India - Our First Week

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, January 23, 2009

After only five days I've come up with a solution to the economic woes of India. The populace should be issued methane collection devices. They could collect their farts then sell this abundant but wasted commodity to the government or private enterprise as a fuel source. Add the billion or more urban cows to the program and India could become a prosperous nation over night. The scrumptious, but potent food served here is that powerful.

Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore tried to sum up the beauty of the Taj Mahal saying it was 'a teardrop on the face of humanity'. For me it looks like a magnificent, fragile, white as white egg shell with an ever present beam of light shining on it.

The Taj Majal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a monument to his second wife who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.

No sooner had Barbara, Ellen and I bought our entry tickets to the Taj when a fellow approached us explaining that because the government charges such an exorbitant entry fee, a free guide was included. We knew this was nonsense but at the time none of us had the heart to tell him to bugger off. We didn't want a guide; just to look at the Taj from varied angles. As the guide muttered away I told him I liked quiet. Barbara walked well behind, Ellen walked way ahead, I stayed in the middle. He didn't know who to guide. Finally, Elllen took the initiative and simply told him to go away. That's the way it is in India. Everyone wants to do something for you. And it's almost always something you don't want. 

From our hotel in Agra, just down the street from the Taj, you can't walk out the gate without being swarmed.

The typical sell starts with, "Where you from?"

"Come into my store and look at my beautiful fridge magnets, jewelry and post cards." Says one vendor.

"Let me take you for a rickshaw ride. Only 15 rupees." the rickshaw driver shouts from behind.
"Come, I will change money for you. You will get best rate in all of India "another pleads.

What you need to do is look through the person as though they don't exist and say something like "Look at the pretty camel." to your spouse or partner. This will send a message to your unwanted vendor and he'll soon leave you alone. At first it leaves you feeling heartless, to treat your fellow man this way, but it's the only way. To engage is like opening a loaf of bread with the idea of feeding a single pigeon.

Riding through the streets in an auto rickshaw is like taking a bumper car ride at an amusement park. Hits, dings and rubs happen from the time you get in until you shakily get out. No one seems to care.

Once, while we were trying to get our driver to take us to Old Delhi he decided instead that we needed to visit a carpet shop in New Delhi.

While Barbara and Ellen wandered through the expensive store - where our driver would get a finders commission - I stood outside talking to him.

"Old Delhi is too busy. You don't want to go there. Look at the beautiful modern buildings here in New Delhi." he said pointing skyward.
I looked up at the ten and fifteen storey buildings. Some were hollow shells, construction put on hold who knows when, while all were covered in a dark, drab acid rain finish. The entire scene had an eerie post-apocalyptic feel to it. 

Moving On:

We're in the downtown core of Jaipur, a city with a population of 2.63 million. We were trying to cross a busy street this morning when a bull or perhaps very angry cow came up from behind and gored me. I thought I'd been hit by a bloody motorcycle. I've got a bruise on my arse the size of a saucer.
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