For weeks I ruminated the conversations that I had with Bharat, the patriarch, in plastic chairs on the terrace over innumerable cups of tea. At first these chats seemed benign, a way for a retired man and an unemployed traveler to wile away the hours. But in the end they became much more, and I realized that a different dialog had been falling together, its gravity only to be felt in the end, a real plot twist.
These episodes are difficult to articulate in a single blog because they take time to develop. My preference would be to do so in a series of small articles, as we did recently with our drive across India and the Annapurna circuit trek, but the longer we dwell on these things the further we fall behind. And with days punctuated by lots of ten hour drives, and nights (in India, at least) spent sleeping in garbage-strewn dirt lots at ramshackle petrol stations, it’s sometimes tough to find motivation to write. Most days, it seems, I find it hard to resist collapsing on the couch at the end of the day, cracking open a beer, and then falling asleep.
Just how far behind have we fallen? Those who follow us on Facebook know that I’m writing this from Europe. The last time we were this far behind on our blog was when we arrived in Tierra del Fuego and were still writing about Peru. We were able to catch up, though, and by the time we arrived in Asia we were writing in the present. That’s our hope this time, that we can get caught up and be writing in the present as we make our way across Europe and down the home stretch through North America.
The last time we fell behind we caught up in part by skipping over some things and going back and writing about them in our book. We’ll do it the same way this time: by skipping some stories and saving them for our second book. What that will mean for the next few days is a hasty spewing forth of Indian blogs until it (the blog) arrives in Europe where it will resume normalcy.
And this seems like a good time to mention just how much I admire people like Pat Schulte from Bumfuzzle.com. Correction: how much I admire “person” like Pat Schulte. He’s the only person I can think of who still writes, after all these years, about what happened that day, several times per week, and he does it increasingly well as time goes by. Most other well-intentioned travel bloggers seem to quit blogging after a couple of months, or else write sporadic updates about what happened six months ago. It may not appear so at first glance, but keeping a long term overland travel blog up-to-date and trying to present it well is a damn dirty lot of work.
But enough rambling.
When we finally left Nepal, we reluctantly pried ourselves away from Dobighat, leaving our beloved Nepali family behind. Durga proclaimed Sheena her daughter and me her son as she placed flower garlands around our necks and saw us off. Sheena cried all the way across Nepal to the western border and we both left with heavy hearts and mixed emotions. We could have easily stayed in Nepal for several months, having developed a real connection to our family there. It’s hard to describe without getting all Barney the Dinosaur about it.
Within a minute of crossing back into India we were pressed into a throng of bodies and were almost immediately unable to carry on due to a drunken man who had passed out in the midst of the human stampede, blocking the one-lane bridge just beyond the border. He was finally dragged out of the way just in time for Sheena to get shaken down by a corrupt border cop. A big friendly welcome back to India, and reassurance of our mixed emotions.
We drove south to Delhi, to the home of our good friends Karan and Jyotsna, who we had befriended when they worked at the Himalayan Grill in Flagstaff. We had initially intended to stay in Nepal for another month, to go an live in the Rai family’s village in Eastern Nepal, but had cut our plans short when Karan had invited us to his sister’s wedding.
The decision wasn’t an easy one; guests in a rural Nepali village or guests at an Indian wedding. Nepali village, Indian wedding, Nepali village, Indian wedding…
In the end we decided that being invited to an Indian wedding was a once in a lifetime experience for a couple of milk faces like ourselves, and we made the call. And this is where the story stalls again because the experience was so multifaceted that it I’ve decided to save it for the book.
But to summarize, the Indian wedding took four days. We stayed in the bride’s apartment with the entire extended family, sleeping on a mattress in the middle of the floor with a dozen or so other family members. Each day held a different ceremony and each night surged on until 5:00 in the morning. The sleep deprivation and relentless ceremonies put us into a days-long trance, and seeing it from within the bride’s household proved an experience that few foreigners are fortunate enough to have.
Normally I’d recapture the happenings, the odds and ends, the funny things, and a deeper insight that we took away in the form of a blog, but it can’t be done. Not well, anyway. Limiting it to 3,000 words would be an injustice when it deserves ten or fifteen thousand. In short, it belongs in a book.
The wedding was a visual display of Liberace meets Riverdance in Bollywood. You’ll have to wait for the story, but for now here is a smattering of photos. There’s an album on our Facebook page with many more.