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hither/thither A journal of my travels in 2008 I will be traveling to: New Zealand Costa Rica India East Africa

Letting go.

INDIA | Sunday, 27 April 2008 | Views [956] | Comments [1]

Again I find it's been a while and I have so much to catch up.
Bare with me.

Assam. I loved Assam! When we finally reached the right side of the island it was like a fairy tale! Unbelievable. The island was lit up at night with a thousand fireflies and during the day when we walked the streets everyone would stop to say 'Hi' come running out of their houses to yell out to us to come into there houses and have tea with them, to sit and talk with them, one guy asked if he could just walk with us to talk. The people on Majuli island were so generous, so kind and friendly. We found less of the population spoke or used English, but the people who did were all eager to speak it with us.
Unfortunately we only had one night and two days on the island so we had to get out pretty promptly especially with all the antics of the ferry the day before.
Also we learned that it was the rainy season in all of Assam and sheets of rain came in seconds to drench us. Huge flashes of lightning. Crashing thunder. It was beautiful. So we took another ferry back to the mainland and a train. But even in Jorhat where we ended up for a few days people were SO friendly, pulling over in their cars to greet us with: 'hellowhereareyoufromhowlonghaveyoubeeninindiahowdoyoulikeitherethankyougoodbye!' and everyone we walked by said hello. On our train from Jorhat to Guwahati we met so many people who kept coming up in flocks to talk with us. They were so nice. Two of the girls we met asked us to please come to their house with them and their parents. Even though it was already ten pm when we pulled into Guwahati they had us come to their quaint, clean house and have tea and because it was the Assamese new year a special sweet that the mother had made. Everyone gave us addresses to send post cards and talked about how one day they wanted to go to Las Vegas (Can anyone send some postcards from las vegas to India for me??)
It was amazing to feel so spoiled after all our travels. It was exactly what I needed after getting so frustrated.

The next day Carrie and I caught a flight to Delhi to meet Lisa. Delhi was another reprieve as we had expected it to be chaotic and insane like Kolkata but ended up being quite westernized. I was surprised to see how clean it was and that the roads were paved and not littered with garbage and roaming cows.
We were there for three days with Lisa and walked around quite a bit. We decided to buy all our travels in advance in hopes it wouldn't ease some of the travel pains. We were taken by a rickshaw driver to what we now think was NOT the tourist office (but it turned out fine) where we tried to plan the next two weeks. Turns out all the trains were 'already booked' and we were sort of finagled and talked into buying a driver for the first four days of our trip (it came with a free day of Delhi tour) So we all forked out our money and laughed that we would have a personal driver for the next four days. Apparently these drivers slept in the car and left and stopped whenever you wanted them to!
The next day for our tour of Delhi we got to the car and there were TWO drivers! Apparently our driver Rashaan did not speak much English and his friend Assif was coming along as a guide and was trying to start his own guiding business. I was weary at first but it turned out to be great (minus the long drives with all three of us crammed in the back seat sweaty and sticking to the vinyl seats. Better than an Indian train of course.) It turned out perfect to have them both as it was funny sometimes, and awkward sometimes and we had a great soundtrack thanks to their loud bollywood music. We drove from Delhi to Jaipur to see the 'Pink City' which was a great walled city that was sort of more Burnt Seyena rather than pink but oh well. It was a fun little stop. Some shopping. The next day was another 6 hour drive to Agra which was amazing.
The Taj Mahal was so much more fantastic than I had expected. Such ornate decoration and so sweeping and gigantic.
The best was watching the sunset, sky fading pink from a rooftop cafe. Kids all around had made little kites from trash and climbed to the top of dilapidated roofs to fly them. Birds circled and caught pink flashes on their bellies as they spun in huge flocks. The Muslim call to prayer echoing through the night. It as amazing. We where there for two days and then set out for Orchha.
I don't know how to fully explain the magnitude of beauty in Orchha. It was an old Mughal Empire and housed a multitude of palaces and towering temples. The town is dusty and yellow and the sky is a sort of grey blue, like an old faded painting. The palaces and temples are now just yellow ruins that blend with the horizon and fascia flowers dot it here and there. It seems the whole town painted their houses shades of blue, sky blue, turquoise, sea blue, cerulean. It created this Arabesque feel. A desert landscape, sweeping and empty. Unbelievable.
We stayed at the Sheesh Mahal which was literally IN the ruins of one of the old palaces. It was quite and calm and amazing.

Now we have moved on through the dirty city of Jahnsi to Varanasi. The most holy city in India. It is the center of Hindi beliefs. People come to die and be burned and set a float in the filth of the Ganges river. It's intense and a bit overwhelming. The night feels like a carnival, lit with hundreds of lights and candles and boats. Kids sell floating candles to light and set to float in the river. People are constantly bathing in the brown water.
It surfaces a lot of issues I have with religion and belief systems. I find myself getting bitter and angry at times.
Pregnant women, babies, those with small pocks or leprosy are set to float in the water without even being burned. Carcases of cows ripped apart by birds float by. Tourists flock like vermin to the riverside to snap photos of men leading their brides by rope like calfs to perform Puja.
Ceremonies are constant.
People are so needy.
I see here a lot of the problems I see in organized religion. Belief systems that keep people in poverty and ultimately ruin a lot of lives. It makes me contemplate a lot...
But it is beautiful. It is surreal and captivating.
During the day it has been hot. Sweltering. 120 degrees at times. The city, away from the river is a labyrinth of streets that are tiny and wind throughout. You have to move sideways to get by people and goats and cows roam freely. It's pretty wonderful to wonder about.
I have three more days here. We are going to do a night tour tonight, go to the burning Ghats where cremation takes place and then get up early for the sunrise boat trip.
Three days. That's it! I say farewell to Carrie and then head to Delhi to see Lisa off at the airport and the next morning I am off for a quick day in Dubai and then I will be in Nairobi.

I will definitely miss India, the strangeness the beauty.
But a new adventure awaits in Africa!

I hope everyone is well.
Love, love, love. I hope it surrounds you.



Oh Richard - love surrounds me every time I read your blog. You write beautifully. You are amazing.


  Jocelyn May 5, 2008 10:57 AM

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