Feb 262015
 

New Delhi

The Taj, Delhi India

A reminder of once again how brutal the flight is from California to New Delhi with an arrival at midnight, but a few hours sleep and a good cup of coffee and the day begins…

Rickshaw Drive in New Delhi

I think it should be de requeur to spend the first day in Delhi with a rickshaw ride in old Delhi.  The noise the insanity, the crowds and the color, all an introduction to what is to come.

rickshaw ride in Old Delhi

It is day one of my trip and on my own, so a short jaunt out to get acclimated before joining the tour group tomorrow,  550 rupees an hour for a rickshaw and a walk through the market.  I would have enjoyed a little bit more, but it was obvious that the rickshaw driver I hired really didn’t want to take the time to take me around if I wasn’t spending money is his “brothers” shops.  So alas, the streets were too crowded after the first stop.  It was okay, an hour and a half is more than enough to get the flavor and time to head back to the hotel.

Flower seller in Delhi

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Old Delhi

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Old Delhi

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A stop in the spice shop

A stop in the spice shop

DSC_8153I also made a stop at the Mahatma Ghandi Garden or Raj Ghat. This was always an historic ghat on the Yamuna river. Raj Ghat loosely translates to King’s Bank (where King alludes to the importance of the place and Bank, because it sits on the river Yamuna).

The memorial consists of a black marble platform and an eternal flame marking the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation, on January 31st, 1948, one day after his assassination.Mahatma Ghandi grave India

The words inscribed on the marble read “Hey Ram”, reportedly to be his last words. In the First Information Report (FIR) filed with the police, the last words uttered by Mahatma Gandhi are reported as ‘Ram… Ram!’ (Oh! God).

The flowers are changed daily, and you must remove your shoes in order to enter the lower section of the memorial.

It is a lovely and very peaceful spot, despite the many, many school children encountered today.

Beer in India

Today is the day they count the votes for an election in New Delhi, so why the photo of beer?

Republic Day,  Gandhi’s birthday, as well as a host of other days, including 48 hours before an election, as well as, the day that the votes are counted, are all dry days in India.

The Indian government has never been particularly favorable on the subject of alcohol, most likely due to Gandhi’s objection to it. In 1937, when the Indian National Congress came to power, they instituted prohibition. In 1939, the British abolished prohibition. When India gained independence in 1947, prohibition was encouraged but it was left to the discretion of individual states.

This is not a religious issue as Hinduism allows alcohol, while, of course, Islam and Sikhism do not.

While you can read about the problem of alcohol in India it appears that banning it outright doesn’t work and it has led to a real problem of illegal brews that often blind or kill the imbibers.

Apparently days before these holidays, handwritten signs will go up outside off-licences across the country warning patrons that they have fewer than 24 hours in which to stock up but that can easily be circumvented I hear with a wink and a tip to a cab driver for non-locals.

new delhi

The weather was a perfect 72 degrees F, but the smog, as always, leaves me with a headache, at least until I get used to the terrible air, and I am sneezing like crazy.

I am staying at the Taj Hotel, while lovely, I do not believe it to be as nice as the Oberoi.

Until tomorrow – Namaste.

One of several porcelain panels on the wall in the lobby

One of several porcelain panels on the wall in the lobby

Feb 152015
 

February 2015

Our last day on the boat held a cooking class by the chef. It was not so much to get recipes as to get a view into the complicated concept of the Indian kitchen.

Cooking in Indi

There is absolutely no prepared food in India, you want spaghetti sauce, you make it from scratch. Every dish takes hours of preparation. The chef brought much of the items to the table ready to be spiced and fried. You know it is Indian food if it is fried!

Hing

Hing or Asafetida

The biggest thing I took away from this was how beautiful the food is when freshly prepared, and the spice Hing or asafetida. It was a completely new ingredient to me. It is the gum of a resinous plant with a garlicky taste. I have been reading Curry – A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors while on this trip. Here is an excerpt from the book – “Hing became popular with the Indian vegetarian population. When it was cooked in oil it took on a garlicky flavor that made it a good substitute for onions and garlic, which were avoided by devout Hindus. Asafetida was also known for its digestive properties and was therefore compatible with the vegetarian staple of pulses and beans that are difficult to digest. European visitors to Muhal India complained that the Indians ate so much hing that it made the smell odiously.” A little goes a long way.

