Feature Story

Lucky being lost

Lucky being lost
Hummus... Hummus... mmm... @ Channa Desi land, India
NoSay 'Paneer'
A Desi Cow, गाय, at a market store dukhan, Sindhudurg, Konkan, Maharashtra, India
Cows, Rice & Cricket
'Did you come first?'
Down time, - India.
Market street
The language of friendship
Dil  ke darwaja, - India
The commons

This is where it all began. Just by coincidence / destiny.

Landed in India. On the bus from Mumbai to Goa, at one of the snack/restroom stops a kid was holding a tray of peanuts and I bought some. The guy next to me, also a passenger, put the kid on the spot: "Why do you ask him 5 rupees when it is only 3". 'My guardian angel" I felt.

We got chatting: "Why is the bus ticket so expensive when my guide book quotes much less?" I asked, "There's a festival in a village on the way" he said "The demand drives up the price". I felt very lucky. A festival falls exactly on my first day in India. (Later I learned there's a festival nearby at any given time). I opened my Lonely Planet guide book at the regional map and asked him to point out that village. Apart of the road and railway and our destination city the map was blank. "It is about here" He pointed somewhere on the coastline. "Can you write the name of the village for me?". He did and advised me where to get off and catch the local bus.

So I did. The 30 mile local bus ride lasted 4½ hours. Traveling on dirt roads, stopping at every village, through bright green rice fields, coconut groves, over a beautiful river and having many new faces, voices and energies aboard.

As the ride went on I felt increasingly odd, as no other foreigner boarded the bus. Choosing 'wherever' as my first destination seemed somewhat silly now.

We finally arrived. As I stepped off the bus and while waiting for my backpack to be unloaded from the bus top, I noticed a circle of curious spectators forming around me, just staring. If I was feeling silly before this was already alarming. "What did I think to my self?" I was wondering "there is probably no place for a tourist to stay around here and it may be quite risky". I need to go back". But I was tired and hungry and decided to take a rest before I head back. This was the turning point. From here on something greater then words started happening, which followed all throughout my year's travel across rural India.

Crossing the street I sat in a little hole-in-the-wall. I pointed out a fried snack that looked decent enough to try and while eating the kiosk man chatted me up. I had no Hindi and he had no English. I tried to use 'Hotel', an international word - only to learn days later it means 'restaurant' in India. I tried mimicking a sleeping position. That worked ! In a few minutes we were driving through sandy coconut groves, left behind was the unattended restaurant. We arrived at a little virgin beach side guesthouse ($4 per night), where I would stay for the following 3 weeks making many local friends. In the coming days, visiting that festival I would be the only foreigner among about 50,000 Indian.

Crash landing: what happened once I returned to USA, a year later: http://jpgmag.com/stories/16308

Stories from a year in villages and towns across India My India: Where every village is home - Experience !

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—The JPG team

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