A Very Fond Farewell to India

Sunday, July 5, 2009

 

The other day I had quite the scare – a message from my trusty Macbook that went something along the lines of “you may be running out of space in IPhoto”  Huh????!!!

This occurred as I was downloading pictures from my camera.  The computer actually asked me if I wanted to download the pictures.  I don’t understand questions like that.  Why else would I have connected the camera to the computer? And I don’t like getting messages from my laptop.  This whole thing has me rattled…this implied finite amount of space.

I have vague recollections of  IBM’s that came with 512K of memory and a 2 megabyte hard drive was huge.   Now…they use terms like gazillion or gigahertz or tons and computer people use phrases like “more than you could ever use”.  HA!

So, I’m going through the painful process of trying to delete photos and video that I THINK I won’t want to look at again…and I twitch every time I hit that delete button.

I spent a couple of days in Delhi prior to my visits in Agra and Varanasi and I have to say…I  got one hell of a kick out of Old Delhi!

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Wires…Wires
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And more wires!

Miles of cable and wire hang over the streets, under roofs, through buildings…it’s crazy! Tell me this doesn’t crack you up! I mean…OMG

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My guide swore up and down that the electricians know exactly where each and every wire goes.  I’ll take that with a grain of salt…but it sounds good.

 

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Me and my guide, Shipra, hopped on a rickshaw powered by a very fit young man who proceeded to bicycle his way through the narrow streets of the old town.

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There are over 500,000 residents in Old Delhi…and they are on top of each other!  Most people are considered to be low-income…not much different from the rest of India.  But they have a really strong sense of community with many owning and operating their own small businesses that cater to tourists.

This is the major street running through the walled city…Chandni Chowk.  It used to be the grandest market in all of India.  I would say it still retains a little bit of it’s old charm.

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I laughed the whole ride through Old Delhi.  I loved it!  After Old Delhi…we traipsed through Jama Masjid…the principal mosque of Old Delhi.  It was actually commissioned by our old friend Shah Jahan (remember…the Taj Mahal guy).  This is the best known mosque in India.

I went completely unprepared…a tank top and flip flops.  I had to wear the mumu to cover my shoulders and buy a pair of socks to protect my feet from the 150 degree pavement.

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And I looked good!

 

 

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Hindu’s must cleanse themselves before they pray.

 

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You will always see fountains and pools of water in and around their religious sites

You can hang as long as you want in this mosque…they won’t tell you to leave.  These folks have been sleeping here.

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Notice the design on the floor…

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Shah Janan’s daughter designed the marble floor to look like individual prayer rugs so you don’t need to bring one with you.

Leave it to a smart woman!

And on that note…I depart this wonderful country in the morning.

I’ve been asked by many people if I felt safe in India…and I always answer yes.  The longer I was here…the more comfortable I became with the people.  The first two weeks…well it’s all about getting over culture shock — and frankly — you just see the surface of everything – both places and people.  But you’re learning as you go…about the Hindu religion…about individuals and how they live their lives…about how the country is run and the values of the people who live here.  The more I learned…the safer I felt.

The great majority of Indians are Hindu and their religious beliefs center around the idea of being good to each other, to family and living a good life.  They are tolerant of others and their beliefs –believing that the individual chooses his or her own path. In india, I’m a curiosity…someone to check out…but never with resentment or suspicion as I have been in other places.  They want to know where I’m from…how many kids do I have (I’ll have to introduce you all to my husband Michael and two children in a later blog).  They want to have their picture taken with me…they are fascinated by my Amazon Kindle Book…and they want to know if I like India and if India has treated me well.

They work hard – to provide a good education for their children and to take care of their parents. They are kind and generous and very tolerant.  I’ve never seen a driver get angry at another driver — ever!  You’ve seen how they drive — this would have elicited the very worst sort of road rage at home — but not here.

And India herself is struggling to improve the conditions that most of it’s citizens live in.  So…the next time you’re on the phone with someone from India and you’re having a hard time understanding them– give them a break – cut them some slack.  American and other international companies are able to take advantage of India’s need for their business and pay half of what they would pay at home.

Just because you can….doesn’t mean you should.

Traveling as I did – mostly by car – I really feel like I got to see the many and varied faces of India.  Sure…there’s Mumbai and Delhi…and we’ve all seen the Taj Mahal on TV.  But I didn’t know what to expect in southern India…the mountains…tea plantations…spice villages…the backwaters…it was all so beautiful.

It’s easy to see the poverty, the trash, rotting food, stray dogs, loose cows, chickens and goats…and the crazy, congested traffic.  It’s harder to look beyond all that to see the mom who washes her children’s school uniforms so that they look crisp and clean on their way to school every day.  You have to look close to see the woman who is up at 5:00 am to sweep the sidewalk and street in front of her shop so that is more appealing to customers…before she walks to the closest temple for morning prayer.   And the driver who is always on time to pick me and my huge suitcase up…who has to pay for his own meals and lodging out of his own pocket while on the road with me. They work so hard for so little…and yet…they smile at me and wish me well and they are sincere.

While India may not be the most beautiful country I’ve seen…it is the one with the most heart.  I appreciate the people of India…I am grateful for the way I was treated while in their country and will forever…think of them fondly and wish them well!

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