INDIA INDIA NEPAL NOVEMBER 2000 Almost one

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INDIA INDIA NEPAL NOVEMBER 2000 Almost one Powered By Docstoc
					                                   INDIA/NEPAL
                                  NOVEMBER, 2000
Almost one half century ago I made my first visit to Mexico. I drove from Matamoras
through the desert to Ciudad Victoria and then all the way to the southern border of
Mexico on the Pam Am Highway. Fifty years ago Mexico was primitive, poor and dirty.
It was certainly third world but I feel it was still better than India is today.

Some of you have already commented, favorably, on my statement about going to India,
expecting the worst and not to be disappointed. I am not the originator of that quote.
Albert Steinfield came to Tucson in 1872 to help in the family business. He was only 16
at the time. He wrote home (New York City) and made that comment about Tucson. I
thought it appropriate to use here because I have been in today’s India and have read
about and seen photos of Tucson of the 1870’s. The differences, attributed to technology
not available in 1870, are few but the similarities are many. I will name just a few of the
similarities. Narrow dirt streets were the rule. Dead animals were along the streets.
Homeless dogs were all over. Sanitary conditions were missing. Housing was mainly
mud shacks. The people were dirty and poor. The list could go on and on. Actually,
1870 Tucson was probably better than the part of India I was just in.

I am not sorry I went to India and I realize I saw only a small portion of the country. My
understanding is that the subcontinent of India (don’t ask what a subcontinent is since I
have yet to be able to get an answer on that one) has three major population centers:
Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. Of course with a population in excess of one billion, even
small cities like Agra would be a major population center by our standards. The Delhi
area, where we concentrated our visit, is supposed to be the best and most progressive of
the three. I can only imagine what Bombay and Calcutta must be like if Delhi is
supposedly the best – and imagine it will be since there is no way in Hell I am going
back.

It is easy to understand the “brain drain” from India. Once intelligent Indians go to
school in the United States or Europe or most of Asia and see the living conditions of the
area it is highly unlikely he/she would return to his native land. Actually it is not a “brain
drain” since in their native country their potential to do the world some good would not
be realized anyhow.

Columbus, we were taught in school, discovered the West Indies while trying to find a
shorter route to India by sailing west instead of the east as the merchants were doing at
the time. My feelings about that, now that I have seen India, are different. I think
Columbus sailed east and saw India. He then decided to sail west because falling off the
edge of the earth (many believed the earth to be flat at the time) was preferable to being
in India. We were also taught that Europeans were going to India to capture the wealth of
the country. Now I am really confused unless camel and cow dung was a salable
commodity. That is all that I saw in large amounts. I saw very little gold and silver. The
precious stones I anticipated just weren’t here. Either I was in the wrong part of India or
England took all the riches with them.
Here are two more observations before the blow by blow of the trip. I now know why the
Native Americans resent being called Indians. One of them must have gone to India and
does not want anyone to think Native Americans are as illiterate, poor, pushy, and dirty
as real Indians are. The other observation is that I now, also, understand why Indians
who come to the United States for schooling won’t go home again – many not even for a
visit. To do so would indicate that he/she is a testicle. They only return to India to get
married. Arranged marriages are still the norm. However, they don’t stay there but come
back to the United States with the new spouse. Sue asked a daughter, who was just going
to attend university the coming year, of the household where we had dinner with a typical
family (to be discussed later) how she felt about her parents picking a husband for her.
The girl replied that she was sure her parents would do what was best for her. I can just
image the response I would have gotten from any of my three kids if I had tried to pick
their spouse for them. Supposedly the caste system no longer exists in India but our
guide told us the marriages were still arranged within the same caste. That was an
interesting contradiction.

I reiterate – I am very happy I went to India.                      The      visit    was
enjoyable. The sights and sites I experienced                       and the education I
acquired was well worth the price of admission.                     It was nice going to a
country where the people we interacted with                         spoke English, even if
they didn’t always know what the terms meant.                       However, I am not
planning to ever go back

Unlike my previous trip write ups, I think I would like to start off by describing my
traveling companions. They varied from those of other trips so dramatically that to
ignore (which I tried to do with several) them would really void part of the entire
experience.

The group consisted of fourteen in India. Six of them left while the rest of us went to
Nepal for the post trip extension. In the description of the travelers I will leave two out –
Sue and myself. We were two of the six normal people in the group.

I will take the participants in last name alphabetical order.

