Sunday, March 20, 2011

I hate goodbyes.

Well, the title says it all. I hate goodbyes. And although I find myself writing three-weeks into my fancy new life in Jerusalem, with a whole new set of adventures ahead, I cannot help but feel nostalgic for India. So, I’m going to devote this time to say goodbye to India. More on Israel to come.

I spent my final weeks closing up things in Hyderabad and then traveling with friends in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, both of which reaffirmed and invigorated my love of the country. I think goodbyes always have a way of reminding me what I love about the person or the place, and about all of the good memories we shared together. So in an effort to say goodbye to the places that have meant so much to me, I wrote them letters:

Dear Hampi,
Thank you for awakening my thirst for travel and discovery. You will always be remembered as one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Your cliff-jumping-hitchhiking pal,

A memorable Hampi moment.

One of the sights on the way to Monkey Temple.

Dear Delhi,
If there were any city in India I could see myself living in, it would be you. You have so much going for you between your numerous markets, historic sights, and diverse neighborhoods. Your many parks were at once surprising and refreshing.  I hope you realize your potential. While most people might think Mumbai is where the “scene” is at, don’t worry, I believe in you.
Perhaps your future resident,

One of the more beautiful sights I saw in Delhi at the Hauz Khas Village.
One of my favorite views of the Phar Ganj Main Bazaar.

Dear Pushkar,
Thank you for teaching me how to live life shanti-shanti, even if it was only for one week. I will never forget your bustling market or the cool nighttime motorcycle rides. Thank you for hosting me at my first Rajasthani wedding, even though that meant dancing in front of a crowd of strangers for hours. For me, you were a city of memorable rooftops—breakfast on rooftop restaurants, sleeping on a family’s roof for the night, and beautiful views of the setting sun watched from a guesthouse roof. Please don’t ever lose your charm.
With Boundless Love,

The view from a Pushkar roof.
Even the dogs are shanti.
The Rajasthani wedding-- the bride is in red in the middle.

Dear Bundi,
I will remember always your narrow alleys and your rooftop dinners. Your old havelis with crackling walls and your secret green spaces.  The late nights of whisky and dancing under the stars and then the early morning chai sipped on the porch that followed. Thank you for the lazy afternoons spent in Papu’s shop and the best samosa I have ever eaten. Thank you for the new friends and the memories we shared together. You were a city of allure for me, one with hidden adventures inside to unlock. Thank you for teaching me how to take a risk-- your home-cooked meals and unassuming beauty were worth it alone.
-A relaxed and rested Rachel

The narrow alleys.
New friends Papu and his wife Babi G. They hosted us every night for dinner on their rooftop home.
Dear Hyderabad,
I know I was rough on you at times about your traffic and your pollution, but you will always hold a special place in my heart. Although it may be hard to admit, I will miss your bustling streets and your littered roadways.  I will miss my daily challenges like crossing the street or fighting for a good price on a rickshaw. I will miss my walks to the Bakshi apartment, ignoring stares from men and the always-tempting street food.  I will miss shopping in the market at my vegetable man and I will miss the pharmacist who stocked up on my hair gel for me. I will miss naan, aloo gobi, malai kofta, and eating it all with my hands. I will miss the me who was all of a sudden cooking new recipes and good with directions. Most of all, I will miss the wonderful people I met within your walls and the times we spent together—a fight at Syn, Charminar at night, dinner with family, Sunday gameday, bonfires at farms, a broken table, nerf guns, skeets, bat-hunting, late night moped-rides home, Just Foods, free plates at Kibbeh, face-painting, and Moses—the memories are as vibrant and diverse as the city itself.

I wish we could have had more time together. With more time, I could have learned more about your nuances, your history, and your cultural depth-- something I still question. Though, I only wish the best for you. I hope you continue growing, and continue finding you cultural and social identity among India’s numerous cities. To my friends and coworkers who made the experience memorable, thank you. And to the city that was there when it all began, thank you.
With love always,

Some of the people that made Hyderabad memorable: my coworkers. 
And my roommates. Plus Lakshmi, the girl the Bakshis referred to as their "servant." 

Of course there were many cities along the way that made India a truly remarkable experience for me, but these were a few of the exceptional ones.

I have always valued the importance of place and the ability it has to shape a person. A certain building or a particular city can have profound affects on a person-- make us feel happy, comforted, at home, content, at peace, spontaneous, explorative. Sometimes a place can simply draw us in.  And I think India, unexpectedly and with full-force, did just that. It drew me in with its’ colors and foods, the people, the places, and the sense of adventure it all represented. Dear India, I will miss you. Hope to be back soon.  Love, Rachel.

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