This is Girish, a 31 year old Indian guy who back in 2014 saved my life.

Hum, maybe that’s going a bit far but, because of him, instead of hating the place, I love India so much!

I arrived in Delhi and felt like I was made of paper (rupee notes to be more specific) instead of flesh and blood. Everyone looked at me as though I was easy money. Rupees, rupees, rupees. I paid the taxi driver the amount that we agreed and he asked for a tip; in the guest house the kid who took me to my room even after I refused his offer asked for a tip; my room had a toilet without water; my room was never cleaned; my room was an insect incubator!

Many more things happened at the beginning of my Indian journey until I moved to Girish’s house. I didn’t know him, I didn’t know anything about him, we had exchanged 2 or 3 messages a couple of days before on the Internet via the couchsurfing website (more about how to save on accommodation: HERE) – that was all.

– Oh Fábio, this is India! – He said, smiling, after hearing about my first experiences.

Girish came from a humble family, a low caste*, he studied in Goa, and today he is pharmacist and also teaches. I think he has a good life and he thinks the same, although his mother doesn’t. He doesn’t have a wife, and she thinks he needs to get married and does everything to make that happen. He has refused but soon or later he knows that he will do it. In India most marriages happen in this way, arranged by families and many times the couple doesn’t even know each other.

– Sorry, I don’t want to be disrespectful, but it’s hard to understand how it’s possible for someone to get married with someone who he doesn’t know, who he doesn’t love. – I said without stopping to think about it.

– My brother had an arranged marriage, it’s our culture, we should do what our parents want. – He replied.

He is a really calm and intelligent guy, who goes through life without bothering himself about nothing. Nowadays, he’s one of my best friends. After a couple of hours with him I learned how to move about in India, how to negotiate, how to ignore the people who want to cheat me and a lot of other stuff. The truth is that the next day I was walking about so happily in the middle of Old Delhi, the oldest part of the city, one of the places that I like most now, a place that he doesn’t like so much.

– I get crazy about all that sellers, rickshaws*, noise, etc. I don’t have patience for that. – He said smiling, the way he is almost all the time, smiling.

– I go crazy with all those sellers, auto-rickshaws*, noise, etc. I don’t have patience for that. – He said smiling, the way he is almost all the time, smiling.

Meanwhile Girish went travelling in Europe – Germany, England and Poland were some of the countries that he visited.

– I felt like I was in the museum, everything was so clean and organized. Also, I felt that the people were stressed all the time, worked a lot and had many problems. I like my life here in India more, if I do my work no-one bothers me and out of work I can just chill and do what I want. – He said after having me to stay again a couple of months later.

After that first time I’ve been back many times, and since March 2016 I’ve been a tour leader with small groups of people and in part that has happened because of Girish. Without him I doubt that I would have seen this incredible country in the same way. I admit that the first hours almost killed me: being asked for tips with nothing given in return, the way they tried to cheat me by selling travel packages and lying that I couldn’t buy train tickets in other places, how they were disrespectful, the pollution, etc.

With his help I overcame all of those things and learned how to love this country.

Thanks Girish,

Cheers!

*caste – Social division with great power in India.

*rickshaws – The most well known transport in India.

*Picture: Girish, Lodhi Garden, New Delhi, February 2017