Some Thoughts and last point of Golden Triangle

Trip Start May 17, 2012
Trip End Jun 03, 2012

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Sunday, May 27, 2012

(S) It would appear many of my entries begin with "we are currently riding the train" or some variation there of. Well, that's what we are doing and we are headed for Jaipur. And it’s a good time for typing, if there isn’t all sorts of Indian train rider craziness going on, which mostly just involves talking very loudly on your mobile phone to about 50 different people or talking loudly to other passengers. In your small, 4 person berth. Everything is loud in India. Everything.

I regretfully left Bundi today. Chad left too, but I think I was sadder. We left early – 4:30 am to catch a 6:45 train in Kota, which is only 30 kilometers away, but there is construction and about 3000 trucks, tractors, mopeds, cows, and well, you get the picture, all sharing the single lane road. We made it to the train station and we must look like weary explorers at this point because we get a few strange looks now, but not as many as when we first arrived a week ago.

A few final thoughts on Bundi: it is Indian paradise. Not like the Black Hills or the Tongue River Indian paradise, but a peaceful Indian village respite for travelers. Ok, not necessarily peaceful, but more real, if that makes any sense. We went for a walk last night around 6:30 after lazing around after our busy morning/early afternoon, having some snacks on the front patio, trying to get the interwebs to work, and doing some shopping in the little shop the owners of our haveli keep. The walk was so calming, but utterly stimulating at the same time. I have told Chad walking around the streets of Bundi is like a drug for me. I get back to the room and all I want to do is go back out, among the woman giving her tiny son a bath on the cement outside their home with a bucket of cold water, the cows who amble around the streets eating what they choose and sometimes getting fresh mango peels from kind people, the mopeds who carry 2-4 people at a time (and sometimes goats – I am not even kidding), the dogs who run by looking busy, the men who make locks and keys by hand, the boar families snuffing through garbage, and any other manner of things. Yes, it is loud. The horns are honking all the time. Yes, it can smell a bit strange. But we’re in India. If we wanted things to smell like we are used to, we would have gone to Italy, or the Grand Canyon. The thing that is different is no one harasses us, like in the tourist towns of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. No one follows us to buy things. Instead, we walk around with the people, unencumbered. Our first night, we walked to the lake in town. We were able to casually watch a few different games of cricket, and the locals were friendly, explaining the game. Yes, we still get a lot of “hellos!” but they are friendly. I feel like I’m in a parade when we take the rickshaw through town – so many little children and women and men waving and saying hi. We made the comment that we could take 1000 photos of the streets of Bundi and it wouldn’t come close to capturing what this town is all about, or what you experience when you come here. I think you can say that about India in general. Nothing quite captures it like being here. But Bundi is special. And I am sure there are a thousand more little villages just like this. One just has to get off the main tourist route to find them.

With all that said, one might wonder if we are completely immune to what is going on here – to the things that so many people think of when they think of India. Are we seeing poverty? Most definitlely yes, and it is hard sometimes to see. The same thing that connects me to my students, my empathy, nearly crushes me sometimes. It sneaks up on me and grabs my chest, squeezes my heart tightly. Then twists. Our guide for our days in Udaipur, Ajay, is kind, funny, and honest. He told us many stories: about his arranged marriage, his “first” life when he met his true love whom he could not be with because he was set to marry another, his two jobs, his new business which will be starting on July 1 (yay!), and being away from his 15 month old daughter and wife so much in order to provide for them. It was when he told us of all his friends around the world, former clients, who email and call him reguarly to check up on him and how if we ever need anything from him in India to just email, because he goes to the cybercafe every day to check his email, that I got choked up. What a stupid thing to get choked up about, right. But I was automatically thinking he had a computer at home. Of course he doesn’t! What was I thinking? I imposed what I think is normal upon him, with his neat appearance and good English. I now realize the nearest computer for him to use, everyday, is not close to his house at all. He must travel there, probably by bicycle or moped. Just to see if any of his friends have emailed. We take these things for granted. How many of you had to travel to a cyber café to read this? Or instead, are you at home, having a cup of coffee, or wasting time at work?

But, back to my initial point. Yes, we have seen abject poverty. Yes, we have seen slums. Yes, we have seen people that live in the train station. Yes, we have seen people that live on the street. Yes, we have seen individuals who work very very hard so they have something. Besides the people that beg for rupees in the train station, it appears all the people who live in slums or in huts out in the countryside, have a job, have something to do. This is their life. They don’t ask for pity; in fact from what we have seen and the people we have talked to, they would be embarrassed by it. This is their life. Pity seems condescending. Empathy and a desire to understand seem human.

Here is a better place to put your energy: ending Indian government corruption. Over the last 8 days, we have had a number of frank conversations with Indian people, and when the subject of government comes up, and it always does, their resounding message is that their government is very corrupt.

But, back to the day. We arrived in Jaipur, the place Ajay had warned us about – be careful in Jaipur, he said. The people are crooks. Others have said the streets are filled with hookers and pimps. Ok, so it’s not that bad, but Chad and I both agree that if you ONLY visit the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), you are missing so much of what India really is. In fact, we think one might hate it. By the time we got to our haveli, we are wiped out. But we take showers and head out for the Jaipur City Palace. And the street goods sellers are relentless here. Ugh. Once inside the palace, it does not let up. Chad is cornered by a “guide” in the Weapons Room, which sounds pretty scary, but this guy was only concerned about knives to kill tigers. We then took an auto rickshaw to the Polo Club at the Rambagh Palace, which is supposedly a famous bar. Who knows. All I know is I had a nice Indian sparkling wine and the waiter continued to bring us free nuts and canapés. I think I’ll stay.
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threadbaresoul on

Since reading your first entry and looking at all the incredible photos of your experience, I've wanted to go to India. This just cements that desire. And yes, it's the REALNESS of it. On top of the SURREALNESS of it. (I'm not sure that's a valid word, but there you go.)

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