Our time in India is drawing to a close, and we are all sad. Also tired.
We spent our last day in Jaipur shopping frantically, as though we were never going to be able to buy anything ever again. We had quite a lazy start because we knew that the markets don’t tend to pick up until about lunchtime, but ended up shopping from afternoon to late evening, with a break for a quick (not) trip to the cinema. The Raj Mandir is the most beautiful cinema you will ever see, with a big old foyer with sweeping staircases, an elaborately decorated ceiling, and a heavy old-fashioned curtain hung in front of the screen. We went to see a film called Kick, of indeterminate plot, starring Salman Khan who is basically the god of Bollywood. When he first came on screen the whole audience started cheering and clappinng. Indian cinema is strange. It was a really fun film – completely ridiculous, as Bollywood films tend to be, but a great laugh to watch. It was also quite helpful having Suhan next to me explaining bits, although less so when his insights were things like “she is sad” or “he is dead”.
By the end of the day we were all fairly satisfied with our new purchases of trousers and shirts and skirts and things, and especially with our jewellery. Kabir and Suhan took us to a wholesalers area so we got pretty good deals on it, and some of us got a bit carried away (Dan ended up buying 4 rings because he can’t resist a bargain). After that we went to another part of the market where Dan and Kate got henna done, and then we headed out for dinner, back to the restaurant at Pearl Palace. It was a really nice last meal in the end, despite the fact that we had to wait for ages, were at first sat on a table that already had someone on it, then taken to a dirty table, and got one Coke every six times we asked for one.
Unfortunately Suhan and Kabir had to leave before the meal was over (and when Tyler’s fried chicken had only just arrived, you could see his dilemma between wanting to say goodbye properly and wanting to devour his food). Suhan’s family needed his car because his neighbour had been in an accident, and people had been ringing him all night but Kabir had told him to wait because he wanted to spend every last waking second with Kate. How cute. So anyway, we all stood up and hugged and then hugged some more and stood around some more and chatted and reminisced whilst Kabir and Kate had their emotional goodbye. After about 8 years they broke apart and we carried on with dinner, sad but also enjoying being back as a group again.
By the time we finished dinner it was about half 11 (why do we always do this?) and so we headed back to the hostel sharpish, to pack and sleep before our millionth early morning. As the others were just getting ready for bed (and I still had the entire contents of my bag spread haphazardly on my bed), we met our new roommate, who it turned out who had just come from Nepal. It was very reassuring to hear his glowing reviews of the country in general – he wasn’t a massive fan of India but absolutely loved Nepal, which leaves me with high hopes for positive impressions for us. It was a shame we only got to chat to him for a little while: even apart from him being a nice guy who would have fit in with the group well, it would have been great to grill him about the best and worst things he did in his time there. Never mind.
I got to sleep at the very reasonable hour of about 2am, and got up about 2 and a half hours later, to the tune of four alarms going off simultaneously (closely followed by four alarms being snoozed simultaneously). This time we were verging on sensible in our arrival time at the station, with plenty of time to find our platform, figure out our carriage, sit down and get settled, be told we were in the wrong carriage, and move to the right carriage, before the train started coasting out of the station. Quite the achievement.
We made sure to fully relish the luxury of air conditioning on the way back to Delhi, but were still knackered when we finally got there. We had a bit of a faff trying to get our bags to the left luggage area of New Delhi station (a different station from the one we arrived into), but managed it eventually, having purchased several superfluous padlocks and chains from an old man who kept pointing insistently at the sign proclaiming that all baggage had to be locked securely before it could be stored. It seemed like quite a good system: you can lock your bags to the shelving on which it gets stored, which is definitely good for peace of mind.
After that we went to sort out a few errands – Emma and I went back to Moustache Hostel to pick up some stuff that got left behind the last time (and to sneakily use the wifi), while the others went to find a place to get their passport photos taken (SO much cheaper than in Europe, at about 50 rupees). Once that was out of the way we went to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib at my suggestion, because it’s an awesome awesome place (but mostly because at Sikh temples you can get a free lunch). We spent a good hour or so there, eating and wandering round, before deciding that the best plan of action was just to head for a place with wifi so we could attempt to figure out how in the world we are going to make it to Kathmandu.
We’ve genuinely been here for about 4 hours now, and realistically are none the wiser because all the advice online says things like ‘there are regular buses from the border’ (unhelpful without a time frame) and give prices in rupees without specifying to which country’s currency it is referring.
Basically we haven’t the foggiest, except that we have a lot of knowledge surrounding the issue. Which is good, I suppose. We’re just about to head off to get the train now having filled up on a nice dinner (joined by Sid again – it was nice to speak to him without the background noise of a bar getting in the way).
Wish us luck.