Final Days

February 27, 2008

I haven’t written in a while and I’m sorry about this, my Journey in it’s last days are more about a self awakening and reflecting on the past 6 weeks.

After Pushkar I ended up in Jodhpur, another big city, lots of noise and pollution and energy. They have an incredible fort there and beautiful vistas of the blue city. I then went to the Majaraha’s palace which is on this incredible parcel of land that over looks the city of Jodhpur. He now lives in half and the other half is a hotel. Very lush accomodations and pricey. I did not stay here. After the visit I sat with my driver Pintu and had a beverage and a snack, behind us and the palace is an incredible village being built, large homes and a gated community, this is all being funded by the Majahraha himself. Built for the wealthy. This of course upset me, that all this money is being spent on the rich and the poor get nothing.

I met these 2 women Claudia and S……., I don’t recall the other’s name. We had dinner and the next day I bumped into them at the market, they invited me to share in a Jeep Safari. We went out for approximately 3 hrs and went to some villages and saw some wildlife, not to exciting.

After Jodhpur I took a train to Jaisalmer. There are 3 sleeper classes, 2AC, 3AC and Sleeper, the first of the 2 are with AC and enclosed with curtains and you get blankets and pillow. THe Sleeper you get a bunk and the windows are all broken and there are more people. I unfortunately got Sleeper on one of the coldest days in India, I was freezing, I had no blanket or pillow and my legs and feet were frozen. No sleep. Oh and the snoring is impossible.

Arrived in Jailsalmer at 5 in the morning and I started to get a bad feeling in my belly. It was freezing a hell, this was not good. Was picked up by the hotel Shreenath Palace and went to bed. THis did not last long, for the next 2 days I was running to the toilet, every 1 to 2 hrs.

My last night in Jodhpur I had a Tali and I ate everything including the salad, cucumbers and tomato. NOT A GOOD THING. Had the runs and heart burn.

The owner of the Hotel took real good care of me, a very nice man.

After the recovery I checked out and went on a 2 day Camel Safari, this was incredible, I of course was not prepared to have my voice go up an octive. My lower region was numb and my thighs were bruised. But it was great. I went with a woman from Berkely CA, she was a bit of a loon. It was fun though. Slept out in the Pakastan Desert, this too was freezing, I had 7 layers, long underwear, hat and gloves and I was cold as shit. We had a fire and had great food.

When we returned to Jaisalmer, I hadn’t showered in 4 days and had checked out of my hotel, Kat, the woman I was with offered me her shower, I was leaving for Udaipur that night, so I didn’t have a room.

As we were walking to her place, I had my heavy pack on and my day pack and headed down her street with many people and bulls/cows. Kat was in front of me and she passed a bull about 3 inches from him, mind you all the bulls/cows are friendly and get along with the locals. But as I passed this one bull, he must of not liked me, he took 2 steps and rammed his head into my chest, his one horn hit my arm and luckily went through my arm pit, I was hit so hard I flew in the air about 2 feet, my pack knocked me off balance and my foot got twisted in a gutter, I was in shock and then I started laughing…. A few moments later, an Asian woman was wondering the streets and the same bull nailed her in the chest, she was crying.

Udaipur was incredible, similar to Pushkar, low key and really nice. Not a lot of hassles. I arrived at 5 am and went to bed. THis place had great energy and music and no rush to do or see things. THis is where they shot Octopussy, the James Bond film. Almost every restaurant shows the movie as some sort of marketing ploy. Here in Udaipur my last day I went Horseback riding in the surrounding villages and in the mountains, beautiful, hotter than hell.

After Udaipur I went to Ahmedabad, I didn’t enjoy this at all, big city, all Rickshaws were on strike and I was suppose to hook up with a friend and this did not happen. I stayed 1 and a half days then off to Mumbai.

My spirits were down and I needed to get back up and feel good again, Mumbai did this. I went to an area called Colaba, lots of tourists, too many, this has the most expensive stores and The Hotel Taj. Levi’s, Addidas, Nike. It was like I was in Beverly Hills or something. The Architecture was quite nice and very lush and green, palm trees and water foutains. I took a boat to Elephanta Island and saw incredible carvings. Went to one of the oldest Synogogue, it has 4000 Indian Jews, quite beautiful, unfortunately I was flying out the next morning and would miss Oneg Shabbat.

Off to Goa, Palolem. Way south of Goa this little village right on the beach with tikki huts and cottages right on the water, I am in my element, right back to my childhood. Sand and Beach, getting black and drinking Kingfishers and watching the sunrise and sunset.

