There are a few pictures that originally accompanied the following summary, but they got lost in translation. I figured out how to get continue doing a Monday Morning Blog. Eventually, I’ll figure out how to add pictures.
Everyone knows that India has one of the largest populations in the world, one billion plus souls. So, when my companion, Phil, and I deplaned and headed toward Passport Control, we were not surprised to see masses of people waiting patiently and quietly to move through the lines. The area was quite modern with lovely female hand sculptures above the Passport Control desks spelling out some sort of welcome to India to the weary wayfarers waiting to pass through.
The bus arranged by Overseas Adventure Travel met our 16 travels and our guide, Som, right outside of the exit. We climbed aboard. Our first real Indian adventure was about to begin.
In India, the driver sits on the right side of the vehicle and drives on the left side of the road, like the British. That is where the similarity ends. Italian drivers look like strict, law-biding citizens compared to the drivers of any kind of vehicle in India. The white line down the middle of the road provides mere decoration. Like a giant ballet drivers of everything from lorries and busses to Tuk-tuks (three wheeled taxies) and camel carts dance around the white line and each other. Pedestrians who throng the road sides must be very attentive to remain up-right. To make certain that everyone stays alert, large trucks have “Blow Horn” painted on their backs. Such a cacophony! I never knew horns could produce such a variety of sounds. Within the hour, I began to suspect that the people of India not only had quick physical reflexes, but mental and spiritual ones as well. The first morning tour confirmed my suspicions.
The next morning in Delhi, on our way to a large mosque built by one of the six great moguls, our path was blocked by a religious procession to a Hindu temple. Som directed us to disembark and to follow him through the crowed watching the procession to the mosque. I descended the bus cautiously hoping that I would not get lost in the throng. At one point, I rubbed shoulders with a trumpet player in the procession, the crowd was so thick. But, like my fellow tourists, I raised my camera to catch a few images of the moment. Little did I know when I reached the steps of the mosque that when Som saw that we would have to walk a distance, he contacted the rickshaw drivers in the area to see that our group passed safely to our destination. After all, the rickshaw drivers were scheduled to take us through the Old Delhi bazaar after our mosque visit. How is that for quick thinking and cooperation?
Phil and I planned to visit India primarily to see the architecture. We were not disappointed. The first stunner was the UNESCO site, the Qutab Minnar. The minaret was a skyscraper of a shape built in the 16th century. Through-out the two weeks, we found ourselves wide eyed and slack-jawed at each architectural marvel, most built by one of the six great moguls – the Amber Palace, the City Palace, the Summer Palace, the Jantar Mantar (18th century observatory), a great step well, the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort, the Chandela Temple Complex (erotic sculptures) and the Sarnath Museum (home of the great Buddist artistic treasures).
For serene beauty, nothing beats the Taj Mahal. We arrived there on a cold, misty morning. The cold thinned the crowds; the mist added to the mystical aura of this symmetrical tomb. However, my favorite building was the Amber Palace. It was built in stages so that the architecture incorporated a variety of styles, none of which distracted from the whole. The palace was built on a hill top accessible by jeep and by elephant!
We walked through several city streets and down country lanes. We visited farm house, a school and had dinner with a family. Each of those experiences confirmed my initial impression that the people of India must stay alert to all aspect of their being to survive. One amazing example of this quality occurred as we watched hundreds of villagers board a train. The train was already full when it stopped. People pushed on and were helped to board by those inside, already crowded. The young and the truly brave climbed onto the roof. When the train pulled away, the people inside and on the top of the train, smiled and waved to us camera toting tourists. No one was left behind; no one fell from the train. The ordinary people of India deserve and have my great admiration.
Many of my fellow travelers were spiritually moved by the cremation ceremony and aarti ceremony that we witnessed from a boat on the Ganges. Personally, I felt at best like an anthropologist, at worst, an intruder. Several persons in other boats were pilgrims from all over India for whom the Ganges and all that it represented was a spiritual experience of a life-time. They did not seem to mind our presence at all. Perhaps that is because in certain Hindu practices, visitors are included in the pantheon of gods.