Cooking in India

We had a lecture from our accompanying professor Dr. Annapurna Garimella on saris of the region. Considering there is a 276 page,  $50 dollar book on Sari’s, her one hour lecture was just a drop in the bucket, but here is some of the information.

There are a minimum of 20 different Sari traditions just in the territory we covered on this trip.  Historically preparing the yarn was woman’s work and the weaving was mens work.  During the Mughal court time embroidery was also done by men because menstruating women could have nothing to do with anything regarding the gods.

Within India there are approximately 354 different types of hand loomed Saris and the weaving industry is the second largest industry in India.

Varanasi is known for its silk brocades.  The brocade is introduced not as a supporting weave but as a decoration within the weave. In Varanasi, Badi Bazaar which is the largest area of textile selling in the area, takes in over $1million per DAY.

The Varanasi area produces a few different types of patterns. Kinkhab (little dream) is made up of tiny flowers.  This is where the paisley came from, the large paisley in the pattern is called a mango.

Paisley fabric and the Mango

Shikargarh (The Hunting)obviously consists of hunting scenes, and Beldar (creeping vine).

Sikargarh

Sikargarh

 

Ghagalpur Silk is essentially raw silk.  The area employs over 30,000 weavers on 25,000 looms and brings in over $1billion rupees per year.  These silks are made from the Antherea moth.  You do not have to kill the moth to get at the silk so this type of silk is called Peace Silk.

The Rashidabad area produces Baluchari Sari.  These are silk in only 1 or 2 colors, and sometimes the addition of gold.  The patterns mimic the patterns found in the terra cotta temples of the area.

Baluchari

Baluchari

The last area on our journey is the Dhaka area and the Jamdani Sari comes from here.  This is a Mughul era textile of very, very thin muslin.  This type of weaving was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.  The background is all white and the color is introduced by the use of bamboo needles.

Finally, the end of the Sari is extremely important.  This is the point where the wearer engages with the world, and it is a very personal portion of the sari.

The design and style of wearing the Sari has evolved with the times.  It has stayed popular due to the fact that it keeps up.

I just wanted to mention an oddity, plastic bags filled with sand and the Sisyphean situation on the Ganges.  These bags are just that, sand bags, and they are placed along the banks to attempt to stop erosion.

Ganges Plastic Bags

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DSC_9615

Feb 092015
 

February 2015

As this is my second trip to India, albeit to a completely different region, my ending thoughts are far different than my last trip and I thought I would share them.

India Internet

The strange thing about India is the Internet. One thinks of India and thinks technology and especially Internet, but it just isn’t so. Internet is spotty at best, and even if you can find it, you are dropped so regularly as to want to pull your hair out. The interesting thing is that the technology and expertise is there, but it seems that the next step “is not my job”. This leads to perfection right up to the millisecond before the critical point, and that is where it connects you to the rest of the world. It is nuts!

DSC_9573

Airports and Airport Security

This is an exercise in redundancy on steroids. You cannot enter an airport without a ticket, great, unless you live on line (see above) and don’t have one. In that case they bring out a long dot matrix printed list of every manifest and see if you are on it.

Now, you go to the counter to get your boarding pass, if it is a domestic flight they weigh your bags. On one flight I was 7 kilos over (an in country flight you are only allowed 15, but I had 22 because you are allowed 34 coming into the country). No problem, pay the overage. BUT, that is not here at the counter, we will hold your bags, come back with a receipt. You get to the overage counter and say “I don’t have any more cash than this”, that is okay ma’am, but it will take 15 minutes to print your receipt, no ma’am you can not get back through security without your receipt, you wait, no problem, everything is okay.

