We arrived in New Delhi late on the 28th of December and enjoyed two easy flights. Abby and I (nerdily) timed out our sleep so that we would have minimal jet lag and we’re happy to report that we were almost immediately ready to start sight seeing.
While in New Delhi, we are staying with Gitu Mausi (my aunt and my mom’s cousin). She and her husband and her two kids, my cousins Medha (18) and Eishaan (23), are lively, rambunctious, and always entertaining. Every morning, their servants (or helpers as Priya likes to call them) bring chai to our bedroom and we could expect hot cups of chai throughout afternoon and into the evening. Medha would amble into our room early in the morning and hang out with us and crack us up with her infectious personality while simultaneously telling us she needed to leave and focus on studying for the boards. In March, she has to take a series of exams to finish up her high school career, which test her on everything she’s taken for the past 4 years. Only the scores on her boards will determine where she ends up getting accepted for college. So for the next few months, she doesn’t have to go to school but she has tutors and books and infinite studying until she takes those exams. Makes the SAT and ACT look tame in comparison.
We were able to spend a week in New Delhi prior to our 10-day sweeping tour through Rajasthan. Here are 5 memorable moments from our time there.
1. Heads Up
Wi-fis not working. I guess I’ll play one more round of Heads Up with you…”
Heads Up has been a lifesaver on this trip. This iPhone app was developed by Ellen DeGeneres and produces equally hilarious results. It’s essentially charades, but there are different categories and for most you can talk and give clues. Our favorites are the Hollywood Movies category (our record is 7 cards in a minute) and the music category where the group has to hum the songs and the phone flipper has to guess the title. We’ve whiled away the time at Gitu Mausi’s, hotels, and at late nights at train stations by playing this game and it never gets old. Shivani always misunderstands the cards and gives misleading clues—once she described a movie as, “Eminem’s in it, it takes place in Detroit…” Abby looks at Shivani and says, ummm no that’s not it. The movie on the card was Green Mile, not 8 Mile. And so the game provides endless entertainment and giggles…
2. New Year’s Eve
Initially, the plan for New Years Eve was to go to a big bash for members of the Indian Army and their families, as my uncle served in the army for many years. Strangely enough though, the event is a little exclusive—foreigners are not allowed for security reasons. So we tried to see if we could send Abby tanning for a few days, but we realized our efforts would be futile in making Abby look less foreign.
So we ended up going to this posh country club where we had the time of our lives. The theme of the night was 70s Disco, there was an open bar, and waiters walking around with hot apis, so to say the night was fabulous would be an understatement. Mostly though, we spent the final hours of 2013 and wee hours of 2014 dancing on the lit up dance floor to a string of hit Bollywood tunes with all of our family and family friends.
3. Breakfast on the Terrace
One of the most important parts of this trip to India is seeing family while here. We’ve had lunches that drag through into the evening with cousins and aunts and uncles followed by long walks or late-night dance parties to work off some of the delicious food. I wasn’t lucky enough to go to Bali this past summer for our family reunion so I’ve felt particularly grateful to be able to see my family and catch up with them now. For many, it’s been around 10 years since I’ve last seen them!
One of my favorite meals was when we spontaneously decided to go up onto the terrace at Gitu Mausi’s place to have breakfast. We slowly ate our breakfast, had our chai, sat in the sun, read the paper.
The thing I’ve loved about India so far is that it seems that the meals drag on and there is no sense of time or hurry. It may be because we’re all on vacation, but I’ve appreciated it nonetheless.
The same day we had breakfast on the terrace, we went to the Kingdom of Dreams to watch an original Indian Bollywood stage musical called Zangoora. This is no ordinary theater- there were ornately decorated camels and an amusement park ride outside of the facility that looked like a sprawling majestic sandstone and mirrored palace.
After we rode the ride and took a zillion pictures outside of the theater, we enjoyed the two-hour long show in cushy seats. The coolest part of the show was the set and special effects– there were screens along the side of the auditorium that had scenes played that essentially extended the set so it looked like a live Imax experience. The show was lively with lots of dancers and some songs were treasured Bollywood songs while others were original. The whole show was in Hindi, so half-way through Abby was able to get a headset that dubbed the show in English and she said it worked pretty well! I really enjoyed it because it was something unlike anything we’ve ever done. I’ve seen plenty of Bollywood movies, but to see the magic up close and live was spectacular. Like any typical Bollywood movie, the drama, action, and romance was all on point. If my career ever sputters out, I’ll just move to India and become a dancer in one of these shows and die happy.
5. Spa day & Yogance
Part of being on vacation is allowing ourselves to be pampered and to rejuvenate. My sisters, mom, Abby and I went to a nearby salon and enjoyed a day of a series of services that were of the same quality and much less expensive than in the states. There was the threading (LIFE-CHANGING), facials (also life-changing—I need to get these done more often!), haircuts and blow-outs and mani-pedis. My mom fluttered around to make sure the four of us were getting what we had asked for. But of course, she couldn’t be in all places at once… I struggled through explaining what sort of haircut I wanted (only a trim!!) in broken Hindi and English. What occurred was a blood bath on my head- once I saw the first 4 inch section being chopped off, I knew I was doomed. So I silently sat in the chair, dying internally, wishing my mom would read my mind and come over and say, “NO!!! YOU’RE CUTTING OFF TOO MUCH HAIR!!” But my irrational wishes were not answered. I almost cried after, but a few days later I realized how dramatic I was being and became pretty okay with my cut. And this is probably the most challenging experience I’ve had in India, sooo I think we can all say that we’re having a pretty damn good time.
Abby, Shivani, Priya, and I also were able to attend a yogance class which was so fun and interesting. We hadn’t worked out in a week so taking yogance (yoga+dance) was exactly what we needed. Our intense instructor led us through a series of poses. She also accused Shivani of being shiest of our group and lacking confidence in her poses and posture which made me lol. She corrected our poses and because this was Hath Yoga, there was a great emphasis on our breathing. This was not only relaxing, but it also helped me to push through those poses and really stretch out. And it reminded me how important it is to include yoga in my workout regiment —cardio and lifting are not enough! Disappointingly, we only did the “yogance” part for about 15 minutes at the end of class. Our instructor turned on some bhangra tunes and she sensuously moved through a series of movements so quickly and randomly that we all stifled giggles while trying to follow along as best we could. At the end of the class, we left feeling refreshed and this sign on the way out made me smile.
I’m missing all my friends from home and school so dearly. Every time I have a meal or go into a store, I think of a friend back home who would just love it. I’m convinced now more than ever that everyone should make at least one trip to India in their lifetime. I hope everyone is surviving the winter back home!