When I first travelled – really travelled, not from Driffield to Bridlington by car – I realised a profound truth: the further from home you go, the more clearly you can see how naive you are. I genuinely thought India was going to be an entire continent decked out like a massive Indian restaurant. I thought there would be red velvet everywhere and pictures of pointy-nosed gentlemen rendered in brass rivets. I thought the food would all be luminous shades of yellow and brick and all the men would be wearing 70s bow-ties and holding towels. It was a bit of a shock, then, to leave the airport into a shit-souper of a Delhi night and discover the truth (OK it was a MASSIVE frickin culture shock). It took me travelling four thousand miles to realise I was a nerdy, cloistered Mummy’s girl with dubious cultural reference points and literally zero street credibility.
20 years on and I’m now a Mummy myself and I’m able to afford the finer things in life (but I still have zero street cred). This means that the type of India we’ll get to bed down in on our trip will look more like an Indian restaurant: we’re talking ‘palace in Rajasthan’ rather than the actual cowsheds I slept in when I went with college mates, even though I could’ve easily afforded a real bed in a real room (poverty tourists are excruciating hypocrites). This is great news. Hurray for mattresses without lice. But… actually there aren’t any buts. I was going to cook something up about how somehow we’ll be ‘removed’ from the India I experienced at 19 but, frankly, I can’t see a downside to that. That India had bloated dead bodies at the side of the road, endless, uncomfortable journeys in clanging jeeps and long-drop dunnies uncomfortably close to our beds. And my room-mates both had explosive diarrhoea. At the same time.
There’s no doubting India ’95 was a top jaunt though. The exhilaration of that trip, the all-shades of everything sensorial overload, the unbelievable sense of freedom and audacity – that’ll stay with me forever as one of the formative experiences of my life. Bravo to the lot of us for managing to stay friends right through to today. I’m seeing them this weekend. One of them still hasn’t shaken off the squits.