had prevented life from him, by not letting him drink from my water. The Indian guy signaled me with his hands that the Nigerian was crazy. Then the Nigerian decided to forgive me, told me that my name is very common in Nigeria (I highly doubt it) and even showed me how to write it in his language.Well, at least someone liked my name.
As soon as I had the SIM card, I was out of there. How many weird things can one person deals with in such a short time? It was like being in a parallel universe.
There was one more thing I wanted get before going back to my room. 'Aladdin pants' - Really cool baggy pants that everyone buys in India, and that came in many different fabrics, styles and colors. These pants are so cozy and fun to wear that most people (including myself) kept wearing them everywhere and all the time even after the got back home. That is, until one brave person asks: "Dude, what's the deal with the pajamas?"
I desperately wanted to get those pants for two reasons. The first one was that I wanted to blend in as soon as possible. Because, at the time, my clothes and overall sensation made me look like I was from another planet. Second, I had only one pair of pants – they were on me – and they were soaked in sweat.
I spotted a a salesman who had them. It was time to try my bargaining skills again. I decided to use a tactic I'd been told about. The tactic was to ask the salesman for a big discount, while promising him that I will pass his name to other backpackers, and make him well-known like "Charlie" and the "Hare-Rama." The tactic worked and I got my discount. I felt a little bad because I knew that even if I would tell people about him, he would not become the next "Charlie."
I was probably deluding myself to think that he really cared about my promise. Every time you think you've played someone in India, and got an unbelievable price, it turns out –they’ve played you.
I hurried back to the 'Hare-Rama' to pack my bags. Lara said that she was told that I had bought a ticket to Manali. I felt bad to leave her in that room all alone. But, to be fair, she was waiting for her brother to land in Delhi, and I wasn't going to stay there for one more minute. Beside, this was part of the traveling alone concept. You don't owe nothing to no one but yourself. I wanted this trip to be a real experience of freedom and independence. Some proof of the vagabond that I believe that I am. I wasn't going to play by anybody's rules but my own.
I went down to the lobby with my bags and met another backpacker who was waiting for a taxi that would take him to the airport. It was the end of his trip and you could tell that he had been to India for quite some time.
You probably wonder how could I determine such a thing just by looking at a person? Well, it’s a bit hard to explain. Apart from the obvious clothing and the urgent need for a haircut and a shave (maybe even a shower), there is something really peaceful about travelers who have been to India for a certain length of time. I was longing to be as peaceful, even though I couldn’t really see that happening.
The backpacker saw that I was a newbie (not that it was so hard to tell), and put a chunk of Charas in my hand before he left. Charas is the name given to a hashish form of cannabis which is handmade in India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
I looked at the chunk and realized that I had no Idea what to do with it. I'd smoked pot before, but that chunk didn’t look like anything I knew, so, I just tossed in the trash.
Now all of you stoners out there are crying out:
As weird as it sounds, it was the beginning of my trip, I was still spooked by everything, I had a long drive ahead of me, and I had no intention of getting arrested on my first day in India. So, there you have it. I threw it away.
At 16:30 me, Sharon and the girl that hated names were standing in front of Charlie’s agency with our bags. I was super adrenalized. It was finally going to happen. No more Delhi, it’s time to escape to the mountains.