Finally, the time came when I had to say goodbye to my two wonderful traveling companions: my dear Korean sister Boyeon and my new Indian friend Roshan.
Roshan got as as far as Bangalore (with a stopover in Mysore to take in a couple sights), and then we both saw Boyeon off at the airport. And then I was alone at the quiet hostel I’d selected (for its quietness), though Roshan told me if I needed anything he was just a phone call away.
And finally solo, my confidence suddenly left me. I wandered around Bangalore the next day (and found a lovely coffee shop, managed to get some antibiotics at the pharmacy to cure my Delhi belly, tried to get a SIM card and failed, and got some delicious Middle Eastern food at a nearby eatery). I mean, all around a successful day. And yet.
I was afraid to take an autorickshaw (popularly known in India just as “autos”)—not because of their potential lack of safety but because I’d heard of plenty of foreigners getting ripped off by the drivers and didn’t want to deal with haggling, with deciding if a driver was gaming me, with trying to force someone to turn on the meter.
I tried desperately to book a train ticket to Agra (my next stop), but the online booking systems of several different sites seemed to be trying to thwart me.
And it seemed quite likely that someone had rifled through my backpack at the hostel while I was out exploring earlier in the day.
My one reprieve after all of this was my sisters’ friends, John and Alison, who live in Bangalore with their two young kids and had invited me over for pizza that night. Because, you know, when you’re a solo traveler, you’re never really alone.
So John picked me up with the kiddos in their pickup truck, and their kids told me all about Bangalore, and asked if I’d ridden in an auto, and when we got to their apartment, they showed me their room, and their Lego Ninjagos, and their back yard (a small green space where they’d set up a basketball hoop) and introduced me to their dog and asked what I liked to eat on pizza.
And it was like everything was okay again. I mean, in large part because I felt welcomed by these folks who knew my folks (and also, evidently, graduated from the same high school as I did). And in another part, because I thought, if these two kids could manage Bangalore so brilliantly, I could at least try. And in another part because I saw with what joy they took on the world—and it made me aspire to be just a little like them.
We ate homemade pizza, and talked about India and the US (where they’d be going for a few months soon), and John and Alison just made me feel so incredibly comfortable. They gave me an old Nokia phone they didn’t use anymore so I could make emergency calls and told me to tell them if I needed anything. And they sent me back to my hostel with leftover pizza and cookies and oranges (fresh fruit!) and a full heart.
And the next morning when I woke up, I felt refreshed and ready to make it through India. I charged up my cell phone. I went to that coffee place again. I got some editing work done. I booked that sleeper car to Agra. I reserved a hotel near the Taj Mahal.
And as I waited for my train at one of the handful of train stations in Bangalore, I ate that leftover pizza and those cookies with great, great joy.