New Delhi, India - October 18, 2013
New Delhi. The airport smells like curry and 30 year old dust. I walk down the stairs with my bag and turn right at customs. I ask where the metro is. Outside, across the causeway, underground. The air is hot and sticky. I pass the cafe where I bought water two years ago.
The metro is grey and modern. European. I sit back and rest. The plane ride felt like days. Twenty-one hours by the ticket. Does this take time difference into consideration? Across Greenland from Chicago and over Moscow and the Russian west. I watched the live update chart screen on the plane. Five hours from Anchorage to Chicago and a five hour layover. I chatted with a biochemistry professor on the plane. He wants me to visit him in New Delhi where he teaches. He came from Kolkata with nothing, he says. A stewardess named Nena tells me about shopping in New York and London and Paris, buying presents for her friends and family.
Suburbs race by under the metro. New Delhi Station is the destination. A train to Gaya, 15 hours east is the goal. I have a hiking backpack and a day pack, easy luggage. I try one tourist office and another. I am lead across Connaught place to each in turn. They all claim to be official but they are not. No matter, there are no trains available for five days and I need Gaya tomorrow. Haggle for price, negotiate for rickshaw, watch the dogs and rickshaw walas nap on the streets. Women walk by in flowing saris. Curious people stare. I sit up straight on the back of the bicycle rickshaw, my bags at my feet. Dark glasses cover my eyes. I feel colonial, strong. Is this good? I pass a 100 foot temple to Hanuman, built in his monkey likeness. The entrance passes between his feet.
A flight is bought, tomorrow afternoon, and I find myself resting in Hotel Jennifer's Inn. Veg pakora to eat. Sleep by 8:30pm.
Wide awake at 1:30am. My eyes sizzle. I don't know how much I have slept in the past few days. No more sleep now. Fun Bollywood music videos flash on the TV. My favorite is "Bullett Raj."
At the airport at 11am. Bag check. Customs. At my gate a familiar face appears. An old American friend from the semester in Bodhgaya.
"How are you?"
"The Rinpoche is on our flight."
We board the plane to Gaya.