Day 68: Delhi to Agra
The hour is an ungodly 6 a.m. We discovered we could take the local bus to Agra, and are wasting no time in commencing our hegira from Delhi. Marnie and I arrive at Kashmiri Gate terminal to realize it’s the wrong station. After asking around, we find ourselves standing in the middle of a street a few blocks away, vehicles flying by on either side of us while we desperately search for the bus to Sirai Kalih Khan terminal. It barely comes to a rolling stop as we take a running jump onto the stairs. It arrives at Sirai Kalih Khan just as the next Agra-bound bus is leaving the intersection. Bolting through the crowded street, we dive onboard for the bumpy six hour journey to the home of a World Wonder.
The jerky ride parallels the feeling in my tummy. Was it last nights dosa? This mornings bus station breakfast? Either way, Delhi seems to be wreaking havoc on my belly in an all too cliché way. Maybe I can will it away.
When we reach Agra and the bumpy ride is over, the grumbling belly is revving up. We get a rickshaw to our hotel, which has basic, windowless rooms but a rooftop patio that Princess Jasmine couldn’t scoff at, even in her spoiled days.
The Taj Mahal! in all it’s splendour; a magical effulgence, brighter than its ivory marble could pony up on its own, is ignited against the dusty blue sky. With this immense architectural majesty in my eyeline, I turn to my tiny fluorescent phone screen. The difference between Southeast Asia and Northwest Asia is in the transit system. The user-friendly busses in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam let you stroll into a travel agency and book a bus to nearly anywhere within minutes. In Vietnam, I bought tickets for a bus as it was leaving and made it on with only a few grumbling comments from the driver. In India, trains must be booked in advance, or you risk getting stuck in a spot for days or weeks. Marnie and I have ground to cover and bees in our butts–we wanna see it all. The online booking process is proving to get the better of my ‘winging it’ attitude. Booking a train to Varanasi should be simple, no? No. It’s complicated and constantly interrupted by my regular bathroom runs and I’m aggravated that I have to stare at a stupid screen while one of the Seven Wonders of the World is floating on the horizon.
In convincing myself that if I act normal, I will feel normal, I order a beer with Marnie on the rooftop, but it makes me feel vomit-y so I go lay my whiny head down in the room. Marnie covers me in blankets and goes for a walk, eager to explore. We’re in a new city, after all! I half-sleep on the rock hard mattress, ignoring the curly pubic hairs scattered over it, until the door unlocks and the light flicks on and my angelic sister walks in with a glow brighter than the Taj, donning a scarf that a street vendor gifted her, plans for dinner and the name of a place we can book a train from (we decided it’s worth parting ways with a few extra rupees in exchange for my sanity on the train booking).
All I want to do is lay on this iron slab of mattress in the dark within close proximity to a bathroom until all the yucky feelings have been flushed away. But I pull myself from the dusting of gonad tresses and put on my shoes, hell-bent on the theory that if you act like nothing is wrong, nothing will be wrong.
A couple minutes away is the restaurant Marnie discovered on her walkabout, and there is a man out front who seems to be waiting for us with a huge, red paan stained grin, making it look like he was just gnawing on undercooked steak. It matches his scarlet Mickey Mouse sweatshirt; he offers his hand and introduces himself as Mickey. He’s delighted we’re there and chatters away as we follow him upstairs and sit at a table on the covered patio, where plants twirl around the railings and Christmas lights cast a warm glow around the space. I’m freezing. I order soup and Marnie drinks beer from a teapot. We chat with the English boys sitting at the next table for an hour when my watery broth arrives. I’ve taken two trips to the washroom and am shivering beneath my jacket and after a couple slurps of soup, I rush back to the room for the comfort of the toilet and the pube-strewn boulder.
As I lay my head amongst the thick, wiry hairs, I accept my theory as tried and untrue. Pretending to feel okay did not work. For now, I’m giving in to bedtime. For now, I’m okay with not feeling okay.