Here is rough recap of the travels that a blog can only touch the surface on trying to summarize…
Travel problems seem to follow me wherever I go, Rome, Leipzig Germany, Hyderabad, and now most recently Bombay. The 10 day vacation planned was all set, flights, hotels and trains all booked through much appreciated help from family and friends all around India. Marie, my American travel accomplice was set to come in on the 11/30 night, and we were off to Goa 5 hours after her arrival to enjoy the country I had made my place of employment. I was ready for a vacation.
But…Maries flight did not reach the 30th. The time difference was overlooked, and although her arrival time on the eticket said 11/30, the plane reached 12/1. Go figure. We managed a last minute flight to Goa the following morning in the end, and barely made it on the plane on time as the security guards and I had an 30 min confrontation about my guitar possibly having a bomb hidden in it….yes, these guys wanted to disassemble my guitar to remove the electronics inside, suspecting I was a terrorist planning on the blowing up their airplane. Apparently, I get that a lot. The funny thing was that not a single person asked me for photo id. We finally made it on the jet and enjoyed 3 days in Goa, a place full of warmth both on the beaches in inside the native people of the land.
My family is from Moira, a village just outside of Mapusa, and it felt damn good to be back there. My grandmother and aunty prepared a huge seafood feast for us, and shared pictures telling stories about our family history. Most of the stories were told about my grandfather, a man I will always strive to be like. I was surprised to hear the actual details of his job as head of affairs for the Palanpoor Newab. (Muslim king) The stories I heard that day from my grandmother will always stay with me, and it was one of the most memorable days I have had in India so far. Since arriving in August, I have constantly wished that both my grandfather and my cousin Nigel were still around to witness my move back to the motherland. My fascination with the Newab and Nazim rulers was only to understand more of my grandfather;s life. This afternoon spent in a small Goan village finally filled that void.
The following day, my auntie took Marie and I north to a remote beach shack that her friend Toffee lived at. Toffee was another character I met in India who I will always remember….By far the coolest woman with a very unique perspective on life, and the most relaxed attitude with absolutely no tension. She was sort of like a female version of the character Johnny Depp plays in Pirates of the Carribeean.
With little no no commercialism, Mandre‘s beach gave us the ambiance we were looking for in Goa. We sipped on Kingfishers, ate fresh seafood, made friends with crazy Britishers/Argentinians and soaked in the sun without being marketed to by dolphin boat companies, women with beads, or any other members of the tourism industry which unfortunately has taken over the state. The only salesmen I met on this beach pitched me on an ear cleaning service costing only 15 rupees. Awkward…
Later that night we met up with some of my Hyderabad friends also visiting Goa and got a glimpse of the internationally famous nightlife. We started off in a club on Baga beach that looked like identical to the club in the movie “Scarface.” I was joined by 4 attractive girls all wanting to dance, and dance we did. Wild night, and I have to modestly admit that I might have owned the dancefloor this crazy night in Baga. In fact, A group of guys came up to me and simply shook my hand, no words spoken. Straight up respect.
We wrapped things up in Goa and made way for Jaipur, the pink city of Rajisthan. We left Jaipur 2 hours after arriving and hopped on a train headed for Udaipur, the city of lakes . Two of my friends from WMU invited me to visit them in their beloved hometown. Accepting their invitation would prove to be the wisest travel decision I made in India.
With a change in transportation mode from planes to trains, I was still not able to avoid confrontation. We started off this trip with a mix up in our tickets, sitting in the wrong train compartment. The rightful owners were very upset about our honest mistake, and apparently called us “dumb white monkeys” in Hindi. I was irate when my cousin translated his words later in the night. I like monkeys tremendously, but I hate racism.
I have been met with similar racist remarks often on this trip to India. My father and mother shared the came citizenship as these people, but that has certainly not earned me any more street cred than any other foreigner with absolutely no Indian heritage. This public humiliation was something I did not expect when I decided to move to India. My father has never experienced anything similar to this in his 25 years in the US. Moreover, I feel embarrassed that this happens to a guests like Marie and other westerners. They are respectful people genuinely interested in learning about Indian culture. This is something that needs to change in India, starting from the tourism industry which blatantly charges white people 10x more for entrance fees into the beautiful attractions in the country. They charged Marie 200 rupees to get into places that darker skinned people and only had to pay 30 rupees to go to.
Back to the train…I let the situation on the train go without retaliation, much to my own regret but for the peace of the travels we had ahead of us. The result was that we had the best 4 days in Rajisthan that anyone could hope for.
Summary of Rajisthan – Stayed in a palace penthouse, beautiful scenery, architecture, boat rides to island palaces, met the Maharana (King) of Udaipur by interrupting an important business meeting to introduce myself as”Jason D’Mello from Kalamazoo” and took a picture with him (see below) riding unstable elephants down over populated streets, watching Rajisthani performers and dancers, eating on lake front palace restaurants next to the 2 British men who I had interrupted to meet the king 2 hours earlier, heavy bargaining and negotiating in fabric stores with my cousin Sonia, and mischief throughout the Palace Penthouse.
Got back to Bombay in high spirits, parted ways with my travel friends, and made a last minute trip back to Hyderabad for business. It was a vacation that couldn’t have been scripted, it was just simply brilliant. I wish you all will have a trip like this sometime in your own bad ass lives.