Day 1, Mumbai
I walked out of the airport at Mumbai where I was greeted by tens of men offering to give me a ride to my hotel. At the time, I had no sim card, no Indian rupees, and a member of the WAFAwards organization was supposed to pick me up at the airport. The men kept looking at me as I walked around in search of my driver. They weren’t looking at me in a creepy way as you’d expect though. It was more like intrigue, or perhaps fascination of this alien mixed blood person who just walked out that airport door seemingly lost. With no method of contacting anyone and absolutely zero local cash (can you believe that no one accepted US dollars at the airport), I had my first impression of India: difficult and a little intimidating. Great.
Tip: Do not leave the airport with US Dollars, go straight for Rupees and make sure you have a credit card or debit card with you.
Day 2, Chandigarh
We fly to Chandigarh where I was expecting the same hot weather as Mumbai, though I read some articles that said to pack warm clothes in case it does get cold. Knowing that Northern India can get cold, I prepared a jacket that I'd wear in Paris, France during winter. I thought it was ridiculous, but I prefer to be on the safe side. I didn't expect to actually make use of the jacket, but it got so cold at night that I was extremely grateful to myself for considering it!
The roads were cleaner, the people were friendly, the weather was incredible, felt a little like being in an Asian Paris except no one smokes, because it’s against the law. This did not stop our kind host and driver from offering us some beautiful hashish though. Good old India.
Tip: Bring warm clothes as well as a couple options for the heat.
Day 4, Nagpur
We enter the airport, go through multiple security screenings, where I learnt that, unlike Thailand, they allow passengers to bring water through to the boarding section! You can imagine my excitement considering as far as I can remember, airports always told me I had to throw away my bottle of water. We head to Nagpur. By now I have gained 2 kilos eating delicious rich Indian food. Probably due to the fact that we visited three different families where every single one of them had prepared sweet treats for us. It’s considered rude not to accept the delicacies, so we had to munch on snacks and tea sequentially family after family. Gained another kilo on on this day after indulging in an authentic Indian cuisine buffet (yum!).
Tip: Keep some stomach space for dessert.
Day 6, Maharashtra State
We finish up shooting the documentary at one of the villages on the outskirts of Nagpur. Everyone gathered up in the center of the community, and I sat within the circle of a group of about 15 to 20 women and men. It was one of those blissful moments of togetherness, where the people described their struggles and how the project has helped them. As they explain their story, I saw tears running down their smiling faces. I teared up too within seconds.
Tip: If you plan on visiting a village outside of big cities, be prepared to tear up. This means a little pack of tissues.
Day 7, Mumbai
We go back to the chaos of beauty that is Mumbai. It was my lucky day as the hotel's receptionist gave me a free upgrade to the top floor hotel suite! I enjoy the day and head back to Thailand on this night.
So Why Visit India?
India is not a first impression kind of place. It’s messy, crowded, dirty, yet after having spent only 7 days there: I fell in love. There’s a well-known stereotype about India and how colourful it is, in every way. It’s true what they say. So many varieties of origins, foods, clothes, smells, everything. India is incredible that way. Have you ever stopped to think that India has a population of 1.324 billion people… That’s around 1/7 of the world’s population, all gathered up in this open-hearted location. Chaos in its most beautiful form. I think it’s how people love and express it which makes India magical. People are love, even when they’re being rude. India is incredible and it’s filled with culture as well as lessons worth learning. If you ever visit India, believe me when I say, you will never be the same person again. You will learn what it is to truly love humanity, how it actually feels to surrender yourself to the now, to experience the energy from your surroundings. That is India.