Monday, 27 April 2009

A trip down memory lane

I constantly refer to ‘my last time in India’. This is my fourth time here, but the second and third trips were just short ones when I worked at the travel company Cox & Kings. So what I am referring to is my first trip, the long one in 2000 when I came to India, fell in love with the country and stayed almost a year. If you just want to read about Maya’s exploits and adventures, then skip this entry, because this blog is going to be a blatant slice of self-indulgent nostalgia than anything else!

So…let’s turn the clocks back to 1999 and the location to the hilly University city of Durham where a twenty-one year old girl called Becks has just graduated in Anthropology. Because of the often conservative nature of Durham’s students, many of its graduates have bagged high-paying jobs at city firms and are already comparing their starting salaries before even drawing a line under their Durham days. Becks is slightly shocked by this and knows she wants none of it. But what does she want? She is whiling away one afternoon in the computer room when she sees a slip of paper on the floor. Picking it up she reads a website address and idly, she clicks on to it. It is for voluntary teaching projects in India…Six months later she is sitting on a plane being catapulted Eastwards. So yes, it was on a whim that I first decided to come to India, but of course there was also a great deal of thought and preparation in those six months. Let’s say it was a reaction to what I was experiencing around me at the time. But let’s also be honest here – it was gap year take two, but I’m utterly unrepentant about that. The things that my eyes were opened to on that trip will stay with me forever.

Here are a few things that I did in 2000 that I couldn’t / wouldn’t entertain the notion of doing this time round:

- Driving a rickshaw on a busy main road in Delhi, just because the rickshaw driver said I could and I thought it would be fun. (This from a girl who took 5 attempts to pass her driving test. Was I INSANE??)

- Walking 2 miles from the airport to the train station at 3 am with my rucksack just so I could save a few quid on the taxi fare.

- Smoking a spliff on a beach which it turned out was laced with something far stronger than marijuana. I then had to endure a terrifying 3 hour journey back to my hut, just 200 metres along the beach because I kept thinking I’d gone into rewind mode. Cripes, as my mother would say!

- Travelling overland from Ladakh to Chennai (very top of the country to very bottom – approximately 3000 kms) in 2 days to catch my flight back home.

- Scaling the gates of the Taj Mahal at 5 in the morning to get a sneaky peak before the crowds descended.

- In Calcutta, rising at the crack of dawn (mind you, no difference there!) and going to eat breakfast with the Missionary of Charity nuns before my daily voluntary work of helping young disabled children.

- Routinely taking bus journeys which lasted over twenty hours.

- Jumping on the back of an insalubrious character’s Enfield and tearing through Rajasthani towns and villages (This may sound like Andy but it wasn’t! Incidentally, he was also in India then, but it wasn’t yet our time to meet…)

Many of these experiences smack of having no responsibilities whatsoever. Reading back through these, I think I’m far more of a law-abiding citizen than I was nine years ago. But I am also a mother. A humungous difference! But to turn all this on its head, here are some of the things I can do now that I wouldn’t have been able to have done back then:

- Meeting and talking to so many people, virtually every time I walk out of my front door, who are absolutely fascinated by Maya and Lily

- Being in a position to hire someone to help out so that I can write and write to my heart’s content

- Resting safe in the knowledge that I have met my soulmate and am mother to two amazing little girls, all of whom make me a very lucky and very happy lady! And this, despite the occasional nostalgic moment of my India 2000 trip, I would not change for THE WORLD.

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