Udaipur Notes

UDAIPUR, INDIA: I’ve come to realise that all airports in India are 45 minutes to one hour away from where you are headed. The Udaipur airport is a nice drive away from Udaipur itself. Landing into the tiny airport the stewardess announces “you can find your luggage in carousel number one.” Mind you, there’s only one carousel.

Airport Route
Airport Route

An easy drive into town, not the long speeding drive of Varanasi, the taxi took me pretty much to the doorstep, no easy feat in the old towns of India where ancient roads are too narrow for cars. I say nearly, it’s about three minutes walk up a winding path to where I am staying, with scooters and motorbikes whizzing by. I could have opted for one of the well-known five and seven star hotels, but I’m not quite the millionaire yet. Instead, I chose an AirBnB home stay. I have my own little studio rented from a woman who goes by Rosie. Continue reading “Udaipur Notes”

The City of Shiva, or Holiest of the Seven Sacred Cities

VARANASI, INDIA: The airport is a ways out, took about an hour for us to get near to Varanasi, partly due to the traffic. I was surprised by how far out it is. The car drove to northern edge of Varanasi where I was taken on a boat docked on the Ganges. Greeted by a sweet young woman who offered me a cold towel for my face and hands, placed a strand of Shiva beads around my neck, offered me cold water and a sweet yellow drink to refresh myself as we traveled down the the river. As we drifted past the various Ghats she told me what each one was.

VARANASI, INDIA: I still feel that India does not have much to offer beyond the religious and five star services one comes across in their travels. To walk around the cities you find the desperately poor, repeated over and over again, the squalor and begging, the hustling for money is so prevalent. You try to see the culture and the arts, none of that seems to exist now but everyone wants to capitalise on it, something seems missing. Where is it? There may be more to what meets the eye but if you are not a local it is difficult to see. Being hounded every minute you walk outside to purchase unwanted trinkets and faded postcards from every man, woman and child on the street is the memory you are left with.

Sleeping monkey man
Sleeping monkey man

I feel a captive of the hotel – although it is a beautiful one. The little monkey man outside the window looking in from his naps with understanding eyes. You want to pet them but you know they can be vicious. No need to tempt them. It could be very different if I were a man, or traveling with a man I expect. I would not get as much harassment. This was once a king’s palace, the place where I am staying, on the Ganges, my exotic prison from the heat, the begging and the poverty.

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Remembering Tragedy

DELHI, INDIA: I suppose too some realisations come a bit late. In recalling the days that followed 9/11 I spoke to my friend about how so many people rushed to the local hospital to donate blood, then as time passed it became more apparent this was in vain – there would be no survivors who would need the transfusions.

DELHI, INDIA: Today I was speaking with a friend about nothing in particular when the conversation drifted towards my time in New York and recalling what it was like to live there under mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as one elected official transferred power to the other during 9/11.

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Sliding down from heaven 

PATAN, NEPAL: Intrigued by an open door and a welcome sign I crossed the threshold into a marble entrance. My curiosity had gotten the better of me, I wanted to know what was inside, and if I would be allowed to go in. Greeted by a man who spoke no English but could see my questioning expression he signaled to me to come in. Did I need to leave my shoes with him before I walked through the next door? I stopped to read the inscriptions aligned to the photographs on the wall. This is the Golden Temple.

PATAN, NEPAL:  Intrigued by an open door and a welcome sign I crossed the threshold into a marble entrance. My curiosity had gotten the better of me, I wanted to know what was inside, and if I would be allowed to go in. Greeted by a man who spoke no English but could see my questioning expression he signaled to me to come in. Did I need to leave my shoes with him before I walked through the next door? I stopped to read the inscriptions aligned to the photographs on the wall, hoping there was something in them to tell me what I needed to guide me to my next step. This is the Golden Temple.

Quick, where is the guidebook?

Golden Temple, Patan, Nepal
Golden Temple, Patan, Nepal

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When I feel stupid

GURGAON, INIDA: Did I do the right thing? Why else am I an expat if not to learn from being in a foreign land? Why should I have these expectations that a driver need to speak a language that is foreign to him and not that of his country? Why couldn’t I just learn a few words in Hindi?

GURGAON, INIDA: Okay, maybe not stupid… that is just my cheap clickbait headline. I do feel silly, and sad… and actually, yes, I feel stupid.

Why? That’s a bit of a story, a story that begins prior to my landing in India.

So when I landed I had a driver pick me up… he was funny, youthful if not a bit overly confident, and well-spoken for a driver. When I say well-spoken, I mean he spoke very good English. I was skeptical because he insisted I remember his name and “make a good reference” about his driving and customer service to his employer, the vendor hired to provide car services to our growing Gurgaon based workforce.

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