My journey to India as a spiritual seeker
By Benjamin De Donder
Part 2 – Couchsurfing in New Delhi
I must have said thank you like a thousand times to Vikas for saving me from being stranded at the airport. On top of that, I had ended up in probably the most amazing place in Delhi. There is literally not a single place in the universe where I would rather have been in that moment. I instantly felt incredibly at home and very comfortable to express myself, we shared music that we loved and had great conversations.
I also instantly fell in love with couchsurfing. I found it truly an amazing experience to be surrounded by open-minded, local people and fellow travelers and backpackers. The stories were amazing and I got to see different perspectives on similar experiences to mine, such as arriving at an unknown place in an unknown country after a long flight. I imagined it must be so amazing to be a couchsurfing host and continually meet different people from all over the world with inspiring stories, on inspiring journeys.
During the many times that I have returned to my friends in New Delhi, I met many inspiring people through couchsurfing: Four girls, literally from every corner of the world: South India, New Zealand, Canada, who were traveling alone and had met coincidentally in India and felt a strong connection with each other and each other’s stories and had decided to travel together to Rishikesh; A girl from Egypt, who was, at that time, volunteering at a school in New Delhi. She looked very beautiful and was passionate about fashion. I loved the way she talked and acted, as she was quite forgetful and chaotic in her mind and I found it astonishing to see how carefree she was and headed alone into New Delhi as if it was an everyday thing; Two girls from Germany who were traveling around. They were amazing photographers and one of them had left her family in Germany to travel and meet her family in India. She was planning to cut people’s hair to make some money along the way and one day, write a book about her story. Great respect struck me, meeting these empowered ladies, radiating determination, strength and fearlessness.
When I went outside the apartment for the first time and headed into the city of New Delhi, I was struck with a sensory overload of new experiences: earthy roads, dusty air, cows on the streets, dogs everywhere, funny looking vehicles, driving like crazy, continually honking, everything full of color, incense burning everywhere and people, so many people.
Luckily I had the privilege of having an amazingly friendly couchsurfing host that proposed to show me some different places in Delhi, and all I had to do was follow and look around, trying desperately to see everything there was to see, but there was just so, so much going on around me all the time.
The first place we visited was Old Delhi. This is probably my favorite place in Delhi. After being surrounded by people in the metro and in the station, by in cars, rikshaws and bicycles when taking a rikshaw and by more people when we were walking, I was happy to arrive in little, narrow streets without any cars and less people, going between high, old buildings. We could barely walk side by side. There were shops everywhere and every few steps someone would invite me to enter their shop. The variety of little things and souvenirs were endless. Along the road were people offering juice, fruits and different kinds of street food and while we were walking, I even noticed incense sticks carefully stuck between two bricks of the wall, I loved it.
The people were friendly, the juice was tasty and the street food was amazing. The occasional scooter squeezing his way through the narrow streets made me laugh and my state of ecstasy that arose when I had entered India never seem to have faded.
I continued to follow my host and thankfully listened to everything he said, trying very hard to stuff as much as I could in my already overloaded brain. As we went inside Red Fort, Vikas told me about the history of India, the British occupation and the forming of Pakistan. I found it to be very interesting and the many different buildings from different times and different builders inside the Red Fort were truly spectacular. We were talking and walking through the breathtaking gardens in the fort, while I was fading away, dreaming about the life of an ancient emperor in India.
Another day in New Delhi, we visited the Lotus Temple. This beautiful piece of art is a house of worship of the Bahá’í Faith, a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. The Bahá’í Faith teaches that a Bahá’í House of worship should be a space for people of all religions to gather, reflect, and worship. Again, I was struck with amazingness and thankfulness for this new, peaceful discovery.
After spending over a week, instead of the original planned three days, in New Delhi, it was time for me to head to Dharamshala. I had enjoyed visiting most of the popular places and the most funny thing that I had encountered was a guy that was cleaning the ears of people. He even had a little notebook with testimonials and a bunch of pictures of happy people with clean ears. I had been introduced to the craziness of India and it had only made me so much more excited about traveling and I was truly loving every single moment immensely. I felt so comfortable and supported by the continuous help I got from the people around me. When I was sitting on the bus that was heading to McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, I saw the guy that was keeping a note with all the names of the passengers receiving a call, and I just knew, it was Vikas that was checking if I made it onto the bus. The guy looked up and called my name and with the biggest possible smile ever, I raised my hand.
I want to thank you, for reading this blog post. Thank you! I am truly enjoying going through my memories, experiencing them again. I hope you can find some inspiration in this text. Much love to you, enjoy the moment and may your heart always be supported by your mind!