Next is the real security, there is a line for the men and a curtained room for the women. You MUST have a tag on every piece of hand baggage and once you go through security it must have an official stamp, because you cannot get through the door of your plane without this stamp. OH, and if you shop in the airport and they forget to give you a tag for the bag that holds the things you bought, well welcome to hell.

This is why you arrive at an airport in India a minimum of three hours in advance.

Once on board DO NOT loose your boarding pass, you cannot get off the airplane without showing it. This final step is not so much idiocy as making sure you haven’t gotten off at the wrong airport.

India

All of this is India. Things are simply done differently in India. There are no large machines to off-load trucks, that would take jobs away, mechanization is hard to find and in a way that is a very good thing, more employment, but the time it takes to do simple tasks is mind-boggling.

India

If you have been a reader of mine, you know I love India. The people are so friendly and the entire country has an open arms policy, you just need to learn that this family just works on a different time schedule than you.

IndiaIndia has an artfulness to living that is so missing in the United States. Everyone here stops to smell the roses. Things are done with beauty in mind rather than efficiency and cost. An ever changing daily mandala would never survive the corporate bean counters of the west, but here it as much a vital part of the day as breathing.

mandala

Being required to leave your cab when he gets a CNG fill-up would strike anyone outside of India as ridiculous, after all your safety is far more endangered on the insane roads of this country than blowing up in a fueling accident, but it is the law, and everyone piles out of the car when it enters the station.

IndiaThese are the things that endear me to India and will make sure I keep coming back.

Bulls of India

Namaste

Dec 122013
 


Our guide, the professor Annapurna Garmiella (you can google her if you are interested, and by the way, she is far, far prettier in person, especially when she smiles).  She lives in Southern India, and we got to talking about conditions in India.  She mentioned that there are no men over 35 in her neighborhood.  They drink themselves into an early grave.  So I had some private time to talk with her as to why.  The answer just floored me.  The reason it did, is that I feel it is exactly what we are experiencing at home.  The men have older trades that are dying, and the things they want to do are no longer of value.  Tech has taken over, and if you aren’t in tech you don’t have as much value.  When I mentioned this to Mom she said that her friend Nanda had said as much the last time they were together – so Nanda, I would love to meet you and talk one of these days.
 
Also the empowerment of women.  Christianity, and then education are giving women power, and like any woman’s movement, at first, when this happens women seem to think that men are superfluous.  We did it in the U.S. with the posters that said men are like bicycles, you really don’t need them. (and there was a frog riding a bicycle)  I had it in my dorm room.  It isn’t until the movement progresses that you realize that the point of liberation is to become a partner and work as a team, making your life and his better for the partnership.
 
It is sad, and something I would love to learn more about, it will be interesting to see how this movement plays out.
Next – garbage.  We are truly, truly appalled at the amount of trash everywhere.  I delicately asked Annapurna about this, saying I thought it interesting when a country that has so many religions that worship cleanliness that you can walk outside the temple and it is dirty.  She said not dirty a PIG STY, and absolute PIG STY!  So much for delicacy :-).  
 
Apparently “going green” is left to the children.  They are taught about the vanishing tigers, and the need for clean water and picking up trash and recycling.  HOWEVER, once they get older they are taught that they must work hard, drive big cars and build big houses.  The mixed message is obvious.
 
I wrote a bit earlier that the cows, pigs, and monkey root through the trash.  She did say that the cows stomachs are full of those plastic bags, so much for the intelligence of cows.  But it furthers says what a serious problem these piles and piles of trash everywhere are.
Today we visited a Suffi Temple.  As someone who has done a lot of reading about Suffi mysticism I was thrilled.  It was quite an experience.  You enter and are given a thread to tie on the marble screens, you ask for something, and if it occurs you are supposed to go back and untie the string.
 
The process made me wonder how the true worshipers feel with foreigners traipsing through their house of worship taking photographs.  Then again, it is done all over the world, but it doesn’t stop me wondering how ludicrous the whole concept is, and how offensive it can be.
Today we did a bird sanctuary. I know it sounds odd, but sometimes it is nice to just do something as soothing and relaxing as bird watching. In this country that is so full of energy, that never turns off, it was a real nice quiet break.
 
