The next stop is my best friend’s family home in Ropar, Punjab. I met her in 2015 in America. We hit it off from day one. Being roommates she taught me all about the Indian culture and sparked my curiosity to travel around her mother country.
From Rishikesh to get to her family I took a shared auto to Haridwar. This journey took around two hours. To find the vehicle I crossed the bridge in Rishikesh and walked through the village for a while. I then waited for others who wanted to go to the same place.
The driver was very friendly pointing out landmarks and chatting about his home.
The auto appeared to be on its last legs and at times I questioned the likelihood of us making the 22km to the bus stand.
Paying just £2 or 200 rupees for a long ride I wondered if this man struggled to feed his family.
I arrived in Haridwar with plenty of time. I waited at the bus station for a while. People lay sprawled across uncomfortable metal chairs sleeping.
Vendors sat on the dirty floor desperately trying to sell products; be it plastic toys, food or drinks. Every few moments someone would appear infront of me trying to sell something. While it is annoying being pestered, I felt compassion towards these individuals. How could I be frustrated at someone simply trying to survive? Instead I should spend my money to try and help. It appeared to be a form of begging. Desperation riddeled their eyes. They didnt just want but they needed customers.
If we can afford to buy these street goods or get a rickshaw maybe we should. If we get ripped off we should be happy we are helping someone. Why be bothered with losing out on a bit of money when in actual fact it doesn’t mean as much to us as to the seller.
After taking in my surroundings I asked someone where to get my bus from. It looked like the bus was not boarding yet so I waited a while longer, it got to 5 minutes before it was supposed to leave so I decided to enquire some more. The 5th person I asked pointed to a bus that was moving. I ran after it and somehow made it on.
Breathing a sign of relief, the 6 hour journey commenced. The bus was rather dilapidated. The window slided open providing a welcoming breeze.
I dozed and enjoyed the view. After sunset we stopped off in the dark for a toilet and food stop. It was then that I realised, I was the only white person and the only female on the public bus.
After that I was more weary of people sitting next to me. However, I had no trouble for the entirity of the journey. I just had people staring at me because of my white skin, which I am used to by now. I have found wearing a headscarf helps.
Driving into Chandigarh (the capital of Punjab), I noticed how clean and big the city was. Huge department stores lined the well kept streets. It seemed very modern.
Arriving at the bus station my best friend’s father and driver met me to take me to their home, which was an hour drive from the bus stop.
I was fed and watered before going to sleep. I feel very lucky and honoured to be here. I have received the most kind welcome in Punjab and am very excited to explore the area.