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Travel in India

A walk with Salaam Baalak Trust, New Delhi
By:Pankaj Singh

Let’s be frank – India can be a terrifying place. Recently, a stranger I met at the Sunburn festival in Goa related an interesting story. His friend had apparently decided to Visit India for a Private Tour; exited New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and experienced a cultural shock so extreme, she took the next flight back to the States. I can imagine though, that if she had waited, taken a deep breath and re-oriented herself; she would have realized that there’s a place for everyone here. With a population of 17 million people, how could she be the only one in this position? In fact, a couple of days later, she could even have explored that side that once sent her running – in other words, faced her fear, and understood it. After all, isn’t the charm of visiting a new country boil down to the fact that it isn’t where you’re coming from; i.e. exploring the unfamiliar element?

For our clients, every step of the way we offer the necessary assistance. From airport and train transfers and reliable drivers to check-in at luxury hotels; we give you the space to fulfill the purpose of your trip – be it a spiritual or cultural growth, wildlife adventure or a relaxing trip composed of shopping, experimenting with cuisine and Ayurvedic spa appointments. At the end of the day, India has a lot to offer; but that perceptive quality, to understand the daily movement, can be an initial dilemma.

Late December, I accompanied a family from Australia on their Delhi-voyage. Over the course of two days, they visited monuments with scholarly guides, dined at the finest restaurants (all pre-booked and fitted to their dietary requirements), travelled by local transport (i.e. the cycle and auto rickshaws) in the most safest of hands, and relaxed at a museum hotel known for its historical significance, world class facilities and premium location. On the second morning however, upon their request I took them on a unique walk that explores the “scary side” of Delhi– the Salaam Baalak Trust street walk in Paharganj. Over the course of two hours, a group of 4-6 people are led by two young adults who had been adopted by the Salaam Baalak Trust (inspired by the must-see: Salaam Bombay). The boys guide you through their journey and explain what it was like to be a four year old boy, abandoned and overwhelmed, struggling to belong in this world. When you think about, it’s not that different from that American girl – except, when there’s no “out”, this is the adventure of getting “in”.

For me – besides learning of lives so different to my own (living at the edges of my reality) – I could empathize with their pain, the joy of finding a home and pursuing a dream, and more than anything else, making friends who could lessen the burden of being self-sufficient. Furthermore, I saw a new area and was shocked to find how lively it was with locals and backpackers from across the world. The Australian family was inquisitive, and all questions, controversial or not, were welcomed. In retrospect, I think they enjoyed the rustic and royal dimensions of India combined – after all, with so much to see and do, suddenly, there’s such little time!

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