My first morning I rented a fishing boat and at 5 am went out to see the sunrise and catch nothing. The Indian Ocean is much different than the Pacific. But I was in heaven. Saw Dolphins in the water and it was great. Rented a Scooter and went to other beaches and towns, quite fun. Did some nude sunbathing and realized that you have to put more than 35 on some particular areas.

Eating fresh fish and pizza, I have no schedule, it’s should I wake up and eat or swim or swim and eat, turn over or read or have a beer. Tough.

I leave in 2 days and it will be good to get home, even though it’s freezing. I’ve had the Journey of my life and will never fortget the moments and people that I’ve met and especiall the experience of going through a place that truly is incredible. India will always have a place in my heart.

Love Jason.

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Pushkar

February 9, 2008

 

Arrived in Pushkar 51/2 hrs later, safe. I should say that taking a bus is crazy, the driving habits of Indians are erratic and it’s a little like playing Chicken. Who can swurve back into the lane without getting killed. A full load of Foreigners and Indian people holding on, piles of vomit on the floor from people who can’t make the window.

Off the bus and a sea of boys crowding the door sent by hotels in the hope of you not having a reservation or changing your mind based on a small visual with a photo.

This was the first place that I did not have a reservation, no time allowed and it takes time to research. I had much success, I went with the 2 women from Luxemborg and we found The Aroma Hotel, nice, on the out-skirts of the city which is very small, you can walk around the lake within about an hr. Papu greeted us and as I was checking in I was trying to think of when I arrived in India, what date, and Papu said the 17th, I turned to him and said “how do you know this”, he was at the Delhi Airport when I arrived and he noticed me, he said my hair and my smile was very nice, what are the chances 3 weeks later that this man remembers me, in Pushkar.

This also was the most inexpensive of all so far, 200 Rupees, $5.07 USD a day.

After arriving in Pushkar, I started to not feel well and loss of energy and feeling run down. I went for a walk to see if I could find some fresh juice or something that would give me some energy.

Pushkar is wonderful, very friendly and small, quite peaceful and not a lot of pushy salesmen. The lake is surrounded on all sides by the gatz, many stairs which lead to the water which is holy, this is the place where Ghandi’s ashes are. The city is white, all buildings reflected in the water, quite beautiful. Even though I’ve never been to Greece, I pictured this very similiar on a smaller scale.

I returned back to my hotel, which by the way, Pushkar is the easiest to navigate. On the way back I had the best, most delicious Falafel sandwich I’ve ever had. Spicy and fresh. Will never forget it.

Went to bed at 9:30 and woke up with strong head cold, the one where your body aches and you can’t move, your head pounds and your sneazing and coughing. The results of many Kingfishers and a cigarette from Jaipur. No NiQuill, sp?.

Had some breakfast around 11 and started drinking Lemon, Honey and Ginger Tea, Ginger I hate nothing more. But this is suppose to do the trick. I headed out, it was a nice sunny day and wanted to get out and explore. I went walking around the village and ended up exploring the villages outside the city, rose gardens as far as you can see, beautiful, these are used for ceremonial purposes, red roses that smell great. It was nice, this is where you meet the real people, very friendly, had some incredible conversations, people just want to have a conversation with you, invite you for Chai Tea and about 2 hrs later your still there. I love this.

The next few days I took it easy and strolled along the gatz, and sat in the sun trying to heal. I went walking along the gatz and came to this one area, it has 2 somewhat large pools of water from the lake, as I approached them I was yelled at by many people from all sides, birds were flying, monkeys were playing and I was wondering what the hell.

I was approached very quickly by a man who proceed to tell me to take my shoes off that this is a very holy place, this all is happening very quick, I then was let to the out ring of one of the pools on the edge and was met by a Brama Priest, I read about some are a scam and just want money but this was the real thing, he had a small plate with a coconut, red rose petals, string, rice and red powder. He made me repeat after him a prayer, blessing my Mother, Father, Brother and Sister and after throw them in the water, then touch my eyes, ears and nose with the water 3 times, at first I thought this was crazy but then I started to feel something and got into this. He then put water on the red powder and proceeded to bless me and put it with the rice on my forehead.

After, I was sitting for a bit quietly by myself and started to feel something, became somewhat emotional.

Next day was the day I just relaxed and did nothing.

Next day was a great day, I was feeling better and ready to explore, I rented a Motor Scooter and navigated my way out of the city through the sea of people without killing myself. Made it through and was off to the mountains, way out amongst the villages. It was quite bumpy, they don’t pave the roads and this took a toll on my back, but who give a shit, I was in India. About 1 hr into the ride only seeing sheep and beautiful vistas and abandoned homes I entered into my first village, in front of me about 30 feet, out came 12 children running into the middle of the road making a blockade so that I would have to go through the sea of smiles. I stopped and started to smile and laugh and said here we go. I went into the sea and hands were reaching out to shake my hand, but of course wanting something more than just my hello, money or food or a pen. I remembered that I just bought some biscuits so I pulled them out and one by one gave them to all the kids, and the remainder to one of the mothers who were very agressive, pulling at my scarf and jacket wanting me to give these items to their children. Then wanting me to take a photo, this could have lasted hrs, I needed to continue.

