Incredible India-- Land where anything goes!
Who needs a shop when you can get lathered up and shaved right on the street! :) There are ladies with 10’ wide hay piles on their heads, people walking around selling ‘ear cleaning’, an old man popping a squat at the base of a fancy statue, and the not-sure-why-this-is-posted-I-think-we’re-better-off-not-knowing cleaning schedule of the jamb packed train bathroom: once every two weeks! Ack!
There’s lots of construction going on, and therefore holes everywhere, but no caution sign or fencing! I kind of like that... I can get up close and personal and compare our construction methods! Quite often you pass by a huge field and there’s just one lone person working out there, harvesting I guess. Im curious what they are thinking, such a daunting task alone. When it’s a woman working, she is always still dressed in the full garb, a splash of brightness out in the field; that’s quite beautiful actually. I might need to rethink my paint covered overall and cut off t-shirt work outfit :)
|In lieu of a cement truck! Love it!|
I’ve noticed that no Indian is blonde, has blue eyes, or is wearing sunglasses,... but they all know how to haggle those that are! You have to stay here a while to get used to it... I think I've got the hang of it now. You can actually make some money of the rickshaw (little mini taxis) drivers! They get money from shop owners if you go inside to look... so you can make deals w/ them:). I’ve learned the beauty of a sitting shower, but still don’t understand how one does their bathroom duties without tp! I’ve learned that thank you is not really used between friends. In fact sometimes it sounds like arguing but is “just talking- no problem”. One guy put it nicely, stating “friends do things for each other, why waste time with words like please and thank you.” Ha! Doesn’t matter-- I still use them profusely :).
|Nicest bathroom we've had so far (and most expensive at $26/night) but still no hot water from the top shower head! So you sit on that little stool and let the bottom spout pour over you and use the bucket! Ahhhhhh|
For a country that you think of as very conservative (at least I did), lots of the traditional dresses show the women’s stomach and I’ve even seen a few ankles! We were very surprised to see ladies bathing in the river, topless in public! We’ve also seen a number of guys holding hands, and I was quite shocked to be approached by two cross dressers on the train for money, “oh come on girl, just ten rupees!”
|Bathing in the Ganges! Conveniently their arms are all self- censoring, so PG rated :)|
I’ve talked to a few people about this... they say really in the last ten years things have really started to change, with the rise of the computer, the big cites becoming much more westernized. You couldn’t even kiss in public before, and now (I hear) the night clubs can be like what we’d see in Miami, scantily clad girls dropping it like it’s hot! We in the West are benefiting from the cross-culturization, things like yoga and meditation coming and exploding in the US. But in a way the culture here is being lost. Progress is wonderful, but part of me doesn’t like hearing that. I LIKE places doing things differently! The world would be boring if we were all the same! I suppose some modernization of hygiene and sanitation would be wonderful, for the sake of health, but seeing a Gucci store two blocks away from people shacking it on the street, selling handmade goods that probably took days to make for 10 rupees (>$.25) makes me wretch in my mouth a bit. City center of Delhi is waaay more developed that anywhere else I've seen. I trust that nature will take it’s course as it should though. It’ll be interesting to compare when I come back in 30 years. Maybe it’s getting more westernized, but there’s still an entire 4 page section in the paper for arranged marriages!
|Hmmmm... maybe if I'm still single in 10 years :)|
Another thing that could benefit from some modernization, but I hope doesn't? Transportation! Those who have driven w/ me and thought I was a crazy driver should not come here! Holy chaos. I suppose I secretly like it a little... it’s part of the charm of India! :). A “lane” (in the few instances there might be one) has zero meaning. It’s a total free for all; everywhere cows and dogs, many places even pigs, goats, and camels (in Jaipur elephants too!) sharing the road. Somehow we’ve only seen two wrecks, and not bad ones either. Totally focused on driving while driving, being in the present. You don't see anyone driving while on their cellphone either...hmmm, that tells me something ;). Out in the smaller areas, people decorative their vehicles, almost like you would your office cubicle. Garland, lights, bright colors, flowers, and one of my favs, the boom box tied to the tractor, rocking out! One day I saw a kid driving, he couldn't have been more than 10. Once in college we got like 7 people in a little car and were like 'woohoooo'... that was a joke! They’ve got these semi-like trucks, looks like something that would haul big loads of sand or earth... and they are brightly painted with “public carrier” on the front and are FULL of people, mosh pit style. Oh, and then you pass the bus that appears to have more people on top than inside! That’s just the cars. Motorcycles and bikes? Carrying anything and everything from 16’ pipes to monkeys to ginormous bundles of wheat all the same. I was so impressed the first time I saw 4 people on a motorcycle... now it’s a common sight. My fav was the baby, and I mean like 1 yr old baby, straddling a bicycle, propped up against the handlebars, grinning ear to ear!
