Wednesday, 19 November 2008

India: First Impressions

Stream of consciousness upon entering India:
rubble rubble rubble
dark men, only men
a woman in a bright orange sari wtih a stack of sticks on her head
a little dirty girl working on the side of the road
more girls, 8 or so, digging in the middle of the highway
an autorickshaw traveling directly across a toll road and nearly, by an inch, hitting a car from the side
HONKING!!! Like it's going out of fashion!!
everyone honks at everything, so it becomes completely ineffective
my first cow on the way to Faridabad- horns and a big hump, eating trash
sitting on our haunches is the national pose of all Indian men
motorists not heeding cars at all, no lines on the road

It's the best when everyone is trying to merge and it's a near-accident every second with lots of beeping! But surprisingly, there are no accidents....
A baby, fast asleep, squished in between Amma and Bubba on a motorbike, her little bangle-covered wrist hanging out
Slums with vendors selling fresh fruit, pomegranates from Afghanistan, cashews!
A boy sitting in the dirt on the side of the road, his leg stretched out with his entire foot flat on the ground doing it's own weird thing...not normal...

The drive to Agra was fantastic. We got stuck in traffic in nearly every village; at one traffic jam, the monkey boy with a drawn-on moustache swingin' a rope on his cap, and his brother playing a tin lid like drums
Camels, dinkeys, monkeys, cows, the chakka- transvestite (lady boy in Hindi)
snake charmers entertaining us at the toll
"take photo!" with the foreigners, Vicky the vendor
Traffic jam at the train crossing and everybody pushing through a tiny bridge at once

Taj Mahal- letdown? I mean, it's beautiful and magnificient, but once you've seen it, what else is there to do but admire? Agra Red Fort- gorgeous
Poor villages with men sitting on their haunches and women in bright orange/yellow/pink saris with pierced noses
How many people there are!!! How bad living conditions are but how it's accepted
Women carrying pots on their heads
Agra was so poor

DRIVING= chaos!!! no rules to obey, use your hand to indicate you are there
Donkeys carrying laods of bricks, camels pulling big wagons of cotton
Pet monkeys
Where the vendors are as annoyng and pertubing as the flies...
Saw Agra Fort! So beautiful, with the Taj Mahal in the background
5 long hours back

Order of vehicles on the road:
Lorries- on the back, drawn on is HORN PLEASE/BLOW HORN, use dipper at night, Tata: OK!
"India is great", spe
ed 40 km/h

Auto rickshaws
Cycle rickshaws
Donkeys/Camels/Ox/Pony-pulled carts
And finally...pedestrians

I woke up today at 6:30am with Ryan for the 5-hour drive to JAIPUR- The "Pink City." Roads were much better than the way to Agra, with somewhat of a "highway" with lorry upon lorry. Not so much to see along the way except for the occasional camel pulling a wagon overflowing with cotten. Crossed the border into Rajasthan to see higher ground and foothills. We passed through a couple villages with sidestreet fruit/veg stalls and dark women in bright bright saris. C.P. was with us again today, with just me and Ryan. I wore my linen white pants, my new top and my Nepali shawl from Susan- it sort of worked. I was hassled less than Ryan! And he's Indian! And no one wanted to take a picture with me anymore cuz I was dressed like them...:)
We saw Amber Fort first, C.P didn't join us because he was too tired! Me and Ryan walked alllll the way up steep cobblestone roads to the main, faded gate. The fort is like a maze once you get inside past the main plaza. We got lost in long hallways, stairs going up and down. There are old columns with beautiful, intricate designs around the doorway. When you look out the windows is all hills in the background; amazing view. A pink wall goes straight up the mountain, like the Great Wall of China. After Amber Fort, CP, Ryan and I get delicious food downtown. Bursting with flavor and so so yummy.
Next we pass the Jal Mahal, or Water Palace, a palace built in the middle of a lake with gold towers on top. Going through the town is so depressing because it is SO poor and there is trash everywhere. The worst is when you see the stray dogs, cows and pigs eating it. More fruit+veg stalls on the side of the road. I love being covered in a shawl- I just feel safer. Next was the City Palace, all in pink! Where again CP doesn't join us.... Inside, the intricately designed city gate opens into a main square with a palace in the middle. A group of Indian schoolgirls are practicing painting designs of Hindu gods. Overhead are big glass chandeliers, big silver pots at the doorway. We have a look inside a museum with preserved clothing from the rulers in the 17th and 18th centuries - absolutely stunning. The long dresses had hundreds of ruffles and were sequined with real gold. The men working at the museum have bright red turbans and white suits. This is the old India of turbans and palaces that I know and love.

I got my palm rad, where I was told I would be successful, self-starting and get married only once (most likely) between the ages of 25-28, have a boy then a girl. I am open-minded, and optimistic and like the real, not the artificial life, but I am easily taken advantage of (!). is good !

After City Palace, CP takes me a textile workhouse where I choose between hundreds of fabrics, patterns and block prints. I was in heaven. I buy a couple shirts, scarves and a tablecloth for the G family. Next was the silver shops- I buy two beautiful hand-crafted silver bracelets, but apparently even though I bargain for them, I pay way too much according to Rajan.
After an hour of shopping, we drive through the worst poverty I've seen sad.
We drop Ryan off at this orphanage project in Jaipur and hit the road for Delhi. We see a long line of camels along the way and a great big ELEPHANT!!
I stretch out in the backseat on CP's lap so I can sleep for two hours. When I wake up, CP and I manage a conversation (in his very broken English) about the type of not-so-nice people he encounters in this program, and how I don't want to be associated anymore with America. He teaches me some Indian dance moves and we danced the rest of the way home :)
Back at the hostel, the rest of the girls were finishing 3 bottles of wine (!) and all had red-stained teeth haha. They even managed to get Rajan drunk ahha :) He just sat there with the biggest smile on his face
We stood in front of the TV learning Bollywood dance moves and took loads of pictures with our new T-shirts. Rajan reads my palm again! Says similar thing..... Delhi tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 4th 2008: Dilli Haat Market
CP picks me up from the hostel at 10am- I stayed up late the night before talking with Ray- she's on a trip around the world, from India to Dubai to Tel Aviv, Paris, Amsterdam - how cool!
CP and I had a fun day, we laughed about words like "Butter naan", which he has so much difficulty saying. He's been teaching me Hindi saying like Sookriya, ferme lengue and nihil jihal.
We first go to Minal to see an ancient temple built long ago, around 1300 AD. The stones look so ancient
Next stop, Dilli Haat!! Great market...we listen to constant Hindi music as we batter through the Delhi market.

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