Fate and I, we have a difficult relationship. The reason might be that I doubt its existence. What would happen to our self-determination and the scope of our own decisions if universe really had a plan for us? When it comes to spirituality, India is at the forefront – at least in the minds of most people.
Five years ago I had traveled the country for several weeks. And I was shocked: Instead of a healing, esoteric yoga world (yes, that’s how I had imagined India quite naively), I instead saw heartbreaking poverty, drowned in the noises of Indias huge cities and had so intense and unexpected experiences that I finally did not know if I had enjoyed the trip or if I was simply overwhelmed. I have to admit that this was not exactly making me looking forward to my return to India on a motorcycle. But somehow India almost accidentally found it’s way to my route for this worldtrip when I decided to travel to Pakistan. „Be open! If you come to India with an open heart you will experience miracles!” One of my motorcycle friends who had traveled India on a bike told me. I snorted indignantly. “I do not need miracles, but proper traffic regulations.”
There are no rules
I had been warned. “In India, most people believe in reincarnation – and their driving style resembles this believe.” The traffic in Pakistan already appears out of control, but after crossing the Indian border the situation drastically gets worse. Everybody overtakes wherever there is space (if necessary also off road), cars turn up from dirt tracks onto the innermost track of a highway and the Indian trucks look innocuous and funny with their colorful paintings, but their drivers are definitely not joking. Instead, they seem to assume that everybody gets out of the way to let them through – even if you find yourself in the road ditch.
Anyways, our European principle of looking over your shoulder before changing lanes or turning is as unknown as my definition of a counter-track. Life-threatening situations come in interval of minutes. Once I am almost crushed between two trucks, a bit later I get almost hit by a turning bus and finally a slow rickshaw driver cuts into my lane, so I can only prevent the collision with braking as hard as possible. At one point I just give up trying to understand the rules of Indian traffic – slightly having the feeling that there are non.
Flowing with the traffic
In the evening I complain to the owner of the hotel in which I sleep. He looks at me wisely. “Do not fight the traffic, flow with it!” he recommends “What is it with India and all the flow and unity everybody is talking about…”, I ask myself. And where is this so called flow when I am stuck in a trafficc jam in a small village in the heat of 40 degrees and badly need it?
To my own astonishment I reach the city of Chandigar two days later – exhausted to death, but alive. I take Hinduism as a role model and thank every single god I know for being not killed (Hinduism accepts every god) . If there is such a thing as destiny, it probably has a different plan for me.
The new plan of destiny
The new plan of destiny begins the next morning. With pain. My left foot is thick, red, swollen and throbbing. Due to sweating in my motorcycle boots several mosquito bites have grown together and became a four centimeter long, inflamed wound over night. I try to ignore them and shuffle through the lobby of my hotel to make a long-cherished dream come true: to visit the town of Chandigarh with its government builduings, the Capitol complex, planned by architect Le Corbusier. A monument of the modern era built in concrete – here in India it feels almost like the surreal architecture of an extraterrestrial.
But the concierge of the hotel, a lively Indian named Manoj, stops me and looks at me with stern eyes. “What’s this?” He points at my foot. “Did you see a doctor?” I shake my head reluctantly. “I’ll take that in my hand.” Before I can answer anything he is up and away. When returning back to the hotel, he hands me a cream and disinfecting powder. While we are treating my foot, I tell him about my journey. “I have an idea!” He suddenly shouts out happily. And again he is up and away leaving me only with my foot that is scarcely unrecognizable under all the ointment. “If everyone else here has the right flow, this guy found a bubbling spring,” I think before going to sleep.
Fame and a flat tire
The next morning my foot is better. At least the pain is gone. And Manoj’s idea turns out to be some journalists showing up to do interviews for the Indian press. As I jog back on my motorbike and head towards the mighty Himalayan mountain shortly after I talked to the journalists, the Times of India already publishes my story in the evening. Over 21,000 Likes on Facebook and 20.00 shares on their site – but I have hardly time to enjoy my 15 minutes of fame in India nor the view of the many small mountain villages with their colorful houses.
Suddenly it hisses. The front wheel is wobbling. And really, it turns out to be my first flat front tire. In the middle of nowhere, the last village a few kilometers away. “Well, your non-existent karma pays back now …” I think. Five cars rush past. Then a motorcyclist stops beside me, even before I have unpacked my tools. Whether I need help. I suspect the flat tire suspiciously. “Yes that would be great.” On the rim I roll behind him to a tire dealer only a few hundred meters away. He pumps air back into the front wheel. That’s how we make it back to the village and to the nearest workshop. My new motorcycle friend is greeted with hand stroke. But instead of getting to work, he and the mechanic are looking at me strangely. Finally, my savior pulls his smartphone out of his pocket and holds it under my nose. “You’re Lea, we just read this article about you, I did not stop because I saw your flat tire, but because I recognized your bike!” Two hours later, I have not only a reapaired tire but also two new friends on Facebook.
