My Initial Love-Hate Relationship With India

India is one of those polarizing destinations–people either love it or hate it. It’s raw and gritty, and I feel you have to be there awhile before you start to see the beauty of the place. Even then, it’s a love-hate relationship. Nothing is easy. For me, it took months after returning home from my first visit to realize that I loved the country.

There were moments during that first trip where I couldn’t imagine ever coming back to India. Right in the middle of one of those, I met a super-excited-and-painfully-perky Irish girl. “I’m so excited to be in India,” she says in a sing-song voice as she slides into the seat next to me. Oh my god, I thought to myself.

To recap my day up to this point: I had to unpack and pack my bag three times in the Kathmandu airport. They have invasive security checks at three different places in the airport, the last being on the ramp to the airplane. I felt completely disheveled by the time I boarded my flight to Delhi. When my flight landed, I went to exchange my Nepalese rupees, only to find that they don’t exchange Nepalese rupees in India, leaving me with over 3,000  rupees.

I then went to baggage carousel to retrieve my suitcase. I noticed the crowd dwindling, but there were still a few bags coming out. The carousel slowed to a halt, and I realized I was the last one standing there. With no bag, I thought back to a conversation I had while checking in for my flight.

“Heading to Mumbai?” the man at the counter asked.
“No. I’m going to Delhi.”
“And then to Mumbai?”
“No. I just came from Mumbai. I’m flying to Delhi.”
“Okay. I see. Delhi.”
“So, my suitcase is going to go to Delhi, right?”
“Yes. Delhi. Just to Delhi,” he confirmed.

Standing there–without my suitcase–I kept replaying this conversation in my head. I tried to ask someone, but they continued walking. The man didn’t even bother to stop. I asked someone else; he asked me to describe my suitcase. “Um, it’s black,” I told him.

He sent someone to the back. I waited, nervous that I was going to miss my flight to Varanasi and arrive with only the clothes on my back and a carry-on full of electronics. But then my suitcase appears on the belt. I don’t know where it was, why it wasn’t with the rest from my flight, but I didn’t care at this point. I grabbed my suitcase, asked for directions to the domestic terminal, and ran towards the shuttle bus.

I was getting ready to board the shuttle bus when a man stopped me. “No, Miss. You have to get on down there.”

I was confused at this point. “You have to go inside,” he clarified, pointing back to the door I just came from.

“I just came from inside.” I fought back tears.

I tried to go back inside the airport but was stopped at the door because I don’t have a ticket. I explained to the guard that I was trying to get to the terminal so I could get my ticket. I eventually pulled out my phone to show him my email reservation. After much deliberation, he eventually let me back in.

I went back in the airport and exited the correct door to board the shuttle bus.

This was when I meet Miss Ireland.

She was so happy to be India. “Isn’t it great? We’re in India!!” she squealed.
“Yeah, it’s great alright,” was all I could mutter. 
“I just can’t believe I’m actually in India.”
“Yeah! Pretty amazing,” I stammered.

She was grinning ear-to-ear, talking a mile a minute. She yammered away the entire ride to the domestic terminal. What she said–I have no idea.

I just kept nodding and saying, “Yeah. It’s great. Great! Fantastic!”

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