Imaginative Traveller – Farewell dinner and the speech that said it all

After an impromptu day of running around Connaught centre in Karol Bagh, Delhi on a mission to find a cheap good quality sitar, Sam and I arrive at the Imaginative Traveller final farewell dinner 30 minutes late.
Being Delhi traffic rookies, we completely underestimated peak time.

When we finally arrive at the restaurant, we apologised profusely to Apji, our tour leader, and the group for being late. Everyone seemed cool with it, telling us not to worry and that they too had just arrived. Apji, however had a definite angry vibe about him and was not speaking.

A bit of background as to why I was positive Apji thought I was a royal pain.

– When Sam and I went to the Bollywood movie it ran for 3 hours, an hour over what we had expected, and when we returned to the hotel late after dark, Apji was waiting for us, worried sick.

– There was the time when we had the henna done before dinner and couldn’t use our hands to eat.

– Our hotel room in Varanasi had bed bugs, so we asked to be moved to a new room, and again due to a dirty bathroom.

– When I fell in cow shit on the way to the Ganges, I told Apji that I would need a shower before dinner. He gave a reluctant yes. Then after the arati he asked the group what they wanted to do, go straight to dinner or go back to the hotel room first to freshen up. ‘Hello, I’m covered in cow dung, shower first please!’ He ignores me and asks the question to the group again. Everyone agrees hotel first. Lucky for me, and them.

– After freshening up in the room before dinner, as Sam and I were taking the lift to the lobby to meet everyone, I sprayed bug repellant on my arm and it bounced off into my right eye. I instantly went blind from the stinging and high concentration of DEET. Sam went straight into action and led me back to our room, into the bathroom and helped splash cold water in my eye. We end up being late for dinner, and I turn up with a terminator red-eye. Everyone asked what had happened, except for Apji.

– The following afternoon, Sam and I had made an appointment with the palm reader who was running late. I don’t know why, but everyone else, who were not seeing the palm reader, waited with us for over an hour.

– And finally, I had a stomach bug that put me out for half a day, and when people asked how I was, I would joke that I did have an upset tummy but I’ve taken so many ammonium’s (thanks Sam!) that I wouldn’t need a toilet for weeks!

So back to the farewell dinner – Apji’s speech.

Apji, standing – ‘I’d like to thank Scott and Jason, I’ve especially loved the conversations I’ve had with Scott’ pats him on the back ‘And Jason, you always kept the group together, I’ve been watching and there were times of separation and division but you always kept everyone together. Miriam, you never complained, even though you were sick, you never complained’

I started to feel a little apprehensive about Apji’s speech. I never felt the group separation, and I did let everyone know about my upset tummy – what’s he going to say about us?

Apji went on to have a private joke with Dave that I didn’t understand.

‘Sam and Tiara, you should thank everyone for having to wait for you, every morning and evening. It has been difficult’ Pauses, an at that moment Sam starts crying (the timing was immaculate) Apji continues ‘but I’m glad you were part of the group’

You know that moment when your insecurities of thinking you’re a pain in the ass come true? Here it was – the public nightmare. I sat there feeling a mixture of emotions, shock, anger, embarrassment, confusion,wondering if Sam was crying because it was a sad moment or because Apji had called us difficult? All the while keeping a polite smile on my face. The group had gone silent, as Sam dabbed the tears away. It was an awkward moment.

We were all getting ready to leave and I asked Sam if she was ok.

Sam – ‘Yeah, did we get back our change?’

T, turns the question to the table – ‘Did our change come back?’

I didn’t get a reply, but Apji gave Jason a knowing look, and I realised that we had been labeled stingy as well. (This could have been due to my now acute state of paranoia)

Note – I understand Apji felt bad for the group, and he was a terrific tour leader – We all had a great time! Though I would have prefered a private chat to the public humiliation.

The Imaginative traveller – Delhi, and another temple

I was pretty excited to join my first multi-day Imaginative Traveller tour, starting in Delhi with a group of 7 tourist (4 Brits, 2 Canadians and myself.) and a local Indian guide called Apji.

T – ‘Cool! Is that our bus?’ (pointing to the large schmick modern-day coach approaching but already knowing that the answer was no – Our bus was more like a family traveling van.

Jason, boyfriend of Scott, who are a lovely Canadian couple, responds ‘Now now, bigger does not mean better’, crosses his arms over his chest.

T, embarrassed and apologetic – ‘No no, of course not!’, afraid to have already offended a fellow tour mate on the first day.

Jason, leans in ‘no seriously, bigger is better.’

We laugh. Our Indian tour guide Apji totally missed the meaning behind our burst of giggles and continues to justify the tours cosy mini van.

The first day was a tour around Delhi, to Hindu temples, a sikh temple where devotees bathed and drank water from these holy, and might I add filthy, bathing tubs, pay our respects at the Gandhi memorial, whose birthday it had been the day prior, a war memorial, and a visit to the Indian Parliament House where monkeys were on the loose – what else do you expect from a political estate?!

To be honest, I had been templed out a long time ago, and these days if it wasn’t an ‘Angkor Wat’, I found it really hard to get interested in temple hopping, which is a bummer attitude especially being in India (No disrespect intended).

However, during our tour of the Hindu temple I came to realise that I had learnt far more from the ashram than earlier appreciated. As Apji briefly explained the top guns of the 330 million Indian Gods that derived from Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Operation) and Shiva (Destruction), I had already developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of the religion than those in my group.

Flash back to the Ashram as I struggled to understand why anyone would worship a God of destruction. It had been explained at a molecular level in one of the lectures

Israeli devotee and teacher – ‘Everything in life needs creation, maintenance and destruction. Look into your body, what it needs to do in order to survive. Your cells are created and if left to multiply without having the old cells destroyed, you get sick, you get cancer. Old cells need to die in order for new cells to generate and be healthy. That is living. You need to maintain, clean out the garbage, keep creating and moving forward.’

At that moment I understood that these 330 million Gods were symbolic/representative of the necessities of living life. Or at least the main-stream Gods seemed to be.