Reunited with Delhi
Actually, I wanted to avoid Delhi. In my memory, the city exists as a dirty place with uncontrollable traffic jams. But after the mechanic who fixed my flat tire told me that I will not make it to Thailand with these tires as planned, I decide to go to Delhi and let my bike check by the first Triumph workshop since I left Germany and do the mandatory 20.000 km service.
When I leave my hotel to go to the workshop a man stops me. He asks if he can take a picture of me and my motorcycle. I nod and put on my oblique photo smile. While he is taking some pictures with his Iphone he starts to chat. „Triumph is a great brand. So interesting that you travel around the world. My good friend Vimal is the managing director of Triumph India, you should connect with him.” I look at my opponent. Nearly 10 million people live in Delhi and I meet exactly one who can give me a really useful motorcycle contact? What a coincidence. When he takes off I try to reach his friend Vimal but only the mailbox answers so I send him a WhatsApp message. When I reach the workshop (of course after being stuck in a traffic jam for another hour and three detours due to wrong information of my navigation system) the mechanic hands over his mobile phone to me without further words. “Hello, Lea, here is Vimal, I have advised the guys from the workshop to take care of you and your bike. Don’t worry about anything. The spare parts you need are already ordered and the guys will bring your bike to the hotel when the service is done.“ I am so glad that I can hardly speak and the only words that come out of my mouth are an overwhelmed “Thank you“.
Some strings attached
The guys from the workshop take me back to my hotel by car. The driver wears a turban – it is easy to recognize that he is a so called Sikh. I use this opportunity and ask him one question after another. Whether all Sikhs are vegetarians (No). Whether the color of the turban means something (symbolically yes, but in the same time it is as well a personal preference). What their god looks like (he is shapeless). As we approach the center of Delhi, I stop interrogating the driver and ask him if he knows my hotel and how to reach it. He starts laughing. “My cousin is the “Food & Beverage Manager“ there, of course I know where it is.”
At night I have dinner at the restaurant of the hotel. A guy with a dark blue turban approaches me respectful. “My cousin has told me about you and I’ve been looking for you. Do you enjoy your stay? Do not worry about the food, I’ve got something prepared.” A short time later, one plate after the other arrives at my table until I can’t eat anymore. The waiter looks at me disappointed. “And we did not even reach dessert …”
Fate and I
India has 1.3 billion inhabitants and is the second most populous country in the world after China with 1.37 billion – even though the area of India is roughly one-third the size of China. The possibility that you find yourself at the center of some action or get to know other people is probably high due to the pure human mass. But that an inflamed foot leads to an article in indian newspapers, the article helps to get my flat tire repaired, visiting this mechanic for repairing my tire ends in a trip to Delhi, meeting one single man out of millions in all the streets of Delhi gets me a connection to Triumph India and the staff of the Triumph workshop being indirectly responsible for one of the best dinners of my trip – this is even for me a pretty miraculous chain of coincidences.
You could get tempted to believe in fate – or in the universe having a proper plan to show me India from it’s best side after my unfortunate first attempt. If so universe has succeeded with this mission. India, I’ll be back – now that I’ve even learned how flowing with the Indian traffic works.
Attractions: From the Taj Mahal to the pilgrim town of Varanasi with the sacred river Ganges to the more unfamiliar but not less impressive temples and palaces – India is bursting with sights. For a shorter holiday it is best to concentrate on one or two regions to avoid spending the entire time in buses, trains or airplanes.
The North: In the regions of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh the mighty Himalayan mountains are calling – for example, reachable via the Leh-Manali Highway or by plane to Leh. The flight itself is spectacular: the pilots fly directly between the mountains.
The West: West of Delhi, the tourist region of Rajasthan covers the cities of Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Maharajah palaces, temples or riding a camel – here you find typical India like out of a fairytale.
The South: An exotic beach holiday? Nothing is impossible in India. The most famous, but also the most touristy area is Goa. Alternatives can be found on the southern tip of Kerala.
Traffic and Movement: In India there is left-hand traffic. It is not advisable to get your own rental car. Local buses, trains or hiring your own driver is at least as favorable – and for those who are not accustomed to traffic in India, the safer alternative. Longer distances are excellently covered by domestic flights – you can book these short term on the spot for often not more than 30-50 euros.
Motorcycles: If you want to ride a bike in India you should get a traditional Royal Enfield. The Leh-Manali Highway is a famous route for all kinds of motorcyclists.
Sleep: From moldy holes for one euro to luxury 5 star hotels – all types of accommodation can be found. If you want to spoil yourself and at the same time breathe in the flair of old India, many hotels in palaces or forts offer the possibility to do so. Particularly good examples are the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, which was originally built for Maharaja Umaid Singh, or a night at the Hotel Killa Bhawan right in the old fort of Jaisalmer.