A few nights ago I woke up, pulled a stack of covers that covered my head and looked around. Framed by a full moon against a dune sandscape was an animal that looked like the bastard lovechild of a cow a giraffe.
I rubbed my eyes. "Where the heck am I?!" I wondered. Then it came back to me - a camel safari near the Golden City of Jaisalmer in far western Rajasthan along India's border with Pakistan.
I promised myself that if I survived my first week in India I'd put pen to paper (so to speak) about it. After all, the conventional wisdom is that adjusting to India is tough on a body. But as I've now been in country for about ten days I'm making good on that commitment.
Ah, where to start?
Perhaps at the beginning I suppose and then we can jump around from there and fill in minor details like standing toe-to-toe with the Taj Mahal -
So, "Why go to India?" you may ask.
A few reasons. But perhaps the most basic is curiosity. Consider a country of a billion people that is one-third the size of the US. Ask people what they know of India back home (or most anywhere in the West) and you may hit perhaps three or four of the following: call centers and off-shore jobs, cows, turbans, spicy food, and yoga and meditation. I was talking with an editor before I left and she suggested that Apu from The Simpsons may be the most recognized ambassador of Indian culture. If that's not right, it's probably not too far off anyway. Our collective Western understanding of modern India indeed seems shallow - particularly when you consider the impending importance of the subcontinent on the world stage. I wanted to see for myself what it was like on the ground.
And it doesn't hurt that as a lifelong vegetarian I was honestly looking forward to heading to a place where my dietary restrictions wouldn't be quite so, well, restrictive.