First on the list is Art. He claims to be in his late 70’s but was very physically fit. I
shared a beer, since beer came in large bottles only, with him on many occasions. Art
claimed he was not worried about what he ate or drank since his Mediterranean genes
would prevent him from getting sick. He was the first to get the trots and the morning he
was running from both ends we lost about 45 minutes as our guide felt he had to go nurse
him. Art was a single on the trip. His wife just had no desire to visit India. Smart
woman. Art did not go on the Nepal extension.

Barb and Mike are next on the list. This is the only couple that I would really enjoy
traveling with again. They were recent retirees. When Art shared a beer with someone
else Barb filled in for him sharing one with me. Mike is a Coca-Cola junky but Barb



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claims she would make him quit cold turkey when they got home. Barb and Mike did not
go on the Nepal extension.

Next we have the ugly American, Myrtis, and her husband, Mrs. Myrtis, a.k.a. Larry. I
was ashamed to be in the same group with this woman and on several occasions
apologized to the locals for her actions. You know how a dog can tell who does not like
dogs and then will immediately go to that person. Myrtis had the same effect with the
sidewalk vendors. They would circle her as soon as she appeared and she hated them.
She would push the vendors to the side. She would yell at them to leave her alone. On
one occasion that I know of she knocked the merchandise right from a vendor’s hands.
She was so rude to the local people on our way to the Ganges River that I just told them
that I was not with her. Larry on the other hand had the personality of a hubcap. Both
managed to get ill on the trip. They did not go on the extension, which was no loss.

Janet was one of the three single women on the trip. She was a big woman and was
usually jovial. The only thing I found wrong with Janet was something she could not
control. They had her rooming with Diane and the smell of Diane’s perfume clung to
Janet. Janet did not go on the Nepal extension, which was probably for the better since
she could not have taken part in the treks.

Peter is next. He is single and still working. I liked Peter, even if I kept calling him Bill
or Mike, and enjoyed traveling with him. He would accompany Sue and I on walks and
shopping trips just so he could escape Diane. Peter just did not want confrontation nor to
be involved. He prided himself on being the only person in his place of employment who
did not belong to the union. Peter did go on the extension and was the only one who kept
up with me, and sometimes got ahead of me, on the treks. Of course I was his senior by
at least fifteen years.

Next is Diane but I am going to save her for last.

Bill may have been younger than Art but no one would ever know it. I think he was on
furlough from an assisted living home. He had no business being on an adventure type of
trip. Not only could he not keep up, he didn’t care that he could not stay with the group.
One time he got so far behind and Sue and I feeling sorry for him stayed back with him.
Then we realized that our guide had not stopped to get his group together before heading
back to the bus. Now we were separated from the group (lost is what we were). I
decided to just stop and wait for the guide to come back but Bill insisted on continuing to
look for them and in the process getting more lost by the minute. Eventually we
regrouped and that was the last time either Sue or I played babysitter to Bill. Bill bought
anything and everything but could not carry his purchases. He would leave them on the
bus and expect that either the guide, bus boy or another group member to carry them off
for him. The worst thing with Bill was his total disregard for the group. He just did not
care that he was holding the rest of us from doing things. Unfortunately, Bill did go on
the extension. The good thing is that I explained to our Nepal guide that Bill needed his
own baby sitter and the assistant guide took on this role.




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Anna and Joe are next. Anna was a sweetheart but at times appeared out of touch with
reality. Near the end of the trip it was determined that she was in the beginning stages of
Alzheimer’s. Joe took exceptionally good care of Anna and that was his saving grace.
Other than that one good trait the man was an overbearing loud mouth know it all. He
bragged about how he always had a cocktail or two before his meals and became very
upset when Sue asked him how long he could go without a drink before he got the
shakes. “I am not an alcoholic” is what he yelled to the group. I informed him that I
used to talk a lot louder than I do now. Getting hearing aides did the trick for me. Once
again he insisted he was not hard of hearing and only yelled to make sure others heard
him. Anna and Joe did go to Nepal. Anna was fun to have along. Joe was a requirement
since Anna needed him.

Carmen was another of our single ladies. She was a widow. She was a Cuban refuge.
Carmen came from a wealthy family, all were doctors, and loved to spend money. She
claimed her husband said money was round so that it could go from one person to
another. Even though Carmen told the same stories over and over she was fun to travel
with and I was happy she came to Nepal.

