“We arrived in Bangalore at 1:00 in the morning. After going through customs and then getting our baggage we met Gayan. He is the guy who is our escort while we are in India. We took a taxi back to the hotel. On the way we saw a lot of stray dogs and some men cutting down a tree and it fell in the middle of the road. We checked into out hotel, Pai Viceroy, and then Gayan left and we went to sleep.” December 27th, 2004.
I remember being terrified, absolutely mortified, as we walked off our Lufthansa flight into the Bangalore airport. After making it through customs and finding our luggage we tried to find our way out to meet Gayan, our guide. Both of us were exasperated after more than 24 hours of travel and were very relieved that Gayan was waiting for us. After greeting each other we stepped into the night air. The air was cool. The entrance to the airport was illuminated by dirty yellow street lamps. My heart began to race, as tired as I was I couldn’t believe I had actually made it back to India. Again, this realization filled me with terror and excitement.
We approached a group of young men, most of them with mustaches, light-colored polo shirts and hair longer than mine. They looked up at us as we grew nearer. I wondered to myself if they knew I was Indian, if they could tell. I wondered if they resented me. They knew we were tourists as they looked at us and Gayan began talking to one in a language I couldn’t understand. The young man Gayan talked to show us to his little minivan taxi and put our stuff in the back of it as we entered through the sliding side door. The minivan was white, dirty and I doubted whether or not it was safe. The inside had no seat belts. It was dark and there were two benches on each side of the van facing each other. I wondered what Gayan had told them about us, how much they knew?
We were tired and Gayan wanted to ask us a lot of questions. I stayed mostly quiet and let Lila, my sister, answer his questions while I gazed out window watching the scenery whizz by. The roads were empty and the city seemed quiet from out little metal box on wheels. Every once in a while, though, the van would slow down, the driver would give a few toots of the horn, and we would shoot off again. I remember thinking, in a very condescending way, how bad of drivers they were and how I could definitely do better than them even though I had barely ever driven. I spent a lot of the trip thinking about how I could “improve” things in India because I felt they were so poorly done. Naivety, on my part.
Arriving at the hotel was relieving. Relieving to be out of the little taxi van and finally able to sleep.
I knew this trip was going to be transformative for me. I was anxious and curious to see what it would be like to be in a place where I didn’t stick out. I was excited to feel “normal”, like who I was normal not exotic or foreign. I went to sleep telling myself I needed to begin journaling the next morning so I could remember this trip, so I would remember what it meant.