Oh, India, how I miss you! It seems appropriate during one of the happiest holidays in India, Diwali, that I recap a bit about our trip: the people, the places, the food, and the culture. Many months ago when we began to plan this trip, I worried that it was too big of a leap – that India was too foreign of a place for me to feel comfortable, or that the culture would be too insular to be able to understand as a visitor.
I am so happy to report that from the minute we began our incredible Indian adventure, we threw ourselves right into the mix and we can’t stop thinking/talking/dreaming about how incredible the trip really was.
Our itinerary began in Delhi, navigating the bustle of the polluted city streets by tuk-tuk (top right) and on our feet. Through markets, temples, and authentic restaurants, we slowly gained our bearings and practiced how to merge into oncoming traffic as pedestrians. We reveled in the modern touches of the city, like the metro system, but could barely stand being outside for long stretches of time because of the high temperatures and humidity that had our conservative outfits clinging to our bodies.
Excited to see more and leave the pollution behind, we traveled to Jaipur, “the Pink City,” to explore the Amer Fort and walk the night markets. I found the views to be incredible, and was constantly interested in the people – the sadhus (holy men who dress in white), the women in colorful saris and salwar kameez, the men wearing pants and button up shirts in the hot weather, alongside dogs and cows that roamed the streets.
A constant for us was recognizing the mutual respect found between strangers, and seeing how a country of 1.25 billion people has lasted so long among pressures between religion, politics, and external forces.
We spent nights in the villages of Tordi Sagar and Alipura on both ends of traveling to Agra in order to see the great Taj Mahal. The snippets of real life in rural India are the moments that I think I will savor the longest: old men leading their bulls through the village, children peeking at us through windows and from rooftops, and the constant sense of community. Noah and I spent a lot of time reflecting on how we can better appreciate friendships and make community in Denver, after feeling so easily welcomed by others.
We continued our journey through other small towns, like Khajuraho (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Orchha, stopping at temples for ceremonies and reveling at architecture that reminds the world how old India is, taking a cooking class (inspiration for my eggplant curry dish!), and admiring fabrics and spices at every turn along our walks.
We ended our northern India adventure in Varanasi, the holy city where millions of Hindus travel for pilgrimage, to worship, and to die. Riding on a boat at sunrise on the Ganges River was a highlight considering how many people have lived off of that river for centuries. We flew south to Mumbai for one night before flying home – spending 36 hours exploring all that we could, including the largest outdoor laundry (above, bottom right), the industry in one of the largest slums in the world – Dharavi, and eating street food.
Now, this really couldn’t be a recap of India on a food blog without remembering that Indian food is incredibly delicious! We kept our bellies happy the whole trip with lots of veggie curry dishes with rice and naan, delicious chicken, and sweets. While mangoes weren’t in season, I also had a few lassis to quench my insatiable thirst during our trip. Pictured above: pani puri (top left- a crispy street food in Mumbai stuffed with a spiced chickpea mixture and topped with yogurt), mixed vegetable curry (top right), a jalebi (similar to funnel cake), and our last meal – a huge spread of curries and chicken shared with our tour guide and driver.
I could say so much more and add so many photos, but the main feeling I left India with was one of wonder. I love that I have seen a country on the rise to better industry and entrepreneurship while maintaining a strong sense of self through culture, religion, and food. I love that I felt challenged everyday to push myself to explore and be open to conversations with strangers.
While coming home felt exciting, and returning to a routine is inevitable, I am more conscious of the importance of community. Largely thanks to my travels, I continue to hold onto the idea that we are exploring the places we live everyday, and that those experiences should be shared and celebrated with others.
With that, I seriously wish I could have you all over for dinner tonight. I’m going to enjoy this fall weather with some cornbread and chili – happy weekend!