I felt like I was in the movie Motorcycle Diaries.

The sun was shining and I was feeling great, I kept going around on this single road and saw a city, thinking this was was taking me back to Pushkar, no, this was not the case. It was going to Ajmer, I had to turn around and go all the way back, of course I took another road and wasn’t paying attention and saying to myself this doesn’t look familiar and the Mountian’s are much closer than I remember. I asked some men squatting and having their afternoon tea and they said, which I interpeted as I need to go all the way back and around, this is where I started a bit of a panic, thinking will I have enough gas to make it back to Pushkar. Of course even If I did run out, the people along the way were waving and very friendly.

As I returned I came upon a stand and had a glass of Chai Tea and water, of course I gave all my food to the kids, so I stocked up. Returned the bike and met up with a woman that I met on the bus that night, as well as another woman in her 70’s a true hippie, has been to India since the 60’s, she lives in Canada and has a small shop that she sells goods from India.

Great conversation. Has seen Pushkar change over the yrs. Quite wonderful.

Off to Jodhpur, taking a bus from Pushkar to Ajmer, 1 1/2 hrs then a 6 hr bus to Jodhpur. In Ajmer I asked 5 people if this particular bus was for Jodhpur, I got on the bus and bought 2 seats, one for me and one for my pack. Got settled and I thought to my self I should write down the word Jodhpur and I showed this to 2 people, I was on the wrong bus, I was headed back to Jaipur, Jaipur/Jodhpur, does that sound the same to you? The bus was moving leaving the station and I stopped the bus and got my pack and my money and got on the right bus for Jodhpur….

Agra/Jaipur

February 9, 2008

 

Arrived in Agra in the am, my train was 5 hrs late arriving. Found my hotel which was great, Hotel Sheela, run by these to guys with a dog named Fifi. You figure it out. Also they had an amazing German Shepard, the first dog I was able to touch in India, quite familiar. Missed Mike.

Walked around a bit in Agra not a lot to see and do, had some breakfast and hired a rickshaw back to go see the Taj Mahal, all I can say is that it is more beautiful in person – wonderous – magnificient. It sits at the end of long fountains and the contrast of white marble on the blue sky is beautiful. Thousands of tourists from all over the world, it was like Disney Worlds, World of Tomorrow. I’d wish I came at sunrise, I heard this is the most spectacular. This enormus structure that sits surrounded by beautiful gardens surrounded by a stone wall. It’s quite a pity that just outside the walls there’s so much poverty. It seems that everywhere I go this is a common theme, in Delhi, so much poverty and starvation above the ground in Old City and under the ground is the most modern train system that I’ve ever seen. Also in Jodhpur which is where I’ve been for 4 days, just behind the Maharaja’s Palace which sits on top of a hill on approximately 10 acres of beautifully kept fields, is a new Village under construction with incredible large houses, it looks like beverly hills. I asked and this area is for the wealthy, the Maharaja wanted to give them somewhere where they could retire and be together, whereas in the proper Jodhpur poverty and people are trying to survive.

Sorry, I went off on a detour.

5 hr train to Jaipur from Agra, only 1 hr late. Ran to the train and lost my new wool scarf along the way. Oh well. I met this wonderful woman on the train and she told me that you must not hold on to the past and move on. Everyday a new.

I met Jerome waiting for the train, he’s from France. Nice guy. We had bunks across from eachother so we talked and read. This was a morning train. Arriving in Jaipur around 10am. I had a reservation that I made from Varanasi at Hotel Atithi, a nice place with a roof top area, Jerome didn’t have a reservation, we shared a rickshaw in the hopes that he would get a room. We met to others from London Katie and Jason, great people, we had Kingfishers on the roof and talked, it was quite nice.

Jaipur is a much cleaner city but loud and polluted. My first day I hired a driver for 4 hrs, for 130 Rupees, about 3 USD. I went to Gaitor an all Marble Palace just outside Jaipur, outside the city walls, the monuments are all carved out of marble. The site was used for creamations very ornate with beautiful scenes dipicted. There is one structure which has 20 marble columns where Jaisingh II was creamated. It sits surrounded by mountains with the 2 forts above. Next I went to the Jal Mahal ” The Water Palace”  built in the 18th Century, in the middle of a large lake, it is based on the famous Palace on the lake in Udaipur which I will visit soon. It is not as beautiful as the picture depicts. The paint is completely faded it was once a bright canary yellow and now very washed out.  I met some university students getting their MBA in finance, it was one of the guys birthday, they invited me to a disco party, I wasn’t up for getting my groove on.

