"Hey, Cosmo, don't you think you're going a bit over the top?", asks Lu, looking at his friend with wide eyes. Cosmo is sitting Indian style in his airplane seat, wearing a colorful sari.
"No, we're traveling to one of the most colorful countries on earth. I don't want to arrive looking like a gray, boring bird."
"We'd welcome you to India even if you didn't have any clothes on!", a happy voice suddenly pipes up in the background. A boy is sitting in the row behind Lu and Cosmo.
"You're traveling to my home country for the first time?"
"Yes, that's right! We've only ever seen India in books and on television before!", confirms Lu.
"Well, then: namaste! – this is what we say as a welcome greeting", explains the boy, putting his hands together in front of his chest and bowing slightly.
"Namaste, we're Lu and Cosmo!", say the two in unison, "and what's your name?"
"I'm called Mani. And I come from Jaipur. That's a city in the state of Rajasthan. I'm just coming back from my vacation with my aunt and uncle in Frankfurt."
"But we're flying to Delhi at the moment, not Jaipur."
"Yes, from Delhi, I'll take the train. India is huge and the many train connections are very important to us and lots of travelers from across the world are also fascinated by our trains. If you wanted to, you could travel all the way across India by train, from the Himalayas in the north to the Pacific Ocean in the south."
Cosmo goes into raptures: "Oh that sounds wonderful and a real adventure! I've always wanted to go on an Indian train!"
"You're very welcome to tag along and then I'll show you our pink city of Jaipur – pink is our color for hospitality!"
"That's great! Pink is my absolute favorite color along with multicolored!", enthuses Cosmo.
"Well, why not?", says a now enthusiastic Lu, "We'll still have enough time for Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra."
Many hours later, the new friends find themselves on a train. The small compartment is decked out in shiny wood and the colorful curtains are fluttering in the wind from the open train window, while suitcases and bags are piled on the luggage racks. The journey will take around five hours, a short journey like Mani promised, given India is so huge. And Lu confirms that he has read that India is nine times as big as Germany and over 1.3 billion people live here. After China, India is the most populated country in the world!
On the small train table, Mani has laid out a huge picnic that he bought from small market stalls in front of Delhi Cantonment station. It includes crispy naan bread, "samosas" - tasty filled pastry pockets, finely spiced sunflower seeds, fruity pomegranate seeds and lassis with mango and mint.
"I've not seen a lot of India yet but I already know one thing: India tastes fantastic!", enthuses Lu.
"Mani, why don't any of the people sing or dance here?" wonders Cosmo.
"What do you mean, Cosmo?"
"Well, on TV you see people in India and they all sing and dance all the time!"
"Oh Cosmo, you mean our Bollywood films, don’t you? These films are very special and also very stereotypical but they do tell others something about us. They reveal something about our joyfulness. Because although there's a lot of poverty in India, I think that a lot of people here are still very satisfied and full of zest for life. Many it's the many colors, or religion or the good food!"
Outside, the beautiful countryside is speeding past. Farmers are swinging their scythes on the fields and you can see mountains in the distance.
"Oh look, there's a cow lazing around! Is it true that cows are considered sacred in India?"
"Yes, that's right. The cow is seen as a symbol of welfare and sustainment for Hindus. Those who own a cow look after it well and are very proud of it."
After arriving in Jaipur, the three friends drive through the pink-colored old town in a rickshaw past the busy bazaar and Amber Fort. Lu and Cosmo can't stop staring and then suddenly find themselves in front of the "Hawa Mahal", the Palace of the Winds. A fairytale-like building made from pink stone and decorated with numerous balconies and towers.
Suddenly Cosmo reaches into his bag, pulls out of couple of small fabric pouches and throws them around and at Mani and Lu. The bags break. Colorful dust falls through the air everywhere and the three friends are covered from top to toe in color...
"Cosmo! What on earth is that?"
"I'm so happy because it's soooo beautiful here! And people in India do throw small color bombs at each other!"
Mani can't stop laughing: "Er...to be honest, we only throw colors when it's Holi. We celebrate this 'Festival of Color' in March to welcome spring. But you're right, these colors do make you happy…er and very colorful too. So my friends, I need to go home now because I want to go to Ranthambore National Park tomorrow. That's where my father works to protect real wild tigers – there are still some left in the jungle in Rajasthan."
"Oh I want to see tigers too. Real wild animals!", calls Cosmo enthusiastically.
"No, Cosmo, we really need to get back to the station and I'm scared of tigers!"
A caravan of wonderfully colorfully painted elephants then walks past the three of them. Mani greets the elephant guide and has an idea: "So instead of wild tigers, how about not-quite-so-wild elephants? You can ride back to the station on their backs!"
He doesn't have to tell Lu and Cosmo twice. The friends exchange a warm goodbye. What an exciting start to their stay in the adventure paradise of India!