Back to Diane. She is a bitch. For the lack of better words, I will say that she was full
figured. She may have even outweighed me. I noticed her even before I knew she was on
our trip. She was dressed in leopard skin patterned Spandex, the type worn by Peggy on
the old sitcom “Married With Children”. The difference is that Peggy played by Katy
Sagal had the figure for tight Spandex. Diane had a figure that was more like that of
Rosie O’Donnell. Actually, she was built more like Rosie Greer but most of the people
reading this won’t remember Rosie Greer. Just try to picture Rosie in Spandex. In
addition to the inappropriate clothing she was hung with lots of gaudy jewelry and looked
like the poster girl for “Mug Me First”. I knew she was going to be a problem when I
first met her at the airport in Frankfort. Everyone was required to leave the boarding
waiting area so passport checks could be made before we queued up to board the plane.
What we had was 250 plus people fanned out all trying to get through a single line gate. I
am sure you have seen similar situations. The crowd was moving quite well just merging
together. I was about to step in front of Diane when she went ballistic about my cutting
in line. I apologized and let her in front of me. That attitude persisted throughout the trip
and even got worse as she became physical. More will come about this later. Diane was
still working. She turned 60 on the trip. Unfortunately she went on the Nepal extension.

Now for the trip report.

I am not saying that Sue and I were excited about taking the trip to India but at 4AM we
had already been up for over an hour and had our coffee. Our ride to the airport would
pick us up at 5. We left Tucson International for a short flight to Phoenix where we
switched planes and headed for Los Angeles. We had a several hour layover in LAX and
spent our time having our lunch and then watching the Lufthansa personnel building the
queue maze. Their idea was to have the people waiting to get boarding passes weave
back and forth in line rather than extend out in a long single line. This is the way they do
it at Disney World. The difference is that at Disney World they have perfected the idea.



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These people had built a maze of ropes that permitted people to enter but there was
absolutely no way to exit. The line just kept circling back to the beginning with no exit at
the ticket desk. What we had was German engineering and efficiency at its worst. I
don’t know if they ever figured it out but since I was one of the first people in line I just
by-passed the maze and went to the counter.

Once we had our boarding passes we proceeded to the gate area. The gate we were to use
was also being used by and El Al flight. The area was completely cleared at one time so
the security personnel could check under the seats in the waiting area and then recheck
the passports, boarding passes, and hand luggage and then do a pat down. We never did
figure what it was all about. The security check for our flight to Frankfort was not nearly
as extreme.

We landed in Frankfort exactly 24 hours after we woke up in Tucson. For various reason
we arrived at Frankfort late but it made no difference since all that happened was that our
lay over was shortened to just 1 and ½ hour. We left Tucson on Sunday morning at 6AM
and arrived in Delhi at 1:30 AM on Tuesday morning. I think our trip time was close to
36 hours. It is fortunate that I can sleep on planes.

Going from Tucson to LA required a time change one hour back and then the next change
was in Frankfort where I advance my watch by 9 hours, I think. That is not important.
When I arrived in Delhi I learned that the local time was 4 and ½ hours ahead of
Frankfort. It may have been 3 and ½ but what I found fascinating was the ½ hour portion
of that time change. This was the first time I had ever had to change by anything other
than full hours. In an effort to rationalize the irrational I figured that India, which is all
on the same time, is large enough to cover 3 or maybe even 5 time zones. With the
thought of having just one time for the entire country I suspect they just averaged the low
and high and came up with the extra 30 minutes. Sounds good – huh. Try to explain
why the difference in time between India and Nepal is 20 minutes then. That is not a
typo. I moved my watch 20 minutes ahead when we entered Nepal so I could have an
accurate local time displayed.

All four flights we were on from Tucson to Delhi were 100 percent full.

Our guide, Sushant, met us at the airport and took us to the Taj Palace Hotel. This was
our home for the first two nights of the trip. It was a beautiful old hotel with lots of white
marble in the lobby and very comfortable rooms. All the bathrooms were Western style.

Sushant is not in the employ of Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) which is the company
we contracted with. OAT subcontracts the Heart of India trip to a local Indian travel
company called Far Horizons. I realized as the trip progressed that Sushant was a crappy
guide. He got worse by the day and I was all for stiffing him on the tip at the end of the
trip. Usually I over tip the guides but usually the guides are so good that they deserve
more than OAT suggests as a tip. Sue refused to let me stiff him so I let her take care of
the tip out of the funds that she was carrying. I think that was the only time she stuck her
hand in her purse the entire trip.



