Between our stints Varanasi and Dharmsala, we returned to Delhi for a quick eleven hours. We came back to our now familiar YWCA Hostel for lunch and a place to leave our bags and rest, if needed. We were then free to do whatever we wished in the city for a few hours (as long as we were not alone, of course).
We all spent our time in Delhi differently. Some went shopping for Indian clothing and goods to wear and bring home. Others cooled off in a café (Delhi, on this day, was not unbearably hot, but still not pleasant) and visited other shops. Members of our group walked and tuk tuk-ed (our new favorite mode of transportation) around the city, talking to all sorts of people (Anna, for example, has told me many times about her new friend and up-and-coming musician, Roger Diamond). Personally, I went with Joi on a search for an ATM that turned into a four-hour excursion around what felt like the entire city. We crossed streets underground, were approached by many people looking to help us out, rode three tuk tuks to places that the drivers recommended, walked around Delhi’s Central Park, compared the more Western side of town to other parts of the city, and almost re-watched the beloved Bollywood movie that we saw in Varanasi (in Hindi). Needless to say we had a blast, and we were excited by our newfound ability to find our way in a city in India.
Our group spent the evening back at the YWCA, resting and dining before heading to the train station. Our train was scheduled to depart at 10:20 at night, so we got there around 9:30, which is when we learned that the train company had not been able to confirm enough seats on the train for all of the members of our group to have their own sleeping berths. This meant that eight of us would have to share the small berths with another person, which was frustrating to learn. We were displeased that our comforts and sleep would be compromised. Travel days, as we have learned, are draining, and this situation would make it even rougher.
Though short, this second stay in Delhi, along with our following overnight train, seemingly encapsulates a common theme of our trip: the balance between enjoying ourselves and pushing ourselves to be challenged. Wandering around the city was both enjoyable and empowering as travelers. In contrast, our train experience challenged us to cope with an unpleasant situation. But it also highlighted to us our own privilege; there were many other people on the train without air conditioning, without sleeping berths, without even a seat, and traveling longer distances than we were. We have been pushed out of our comfort zones on this trip, dealing with the heat, the crowds, difficult travel experiences, and completely different ways of life, but we must also remember the many luxuries that still accompany us. Six people ended up sharing beds, and two of us converted one of the beds into seats and slept like that. It was not enjoyable, but we made it to Dharmsala, and we all got at least a little sleep. And, as Anna pointed out, it’s the memories of things that don’t go as planned that we will remember the most.