Dec 112013
 

This is wedding season in India.  Weddings are not necessarily on a Saturday like we think of them in the US, astrologers are called in and an optimal day is chosen, so it could be any day of the week.  However, this is the Season for weddings.  We have been seeing elaborate set ups for weddings everywhere we go.  

 
Today at the Maharaja’s Palace in Jaipur we came upon people setting up for one of the largest affairs we have seen to date.  Our guide mentioned that renting the Maharaja’s palace was about 1 million rupees, that translates to $16,000 U.S..  
 
 
 
Then flowers – they are EVERYWHERE, the guide joked that we buy flowers by the stem in India they buy them by the kilo.
 
 
 
Also the guests, there were buffet tables being set up that would make a major hotel blush, I cannot even imagine how many guests this particular wedding is going to feed.
 
 
 
Brides change their saris throughout the ceremony.  The bridal colors vary between regions, but primarily they wear a white sari edged in red to signify their virginity.  Then after the ceremony they will change to a colored sari to show their change in status.
 
The ceremony takes place under a canopy-like structure called a mandap. A Hindu priest will officiate and numerous relatives perform specific roles under the guidance of the priest. The bride and groom sit in front of the priest for most of the ceremony who recites verses in Sanskrit.
 
While exchanging rings is not a traditional part of the Indian ceremony some couples choose to do so. The groom will also give the bride a mangalsutra, or sacred necklace, as a symbol of their marriage. There are seven vows taken during the ceremony, but you won’t see kissing.
 
 
 
So why did I title this elephants?, Typically, the groom arrives at the wedding hall with a dancing entourage and seated in a fancy car, on a horse, or most often, at least in Rajastan (the state we are in) on an elephant.  We saw a few horses, but what we really saw were elephants.  
 
 
 
You can ride elephants in India, but we will not be doing so.  We have been told they are mistreated in the North and the tour company does not want to be responsible should they turn on anyone.  However, today I was standing alone and was able to pet one and get some fun photos.  
A note…We stayed at the Raas Hotel in Jodhpur, and no finer hotel can one find.  It is a restoration dream.  Here are a few small photos.
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Dec 102013
 

We spent day 10 in the bus driving to Jaipur, so not much to report.  Day 11 we have spent at a fabulous fort in Jaipur, and then we were to head out to the countryside.  HOWEVER, today is election day, and the police have closed many of the roads leading in and out of town.  Not for danger purposes, but to make sure the ballots can get through to the court where they count the ballots.  So we couldn’t get out of town today.  That means Mom got a nice massage and I am finally finding time to sit down and write.


 

 

 
I decided it was time to address the food in India.  I am not ready to do the main courses, so I thought I would start with desserts.  There are regional sweets, and more common countrywide desserts.  I will try to give you an idea of the variety we have had thus far.
 
Gulab Jamun
This is the most popular dessert in India.  They are deep fried balls of dough soaked in honey, or aromatic sugar syrup. 
 
Jalebi
 
The batter for Jalebis is piped directly in hot oil or ghee in circular shapes  then soaked in syrup. They’re bright orange or yellow in colour and are very common around India, you see people lining up outside the Jalebi stores first thing in the mornings, I assume it is a lot like donuts and coffee for us. Jalebi can be served warm or cold and has a somewhat chewy texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating.  The best we had was at the hotel, covered in a sweat cream sauce.
 
 
 

Halwa
This is carrot Halwa or Gajar Halwa
 
Halva also spelled Halwa has the texture of what we think of Turkish Halva, but that is not what it is. I have been told that Halwa means ground up, I don’t know if that is true, but it works for me. The halwas are made out of finely grated vegetables, milk, sugar and flavored with cardamom. They can also be grain based and made out of semolina or pulses like the mung bean.  The semolina halwa known as Suji Halwa is common and popular in India.   I believe I have tried everyone :-).
 