Next I went to where they make beautifully patterened woodblock saris. Quite nice to see the process, but of course there was a catch, after the demonstration, I was led upstairs to where the “bulk” of their products were and many many others are for sale, there had to be at least 8 other tourists with tea and boys unfolding everthing from blankets to scarves to wall hangings, I started to laugh and thought here we go. I didn’t buy anything. They were not pleased.

Next the driver took me to a huge store with modern windows and large displays, there they just offer you a tea and mass produced products and it’s not pleasant. I said no, I will not go in, I will pay you the 50 Rupees and let’s go. He was unhappy.

The Pink City as Jaipur is called is not so pink, it’s kind of a dirty Mauve color. The center is filled with mass produced products, nothing original. But, this is the place to buy your Rubies, Saffires and Jewels. I saw my first elephants beautifully painted and Camels dressed to the nines. Can’t wait to ride one of those.

Jerome and I, the next day went up to the fort and walked around a bit, this is enormous. Overlooking the city. We encountered 8 boys who followed us the entire way around the fort, this was nice. TOok lots of pictures.

In the evening we met up with Katie and Jason and had more Kingfishers and I had my first Cigarette in 5 yrs, the beers and cigarette would effect me through to Pushkar. I left Jaipur not feeling great and it didn’t leave much of an impression.

At the Post Office, yes, I shipped home another large package full of stuff, I met 2 women, sisters from Luxemborgh, they were headed to Pushkar as well, I also met a woman from Israel in her 50’s, an artist studing in India for 6 months, she recommended a community called Orville, way South, If possible I may try .

There is only one bus direct to Pushkar and it leaves at 1:00 pm.

In Pushkar I will have one of my most memorable times….

PHOTOS AT LAST

February 1, 2008

I am attaching photos finally, these are only from Varanasi, Agra and Jaipur, which is current.

jaipur and friends

 

Varanasi

January 28, 2008

Sorry for the wait, things in Varanasi are a bit different vs Delhi. Varanasi has more of a laid back feel and you want to stroll the Ganges River which allows for some relief from the dense population and the pace of Delhi.

I got off the train in Varanasi and massive amounts of people going in different directions either trying to get to a train or exiting the station. Chaos. I found the exit and waited at the Foreign Tourist office where someone from the hotel would be picking me up. This happened. We took an Tuk Tuk, which is the local lingo for Auto Rickshaw to the area in which I would be staying. All hotels that are on the Ganges River are not accessible by Auto Rickshaw or bike rickshaw. There is a maze of alleys and side streets that you will get lost in and circle around for sometime. It is quite fun to get lost in this maze but not on your first day. We got off the auto rickshaw and started walking, I followed my guide from the hotel through the maze and just kept walking, you pass small shops selling coffee or a cow or dogs with puppies that have mange or people laying in their doorways. It’s quite facinating that their reaction to foreigners is just like another day.

We arrived at the Ganpati Guest House and it was great. A colorful place with beautiful trees and open communal sitting areas that overlook the river. It is way up, you can see the whole river and all the ghats. I checked into room 4 and it was a corner with a bathroom and floor to ceiling large shutter doors that overlook the river. The colors are bright neon orange and yellow with lime green, beautiful. I sat on the balcony and gazed down at the activity. Men washing in the river, women doing laundry, boys flying kites, goats roaming looking for their next meal and hundreds of dogs and bulls.

Spiritual life revolves around the ghatz. Most are used for bathing but there are 2 that are burning ghats where bodies are cremated in public. I was a bit tired the first day and went for a short stroll and this was the first thing I came upon. The main burning ghat. People that have died throughout the city and beyond come here to be cremated. There are funeral processions making their way through the streets to the burning ghats. This was very emotional for me to see this, It hit me pretty hard and I stood there watching this for at least an hour. The bodies are put on a wooden stretcher and wrapped in beautiful material, gold and red. They are taken to the river and splashes of water are put on them as well as in their mouth. Then taken to an area which is from the middle ages, wood is put on them and then lit, it takes about 4-6 hrs to burn and then men come to collect the ashes and they are put in the river. It was very sad and draining.

Anyway, I met this woman, her name is Karen, she’s from Switzerland and has been traveling solo for 2 and a half months, we decided to travel for a bit together, her first time in india and me, it was nice to have the company. We went to the train station and I bought my next leg of the trip from Varanasi to Agra and Agra to Jaipur. After we ended up getting Ayurvedic massages, burning hot oil is massaged into your body hard, my back was hurting so this was the awesome. We then had a steam bath and hot shower and relaxed for a bit. At the hotel we bumped into a man who he and his wife and 4 children all under the ages of 12 are traveling all over for 2 years. They are from Belgium and have a Land Rover Defender like mine but 4 door and have tents on the roof for them to sleep. They’ve been by car to South America, Africa, India, and will be going to Iran and Iraq. Incredible family, their kids are great and all having a blast.

