I’d like to say that I didn’t get sick on my last train ride in India. I’d like to say that I didn’t spend 8 agonizing hours on that train running to the toilet every hour. I’d like to say a lot of things but the truth is, I was as sick as a dog. Somehow I miraculously recovered once the train stopped in Delhi. Stomach bugs are strange and unpredictable things and one of the typically-Indian things that I would not miss.
My last few days in India were spent in Delhi, shopping. For 6 months I resisted buying too much (anyone who has been to India will understand how hard it is not to shop) but forced myself to travel as light as possible. Those days of travelling light were over and on the eve of my departure I had 2 large filled-to-the-brim duffel bags full of stuff and a huge Persian carpet in my possession. The carpet was for my mother and as much as I relished seeing her face when I gave it to her I did not find the idea of having so much stuff to carry appealing at all.
Apart from shopping and packing I also had to meet with Stephen and hand over the keys to the Yamaha. It was a ceremonious occasion and Shallu, ceremoniously, took a photograph of the ‘handing over’. I felt excited for Stephen’s impending travels and felt happy and proud that the Yamaha would be accompanying him. Like my friend Elke said ‘it’ll be easy, your bike already knows the way’. In Stephen’s eyes I saw the same anxiousness and excitement that I felt before I went up North and there was a moment when I envied him greatly but my adventure was over and my heart was yearning for my family and for the familiar. Before leaving though there were many goodbyes to say and it left me feeling sad and drained. One goodbye in particular left me feeling empty too. Saying goodbye to Shallu was harder that I thought. I never expected to find such a friend in India and there was a moment, while I was packing, when I considered stuffing her into one of my bags and taking her home with me but I was already overweight (my luggage, not me).
In the taxi, on the way to the airport, with the rolled-up carpet sticking out of the window, I felt my heart welling up with immense gratitude for the extraordinary experiences I had in this mad country that will forever occupy a space in my heart. I knew that the full weight of the experience and its effect on my life would become clear once I saw my life back home in contrast to it. I was different, that much I knew. Would my family and friends notice? I was embarking on a new adventure, I realized. Going home.