But at the same time everything felt surprisingly familiar. This country has a specific smell, unlike anything else. I think it could be best described as a mixture of burned wood, drought, and spices. And in that first taxi from the airport to our hotel, it felt as if I had come home. Which to this day I think is a weird realization for I hated to be in this country to the core. And the sense of being home only became stronger in the next couple of weeks. Because of the weird cash situation, we got to encounter Indian people in a different way. For example, we had a funny conversation with a rickshaw driver on the day after the cyclone. It was already our last day in Chennai, and we hadn’t seen much of the city, so we decided to walk around. This way we could also see what the impact of the cyclone was. About 3000 trees were uprooted, and everywhere people were trying to clean up the mess and fix what was broken. At some point we took a little break on a bench in a bus stop. Many rickshaw drivers looked at us with the question if we wanted a ride in their eyes, but continued driving when we shook our heads. And then there was one very persistent driver. He stopped and offered us a great deal. But great deal or not, we couldn’t pay for it. And every time we told him that, the deal got better and better. He thought we were trying to bargain, but we really weren’t. I think he asked about ten times if we were sure. And I can still see the disbelief on his face when I told him for the eleventh time we were going to walk. And then he asked another time if we were sure, and when he was about to drive off he checked again.
This time, we also experienced the kindness of Indian people. When we were not sure if we were able to leave Chennai on Tuesday because the railway infrastructure was severely damaged by the cyclone, one of the receptionist at our hotel let us use her personal mobile phone to call the next hotel we were going to stay. And when we were lost as to if, and if so where, our train would leave, and it was crazy as anything with people pushing and yelling at the information counter, one man told me to wait outside the bustle and came back to give me the information I needed. And when I asked a lady how I could see which train was the right one, she took the time to explain me how, and assured me that that was the right track. But when things changed, she also went through the trouble to find me, and take us to the right place. And when we were in Ooty, and it dawned on us we were not going to be able to withdraw money, and therefore wouldn’t be able to afford to get to this exciting guesthouse even further in the middle of nowhere, the hostess redirected us to a guesthouse in walking distance where we would be able to pay with a credit card. And when we arrived there, she had already called to let them know we were on our way. And when we told the host there about our situation, he informed the manager, who had connections with the manager of the bank, so we could go and have a chat with him, Indian style – by that I mean you have a nice chat, get to business, and chat some more. And he gave us some great advice on where to go next. So of course we listened to him, changed our last 50 euros, and instead of going down South as we had vaguely planned earlier, we travelled up North. But before we left, the hotel manager used some more of his connections, and arranged that someone withdrew 10.000 rupees for us, which we paid him back through the hotel. And because we are talking about India, I am glad I don’t know about the exact facts of this matter. I sincerely hope he did get his money back.