In the evening we met this guy Dirk from Germany, we had dinner and hung out and talked for a bit. Dirk is 30 and has been traveling/living all over the world since 18. Great guy. Funny. I like him.

The next day we, the 3 of us went walking south, down the ghats, and got lost, we came upon great temples and met some great people. Had Middle Eastern food for lunch, I had Falafel, no veges. After we continued our excursion and ended up meeting 2 other guys from our hotel and all rented a boat at dusk to take us along the river. Another total perspective. Beautiful. Very peaceful and taking it all in. I couldn’t believe that I was there, in India. I was reflecting quite a bit. A bit emotional. We headed down to the river and ended up at the Burning Ghats, where I started my journey in Varanasi, It takes a whole new meaning at night. We were, no kidding 6 feet away from the body in the water and we watched it being burned. There were a total of 13 large flames burning with smoke for miles. This ghats is 24 hrs 365 days round the clock.

Today I am hooking up with Dirk and Karen and we are off for the day, I’m headed to the train station for a 5:30 train and will arrive in Agra at 6:30 am tomorrow. To see the Taj Mahal.

Sorry for the long delay, but Varanasi has a very special meaning to me somehow. It was hard for me to share.

Love Jason.

One More entry for Delhi

January 23, 2008

I couldn’t pass this up by writing this entry. I had an incredible day yesterday and had to share.

First I went to the Baha’i Temple, there are 8 of these incredible monuments built all over the world. The holiest is in Israel, people from all over come and pray and to be in it’s presence, a very holy place.

The Baha’i Temple is in the shape of the lotus which is made out of 27-petalled white marble forms, some call it the Lotus Temple. A huge flower like form coming out of the ground, took 6 yrs to build. Built by Iranian architect, Fariburz Sahba. Incredibly peaceful inside, I took my time and on the marble seats I had a moment. Huge arches inside that went to the top of this structure, in the middle at the top was a large sun form, beautiful glass that brought the sun in. This structure is about a mile in diameter.

Across the street was Kalkaji Temple, a narrow winding alley, lined with stalls selling laminated religious prints, and sindur, (vermillion powerder used for the forehead). I walked to the front of the line, not to enter the shrine but to observe. Thiswas incredible, hundreds of people come everyday from all over, as they exit after giving thier offerings they reach above and hit many bells that line the ceiling. More vendors selling offerings in prewrapped packages of newspaper, with food or objects. Walked around the shrine on the opposite side. This shrine is about 20 feet in diameter, two entrances and approx. 20 ft tall with beautiful flags above. On the other side was people were sitting facing the shrine that had a flame lit and chanting and singing loudly with musical instruments. A man was in the front of the flame and was, I believe in a deep trance, swinging his head in circles very fast. He stopped after 15 minutes and fell forward-was escourted away stumbling. Like if you turned around in circles very fast many times and stopped suddenly. Like he was possessed. He looked exhausted.

We exited the shrine in the back and came upon about a mile of stalls selling cheamp wares. I bought some small tins of colored pigments used for blessings – I turned around and suddenly had a homeless woman approch me face to face and she put the pigment on my forehead and blessed me. I gave her 10 Rupees and said Nameste. The homeless children were most agressive in this particular area, especially being white, I attracted a lot of attention. Grasping my clothes and tugging them, pushing and shoving. At one point there were about 8 boys and girls ages 3 – 10 yrs of age. I stopped anbd looked at them and said NO and they scattered. Of course in about 5 min. half were back to try their luck again. This was difficult for me, sending kids away, I wanted to give them all my money. A lot of homeless/disfigured/dismembered and even a midget/little person with no legs dressed beautifully pearched high up on a platform with a colorful can and a long beard and mustashe-quite dapper if i do say so.

There were even rides for the kids, Mickey Mouse’s face was so dirty, you couldn’t even recognize him.

We exited through a back alley, Mr Tripathi knows every short cut and back road opportunity to show me great things. There was an entire village for homeless, awnings made out of found objects, tarps, wood and anything they could find. As we continued upward I came upon some thing so wonderful, large color rectangular shapes about 8 feet by 15 feet, 3 of them total, these were the pigments I spoke of layed out on tarps drying, THe color was incredible! Bright neon Orange, Deep rich Burgandy and bright red. There is a man in charge of sifting through, squatting with his hand sifting the material to sell. No clumps.

