My lovely Australian friend & I made plans to travel to Dharamshala for Holi festival. Our friends from the hostel are going to party central Pushkar for Holi but we are both hesitant. We are cautious of Indian men & feel Dharamshala will be a less overwhelming. I want to celebrate Holi, of course, although the thought of being crammed in a busy square getting crushed & groped by the sexually motivated & deprived is a living nightmare. Hopefully Dharamshala will have enough people to have a great party & a perfect balance where we don’t feel out of our depths.
Our 14 hour night bus cost only 900 rupees (£9) although it was far from luxurious.
Exhausted, in the blistering heat we waited with our worldly belongings & other travellers for our bus to arrive. After our scheduled departure time we were directed towards our rickety bus. Everyone filed to put their luggage in the hold where a guy was taking a fee for the luggage. Already annoyed I refused stating our luggage was included in the fare we had already paid. After a few moments of debate he clarified that the extra fee was actually for him to take the luggage from our hands & set it into the bus luggage hold we were standing beside. What the fuck? It’s as easy for me to set it in myself. My friend & I refused this chancer’s fee & set our own bags in the luggage hold, unsure if we would ever see it again….
Everyone crammed onboard & unenthusiastically absorbed the state of the bus. It was obvious no one was surprised when the fans weren’t working, to see the promised power points ripped from the sides of the bus or the distinct lack of curtains in places. If you’ve made it this far in India the filth doesn’t affect you anymore. We sat on the bus for an hour waiting for the driver to begin the journey. When I enquired after 30 mins a fellow backpacker laughed & shrugged ‘This is India’ in a worldly get-used-to-it manner. Fuck off mate. This is India, but I’m not going to sit & pretend it’s fine, I’m going to let the bus driver know people are waiting & not ecstatic to add another hour on to the already tedious journey.
Eventually when the driver returned from his many casual Chai we set off into the dusty abyss. A backpacker in the seat directly in front of me was suffering badly with nausea & snuggling towards the window in preparation to vomit. I pitied him but my selfishness dominated as I became concerned about the smell of his sick, questioned his aim & whether his sick would go directly out the window. I retreated to an empty seat near the back & enjoyed stretching out while I still could. I day dreamed out the window wondering about the lives of the people we passed….
As I was relaxing into the journey & getting lost in my book a strange man seized his opportunity to sit next to me & bother me. I am often told I am too nice, but I find it extremely awkward to be rude. I was making it incredibly obvious that I wanted to read my book but he insisted on talking to me. He spoke about Reiki, told me of the shining light & feelings he was getting from me, that I was a kind person, my smile, guessed my parents professions (incorrectly), that I was a free spirit & enjoyed travel (duh). I was trapped on this bus for another 12 hours with nowhere to run & this guy wanting to hold my hand to give me spiritual healing. Oh FUCK OFF!!!
I made my excuses & moved back to my seat, sacrificing the extra leg room for peace from harassment. Naturally the guy followed me & sat in his seat, directly beside me. Fuck my life. At this point I’m not even surprised by these occurrences. My Australian friend had also noticed the pattern of me attracting weirdos into my path & offered me a smile of sympathy & mild amusement. The next logical step for me was pretending to be asleep. I instantly wrapped myself in my blanket & closed my eyes exiting from the world of annoyance. As you can expect this guy spoke to me at every point I was awake, when we stopped for something to eat he sat beside me & when we got to Dharamshala we just happened to bump into each other on a bi-daily frequency. One of these days I expect to be murdered in a dark alley by some random stranger who has just tagged on to me.
The uncomfortable bus journey dragged on with me pretending to be asleep for the majority. The window behind our seat didn’t close so the poor girls behind us as well as everyone in the back of the bus were frozen for the latter part of the trip. When we inclined up the mountains the bus was eerily silent & my stalker was fast asleep so I felt I could relax. As much as one can relax after 14 hours cooped up on a bus, faux sleeping & trying to avoid the person sitting next to you. The sun was slowly rising over the snow kissed tips of the himalayas. The views were spectacular with the colours of dawn melting the night shades away. I was completely awestruck at the view & overwhelmed by the beauty. My inner misery melted away & I felt blessed at where my life leads me.