The day has finally come that I get to experience ‘Incredible India’ in person. It’s been more than 5years of constantly flying back and forth to and from India without actually seeing the place as we usually don’t get to leave the airplane on shorter flights like this. But with all those nasty rumors about the country I thought it was about time to finally see it for myself. Many of my colleagues called me crazy for changing my flight to Malaysia for a trip to India but I was so excited to experience a new destination and a place that has been on my personal bucket list for many years. And so it happened that I finally got to fly to:
The morning begun with a lovely meeting of my fellow colleague from Greece who was almost as excited as I was to go 🙂 It’s always great to see other people who are as motivated as you because believe me: happiness really is contagious! And so it happened that we spent the next 24h more or less together exploring this exotic new place which is so different from our European cultures…I guess it’s also that what makes it so interesting for us. I strongly believe that you should never judge someone else’s culture or country without actually experiencing and even more so understanding it yourself. Never judge a book by its cover.
My first encounter with this wonderful culture was the arrival at the hotel where we received such a lovely and warm greeting. After receiving our traditional blessings by getting our foreheads marked with the ’tilak’, a mixture of spices blended with musk, we got greeted by the hotel staff who introduced us to all the wonderful facilities waiting for us at the resort. But by this time everyone of us was so tired that the greatest facility seemed to be our bed…and so I decided to take a little nap before heading out to explore the city.
Brutally woken up by my own alarm and almost missing all three of my wake up calls I dragged myself downstairs to the hotel lobby in order to meet the other girls who were eager to join me on the tour. I guess the concierge could read my mind as he send me straight to the coffee shop to get my fix before heading out. While my colleagues opted for a more substantial choice of lunch I got introduced to some local customs and -believe it or not- even learned some Bengali!
So after all of us recharged we were finally ready to leave in our little private limousine that would take us around town. We had a lovely cab driver who might not have been a native english speaker but trust me that didn’t stop him from talking! 😂 Don’t get me wrong as I think it was great being entertained all along the way, the only problem here was that every time he told us a story he would st
ep off the gas and drive at a speed of approximately 10km/h -no kidding! Anyway we enjoyed our little tour and get to see some very fascinating sights along with the ‘vibrant life’ on the streets of Kolkata…One just cannot imagine the things that you get to face out there: people brushing their teeth and having a full on shower on the side of the road, little kids playing around with sticks and ripped footballs, men sleeping in the shades of bridges or simply using an old newspaper protecting themselves from the sun, others are lounging in their tiny houses made of corrugated sheet metal exposing all their personal belongings to the outside world without having any privacy at all. On our way we pass human carriages made of wooden sticks and workers using their heads to carry immense amounts of goods from one point to another. While poverty is certainly very present here, people don’t seem unhappy at all. Surprisingly, and unlike many other places in the world, you will find everyone smiling on the street and people seem very approachable and helpful.
We started our tour by visiting some amazing palaces which reminded me of a smaller version of the Taj Mahal…
The roads were pretty busy as the traffic in India is crazy! The cars are honking non stop…so much in fact that eventually you zone out the noise. I was amazed by the colorful dresses and Saris the women were wearing in the streets and was tempted enough to try one on myself. And so we stopped at a local tailor shop down the road to get our fitting…It was so much fun browsing through the millions of colors and different patterns..my choice was easy 💖
In one of the temples we made the encounter with a very lovely old man from India who insisted on showing us a ‘little secret’…he guided us to an amazing spot from where you can see three different temples at once. I am not exaggerating when I say that he must have asked us about a million times whether we were happy or not. For some unexplanatory and fascinating reason this barefoot old man who had only a few teeth left in his mouth while smiling from one side to the other seemed to be the happiest person in the world. I asked him if he was happy himself and he said ‘yes-always’ 🙂
Our next stop was a personal request of mine, as it has always been a great dream of mine to go and visit the Mother Teresa of Kolkata🙏 It is a very tiny place but the atmosphere is really mesmerizing. We got welcomed by the sisters and were guided to the main housing area where I immediately spotted some other Italian tourists, as it is a big highlight for many of them to come and visit this holy place at least once in their lives. I think of my family back home who would probably also like to come here one day…as a matter of fact our hometown is actually called Santa Teresa.
