Living in India Page 2

Sarah and George come to visit!!!


at Bukhara for dinner

Since I've been here I haven't visited Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk, with George and Sarah here though, off we went.  I left my camera in the car for the most part but got a few shots of the madness there.   Thank goodness for Ganesh!


Agra and a visit to Raguraj's family

Of course we took a trip out to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, this time we got up in order to arrive at the Taj before sunrise, it was so quiet and relatively empty.  It was quite cold but it was lovely to be there that early.  We were actually in the tomb alone in the near darkness with the hum of the thousands of pigeons roosting above us and the delicate tracery of the one hanging iron lamp.  It was very eerie but beautiful.

George in the seat of terror, watching the oncoming traffic situation can be hair raising

this pic is for Grace, the lamp you know...lovely  our little room and the view from window

I have tried to take pictures of Agra Fort that I didn't get the first time the ruler used to hold audiences from this balcony with the wazir below him consulting and handing out judgmenta little friend

after our visit we head to my favorite gift shop, Oswal Emporium, the many descendants of the families who came to work on the Taj centuries ago are still here producing the designs of their families using the same methods and tools

grinding the tiny pieces of semi-precious stoneplacing them in the marble


The Taj Mahal before sunrise - arriving in the near dark is interesting, no hawkers, no beggars and few other distractions

the entry gate is dark, even the pigeons are sleepingthe moon hangs over the gate as the sun rises on the east face of the Tajthe sunrise nudges the mist over the Jamuna River, a small Hindu temple is visible down by the river and is blasting Hindi pop music into the chill morning air

a side building

Sarah finds a quiet moment before the sun rises


a bird looks for breakfasthas a quick wash and...goodbye


the Taj glorious in the new morning

On our way out of Agra, Ragu takes us to a temple of the Radhasoami faith, it is being built in the Taj style and has been under construction for the last century.  There are still a couple centuries work to be completed I think, the carving is beautiful and the peacock seems at home.


Visiting Raguraj's family

On the way back to Delhi we detour to Raguraj's (our driver) family home, we are treated as honored guests and spend a very pleasant couple of hours visiting with his father and other family.  There are a couple of embarrassing moments and the whole village comes to a standstill to come and say hello but all in all it's a wonderful visit.

mustard and wheat seem to be the chief crops and yellow fields abounda huge gray crane


the gentleman to the right of George is the newly elected village chief

we sit with Ragu's father and brothers while Raguraj prepares some masala fruit salad for us (mmmmm) - It's hard to imagine what the women in the family must think of our sitting with the men and being served FIRST


Raguraj, his father, younger brother, guest (pic 1 me, pic 2 Sarah), mother and other younger brother

family and neighbors in the open air central area of the house

a bevy of village beauties come to have their photo taken

a beautiful auntie ji Ragu's grandparents are dead, this is his honorary dadi ma or grandmother with his mom (left)

saying goodbye and we exchange the customary apologies for any unintended mistakes

These are special pictures.  The women in the blue and orange saris are newly married to Ragu's younger brothers, in their position as wives of the youngest brothers they are not allowed to have their faces uncovered in front of older male relatives.  Sarah and I form a screen with our dupattas (scarves) so they can remove their veils for some quick photos with their new husbands and with a friend.



off we go

A day's rest and then a trip to Rajhastan to Jaipur, the "pink city" George fell ill with a horrible stomach problem and missed our full day of sightseeing but he was back among the living after 24 hours of misery

the nice bathroom attendant at the halfway point where we stopped for tea


our guesthouse which was quite nice and homey and had great murals but very cold, they also had friendly dogs and a cage of bunnies

picture 9 or 10 cars all heading for that arch at the same time, the fastest and largest wins, it's terrifying

The City Palace, when there is a whole and a half flag flying, it means the current Maharajah is in-we saw the future maharajah's bicycle

in 1902 when the maharajah went to England he took bath/cooking/drinking water from the Ganges in these large silver vessels

I bought a beautiful miniature from this artist and he gave me a fine point paintbrush as well

 a man and boy put on a puppet show every night in the garden of our guesthouse which included a vignette consisting of an x-rated "Romeo and Julio", I guiltily managed to avoid them every night but sent Mike out to buy two puppets because everyone else was trying to avoid them too, here are the puppetshere they are stalking other guests

The first night of our stay there was a wedding party in the main street, Mike and I jumped in a bicycle rickshaw and went to was being had...except by the guy having to bicycle the generator behind the party.

the groom is on the horse


Jaigar fort and the largest wheeled cannon in the world

my favorite tree in India, the banyan tree

looking down from Jaigar Fort to the Amber Fort

the Amber Fort is huge, here are some pics from the road

on the way home we left George and Sarah at a hotel they wanted to try, it was a lovely and unusual place called the Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel



We headed up towards Dharamsala to take a look at the Himalayas and see what we could find to do.  The fates graced us with having chosen to arrive the day before the Tibetan new year.  It was really wonderful.  The Dalai Lama was in and we went to a couple of ceremonies at the temple where he lives.  The city was packed with people from the hills in their best clothing who had made the pilgrimage to the temple to celebrate the new year.  They are beautiful people and have some of the most genuine smiles I've ever seen.  All the Tibetan shops were closed for three days for the celebration but we found some places to buy Tibetan handicrafts.  We also took a couple of good walks including up to a town called Dharamkot where there was still a foot or so of snow on the ground and thank goodness a small house where they served delicious hot chai and noodles.  I think the best thing was just how friendly people were.  Whether locals or travelers, most people had ready smiles and a good morning or tashi delek (the Tibetan greeting) and were ready for a chat. Not all pictures are up yet but I'm working on it.

Sarah on the trainand mefrom the train window

our first glimpse of the Himalayan foothills


New Year's Day (the first day) at the temple

many prayer scarves

two monks debating

I don't really have the words to describe even these foothills of the Himalayas, they've been described more articulately by many a better writer but I can say they took my breath away and I could not stop looking, it rained quite a lot while we were there but in any weather they are beautiful

prayer flags flutter in the wind up in the mountainssometimes our trail turned into a stream                       beautiful flowers in trees

a glass of chai midway

a private monastery

I can see now where all the semi-precious stones come fromMike welcomes the sun

that's right, I'm one good looking monkey

after some fairly serious rain, the sun came out just in time for sunset

Our hotel and the entire town are built on steep hillsides.  The lobby of our hotel was level with the street in front of it but to get to our room we had to then go DOWN to the 3rd floor.  We could then look out of our windows to the street in BACK of the hotel which was another three stories down!

The whole town is full of steep alleyways and just impossible drops of stairwells dodging through them.  We were out walking in the mist and rain one night and the ever present power outage was happening and with all the monks, travelers, Tibetans, fires, rain, alleys, signs, dirt and animals coming from nowhere and disappearing it felt like we were in Bladerunner or a science fiction novel.

Mcleod Gang from many points of view


the fruit stand beneath our hotel


these two pictures are for Alex! Wushu!

thousands of prayer flags hung up by pilgrims

people bring fresh fir boughs on the last day of the new year to burn as offerings

this sweetie was hoping for an offering of a different kind :)

and finally the train home, Sarah fits just nicely into the lower bunk, George doesn't and Mike doesn't fit at all and he also looks like Jack Nicholson here.  Must have been something he ate.

Valentine's Day 2005

continued on Living in India page 3...