I’ve struggled to make order out of everything we’ve seen, smelled, and experienced, but I’m afraid that’s well beyond my capability. Two weeks is a short time and India is a big, complex piece of geography, history and humanity. The best I can do is to share some of the impressions we take with us. They are presented here in absolute random order. That is to say I’m writing them down as I think of them which may, or may not, have anything to do with how or when they occurred.
I’m writing this as we’re on the way from Paris to Houston, a ten hour daylight flight after a nine hour night time flight which departed Delhi at 1:20 am. So I ask for some tolerance if I lapse into a stream of consciousness style or my typing is a little loose. Although strictly speaking, it doesn’t fit here, I should tell you that the Delhi airport at midnight was absolute, unmitigated chaos, but it worked, which is more or less in line with much of what we saw here throughout our stay.
1. Shy, heartfelt NAMASTE greetings from everyone.
2. Women in brightly colored Saris carrying bundles of sticks (and pretty much everything else) on their heads.
3. Circles of squatting men playing cards and drinking tea while the women worked.
4. Mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables piled on roadside roadside carts and in city markets.
5. A woman and small child trying to coax fire out of a piece of cow dung in the cold pre-dawn.
6. Beggar women tugging at my sleeve while a baby slept in her arms.
7. Sikh truck drivers laying on road side charpoys (traditional Indian cots) having tea and a rest.
8. A bus built for thirty crammed with ninety including five on the roof.
9. A child of eight or nine, face covered in a thick layer of white dust, pecking at my car window.
10. An unending flow of tuk-tuks spewing noxious fumes.
11. The dignity and despair of women doing the work required for daily living.
12. A boy of twelve selling knock off best seller novels in the midst of a crowded intersection.
13. The enormity of the “new towns” outside Delhi.
14. Small girls in colorful saris hand pumping water into metal pots at a village well.
15. An aged truck piled high with moldy straw swaying down a curving mountain road.
16. An old man in a ragged head covering flailing the camel he was riding to get him to stop nibbling at roadside foliage and move on.
17. A barefooted young man sitting akimbo painting exquisite miniatures on a dirty concrete floor.
18. Massive traffic jams composed of every conceivable conveyance untangling themselves.
19. Old rotting buildings still showing evidence of their past elegance.
20. A huge open garbage landfill with thousands of crows and kites swooping and diving for their pickings.
21. A Hindu family prostrating themselves before a phallic symbol of Shiva.
22. The thin coverlet of foul smog laying over Delhi in the morning.
23. My first glimpse of the grandeur of the Taj Mahal.
24. The majesty of a bengal tiger in the wild.
25. S. huddled over a table in the Udaivilas hotel lobby negotiating with a gem merchant.
26. The contrast of extraordinary opulence of hotels adjacent to tin and tarp covered shanties.
27. The emotions of our sweet driver when we left him at the airport (it may have been the tip)
28. Watching a covey of pigs root around the front door of the upscale shop where S. was buying yards of expensive shawls.
29. Boys, young and old, joyously flying kites from the roof tops.
30. A man riding a bicycle carrying twenty foot sections of three inch PCV.
31. A family of four passing us on a motorcycle.
32. A procession of hundreds brightly clad women carrying pots on their heads filled with Ganges river water.
33. A truck passing a bus, passing a tuk-tuk all coming straight at us.
34. Wild pigs feeding on the carrion of a spotted dear.
35. Toilets labeled He and She.
36. S. riding an elephant at the Amber Fort.
37. A sign at the airport in Udaipur saying, “report lost luggages at desk”.
38. The relief at arriving at Aman-I-Khas after eight hours of driving hell.
39. Two skinny cows stopping traffic in central Jaipur.
40. Women squatting amidst mounds of cow dung making what our Austrian friend called “Indian Pizzas”.
41. Having the electric power go out twelve times while getting a massage at the Hotel in Agra.
42. Men bathing in the shallow pool at the Shikh temple to wash away their sins.
43. S. with her bundle of Handi Wipes swabbing down everything in sight.
44. Seeing more vehicles with flat tires than I’ve seen in my lifetime.
45. The earnestness of our driver Sinul Dada.
46. Young boys playing cricket on bare dirt lots strewn with rocks.
47. Illegal street vendors vanishing as a police patrol approached.
48. The ugliness of the American embassy in Delhi.
49. The grandeur of the government buildings built by the Brits at the start of the 20th century.
50. A herd of goats meandering down a four lane highway.
51. Vehicles hurtling down the wrong side of a divided highway.
52. The contrast of everything.
53. The Gandi memorial in Delhi.
54. Constant horns honking and lights flashing on the highways prodded signs of “Blow Horn Use Dippers” on all large vehicles.
55. A camel pulling a cart stopped in front of a gas pump at a petrol station.
56. A woman in a crimson sari working stooped over in a yellow mustard field.
57. The genius of the early 18th century observatory at Jaipur.
58. The omni-presence of Hindu gods and avatars.
59. The extraordinary quality of service on the start up airline Jet Air.
60. Recovering the underwear that I left at the hotel in Jaipur.
61. Dogs and pigs rooting in piles of garbage left out for that purpose.
62. The joy and playfulness of uniformed school children on a Saturday outing.
63. A naked two year old walking happily down the street of a village.
64. Old crones selling garlands at the entrance to a Hindu temple for offerings to Shiva.
I’m certain more impressions will occur to me the instant I sign off on this, but that’s all right. I’d like to keep them coming for a while.