23 July 2009

the good, the bad and the stinky

We've been here a week, and it seems like forever. California seems like another lifetime. India is an assault on the senses, true sensory overload, so much to see and smell and hear.
Cows and goats, elephants and monkeys, dogs and donkeys, pigs and chickens, all share the roads with pedestrians, bicyclists, cycle rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, ox carts, cars and buses, all making their own noise, announcing their presence, cajoling others to get out of their way. In general, the bigger you are, the more you have the right of way, but there are ways of doing things, and you get there eventually. In touristed cities like Delhi and Varanasi, they are somewhat used to seeing foreigners, but in small towns, like the one we trekked to for the eclipse, they rarely see non-indians, and they crowd and stare. Heather and I felt like Brad and Angelina driving through town. They stare like mad, but they are just curious, and quick to smile or wave hello. The ones that speak a little English, and there are many, even in small towns, will quickly say Hi, How are You, What is your Country, or any other phrase they know. I, in turn, am trying to pick up a little hindi (tori tori hindi), and so I reply asking What is your Name, or How are you, the only Hindi phrases i've got down so far.
Other useful Hindi is Namaste, of course used for Hello and Goodbye, and meaning "I honor the god(dess) inside you, and chalo chalo! which means hurry up, or let's go, or you go away. That one is very useful. and when i say ask Aapke naam kya hai, (what is your name), and they ask me excitedly You speak Hindi?, all i can reply (so far) is "tori tori hindi", meaning a very little hindi.
Now the bad, to be perfectly honest, we didn't see much of the eclipse, what can i say, we road tripped to Taregana, which was filled with scientists and declared by NASA to be the best place to watch, but when the time came, the clouds were thick and angry. Don't get me wrong, it was still a fantastic, spectacular experience. It got very dark, suddenly so at the end, and the energy and spirit of the moment was certainly with us, we just didn't get a clear view. There are many lessons for me in this. Opening my throat chakra, which makes comparisons to others and is the seat of jealousy when closed. when open, one realizes that we are each unique with our own path and experiences, which frees us to experience our own Godhood. Also, I must remember to not be so active; when one is doing doing doing, there is less room for the Universe to offer its bounties. But the experience was still amazingly wonderful. We got a car and driver for the day, and drove a long way to the small town of Taregana, which, as i mentioned, does not see many tourists. Every so often our driver would stop and ask for directions, it was such a small town. When we arrived, we were directed to a small school which was ready for eclipse visitors. We slept in a dorm with a few other people, and while the night was fitful for us, the mosquitoes had a good time. the next morning we climbed up to the roof to watch, and were joined by a couple other westerners and lots of Indian tourists. We talked while waiting, and when the time came, we were all awestruck by the majesty of darkness an hour after dawn, and the second dawn that day. The road took us through a lot of beautiful countryside, rice paddies, small villages with straw huts, open air marketplaces, and so much beauty and scenery that we had not seen until then. so the trip was very much worth it, despite the clouds.
Varanasi is a crazy city, a holy city on the Ganges river (Ganga in Hindi, with both hard g's), but very busy and very touristed. it seems that everyone wants to sell us something. boat rides, silk, jewelry, massages, everything. i'm getting back into the feel of turning them down with a smile and a Namaste. even the silk dealers let us off the hook eventually when i explain that to us, money in India means time in India. they soften up after that.
Tonight, in just a couple hours actually, we get back on a train and head for Agra. it's an overnight train, and we've got 2nd class tickets, which means A/C, and 2 bunks on each side of the train, one upper and lower. a higher class gives you your own car, overkill for us, and lower classes give 3 bunks per side, or just a chair in the lowest class. it's actually pretty cozy, and we end up talking to any traincar-mates that we have. We are heading west, to see the Taj Mahal in Agra, with a side trip to Krishna's hometown of Vrindavin along the way. That's another holy town, where not many tourists go, where spiritual pilgrimages by westerners are respected. The Taj is not open on Fridays, because it has a working mosque, so we will see it on Saturday, at sunrise hopefully. Then we head deeper into the desert, for camel rides, an elephant ride to a temple on top of a hill, and ancient astronomical observatories.
vids and new pics are posted on my facebook page.

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