This story has much more I will write soon. It gets better.

love jason.

5 Days in Delhi

January 21, 2008

Well this will be the last time I write to you all from Delhi, I am getting in one more day and then I’m off for Varanasi. A train ride of approximately 14 hrs, this train sleeps 4 to a room fold down bunkbed style, you are able to reserve which place within the room, I got a top bunk. I don’t know anyone else in the room so it will be great to meet some new people, I’m hoping their not American. No offense to anyone. As well as I’m hoping there’s no snoring.

Anywho, the last couple of days have been jam packed, starting at 9 am and sometimes going to 10 pm.

I’m combining 2 days into this log, starting with Rajghat Tomb, which is the site of Mahatma Gandihi’s cremation, very powerful place, an incredible large, maybe the size of Central Park in NY, park with large pond. All of the Former prime ministers are buried there with their own monuments, large sculptures or reliefs each guarded with persons from the army. Very friendly persons, I of course struck up a conversation with one and I mentioned that I was from Chicago, USA, he wants to come to Chicago, he heard many good things.

The area which Gandhi is buried is incredibly quiet and peaceful, the largest area within the complex that is surrounded by a large stone wall where you can walk above and look in or walk around in the area next to the tomb, it is outside with simple landscaping and a path around with a black marble shape in the middle with a large lantern that has a flame lit permanently. It has the words enscribed in the marble, “Oh God” in Hindi. Other Prime Ministers from other countries all visit and it is traditional to leave a large flower wreath. They lay them on the marble in the middle. Beautiful.

So as you walk around the complex/park you come accross the other Prime Ministers Tombs, some are large, meaning one had about the size of an Olympic Swimming pool, all black marble with stairs to the middle, very flat, approximately, 3 ft high. The others are similar or there was one woman Prime Minister that had a large walking path, maybe 100ft, and at the end was a large vertical piece of granite, irregular in it’s shape and approximately, 15ft high.

After I went to Humayun’s Tomb, INCREDIBLE!!!! This is the second Mughal emperor, the 1st Muslim Tomb. Built in 1565, it was commissioned by Humayun’s senior widow. It is a small version of the Taj Mahal. Beautiful Gardens and ornate decoration. The Tomb is in the center in white inlaid marble.
Minimal.

Next we went to the “rich” part of town, Sundar Nagar, old shops and bazaars. You can buy anything from food to clothes to antiques. I bought antique textiles from a stubborn guy. I sifted through a stack of textiles approximately 10 feet high just thrown in a corner in the back of the store, he wanted about 1000 USD, I offered him half, didn’t work, then I had to edit and came out with 3, 2 are great one not that bad.

Then I went to a Shopping plaza called San Tusti, a complex/outdoor very expensive handicrafts. The unfortunate thing is that the rich pay workers very very little and make an fairly large profit with the mark-up. I didn’t buy. There were however peacocks roaming freely. I was told by Mr. Tripathi that this area/stores were for the widows of the men that were killed in the army, high officials. The army gives the money to them.

I’m going to edit now…It’s getting late.

Next day, January 20, went to the National Museum, a lot of history and bronzes, again, not what I expected from a museum. Beautiful paintings representing a lot of history. I believed I mentioned the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, this was history at best, a large area, again about the size of Central Park, with a tall, approximately 100ft tower in the middle, I hired a guide for about 100 Rupees $2.53 USD. The tower is called Qutb Minar (Arabic for pole or axis) the world’s highest single tower, if you look at it from the sky straight down it creates a lotus flower which is a holy design. After the Park, we headed down a side street which turned into the Flower market, beautiful color and everyone greeting me with a “hello sir”, of course I took many pictures and then a crowd surrounded and then I was getting my picture taken by the locals. They love to see their picture. Boys stringing flowers with a needle and thread like pop corn around the Christmas tree. Picked that morning.

Went to an outdoor crafts fair by craftsmen from around India. This was a fantastic experience, one wonderful experience that I will never forget, I met a family from Bengal who illustrate with watercolors on small pieces of paper and mount them to make a scroll, wonderful illustrations. This family, no kidding consisted of the father, missing most of his teeth, his two sons and daughter, all about 5 feet 4 inches, very rich black skin and hair, the father started singing one of the stories and each of the kids rolled out almost every scroll, wanting me to buy. I was there for quite a bit, hard decision and of course I bought a scroll, I started to haggle, he started with a Thousand Rupees, $25 USD, I went down to 500 Rupees and then he went to 800 Rupees, I said okay and I ended up giving him the full Thousand Rupees. I had him sign the scroll with the family name and location and took a picture with them, they were so happy, This made me very very happy.

