Delhi had cooled down, since I left, thanks to the Monsoon and it was a different city. For the first few days though I felt strangely out of place (more than usual). I felt like Leonardo Decaprio’s character in the movie The Beach when he goes back unto the mainland, full of tourists, and cringes at being back in civilization. I was also convinced that I was being stared at more than usual but then I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror and understood why people were staring. Six weeks on a motorbike, Indian food, zero exercise, the harsh Himalayan sun, mild dehydration and severe helmet-hair had taken a heavy toll and I looked haggard.
Later that day Shallu and I were having Kangpow Chicken at a Chinese restaurant when I caught another painful glance at myself in a mirror and I asked her if I looked bad, hoping that she might lie and say something nice but she hesitated (only for a second) and said ‘..Not really’ and we both knew the truth. I looked like crap and Shallu had been nice (and brave) enough to tell me the truth. In that moment, though I felt like crying, I realized that in Shallu, I had found a true friend.
Shallu was one of my reasons for loving this city and when I first got back to Delhi and was feeling a little lost she was a great friend to me. One of my favorite things to do in Delhi is weave through the city traffic with Shallu riding shotgun. She navigates and I ride. I turn left when she says left and right when she says right. We also have the best conversations while we’re riding or at least I think we do because the helmet muffles my hearing and Delhi is a noisy city.
Apart from enjoying my friendship with Shallu I also took another pained look at myself and decided I needed to give myself some real care and set operation ‘extreme make-over’ into action. I gave myself a haircut (Shallu almost begged me to go to a professional), gave my skin a high dose of vitamin E, drastically upped my water intake, ate loads of mangoes (they are in season in India and makes me very happy), forced myself to sleep at least 8 hours a day and dug out the two bottles of vitamins my mother had made sure I packed. The next morning I woke up and was devastated that I wasn’t already looking healthy and restored and wasn’t glowing. After a few days though I did start looking and feeling better and made a promise to take better care. I may be riding a bike but that’s no excuse to look like a biker.