11.6.15; DEHRADUN, India

I’m writing this from my new favourite haunt, the Chhaya Café in Old Rajpur. It’s one of a few slightly hipster joints on the Old Mussoorie Road, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of inner Dehradun. Great, cheap food and drinks, a lovely view, and FREE WiFi! My dream location…

New fave
New fave

Okay, I lie. That’s the only bit I wrote in the café. Procrastinating much! Terrible…

On Thursday, I unfortunately was a bit ill again (does a week ever pass that something isn’t wrong with me???) and spent the day at home, reading and catching up with writing my book reviews – got a nice backlog to publish now, all waiting in the folder! I couldn’t believe that I had just a week left in Dehradun before I moved onto the next part of my journey… Friday wasn’t particularly eventful either as I’d improved a tiny bit – enough to drag myself to summer camp in the morning, but I spent most of the rest of the day asleep…

On Saturday I stayed home from the camp again, and made use of some of my time which wasn’t spent reading by repacking some of my bits and bobs in preparation for the next weeks packing challenge, and tidying all my stuff. Decided to give quite a few bits and pieces to the girls here because I REALLY don’t need all my stuff and it wouldn’t hurt to free up some space.

Day off on Sunday – thankfully I felt a bit better and had a restful day. In the evening, I went to Pacific with Shruti and then went to her home for dinner. Before that, we’d all spent a hilarious couple of hours watching “John Tucker Must Die” at her house. I swear I’ve seen that film far too many times! And apparently there’s a Hindi version too!

It was nice to have a change from the food at the shelter; no disrespect to the girls because they do a good job of cooking every day, but we seem to have the same thing all the time; variations on vegetables in the same spices with chapatti and rice – for every single meal, and it gets a bit repetitive! Shruti is remarkably tolerant of my “Frooti” addiction – it’s a mango juice drink which I’m fairly sure has replaced the blood flowing in my veins since I’ve been here. Trying to wean myself off before I leave India…

On Monday, I decided to head back to the Hilife café myself to return a book which Misha had borrowed for me there – something of a travelogue detailing one man’s journey to the high Himalayas on his Enfield motorcycle. Before I went, I dropped into the Pacific Mall to go the the cheap shop there to buy some dried fruit and snacks for my rain journey to Delhi. The paper bag they gave me broke soon after I got into Rajpur, leaving me to carry it like an idiot for the rest of the day, Great. Also got a couple of presents for friends back home from the Saheli Trust handicrafts stand!

Sadly, when I got there, the café was closed. Somewhat inexplicable seeing as it was mid-afternoon on a Monday, but whatever. I’d made a tentative plan with Shruti to meet and have a drink in another café nearby called the Chhaya Café, so I went and waited for her there. Remember, the aforementioned free-WiFi haven? They do some great food, and whilst I waited, I ordered some veg spring rolls – India does Chinese food much better than England! I don’t think I’m ever going to warm to “lassi” though… It’s a drink which is something like a smoothie made with curd; always tastes like stale yoghurt to me, no matter what the flavouring. And as I don’t drink milk at the best of times, the potential for illness is a bit more than I’m willing to risk!

I ended up staying there for quite a while catching up with emails and publishing a couple of book reviews, and generally faffing about, using and abusing the free WiFi. Such luxury. Sadly, Shruti couldn’t come in the end as she had been very busy that day. Oh well. It was nice to relax there for a while anyway!

I bought some laichees – small stoned fruit with a hard bumpy skin – on the way back home; I really like the fruit itself, but anything “laichee flavoured” – sweets or drinks, makes me gag a little bit. But the fruit is nice. If a bit of a mess to peel… By the time I got home it was completely dark.

I wouldn’t say I feel particularly scared walking around alone usually, but there is something slightly uncomfortable about being on almost deserted streets at night here in India. I don’t know how much of it is genuine gut feeling and how much of it is me feeling like I should be overly cautious because of warnings people have given me, but I have a tendency to look around a lot and quicken my pace whenever a man walks a little too close behind me, even if I’ve never really felt at risk from anyone here. A couple of times have been a bit touch and go, but whatever. Like that random guy who stopped next to me on his moped three times and then offered me a lift. In your dreams. Ugh.

On Tuesday, I went to summer camp in the morning and then tried again with the Hilife Café – thankfully this time they were open and I could return the book. I sat there for a while with a cold coffee – amusing how it’s “cold”, and not “iced” – and did some more of my bible study for a while. Now well into 1 Samuel, although I did skip a few days so completion date is now predicted to be around the 20th of August. As long as I’m done before I start uni, I don’t mind being a bit slower! I’m sure it’s not realistic to think I’ll be doing it every day when I’m travelling over the next couple of months. All the more reason to get more done now!

Then I moved on to the Chhaya café to do a bit more work and ended up heading home at around 7pm. Dr Pandey gave me a lift halfway home from Pacific, and I took a vikram the rest of the way. I don’t mind being out and about at night if there are a lot of people around. My vikram was pretty crowded too, so I felt fairly safe going back. Shruti picked me up from the stop and gave me a lift back; I went to her house again and had dinner there; today it was a type of pancake – “dosa” – with a potato filling and various sauces (sorry for my ignorance in not knowing what… Vegetables? Lentils? Wild guess.)

After another morning at the summer camp – highlights included “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, “Hangman” and another story of Horrid Henry’s birthday exploits – my main focus was on trying to pack all my crap into my tiny backpack. It was half achieved; I made the executive decision to try a few bits again on Friday morning once I didn’t need any of the stuff in it anymore and could just get everything ready for the journey in the afternoon. Also, Shivani – one of the teachers at the school and coordinator of the summer camp – had kindly asked her mother to make my saree blouses from the material I had (she’d also done the finishing work on them) – so I had to put those in later too! Shivani’s mother wouldn’t take any money for it though… Harumph.

I split my books into a couple of piles and gave some to Achala, who came to collect them in the evening, and some to Shivani. I’m sure that’s a better idea than leaving them at the shelter; I think it’s a bit too optimistic to hope that any of the older girls would give them a go at some point… I went to Shruti’s house for a while to use the WiFi to do a bit of last minute checking of my hostel location and a couple of other things, (I’ve abdicated responsibility for the dongle now…) and ended up watching a bit of another of my favourite films, “50 First Dates” a hilarious comedy with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, with Shruti’s brother. After an hour or so, I went to have dinner at SHivani’s house with Kiran and her daughter. It was lovely to be invited to dinner at someone else’s house too, and the food which Shivani’s mother cooked was delicious. I’ve been totally amazed at the hospitality and welcome I’ve received everywhere!

On Thursday – my penultimate day in Dehradun – we all took another trip to Mussoorie! “All” being me, Shruti, Shruti’s mother and elder brother, Ayushi, Hema, Ganga, Jamna, Bani and Bhagirath. Naturally, we took two cars. I went with Ayushi, Hema and little Bani in Shruti’s brother’s car. Pulkit has better music, so fine by me. (Sorry, Shruti!) That road to Mussoorie is a driver’s nightmare! More on this when I eventually do my Mussoorie write-up.

Fam trip to Mussoorie!
Fam trip to Mussoorie!

Which will definitely be coming in the near future. I promise. Fingers crossed, eh?

X Bea

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