“Tina. It’s Palak. I am calling to invite you to my wedding. In India!”
The call came a little out of the blue- I’d been living in London, and Palak had moved away from Brisbane in my absence, and we hadn’t caught up since I returned.
I know lots of people carefully plan their travel in advance, setting aside some leave, budgeting and choosing their destinations with care. I did try that, (once) but now I think of it, most of my travel has arisen because stuff came up- invitations, visiting friends and such, often taking me places I might never otherwise have been. You can read about the resulting shenanigans in the The Tina Sparkles Experience if you are so inclined!
So by the end of our 20 minute call, I’d decided: subject to getting time off, and flights not being a besquillion dollars, I said “Heck? Why not?”
To be frank, I hadn’t thought that much about India. I assumed I would get there one day, and consequently the India of my ‘one day’ travels existed only vaguely in my mind as a hot crowded country full of elephants and call centres, slums and Shantaram.
Thus, after having committed to flying there in 5 months, I did one of my favourite things: went to Avid Reader bookshop in West End, and bought a beautiful DK Eyewitness Travel Book.
The pages that unfolded were eye opening: the geography, history, diversity, wildlife, architecture and people with a reputation for openness and curiosity.
It is now only a few weeks until I go, and oddly the closer it gets, the less real it seems. Palak is already in India (equipping the people for the arrival of Tina I suspect-or possibly getting preparing for her wedding, who can say?) Very soon I will be there with her, in a place so foreign to what I know* that it could be an imaginary, almost unreal setting for a novel. The brain can barely comprehend that which it doesn’t yet know.
Never has a trip involved so much planning, (I’ll fill you in on that too) and two weeks out, I still need my final vaccinations, a first aid kit, a visa, clothes and internal flights. Accordingly, I had better crack on, but I hope you will stay with me, to compare the India of my imagination, against the India of my experience.
Palak and Tina- these kids know how to fancy dress!
*except for them call centres, I totally know those