I write this note in the immediacy of the events that have bright me tremendous stress in New Delhi. However, because I do not want to drag a downtrodden morale further, I suspect that I might post this much later when the fellowship has come to a close.
I’m somewhat of a vicarious traveller. Most times, I jet off on a whim to far out places alone, content with a tin roof above my head and a little shrub to do my business in. In the imagination of most people, this is an unbearable condition to live in whilst overseas. Yet, this is the small modicum of comfort I expect when I travel. It has served me well.
Perhaps then, I least expected the capital, the city of New Delhi, to be the source of many of our problems during this Fellowship. Over the past two days in Auroville, I had witnessed Chelsea and Joy’s faces dip into a sort of saddened state. Perhaps, they were in physical pain, or were facing troubles of their own, or that they were perhaps already homesick. These were not things I had expected or anticipated. It would seem encouraging them to share and communicate their discomfort did not help too, for the two ladies were more content to be silent out of fear of imposition.
And so when we had reached our accommodation at New Delhi, physical and mental conditions had beset both Chelsea and Joy with so much discomfort that when the air-conditioning had broken down in the sweltering 42°c night, their spirits just went into free-fall.
I hadn’t had much of a problem with the heat, for I was already about to fall asleep. Things were much more dire in the other partition of the room however, for the low morale was now exacerbated by pitch darkness and stuffy heat. At this point, even I was a little disheartened at hearing their sighs. The power had only come back on after 15 minutes, only to go off again in another 15. Seeing their resignation at the whole situation, I suspected that perhaps, a stay at a proper hotel would be perhaps best for everyone. After all, the three nights in Delhi were meant to be buffer days for us to rest before the second half of the fellowship in Chandigarh.
We still spent the night however in that Airbnb however. It was the next morning that we decided to leave the early and head toward a swanky airport hotel. Even so, it’s often rude to tell a host that their place has been less than welcoming in India. I was prepared to tell a white lie for the host was indeed quite sweet and helpful in his services thus far, but Joy was against the idea of telling lies at all. I admit I was rather conflicted by this. I was incredibly used to telling white lies to get myself out of situations where cultural needs necessitated them. In some cultures, this was even perhaps the norm.
I realise that I might sound quite pompous and arrogant at this point: “oh how dare you accuse the two ladies of expecting more”. I assure you that these are misconceptions. For when we reached the hotel, I felt incredibly bad that I had not anticipated the sensitivities of my two travel partners.
Indeed, as a solo traveller, I am usually so wrapped up in my own expectations and minimal needs of travel and make-do. However, I realise now, travelling with two ladies whose experiences, and thus needs, are different, must and should be taken into account. Such has made me much more aware of the privilege I carry as a (single) male traveller (infer what you wish of that).
Sometimes, when even riding a bike can be a discomfort for others, one learns that simple things such as hot towels and frequent rests go a long way. One should of course, do much better to communicate these concerns with their trip partners in a timely fashion.