Monthly Archives: February 2014

What’s Eating Markus Meyer?


I think it’s time for me to slow down and muse a bit. This week has been a strange one, and part of the time I haven’t felt like myself. I’ve had this generally introspective, unhappy vibe. Something is bubbling underneath and I want to figure out what it is.

I’ve been here for five months now, experienced a lot and seen amazing places. Last week I was on the East India Express, the last planned adventure so far. After returning I had a confirmation waiting in my inbox: I’ll be moving back to Finland on April 17th. As part of the arrangements with my visa, this requires me to leave the country for a few days, so naturally I got flight tickets to Hong Kong – great! Also, I’m finally registered at the FRO, so things are coming together quite nicely.

Still, something is giving me mixed emotions. Is it that my homecoming has now concretized, and there is now a definite expiry date for this journey? If I think about the previous months – December and January for example – there was no beginning or end; both my arrival in early October and the inevitable return felt like events too distant to be taken into consideration. There was, quite simply, only the now; the present and how to make the most of it. Now my thoughts are divided between what I still want to do here in India, and what I’m going to do when I return home. The focus has begun to shift, and with it a growing anticipation of finally returning home.

I feel this is a natural thing, and a fitting ending to a progression that has taken me through an exotic and complex foreign landscape. After last week’s trip I began to form the opinion that perhaps I’ve seen most of the key places that India has to offer. Still barely a scratch on the surface, but the big picture is beginning to take shape – and with it the mystery of this distant subcontinent begins to dissolve.

Is that it? Have I seen all India has to offer? Surely not. Still, with the exception of the desert areas in Rajasthan, I find it difficult to come up with other places that I should visit. Places that would add to the sum. Of course there is a myriad of small areas and nuances in local subcultures to be explored, just like anywhere else, but where is that next grand journey?

On the other hand the last trip was an active one; maybe I just need to recharge my batteries in order to fall back to my center of gravity. Or maybe it’s work stress – a lot has been going on lately. Maybe I’m worried about getting used to home again – after all, this routine that I’m used to now is a very different one.

Have I been invoked with the traveller’s curse?

I’m sure everything will be fine regardless, but these are the thoughts of someone about to enter that limbo again, that non-place between home and “home”. When it comes to this chapter in my life, it’s the beginning of the end.


I’ve been doing Mysore Ashtanga yoga for some years now, and one of the things I was looking forward to when moving here was to get some serious in-depth lessons, straight from the source. Think Miyagi-san in Karate Kid, the whole trimming the Bonsai tree and doing some “wax on, wax off”, inner enlightenment thing.

But no. This might come as a surprise, but yoga is not a big thing here. It’s not a national sport – that would be cricket – or even a common hobby.

In Helsinki I would see people carrying yoga mats quite often. The gyms would be crowded to the point of every class being a hot yoga class. And that’s good, people taking care of themselves is a very positive thing.

But here the only time I’ve seen anyone, ever, carry a yoga mat has been by some foreigners down in Goa or Kerala. In Varanasi, the birthplace of sun salutations, the only people doing them in the light of the rising sun were westerners.

So that’s one myth busted.

Oh well, at least the Chinese still do Tai-Chi every morning. Right?


Return Plan


Originally, and according to my contract, I was supposed to return to Finland at the end of March. However, due to some bureaucratic details my employment visa was handed to me with an expiry date of March 17th – half a month earlier than planned.

This poses the question: do I leave on the 17th, or do I attempt to extend my stay? Both Sidd and me felt that March could be a tad too early, so we went through some options. The most obvious one is to apply for a visa extension, but considering my recent troubles with the FRO and yet again the amount of red tape involved, we came to the conclusion that that wouldn’t work.

So, what I’m going to do, is I’m going to do a visa run: I’m going to leave the country, let the visa expire during my absence, return a few days later and apply for an on-arrival tourist visa. This should give me an additional 30 days, which sets my final return date to April 17th.

I’m thinking Hong Kong sounds like a good destination.

East India Express


It was nine days, but packed the punch of twenty and passed by in what felt like just a few. Our journey – or the East India Express as me and Lauri called it – started in Delhi, proceeded South to Agra, from there East to Varanasi and finally to Kolkata, the nation’s former capital. Our method of transportation was by train.

We came up with the idea for this trip back in Helsinki, over a few cold ones nine months ago. Varanasi, that ancient and often mentioned city by the holy river, was instantly agreed as a must-see. And what a place it was: we’ve walked down narrow alleys, on broad marble courtyards, deep in crowded bazaars and along river banks.

As with my other journeys during my stay in India I’ll have to let this one simmer for a while. Let the impressions settle a bit and find their rightful place. But rest assured, there are stories to tell and photos to show – all in good time.


Photo: Gulab Jamun Man

Gulab Jamun Man

While exploring the alleys and narrow sidestreets of old Varanasi, we were going down this particularly quiet street. Almost no one around – some footsteps could be heard somewhere further down.

We walked by this modest bakery. Behind the low counter, on the floor in the dimly lit interior, sat an old man. He was calmly preparing pastries and pieces of paneer. He was in no hurry – in fact he had an air about him of dignified deliberation.

As we were passing by my sixth sense started tingling: photo opportunity. I slowed down and asked Lauri to wait. I didn’t want to be blunt and just go up in the baker’s face, wielding a camera. So I decided to work my way into the situation, find my place in that bubble.

I walked up and said hello, asked him what he was preparing. He didn’t speak English, but we understood each other. There were pieces of paneer floating in one bowl, and in another I could spot some galub jamun. That’s my route. So I asked for two, and a cookie to boot. I was handed a styrofoam cup and a wooden spoon, and the baker fished out a couple from their sugary bath.

We sat down on a wooden bench across the alley and I dug in. The gulab jamun was saturated with syrup, I swear it was sweeter than pure sugar. Almost too much to bear. As I was struggling with the stuff I told Lauri about my plan, that I’d ask the man for a photo if I survive the sugary shock. He’d get a few too.

I hope you appreciate this, I said to him, I’m taking one for the team here. I’m going to get diabetes from these, so make your shots count.

After I was done I thanked the man, pointed to my camera and asked if it was ok if I took a few. He straightened up just a little bit and gave a slight nod. I took two photos, showed them to him and told him he looked handsome in them. We had a laugh about it and shook hands.

After Lauri got his we waved goodbye and continued down the street – one of us maniacally wide-eyed on a sugar high for the next half hour, but happy with the result.