Thank You, India

Will Chase

OK, I was really nervous about heading to India. I’ve heard so many horror stories about traveling there. It’s hard, it’s dirty, it’s challenging … all that. And you know what? I got there, and damn if it wasn’t true. Every word of it.

India is a constant psychotropic kaleidoscope of activity; it’s a full-frontal, continuous shock to all your senses. You are hammered from the moment you arrive, until the moment you leave. It’s hot, dirty, smelly, busy, crazy, colorful, sickening, vibrant, challenging, frustrating, and at times, brutal.

Most travelers (particularly Americans … we’re pussies) get here, get smacked in the teeth with the experience for two days, and hop on the first plane out.

To survive in India (forget about enjoy yourself), you have to have a thick skin and a seriously perverted sense of humor. You need to be able to deal with anything (and I mean anything), and you need to be able to laugh when your instinct is to scream, or cry. Can’t do that? Don’t come.

You see things here that are simply not of this world. You end up with stories that you know nobody will believe, except other people who have been to India. For instance, the guy on the motorbike who was riding down the street carrying a bagful of pots and pans on one side, and his father’s carcass on the other. See? You have a hard time believing that, now don’t you? Well, it’s a true story. Welcome to India.

And you know what? I absolutely loved it. I extended my stay longer than I ever expected to. And I can’t wait to come back.

The easiest way to convey even the remotest sense of the experiencial patchwork that is India is to just throw it all at you like it comes.

So, here goes … here’s what India did for me:

  1. I trekked in to a remote Himalayan village called Malana, whose inhabitants believe themselves to be of a higher caste than everybody else, and thus will not let any outsider touch them or their temples, lest they become “tainted”. Get near them, and you may as well be waving a knife in their face for the reaction you get. There are actual signs posted that warn you will be charged 1,000 rupees (around $20) for touching anything. I soooo wanted to play the “I’m not touching you” game.
  2. Attended, in all possible senses, a 3-day full moon party in the mountains above Manali, with the towering Himalayas as our setting. Experience a Himalayan sunrise after being up all night … just once. I swear you’ll never forget it.
  3. I learned that waggling one’s head is a way to say “yes,” “possibly,” “could be,” “if you want to,” or “I don’t know.” Figuring out which one is really meant becomes especially important when the question you’ve asked is “is this saddle properly secured?”. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that chicks dig scars.
  4. I no longer have even the remotest trepidation about being around, driving next to, touching, being sneezed on by, or eating next to the following: cows, oxen, camels, elephants, horses, donkeys, water buffalo, monkeys, baboons, goats, rats, cats (not cats in the sense we’re used to, believe me), pigs, hogs, dogs, chickens, roosters, leeches, and spiders.
  5. I meditated in a stunning all-marble Hindu temple in Jaipur, thinking nice thoughts about my brother’s new baby girl, who (I would find out later) was being born at that very moment. Peyton Annee Chase, in case you’re wondering.
  6. I learned the meaning of fear while driving up what was basically a cliff face to 13,500′ on narrow, winding, hairpin-turn laden roads, with large trucks and cars coming at us full speed, and no guard rails to keep us from plummeting to our death, while our driver giggled manically. He could do that. He was stoned out of his head. Oh, and he had some inexplicable need to pass as many cars and trucks as possible on this road, despite the fact that it would result in absolutely no net gain in the long run. And no amount of screaming on my part would get him to stop.
  7. I took flights on such eminent airlines as “Royal Nepal Airlines”, “Jagson Airlines”, and “Buddha Air”. Buddha Air was fine, except for all the smoke pouring into the cabin during takeoff. Nobody else seemed to mind except me, so I just kinda laughed (see “survival”, above) and blew it off.
  8. I puked my guts out on the side of the road in the Rajastan desert, in 115 degree heat. The appreciative Indian truck drivers gave me a resounding salute with their horns, bless their hearts.
  9. I … well … interacted with 5,000 wild monkeys (that’s not an exaggeration, it’s a fact) who run wild at a village of Hindu temples high in the Jaipur hills. It’s like walking around inside the monkey cage at the zoo. Except that there’s 5,000 of them, and the way they act, they could very well be on a strict amphetamine diet. Thought of the day: “Oh man, I really wish I had gotten that rabies shot!” Luckily, short of a wary glance here and there, they more or less leave you alone.
  10. Within 3 hours of being in Bombay, I was having dinner with high-ranking members of the Indian mafia, while (simultaneously), the most powerful cop in Bombay was offering to call my hotel to have my hotel bill waived. I swear to god, I’m not making this up.
  11. Oh, I decided to go to Nepal. I figured it would sound really cool to say I went to Kathmandu. I went to Kathmandu. See? Doesn’t that sound cool?
  12. Of the 4 days I spent in Bombay, I only slept during one nighttime. The rest was day sleep, if you want to call it “sleep”. It was more like “day pass out”. Bombay is the unsung city of the world. It’s got the action and variety of New York, crossed with the sprawl and dream-factory atmosphere of LA. Go there, trust me.
  13. I learned that bathroom facilities are not restricted to places with porcelain fixtures, or even walls. Oh no! On the contrary! You can defecate wherever you want, whenever you want. Go right ahead! Be our guest! Side of the road? Sure! The world is your toilet, my friend.
  14. Littering is apparently fun.
  15. People look at you funny if you eat with your left hand. The right hand is used for eating, while the left hand is traditionally reserved for cleaning one’s nether regions. Personally, I use toilet paper, folks, so you can just call off the dogs, OK?
  16. Toilet paper is a privilege, not a right.
  17. It’s apparently best to get rid of your garbage by adding it to the giant steaming pile on the side of the street. The pigs, cows and goats will eat it. At some point.
  18. Let’s just say events transpired such that a headline flashed in my head, reading “tourist killed in bizarre restaurant accident when monkey guard fell asleep.”
  19. You can be arrested and thrown in jail for making out in public. I found this out only after making out with a girl in the New Delhi airport.
  20. I had a good laugh (not) while going through Bombay airport security in … well, let’s just say “a certain state of mental disorientation”, when the security guard found an expended M16 bullet cartridge in my carry-on bag. I tried to explain to him that it was a “souvenir from the M16 I shot while I was in Vietnam” and suddenly realized that this sounded as though I was claiming I had been in the Vietnam War. After 5 minutes of spirited argument, I left it with him and made a hasty beeline for my plane.
  21. Indians are wonderful wonderful people. I love them all. Even the cheats, liars, scammers, would-be “guides”, salesmen (see “cheats”), beggars and touts. Oh yes, touts. Spend 3 minutes in india, and you’ll learn that a “tout” is anybody who attempts to get you — at any cost and great lengths — into their or their friend’s hotel, taxi, auto-rickshaw, store, horse, vagina, whatever, for the commission they will thereupon receive.
  22. The most important word to know as a traveler in India sounds like “cello”. Said correctly, and with adequate force and viciousness, it basically means “piss off!”. Commit this to memory and make it a regular part of your day-to-day vocabulary before you get off the plane.
  23. When leeches crawl into your shoes while trekking in Nepal (this happens every 3 steps), you will not know it until you take your shoes off. Then you will know it for sure, because it will look like somebody sacrificed a cow on your foot. And you must laugh (see “survival”, above). When leeches bite you, they secrete a little painkiller (so you don’t feel it), as well as a chemical that staves off blood’s natural clotting properties. They’re so fun!!
  24. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a raindrop hitting your rain jacket, and a leech landing on you (they see you coming and throw themselves from the leaves above), whereupon it will steadfastly make its way into your clothing. Leeches have to be one of the most highly evolved, effective and efficient creatures on earth, after sperm and cockroaches. But that’s just my opinion.
  25. Apparently, I’m a rock star. Everybody wants to look at me, see what I’m doing, look over my shoulder, shake my hand, take their picture with me, find out where I’m from, find how old I am, find out if I’m married, talk to me, chat aimlessly, marry me off to their daughter, whatever. Constantly. Incessantly.
  26. I’ve forgotten how to buy something, get a hotel room, or utilize a service without first having to engage in colorful histrionics about how expensive and overpriced and unfair it all is, despite the fact that what I’m being asked to spend is about 1/10 of what it would be in any first world country.
  27. “Hello friend!”, loosely translated, means “Hi! I would like to cheat you! Come on over and see how!”
  28. I went horseback riding and skiing on the Rohtang Pass (13,500′), wearing a seriously bad-ass full length fur coat that would make Snoop Doggy Dog green with envy.
  29. Bollywood movies are seriously cool. They take the concept of “musical” up several notches and then turn them loose in a blur of color and ordered chaos. I’m a closet addict. Note: in India, the definition of a pornographic film is one where any two people kiss. Just letting you know.
    30. Just because you tell the taxi or autorickshaw driver what hotel you want to go to, doesn’t necessarily mean he will actually take you there. I mean, what were you expecting?
  30. There was a spider in my hotel room in Pokhara, Nepal, that deserved its own zip code. I left him alone, he left me alone.
  31. Let’s just say that events transpired such that I had a hilariously frightening vision of a Chase family Christmas dinner, and me with my 15-year old Nepali wife.
  32. Stagnant pools of urine have horrific olfactory properties in 115 degree heat.
  33. I was blessed by a Brahman (holy man) in Pushkar, and in turn blessed everything and everybody in my life. So, you’ve got that going for ya.
  34. It’s now strange to walk along the street and not be offered hashish every ten minutes.
  35. Stand in Delhi for 1 day. you will have inhaled the equivalent of 2 packs of cigarettes.
  36. I found out who’s responsible for all that internet chat sexual harrassment! It’s this 11-year-old kid running an internet cafe just outside the Taj Mahal. I’m serious. The kid is global and he is on fire. You’ve never seen so many simultaneous instant message chat windows filled with “You want make love me now?”.
  37. Indians drive with an utter disregard for personal safety and a borderline sociopathic obliviousness. What’s even more unnerving is that they do so with a placid smile on their face that says “I shall drive. The gods will sort it out.” The only way for a passenger to cope is to just close our eyes and hope for the best.
  38. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the overnight bus ride between New Delhi and Manali is a mirror image of one of the inner circles of Hell.
  39. You will grow and evolve more in one day in India than you would in one year anywhere else. If you want to expand yourself when you travel, you will simply not find a better bang for your buck than India. Believe me.

OK, I think you’ve all probably had enough. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and it’s been seriously edited for content, lest I end up in prison.

I’ll finish by saying this: I’ve chosen to live my life such that if somebody were to write a book about me, people would want to read it. Experience everything you can, folks. It’s out here, but it’s also where you are … it’s all right there in front of you. Bob, it’s in Peyton’s eyes.

Go large.

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