 
 
This is what they look like when I don’t know what the ingredient is – but they all taste great
 
Gajar halwa or a halva made of carrots is widely popular in India. It is prepared with condensed milk and ghee, without semolina to bind it together. 

Some halvas are put in molds to give them a shape or they are  neatly cut in squares or diamonds and garnished with a nut, raisin or beaten silver foil.  We have been having a lot of the ones with silver foil.  
 
 
Rasgula
 
 
 
These are soft and very spongy balls which are made of milk or indian cottage cheese that soaked in sugar syrup and rose flower water.  The texture is somewhere between custard and a very, very finely sieved cottage cheese. The larger they are the better they are because the more rose water they soak up the tastier they are.
 
 
Burfi
 
 
The only time we have had Burfi was when it was passed around on the bus.  Plain burfi is made with condensed milk and sugar, cooked until it solidifies.  There are many types some made with gram flour, some with cashews, or pistachios (which is the type we had).  It can also be flavored with fruits and spices, the most typical being rose water and cardamom. These can also have a thin layer of edible silver
Dec 062013
 

November 2013

Today I decided to address food – I have been hesitating to do this because frankly, most Indian food consists of vegetables, meat if you are not vegan and a brown sauce covering it.

 
Now – I know that sounds insulting, but it isn’t.  
 
Food of IndiaLet me give a little bit of background to food in general first.  India is 80.5% Hindi.  Hindus do not eat beef or pork (except westernized ones). Muslims (which make up 13.4% of the population), eat beef but not pork, again unless westernized.  Bengalis are known for their consumption of fish, and most Brahmins are vegetarians, but the Brahmins from Kashmir and Bengal are not.  
 (Got it :-)?
 
So back to curry.  The yellow powder that most westerners consider to be curry is just that, a western invention, so is the word curry.  Here is why my opening salvo is not insulting.  “Curry” simply means any dish with a gravy.

Curry

We are on a tour, so most meals are buffet.  It is really the nicest way to go, since you are presented with at least 20 – 30 Indian dishes at every meal.  The problem is they are all dishes with gravy.  The underlying ingredient is delicious and is either vegetable, chicken, fish, lamb, or a combination, but you can’t tell what it is, as all the names of the dishes are named by their Indian name. 
 
Regarding spices – oddly enough food is hotter in the south where the weather is hotter, and milder in the north where we are – fortunately.  We have not had much food with coconut as that is more for southern food.  Cardamom seems to be the overriding spice where we are, which makes me very happy, also saffron, although it is just as expensive here as it is at home, so it is used sparingly.  
 
Mustard oil is the primary oil used in the North.  I finally had some cauliflower cooked in mustard oil to see exactly what it tasted like.  It adds a bit of a vinegary taste to the food, very pleasant.  
 
Most Indians eat with their hands, scooping curry up with roti or naan, but yes, unlike many chinese restaurants, knives, forks and spoons are also set at every table. 
 
So we have happily been eating our way through India with no idea of what most of it is.
 
Sure we all know naan,  and my favorite bread Papadams, but who knew that my first breakfast I would fall madly in love with Puri.  

Puri

Puri is an unleavened deep-fired Indian bread that is usually served with curry, and no, I have no idea what curry I would get with in the morning, but it was delicious.

Saag Paneer

Next food most Americans know is Saag Paneer.  This is spinach with curd.  The curd is much like tofu.  The spices vary from region to region, and the fresher the paneer the better.

Potatoes and Cauliflower

Next are potatoes and cauliflower.  Both of these are served hundreds of ways and show up in EVERYTHING.  Aloo Gobi is a dish with both ingredients 
 
We had “wraps” for two meals on the road.  They are essentially Indian burritos and boy are they fabulous, vegetarian, or not.  Wish I could remember the name – sorry, however, I know six of my friends are saying it to themselves as they read this.

Indian Samosas

Samosas – another well know Indian food to most Americans, but did you know they come stuffed with a lot more than just potatoes?  A samosa is a fried or baked pastry with fillings of onions, peas, lentils, potatoes, ground lamb, ground beef or ground chicken and are usually accompanied with chutney.
 