Today, January 21st, I mailed all my purchases. I went to a man who puts all your things in a box and then sews a fabric wrapping with a needle around the box, then with a wax and candle seals the stitching. It’s beautiful. Went to the post office sent it by sea, which is more inexpensive than air, and I should be receiving it in about 3 months.

Next was Safdarjungs Tomb, built in 1754. The Prime Minister of Muhammad Shah, the emperor between 1719-48. Again, beautiful gardens and the patina on each of the buildings was great, color peeling off the cement, the hand carved doors and the in-laid marble of the Tomb which was in the center. Long fountains, football field size, flank either side as you approach.

Oh, and lastly, I went where Ghandi was assinated on October 30, 1948 by a business man named Nathuram Godse, this man from what I was told didn’t have the same beliefs of Gandhi.

Well, sorry for this being long, hope you are finding these writings of interest.

The next time I will be writing you will be from Varanasi, on the gatz river.

Love Jason.

By the way, which I forgot to mention, I am in Delhi currently for 5 days, leaving on the 22nd pm, then I will be taking the Shiv Ganga Express (which by the way is not that Express, 14 hrs overnight train, sleeper car, 4 persons to a room) to Varanasi for 5 days then train to Agra for 2 days, then train to Jaipur, 2 hr bus to Pushkar, 6 hr bus to Jodhpur, 4 hr bus to Jaisalmer, train to Ajanta, train to Mumbai then either an 18hr train or 2 hr flight back to Delhi. I am staying in these cities for a period of days, just don’t know how long. Returning on the 29th of Feb.

  I believe this covers it, this is a loose program, it’s changes daily based on who I meet along the way.

Still working the details out, meeting people from all over giving me options for transport, hotels and sites.

Yesterday, Sunday the 20th, had a great day, not that all days were great; National Museum, Mehrauli Archaeological Park (INCREDIBLE) a must see for anyone planning on coming here, a huge, wonderful flower market, an incredible Majavera at the top of a hill overlooking the city, a marble statue approximately 30 feet tall all one piece, also stubborn men having a debate on who should back their car out from the center of a one way street, outdoor crafts fair.

An oberservation: What I do notice between the people of India and Westerners is that Hindi’s and Muslum’s are very calm, always polite and never scream, hit or violent in any way. Everyone knows one another or you can strike up a conversation with anyone and be there for hrs talking and laughing. People sing because their happy and have peace within. Something Westerners I believe don’t have enough of…..

More to come….

01.21.08 Off to Baha’i House of Worship, Kalkaji Temple & Safdarjungs Tomb.

Love Jason.

India Day 2

January 19, 2008

Had a double cappochino and 3 slices of toast with jam and honey and I was off for the day with Mr. Tripati.

Went to the main bazaar, Chowak Chok, I may have the spelling wrong, crazy narrow passages with hundreds of stall row after row of shoes, linens, clothes and jewelry, some crap and mass produced items. The energy, color and pace of everyone and everything is wonderful, people haggling, homeless people begging some with legs some without, bulls on the streets roaming for their next meal, dogs…of course this gets me, starving, pregnate and/or with mange roaming for someone not to kick or yell at them for intruding. They go about thier way, navigating the streets and rummaging through the left overs. The bulls which I referred to comes with a story from my friend Mr Tripati, each bull roaming the streets alone not tied up is owned by someone, each has markings/paintings on them and wherever they are at the end of the day the bull knows where to find it’s owner, like a cat for food in the US, or Mike the dog that wont stray from the front stoop knowing full well he’ll get his ass kicked. Nice. I could relate.

I had 3 great experiences in this particular bazaar, besides just being there. One, we, Mr. Trapati and myself were walking down one of the passages and he said follow me, we took a left up a narrow stair case with no light, can’t see anything in front of me, kept going and entered what I call incredible, the flower market, they were selling and trading flowers in large sacks open on the ground, some were buying and preparing for Republic Day on Jan. 28, I got some great shots, I just wish I could upload for all to see.

The next adventure was the entrance was the same, down a narrow hall, approx. 3 ft wide dark and smells like you just couldnt believe, we entered into an open area which was full of spices, it was the spice market, spices that supply entire India. Colors that are wonderful overflowing in their sacks,we walked around and Mr Tripati would pick up and either have me smell or taste. We then walked up 4 flights of stairs to the roof where you can look down into the roof tops and in the the middle of the market. We walked around the entire top where there were homeless familys and boys, haven’t had a bath in how long?

