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Full Immersion

In preparation for our trip, I didn’t prepare a thing. I bought a Time Out India book that I glanced at exactly once; otherwise, I took full advantage of John Luth’s love (need?) for planning. Most people my age have never used a travel agent or have experienced a trip in which they didn’t do the research and booking. Bring back the travel agents…or get a friend with travel planning OCD. Showing up somewhere and having things magically taken care of like you are a Kardashian is simply awesome.

What little I read about India had a strong underlying message: India is a place of extreme contrasts, unbelievable chaos and irrationality. These traits will intrigue you, exhaust you and leave you wanting more. Day One with LITS (Luth’s India Travel Service) validated my extensive research.

Day One-Friday, October 21
Ignoring jet lag and everything I learned as a cop, we set out for Old Delhi (about an hour’s drive). A quick note on the driving in India – and I will try not to harp on this but I feel a bit traumatized so it is on my mind – it is fu%#ing insane. There may not be words in the English language, or at least not in my liberal arts vocabulary, to appropriately describe what they call driving. Imagine if they handed everyone leaving a bar on New Year’s Eve a speedball, erased all the lines on the road, removed all police, added cows and rickshaws and announced a cash prize for the most aggressive driver who demonstrates mastery of their car horn. Then multiply it by ten.


We left the relative safety of our car and stepped out into a bustling market next to a 500 year old mosque. The call to prayer was blaring over speakers, causing an intense silence among the thousands of Muslims who were streaming past us. We were the only six Westerners within sight. My goal to feel uncomfortable was quickly being realized.

We spent the afternoon visiting the mosque, eating at Karim’s and navigating the impossibly crowded and confusing streets of Old Delhi. In a city of 20 million people, I can only describe the street scene as relentless. As we rode a rickshaw through the narrow bowels of the city, I simply couldn’t comprehend what I saw: every street, every block, every alley was wall-to-wall people, cars, motorcycles, goats, rickshaws and carts. Everyone is on the move all the time but there is no escape. It struck me that for the vast majority of these people, this is all they know and all they will ever know – a filthy, chaotic existence; however, there seemed to be a communal acceptance of their situation. Everyone and everything is always in contact with someone or something else, but the aggression or frustration that would be rampant in the US is absent.



To embrace the giant contradiction that defines India, we left Old Delhi and went to the Luths’ tailor. Technically, he makes custom shirts and suits for other people, but he is essentially employed by John given his new found addiction to custom clothing. Faced with a wall of fine fabrics, I found it incredibly difficult to get started but managed to pick out three bolts to work with. Mo’ money, mo’ problems, I guess.


We ended our first day with an amazing rooftop dinner at Wokamama. Whereas the US is obsessed with outward appearances, having money in India affords you the privilege to disappear, to insulate yourself from the reality of the streets. We left a dusty (frankly scary street) to find ourselves in an ultra-modern setting with all the comforts your could imagine.

As promised by my reading, Day One in India left me exhausted, bewildered and wanting more.


Politely Stinky

It may be the jet lag or I could be having my own horrible Eat Pray Love fantasy, but I spontaneously decided to start a blog while on our trip to India. I am generally anti-blog as they are for hipsters or people who really enjoy themselves; however, this will hopefully be a cool way for me to document a unique experience for myself while answering the question many have been asking me for months: “Why the hell are you going there?” Namaste or something.

The Flight
As I get older and grumpier, I find that my tolerance for flights or driving is about three hours. To say I was worried about the flight to India is a gross understatement. Here’s the best travel and dating advice I can offer: set your expectations just above the floor and you will be very impressed with things. I spent $700 extra on our tickets for exit row seats both ways. At the time of purchase, my short Italian wife expressed her displeasure with this purchase. As we sat there with an 8′ x 8′ open space in front of us, I heard the second sweetest phrase a wife can utter: “I’m sorry I said anything about the seats…this is awesome.” Best money I have spent in a long time.

Aside from finding out that I am basically roofie-proof after waking up three hours into an Ambien, the rest of the flight was pretty uneventful until we landed. While walking through Dehli’s surprisingly clean and modern airport, we found out who the biggest Indian I’ve ever seen was: The Great Kali from WWE. Apparently, he is a very big deal because he caused a near stampede.


The Apartment
John, Lindsay and their second favorite driver, Ashok picked us up at the airport. Thirty seconds later, I understood why non natives shouldn’t drive under any circumstances. Ever. We arrived at their apartment/our base camp at 10pm local time, 22 hours after we left Charleston. Their place is great – spacious, modern and equipped with a cook that made us homemade bagels. Not too bad.
I slept from 1:30am to 4:30am and then found myself wide awake…pretty good since we have to get up tomorrow at 4:30 for our flight to southern India.

Kelly went with Lindsay for a workout session with their “super cute 25 year old” trainer. Awesome. Around noon, we are going to Old Delhi to have our minds blown, as Luth said. It is basically the crazy, crowded and colorful street scene most of us think all of India looks like. We are stopping by a tailor to check out custom shirts, visiting a mosque and touring the Red Fort.

I’m excited and grateful to be here. To my surprise, the anxiety I felt in the days leading up to the trip has been replaced by enthusiasm to push myself a bit – to intentionally feel uncomfortable. I am also in desperate need of a shower, but I’d like to think I am being culturally sensitive and politely stinky.

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