On our way out one of the nuns stopped me asking where we are all from and what we are doing here…I admit that it is always kind of an odd picture when you see so many different nationalities mingling together in one place as we are a pretty multicultural crew. I explained to her that we are all flight attendants and from many different countries just visiting the place for a few hours. She gave all of us a little silver charm with the mother teresa along with a little leaflet with some prayers inside telling us to always carry this on our flights as it will protect us.
Moving on we passed a little stall serving fresh ‘chai’, a traditional Indian tea made of spices and served with milk. And of course I could not resist the temptation and had to stop for a quick treat. The thing that I really like about the Indian tea culture is the fact that each time is like a little ceremony. It takes a lot of dedication and skills to prepare the tea and therefor should be really enjoyed by its consumer. So while the rest of the girls were standing and watching in disgust how me and the greek girl indulged on our chai we were laughing and having a good time with the locals who surrounded us like little flies. Just minutes later a few random strangers rocked up to join our little tea party. In fact they were probably just curious -and maybe also a bit confused- at our sight. One of the guys told me that they are having approximately 10cups daily and that’s when I realized that maybe just maybe this culture is not so far away from my own at all….
Our next stop was the most memorable and also most shocking for me. Never will I forget our visit to the local orphanage nearby. First we stopped at a little grocery shop in order to get some ‘treats’ for the kids. Despite our tour guides advising us to buy candy and milk powder I insisted on getting some proper food items and maybe also something a little different like coloring books and pens to entertain those little ones. But when we reached the place I realized that nothing really mattered. None of the kids could either see or hear and therefor did not even realize what is going on around them as they were all suffering from some devastating disabilities. I was so shocked by the sight of the assembly room filled with approximately 35 children that I just wanted to leave. Standing in the doorway being completely paralyzed I probably must have scared those kids more than they did me. One of the girls was very switched on and immediately ran up to me playing around with my hair trying to communicate but desperately failed at any attempt to speak. I tried to engage her into some activities but quickly had to realize that it will only lead into frustration as she was clearly unable to involve into any of it. With tear filled eyes I had to leave the room to follow the girls and made my way on to the baby station.
Another room filled with sadness…there must have been at least 20 tiny babies being left behind by their own parents and now looking at us with big eyes showing nothing but fear. It was such a heartbreaking visit that I am honestly not able to put into words what I have witnessed. I am praying for every single one of these children that their future is saved and they will eventually have a better life. No child on this planet deserves to be abandoned like this and I truly cherish the work those sisters at the orphanage do for them. It is those moments that I realize how very blessed I am in life and appreciate having a big family like mine around me who always supports me and offered me the most amazing childhood ❤
On our way back to the hotel, we all remained silent in the car. Nobody knew what to say and everyone was so devastated by this traumatic experience that we just needed a moment to process all those things. It really got us thinking and also made me feel very, very tired. When we finally reached the hotel we got welcomed back by the concierge who also reminded us about our dinner reservations and the fact that we haven’t eaten all day. I quickly went to wash my dirty feet as it is local custom to remove your shoes in many places in India and came down to meet some other crew for a traditional and very lavish Indian dinner. We were so hungry from the day that we ordered a massive feast of almost everything and ate so much that our stomachs would hurt afterwards. The restaurant was really lovely and we truly enjoyed this local dining experience indulging into the most exotic things and trying out many different curry’s and aromatic dishes. One can only imagine what happened afterwards…back into the rooms we all had a little ‘party’ as none of our sensitive European tastebuds is properly used to the local spices. But I am gonna spare you the rest.. 🙊
The way back was pretty crazy as I didn’t get to sleep much that night (for above mentioned reasons) and unfortunately didn’t have enough time to grab some coffee before the flight (me without coffee-no bueno!). As an additional challenge we had a special team joining us on this flight whom we were to surprise with 90 extra loaded cupcakes in Economy class. Now try doing that without getting the attention of anyone else around in the cabin who obviously wants to have the same ‘special treatment’. It definitely took a lot of effort but somehow we managed and landed back home without any issues. I was so tired after this trip that I simply overslept the entire next day and only woke up when it started getting dark outside again. I am not sure if I was just extremely fatigued or simply overwhelmed by all the impressions I made on that trip and needed some extra time to process everything. Whatever the reason, I am glad that I finally got to experience India and appreciate all the new things I learned about this country and its exotic culture.