The next final wonderful moment was we continued to walk the market and Mr Tripati hung a right and we came upon a fairly large man behind one of the stalls, he was Mr Tripati’s brother-in-law, he works 18-22 hr days in the stall, even when everyone goes home. We sat for a bit and we had chai tea with milk, my new favorite thing, Mr Tripati and I have something in common, we like to take pictures, he was given a digital camera and I was teaching him how to use, well everyone, meaning 8-12 men came around to see, I then pulled out my ipod and turned played Aretha Franklin, I gave the ear piece to Mr Tripati and he was bobbing his head and then I started to pass them around to all the men, they were smiling like you wouldn’t believe. I had such a great time, this is what I was looking for, having a moment like this that I could not have by myself. Or moments like these.

After the Bazaar we took the Metro, okay, I was a little hesitant I have to say, thought this was not going to be a pleasant experience, crowds, dirty, homeless, urine etc. WELL, slap me silly and call me Joe. This is the most contemporary, modern high speed metro, ads in the underground, escalators large clean platforms, reminded me of disney world, the monorail. How can a Country be so poor above the ground and underneath is a modern highway?

We got off and went to the Red Fort, incredible place…I will explain more about this later. We then took a Rickshaw to the car and that was it for the day. I was dropped off and had a meal at the hotel.

It was around 8pm and I wanted to see what it would be like to roam the streets without my guide. Went down the street, again, neon signs, street vendors, bulls, dogs, urine, just wanted to give you the whole picture. Did okay for a couple of blocks ended up around my block and I decided to take a short cut, bad idea, I was walking taking in the sites and knowing that this would come out somewhere, not to panic, I continued and the street became more narrow and dark and empty except for the local people who lived there and persons walking home, I kinda did panic and started walking faster and faster, not looking at anyone, thinking that there has to be an end to this street, aparently it was forever. Finally I came upon the street and went to bed rejuvenated and exhausted.

Until next time….

India

January 18, 2008

day 1, landed in india having not slept again for 8 hrs. I certainly tried and having a baby next to you doesn’t help even though I was bumped to Business Class, which had a how should i put it a make-shift barka-lounger. I had a glass of wine but that didn’t help.

Arrived safely, got through customs okay and found my backpack. I exchanged 300USD for Rupees and then went through a sea of people on each side, kinda like I was on a runway. People waiting for family or friends, others holding signs up for persons hiring a driver, which was me. I walked slowly trying to locate my driver with hands and paper flapping in your face. I came upon my name and Mr. Tripathi, a 5 foot 4 inch man, 53 years of age, thin and a smile that went on forever. I thought this is a sign.

He was with his driver Mr. Vikram, a huskey man balding and very kind face.

We exited the airport and followed closely through another sea of men speaking over eachother trying to find a fare. I just followed my men and we were off to the car.

Immediately I noticed that there were homless familys and persons walking aimlessly throughout the streets, there are a lot of noises and dust being that the roads havent been paved in it seems decades. Public urination is common anywhere, I mean anywhere. Traffic is impossible to get through because no one follows those white stripes on the ground. There’s a lot of honking and no yelling, no accidents at all.

As we headed to the hotel to check in we were stopped at a stop light when I looked to my right and saw 2 children ages approximately 5 and 7 both dirty and homless on the median, the girl pulled her pants down and started urinating, at the same time I happen to look at her and our eyes met and I had a moment where everything stopped, I was very sad and emotional.

I checked into my hotel which is The Ajanta, a sea of tall neon signs down a dirt road, it looked like a mini vegas. From all the reading that I have done on finding hotels, this one got okay reviews and some really bad ones. Some titled “hotel from hell”, I walked in and it was nice, they gave me a middle room that had no window, I had my room changed, it has double beds and a Western Sink and Toilet, inlaid wood and very modern furniture. Nice place. It was a little loud and there was dust everywhere from the traffic outside and the construction on the building. I woke up gagging in the middle of the night a couple of times.

After check in we went to the Museum of Modern Art, not exactly what you would expect from a Museum, I was surprised, crumbled walls, pieces matted with stains on them and dirt and dust everywhere. The work is from artists from India’s history to today. Some of the older ones were quite wonderful.

After we ended up at the Crafts Museum, an outdoor large area with people from all over demonstrating their products and selling. I bought a wool scarf and 2 bowls, the scarf was 17 dollars US, and the 2 bowls were 50 cents each. Mr. Tripithi met an old friend who is a craftsman and was showing his wares at the Silk Show, he got us in free and it was incredible, hand stitched Saris that had incredible detail and stories throughout. They take one man 4 months to create, a Sari is, which I found out approximately 20ft that is one piece of beautiful silk and stained with brilliant colors and hand stitched. I went to 5 stalls that I liked and couldn’t make a decision, I’m going back tomorrow. They are a bit more money than the markets which are mass produced, approx. 70USD. Well worth it.

So far the stomach is holding up.

Went back to the room around 7 slept til 3 and was up till 6 and went back to sleep until 8.

Will continue….soon.

Love Jason.