I could go on and on and on about pickles, chutneys, sauces, and yogurts but I will stop here.
 
I will discuss one very special night we had in Aurangabad.  We were staying at the Taj and after our lecture we were all set free to have dinner in any restaurant we chose.  Mom and I sat down outside on the lawn for their Bar-b-que.  The brought out a small metal bowl filled with wood and we had our own little fireplace, then they proceeded to bring course after course of bar-b-qued items, very similar to the ones we had at the bar-b-que I described earlier.  The crackling fires by the tables, a nice bottle of red wine, a song and dance performance, it really doesn’t get any better than that!
 
Dec 042013
 

The very first night that we joined our tour group the leader asked us to say why we had come to India. ” I love my country, don’t get me wrong, but it takes a special type of traveler to come here.”  

 
You all know I just did it because I have no memories or emotional attachments to India, and I needed to get away.  For those reasons I had not done any research, again those of you that know me, know I would normally have read 15 books by now on the subject, but I just couldn’t rally to do anything but follow Mom onto the airplane.

 
I do not know if that was a good or bad idea, it was simply the way it was.
 
It is true, it takes a special type of traveler to do India.  If filth, and poverty appall you, do not come.  If a consistent diet of a foreign country, with no real “American food” in sight bothers you, do not come.  If the lack of a moment of silence is too much for you, do not come.  If heat, bugs and frightening toilets bother you, do not come.  If having poor and filthy hands shoved in your face everywhere you go, begging for even a crumb of food or a coin, do not come.  If every time you get out of your car or bus and you are surrounded by trinket hawkers that DO NOT GIVE UP until you have either slammed the door or purchased something, do not come.
 
HOWEVER, I have fallen in love with this country.  All of those things are counterbalanced by some of the most gorgeous art and architecture you can imagine.  I have tried to write and photograph the thousands of moments that have taken my breath away, I cannot, for that, you must come. 
 
Those hawkers and beggars are dressed in saris and lungis of colors and patterns that make you want to go home, import every piece of fabric you have laid eyes on and share them with the world. 
The smog and filth abounds everywhere.  I read where a French ambassador to Calcutta went home after three years and was told he had the lungs of a habitual smoker (he had never smoked in his life).  To a point it makes it difficult to travel here.  Most of our fellow travelers have developed colds and I have constant headaches, but remember Los Angeles looked like this in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I do not condone the situation, I am just trying to make an historical point.
 
This country has a truly horrible graft and corruption problem.  I have found however, that it is out in the open.  People get into government for the express purpose of taking baksheesh for permits, line jumping, favors of all sorts.  Who ever thinks that doesn’t happen in the United States is naive, we just call it political campaign support.
Here however, since it is so accepted, the newspapers no longer report on it, and people no longer get upset, hey, if everyone is doing it, what is the big deal?  How far away are we from that?  To counter that argument, we have clean water and clean air, because we got fed up with large corporations dumping toxics into our environment and demanded something be done.  I do not know how long it will take for India to choke to death on its own pollution before people start standing up and saying, bribery, progress and profits aside, we are killing ourselves.  
 
In 1996 a World Bank study estimated air pollution killed more than forty thousand people annually in just 6 cities that it surveyed. The total health costs for the country resulting from illnesses caused by pollution was estimated at $9.7 billion, approximately 4.5% of India’s GDP.
 
 
 
India’s population is growing annually by the size of Australia.  By 2020 they will have surpassed China in population.  Sadly, however, the infrastructure is not keeping up.  At the rate of growth they need an additional 127,000 schools, therefore their Illiteracy rates are appalling.  They need 2.5 million new homes, which is why people sleep on the sides of the roads and in the public places, the poor will never be able to compete for housing when there is that kind of shortage.  They need 4 million new jobs, hence the poverty.  Even simple things like the need for 190 million meters of cloth to clothe that type of population growth, is something to think about.  Then last, and of course saddest, is that they will need 12.5 million quintals of grain each year. 
Dec 032013
 