|No wonder... they ask for it!|
|Wide load coming thru!|
|I must do this to my future car!|
|This kind of sums it up!!!|
Oh, so what have Robyn and I been doing the last week? After Agra, we went to Jaipur. The first day was the Elephant Festival! They were painted up and decorated like it was halloween! My fav was the elephant in the giant pair of jeans and plaid polo :) We watched dance performances, which included a guy with a 6’ long mustache who could play the flute (or some instrument like that) with his nose. It was without much regulation (surprise!), so we could approach and get as close as we wanted to the elephants. Cool :).
|One of the dance performances-- pretty sweet|
|Love a pachyderm in blue jeans :)|
Then it was the Holi Festival--- the first reason I actually wanted to come to India years ago when I saw this on google images! Its a day when everything is closed and everyone celebrates this religious festival, throwing and rubbing paint on each other! Our host family tried to warn us not to go... being girls for one reason and foreigners to boot, but we were adamant we had to try it. It was about 30 minutes and that was plenty! hahah! It really was quite comical to us, because the freedom to rub paint on us meant an opportunity to touch our breasts or boot-ays... and they tried. Not everyone, but certainly a good %. Not super blatantly either, just the extra tight hug or the slick plop of paint on the chest. We quickly learned to hug with our arms in front of us! We did have one guy just pull up on his motorcycle and reach out and swipe across both of our chests then drive away. We were hysterical about the shamelessness! It was comical until there were like 7-8 of them and they get a bit more gutsy... then you go into pushing and getting out of there mode! Lokesh, our couchsurfer host, had said bad things have happened when girls get into the busy busy areas, so we were happy with our walk around the block. Interesting fact: Not-a-one Indian girl was out. Hmmm, stupid foreigners :).
|Just getting started!!|
|Robyn assuming the position!! hahah|
After that, I went on to a second celebration with Lokesh and his brother, a crazy awesome Miami-worthy Holi party! Whoaaaa!! Paintttttt EVERYWHERE, dance party, pool party, water-truck-with-hose-spraying-the-crowd party!!! SOOOOO sooo soooo fun!!!! There were party dudes, free drinks, drunk/puking girls, professional DJ and videographer, and even some traditional families there that wanted to dance with me! Sweet :). Talk about modernization!! I wouldn’t have thought it existed here... but again, another reason to never assume. THAT was awesome! Plus, they had special paint there with permanent qualities...so now, I have purple hair. :)
|I love Holi|
|First of many rounds!|
|Not a horror movie.. that's me!|
|Water hose dance floor spraying!! Woohooo!!|
|That's some awesome pool water!|
One could be upset about such thing... , purple hair, but I kindof think I look hot ;) hahah. I never liked myself with dark hair, but it’s growing on me! For one I don’t stand out as much (well maybe) and I feel like I have more of an excuse to be weird. Its true! one time I dressed up as Avril Lavigne for a party, but then went out dancing afterwards and stayed in character. It was one of the funnest nights, dancing crazy and with the confidence of ‘actress’ behind me. I feel like that now. Purple hair? She must be on drugs;). Naaa... just high on life!!!
|Purple hair and license to be strange- hence the glass less sunglasses! (my reminder i needed new ones)|
After that, Robyn and I agreed we needed to get out of the city, so booked a driver to take us down to Ranthambhore National Park. It was a pleasant drive (despite a zero english speaking driver!), again so much to look at and take in. We explored the fort there, built in the 5th century, and this was reeeeeaaaallllllly great. Plus it’s covered with monkeys which is awesome :) We had a nice dinner and chill evening, and woke up at buttcrack of dawn (again) for our Safari!!!! With 1,334 sq. km and only 30 some tigers, we knew our chances were slim. Right off the bat we saw tiger prints!!!! (I have a stinking suspicion thats a gimic to appease us- but whatever!) The safari was fun regardless, it was nice to be in nature. We saw tons of deer and antelope and monkeys, and right at the end, supposedly there was a leopard laying on a rock some 400 meters away. I saw something move...does that count? haha.
|Entry to the fort|
|Monkey see, monkey do :)|
|Landscapes on the safari|
We came back to Delhi, and spent our last day drinking buckets of Masala tea (Chai- everyday all day), eating butter paranthas, and reminiscing on the good times and the bad. We took a yoga class to bring in a bit more calm, and then she was off. Its a hard place, India is. One might even say it’s a trip that gets better and better the longer you’re done with it. Robyn should be home by now, no doubt will be drawing on how lucky she is to have what she has, to breathe clean air, and will happily to pay for trash pickup and hot water.
|Bye Robyn! Thank you for coming!!! Looove you|
For me, Ive spent the last two days walking around, talking with the locals, eating unknowns, gathering indian recipes from the spice guys, seeing an ancient Indian dance performance (meeting the famous maestro!) call Kathak, and writing lots and lots! I pondered going to the tourist sights... that thought lasted for about 5 minutes and then I tossed out the idea. Some things, like the Taj, I feel the need to go to regardless of my intention or desire at the moment. Maybe when I stop back in Delhi I’ll see more of the sights here, but for now, I’m really trying to listen to myself; and at this very moment, I feel like having another cup of tea :)
|The good life ;)|