Impressions of India

It ain’t India unless there’s a cow in the middle of the road.

Seriously, every place I’ve been, cows can be found leisurely crossing the road (and other farm animals, but the cow is the most quintessential), seemingly oblivious to the hurricane of traffic swirling around them.

If I had to concisely sum up my experience of India, I would describe it as sensory overload. This feeling mainly applies to my time in the major cities, as Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh are much more remote, peaceful, and pleasing to the senses (or at least to mine). But despite the dense population and chaotic way of life here, things seem to function, even if I can’t always see the rhyme or reason as a foreigner.

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Revisiting (and rethinking) Delhi

I’m back in Delhi after two solid days of rest in Guwahati. I found a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho on the bookshelf in the communal living room, and quickly read it cover to cover. I know most of the western world has already read this book and I am late to the game, but better late than never. It was a gem; there are many little nuggets of wisdom and interesting analogies weaved throughout the story.

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Back on the (bleeping) bus

The bus ride was less like hell and more like purgatory.

It turns out I was armed with higher tolerance on the way back from Ziro than I had on the way there. To my surprise, the same “punk kid” ended up being my Sumo driver from Ziro back to Naharlagun. This coincidence made me smile, and, once again, his driving skills proved solid. Once we arrived, he shouldered my backpack and took me directly to the bus stand. We exchanged a handshake and then parted ways.

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Fake celeb syndrome

Tallo came to pick me up on his motorbike a little later today, around 9 am. We first went on a hike to Taw Tibe Farm, which involved climbing a hell of a lot of steps, but I am accustomed to uphill climbs by now. The farm itself is considered to be its own village, home to only two families. There wasn’t much to see on the farm itself, but the view overlooking the farm and surrounding area was scenic enough:

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The Apatani of Arunachal

I awoke well-rested and looking forward to exploring the town. I had known beforehand that Ziro is home to the Apatani tribe and was curious to see their way of life. My guide, a 26-year-old Apatani named Tallo, arrived promptly at 8 am and asked if I would prefer to walk or go by around by motorbike. I chose walking.

Tallo informed me that there are six major villages in Ziro: Hari, Diibo, Hong, Hija, Bulla, and Tajang. As Tallo and I walked along the road towards Hong, his own village, I realized that this place is truly unique—an oasis, really. There is a contrast between modern, colorful suburban-style homes you might expect to find in the west with small, traditional bamboo abodes that you are probably more likely to envision when considering the dwellings of tribespeople. The villages are set against a backdrop of numerous far-reaching rice fields. The interesting thing about these fields is that they they also contain fish, i.e., fish and rice are harvested together.

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Ziro tolerance: part II

The Sumo ride to Ziro was a fun (and somewhat dangerous) one, which often seem to go hand-in-hand in my choice of recreational and holiday activities.

Including me, there were nine passengers packed into the vehicle. The driver looked like a punk kid, having an arm tattoo, spiky hair, and wearing a black wife beater. There were five young guys in the front and back seats combined, and four women (including me) in the middle seats. After strapping our luggage to the roof, we pulled out of Naharlagun and began the winding, bumpy ride. This punk kid surprised me—he expertly maneuvered the uneven road boobytrapped with numerous craters, as well as the oncoming Sumos that appeared out of nowhere around the sharp corners.

The oncoming traffic was probably the most dangerous part of the ride, and we narrowly swerved a few vehicles. Avoiding collision depends on the drivers honking continuously around the corners, which seemed effective enough. All the while, the soundtrack to this obstacle course was a mixture of Hindi ballads and western pop music. Totally unfit for the occasion (the occasion being on the potential brink of death), but the contrast was amusing and made me smile.

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Ziro tolerance: part I

On May 12th, I set out for Leh airport from my guesthouse at 7 am to catch my morning flight to Guwahati. I had booked my AirBnB accommodations literally ten minutes before leaving, just barely managing it with the in-and-out wifi signal. I know by now that I prefer to have my accommodations booked before I set foot in a new place, at least for the first night. It saves time, energy, and potential stress, especially in a chaotic, big city like Guwahati. The guesthouse I chose (Shimzun Guest House) is owned by Chihan, who lives with his sister and nephew in a separate apartment downstairs (with some communal areas). He was happy to have me stay with them despite booking at the last minute.

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