Manuela arrives in India from Colombia

My friend Manuela writes about her experiences in India. She talks about coming to India and settling in Chandigarh. Read to find out more about her Indian fairytale.

My own Indian Fairytale by Manuela Osorio Pineda

From the very first moment I placed my feet in Indian lands, I had that strange but fascinating feeling of being walking in two different countries at the same time; not between a ‘rich’ and a ‘poor’ one – although the economic gap is so huge you can almost touch it- not between a ‘women’s’ and ‘men’s’ country – although gender equality is still a utopia as in most regions of the world- and not either between a religious divided country, although the conflicts involving the beliefs differences can still be felt in some parts of the vast subcontinent.

Me in Dehradun

Blame it on the exhaustive 36-hour trip all the way from Colombia or the large amount of antibiotics in my body fighting a criminal bronchitis, the strange feeling was there and, to be honest, has never really left. It’s hard to explain, but after a lot of thinking and arguing between my mother tongue and second language, I came out with a pretty decent definition; I was on ‘Surreal Mode: that undefined state of consciousness that resembles the moment when you are in the middle of a dream, and suddenly realize you’re actually dreaming… Or the limbo half way between being asleep and awake, in which you are conscious enough about the reality surrounding you but everything seems possible and your random thoughts make total sense, just to become extremely nonsense once you come back to the limited and full-of-norms reality’. Yes! When I first stepped on Indian lands I started living a dream.

Before coming to this beautiful country I read thousands of articles, talked to dozens of people and watched a million videos… But none ‘WOW’ me more than this one!

The line of open hands that welcomed me at the hall of the Indira Gandhi Airport were a sign of the warmth I was about to find in the Indian culture. There I was; tired, sick, confused and excited; wondering where to change my money or whether there was gonna be someone outside the airport waiting for me, since my flight was delayed for two hours… And there they were! Freezing outside the building because you’re not allowed to enter to the airport without a ticket, even if you just got out from there! So yes, Prachir, Rossana and his friend were holding a paper with my name; once again, CouchSurfing had saved my butt!

Whether I was too crazy to travel 15280 Km. all the way from Colombia, to travel in a foreign country which official language I don’t speak, and trust a bunch of guys I met on-line  is something I will not discuss in this post. All I have to say in my defence is that every second of this experience has been worthwhile, even on last May 23, when I was melting at 43, 8 °C on one of the ‘hottest days of the last 5 years’. Of course! ‘It’s India!’ Right?.. And that’s the first mistake you can make while traveling to another country: make suppositions based on prejudgements  After crossing the gates to the city and my new life, a blow of wind woke me up and kinda slaps me on the face! : 5°C… This is how India really felt.

Me in Manikaran (Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh)

The next couple of days were amazing and marathonic; crazy traffic, crowded places, curious eyes staring at my ripped jeans, friendly smiles, amazing sunsets, beautiful buildings, delicious – although spicy – food, unbelievable sociable guys asking about my nationality and bargaining lessons; ‘ye both jada hai, kam karo!’ something like ‘That’s too much! Make it less..!’ Two days later I was in Chandigarh, the City Beautiful, but that’s another story.

And that’s how I started my journey through the lands of Gandhi and OSHO; where Hindu, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians live together in relative harmony along with hundreds of dialects and local languages, an increasing number of deities and prophets and cows, camels, elephants, monkeys, goats, pigs, cars, trucks, tuk-tuks –with its big HORNS!- locals and foreigners. Everyone walking the same roads and breathing the same air loaded with scents … or stinks. Incredible

INDIA, a country that has given a whole new meaning to the word D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y !!!

If you wanna know how I was slapped by a stranger on a local bus or how I ‘accidentally’ met the Dalai Lama, STAY TUNED! Now tell me how was your first reaction when you came to India for the first time; did you hate the chaos and noisy traffic or did you fall in love with the food and lifestyle? And if you are Indian; what is the first advice you would give a foreign about to come to the country?

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