I mentioned that our guide had the most wonderful smile, and a fabulous laugh.  THAT is India.  Smiles and laughter are everywhere, and they are infectious.  I also want to talk about helpfulness. If we do not have Indian colleagues or friends most Americans contact with the Indian culture is through call-centers.  We dread them, we rail against them, and frankly I have always said that hearing, yes ma’am, I am sorry ma’am, I am so sorry ma’am, does NOT answer my problem it only makes me angry.  Fix the problem and stop punctuating every single sentence with sorry ma’am!  BUT, I have found that is very much a part of the culture.  Obsequious helpfulness is the norm, but when you see the smile put with it, not something you get at the end of a transcontinental phone call, it somehow is no where near as annoying.  Probably isn’t going to change my abhorrence of call-centers, but at least I get it now.

The bindi.  Sanskrit for drop.   The bindi is the color or ornament between the brows.  The bindi has many, many other names, but that is the most common.  It has historical meaning, religious meaning, even to some, it states marriage versus single. The colors also can have meaning to some, but today in the era of stick-on bindi’s the color meanings are somewhat lost.  The area between the eyebrows is the sixth chakra, and is the area for knowledge and enlightenment. The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration.  It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck (the representation of the third eye). Cool huh?  We should all sport the bindi, we could use all the knowledge and enlightenment we could get in this day and age.

The pen box decorates the cenotaph of the traditional Mughal male and the writing tablet was placed on the top of the woman’s cenotaph.   This was for you to write your good deeds down that you did together when you go to meet your maker. How romantic!

The light.  This is a discussion more for my friend Alex, and fellow traveler Christian, but I want to mention it here.  We are so spoiled with the light in California.  The sky is blue, and clean and that effects your photographic settings, i.e. it is easy to get a good shot, that is why soooo many photographers say “the light’, “the light” when they discuss shooting in our beautiful state.

Well, I feel I failed miserably with my photography in India.  The smog refracts the light and makes your photographs look pixelated.  I shoot on aperture, and no matter how much I adjusted the ISO my photos were usually blown out.  It is sad, and now I know I need to go back home and take a photography class for those stuck shooting in less than ideal conditions.  And yes Alex, I even shot on auto (heaven forbid) and those didn’t even come out – ouch!

I have spoken many times of the religions of India.  When millions of people, of different religions live in close proximity so much can happen.  In India, throughout their history they have lived together peacefully and happily.  Sure like everywhere, there are extremists and problems, but basically they get along.  For example, Muslims make the traditional masks and paraphernalia required for the Hindu celebration of Ramlila, without the co-operation of these two religions the Benares Hindu could not celebrate their religious epic.  They accept each others beliefs, and sometimes take on each others deities.  There are two famous Hindu tennis players that happily wear christian crosses around their necks. Our guide Annapurna called it “opportunistic praying”.  When you believe in more than one deity, why not ask all of them for help!

Mom jokingly said she could become hindu.  Their religion is easy going, happy, and based on the most delightful mythical stories.  As a buddhist, I truly feel at home with all the different deities, Ganesha ( a Hindu diety) is my new companion, he removes obstacles and brings good luck, I need that right now so very much.

I brought up this subject because I wanted to say how at peace this country has made me.  After a long walk on the Camino de Santiago with Julie Belott, I was getting there, and came home from Spain much calmer, but here I have found peace.  My journey of mourning is no where near over, but this was a marvelously peaceful and refreshing stop on that journey.

My last thing I wanted to discuss was my Mother.  WOW, she was a trooper.  She is the energizer bunny, about the time most people were ready to quit and head for their rooms she looked at me and off we went shopping!!!!  We had three places where stairs were rather considerable and she took a palanquin, frankly I think that is the way to live! The Indian people loved her, and she loved them.  They would constantly stop and ask if they could take her picture and she would happily oblige.  The kids on field trips would ALL want to say hello and shake her hand, she was like the president, she never missed a one.  I thank her for being such a GREAT traveling companion and so much fun to be with.