|Hanuman the Monkey God|
|Goddess who rides on lions|
April 27—Sanjay picked us up from the hotel, we stopped by the Tour Office to say bye, and were off to Agra! Just driving is full of surprising images, and dust clouds fill our eyes and noses. I saw two men drilling a well by hand—pressing hard on a stick perpendicular to the drill circling the hole. All kinds of construction materials balance on bicycles: from I-beams, to large sheets of mattress filling, to pipe and more. Bags the size of a typical truckloads balance and sag on the back of a small truck. Oxen pull carts full of farm goods. Sanjay says he little green and yellow 3-wheeled tuk-tuks can carry up to 24 passengers! “Honk! I’m here and I’m going. Honk!”
|Sue at the gate where Krishna was born|
|Bindis from Krishna's birthplace|
|Les at Akbar's Gate|
|Les at Akbar's Mausoleum Gate|
|All the colorful sarees!|
It was a magnificent edifice with tons of geometric designs made of marble and other precious stone embedded in the sandstone. Impressive! We sat at various parts of the grassy garden in the shade like other couples, and watched butterflies, parrots, antelopes and large heron-like birds, and the people. I had a first: someone there referred to me as "grandmother!"
|Here it IS! WOW!|
|Casual conversation in a formal garden|
|The Taj Between Us|
|Les, Mohammed and Sanja|
|Taj Mahal FRAMED|
|Miniature of the Taj Mahal|
We went to Agra Fort to look around. Folks were crowding certain places, looking at the Taj Mahal from a distance and trying to find shade. It was an ok stop.
|Upper Class Gents|
|Active, cute kids|
|Girls on the night train|
|Man who kept our luggage and a lot of paper|
|Yummy veggie food! The rounds are stuffed potatoes.|
|City scene of Varanasi from our roof|
Our room was enormous, with warm water and a real shower/bathtub, toilet paper, morning newspaper, super great food at the restaurant, and A/C. Best of all, the electricity would turn off about 20 times a day, but the hotel had a generator that would keep everything cool and lit. A guide (Ashoka, sent from Amir) came to show us around, but we wanted to sleep off the train ride, so Les asked him to come back the next day at 1:00. The next day we waited for him for about an hour, and when we called he said it wasn’t convenient for him to come now, but would be there the next day at 3:30. We arranged a guide through the hotel for the morning to take us to the ghats (steps going down into the river) along the Ganges in a boat.
|Our boatman (rat under floorboards)|
|Busy and sacred ghat|
|...for every size shape and color|
|I forgot to ask about the umbrellas|
|Les and a thriving temple (red) behind him|
|Largest cremation ghat|
|Temple on top a colorful ghat|
|Chanting prayers on the gha|
|Toothbrushes. Chew on the stick and brush.|
|Fish Vender cuts fish|
|Hand weaving my the Muslims|
|Punch cards tell the loom the design|
|Men in lines at the train station|
|Monkeys at the train station|
May 3—I got to watch how a 3-year old Sikh boy (Justraj) gets his hair braided and wrapped. His father so lovingly tied the square fabric in the back and wrapped the two back corners around the bun above Justraj’s forehead and ended with a kiss.
|Victoria, the shape of her building|
|Sue at Victoria Monument|
|Les finds pupils wherever he goes!|
|"Contains No Fruit" ? (bottom)|
Back to the walk, we found ourselves in an area where people were gathering. It was growing dark; the nearly full moon rising. Bats were out to get those nasty mosquitos. (GO BATS!) Suddenly, the old set of pipes in a barely-filled fountain spurted water, light and music! It was very sophisticated! Water sprouted and spun and hurled into the night sky! Wee. A man behind us sang along with the three songs and then it was over. We kept walking south, passing another lit fountain with lovers—some with chaperones me thinks—all around it on the dark benches. We crossed, looking for an Indian fast food joint called Haldiram Bhujiwala, but we kept coming up in the wrong place. We weren’t sure what “dangerous” looked like either. Were those guys drunk? What did the man who approached Les and said, “Father,” want? What about those huge holes in the dark sidewalk? Is there cow poo in there too? Every time Les takes out the video camera, 2-5 men gather round to see through the viewfinder with him; it’s actually very funny—like an instant magnet. We finally found the place, with a small girl sleeping and begging (holding a metal plate) outside each door. (I gave her my clay cup filled with leftover sauces.) A doorman let us in, we looked through the menu and thought we would try something we’ve never heard of from southern India, paid at the kiosk and went to the appropriate counter to pick it up. That was quite efficient.
|bugs on the bathroom floor. Oops|
We went to the India Museum that was right at the end of our street, and walked into every cranny they had. We saw tons of stone statues, mostly of gods and animals to form doorways, stupas, temple panels and gargoyles.
|Under an Ancient Doorway: India Museum|
|Les's Deity Gene: God of Entertainment|
I imagined that the Hindus could correlate some of their deity to the Egyptians. Another curious display was a series of cases with indigenous people from all over India. There were life-sized models of what the people looked like doing some typical thing like fishing or grinding grain, wearing appropriate costume, and a description of their habitat and culture as of the census of 1961. Some African-looking people made homes in trees were polygamist, and were watchful that no one took advantage of the women.
|Mother Teresa's Tomb|
After a quick lunch, we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to Mother Teresa’s mission. We agreed on 100Rs, but (as in typical style) the man begged us for more as we left, yelling that he was a poor man. As we went through the streets we saw chickens being killed and plucked, meat hanging in their stalls, men getting a shave, and dirty, poor people sitting against the buildings. Mother Teresa’s tomb was very peaceful, with “I DO NOTHING HE DOES IT ALL” written in orange flower petals on top. We went upstairs to see her simple bedroom. (How did she get up those stairs when she was so old?) Downstairs was a collection of her words, photos, background, notes, peace prizes, sandals and dinner bowl, and other assorted things. I admire her tenacity and faith. Wow! How she suffered and maintained the vision of Jesus’s love throughout her life! I had no idea just how many fingers of outreach she had started and developed. With all that in place, still there are plenty of poor in the city. I wonder what it was like back when people were dying in the street everywhere.
|Bindis from the ghats|
We hired a rickshaw (a man with no shoes running through the streets with us in a light cart) to bring us back to the hotel for $2. I went between feeling as I was causing this man physical pain, and giving him a job for 20 minutes that could feed his family for a couple of days. Les already thought he’d give him more before he asked for more than his fare. After Les gave him more rupees, he said that he needed boxes for his feet and to please give him more. We had to walk away from him pleading for more.
|Jasmine in my hair|
|Les is a dandy|
|A garden in every cranny. Imagine that in the US! Now THAT'S Progress!|