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We woke relatively early on Wednesday and had a great breakfast. We had our welcome
by Sushant after breakfast. He told us that our schedule would be modified to
accommodate lodging schedules. We would still get to do and see all that we were
supposed to but the order during the first week or so would be altered. No big deal. The
he suggested each of us convert $30 to Rupees and give them to him. He would use it as
a tip pool and then we would not have to be worried about how much to tip anyone.
Sounded like a good idea at the time. Later in the trip I learned that he was giving
miniscule tips to some people and I augmented them. His claim was that “those people”
just don’t get that much money. He continued to use the terms “those people” and
“them” way too often for my taste. Having grown up in the 40’s and 50’s as a Jew in a
Gentile neighborhood; it rubs me raw when I hear the term “those people”. With
Suschant it was all part of the caste system mentality.

Then Sue and I went for a short walk in the area of the hotel. The traffic was horrendous
and all were driving on the opposite side of the rode from which we are accustomed.
This was a problem getting used to. We were always looking the wrong way before
trying to cross the streets. We saw our first wild life while walking that first morning.
They have a bushy tailed chipmunk. The crows, and they have lots of crows, are not
entirely black. They have a gray neck and breast. Later on that first morning we started
our tour of Delhi and New Delhi. Delhi was a thriving metropolis, according to Sushant,
when Bombay and Calcutta were just mud hut villages. After our walk and before
leaving for our tour we returned to our room. I had to get instructions on how to turn on
the air conditioning. Sue found out that the personnel of the hotel were not allowed to
accept gifts. This meant that all the throwaway clothing I brought with me would have to
be transported to the next hotel where they might be allowed to accept it.

We had a large bus that provided everyone who wished a window seat to have one.
There was no need to crowd two to a seat. This is the first bus I had been on that provided
for the driver and bus boy to be located in an isolated compartment. The coach was
brand new and this was its maiden trip. Sushant’s wife accompanied us the first day.
This was the first time I have ever had a guide bring a member of his family along on any
part of the trip. My head kept spinning from side to side as I saw goats and pigs tied up
right along side the street, dogs roaming wherever they wished and cows doing what ever
they wished. Some cows were walking on the street, some lying in the street and some
just messing up the street. The vehicles just go around them. Much later in the trip I
learned that the penalty for killing a cow is 6 to 10 years in prison. Killing a dog brings a
fine of about 30 cents U.S. It made no difference where we went in Delhi. The entire
area was covered with trash and garbage. The whole city looked like a dump.

According to our guide the literacy rate in India is 54%. A person is considered literate if
they can read and/or write their own name. Functional illiteracy rate is closer to 80%.
The two most important programs now underway by the Indian government are first
medical facility improvements and then educational improvements.




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The begging, according to Sushant, is Mafia controlled. The organization will go so far
as abduct children and maim them. Then they will put them on the street to beg. I don't
know how much of that is true but since I hadn’t planned to give to beggars it makes no
difference. Sushant had asked us not to give to beggars since it just encouraged more
begging and more Mafia involvement. I could not help myself but give to the lepers at
the Pushkar Fair. I doubt any Mafia involvement in that and these people have no other
means of income.

Another instruction from Sushant was that we were not to buy from street peddlers. We
should get back on the bus and then tell him what we would like to purchase from the
vendors. He would then go out and buy it for us. That sort of spoils the fun of haggling
over price.

One of the sites we stopped at is called the India Gate. It is a memorial to the soldiers
who fought along side the British in the WW1. One of the guards was wearing the
strangest hat I have ever seen. I hope the photo comes out. That memorial was the only
clean thing I saw in Delhi; and that is clean by their standards – not ours. India is unlike
China, Cambodia and the rest of the third world countries we have visited in the past
couple of years. The others are trying to improve the standard of living and trying to
clean up their cities. India isn’t even trying.

Later that first day we visited Raj Ghat, the Gandhi memorial. Like the India Gate it was
clean by their standards. The people, with lots of children, were dressed very neat. I
almost thought my original impressions of India and the Indians were erroneous.

Later we did some shopping. The store catered to tourists with lots of money. Gems,
woodcarvings, jewelry and oriental rugs made up the bulk of the items for sale. Janet and
Dianne each decided to buy a sari at this store. A sari, displaying the naval area, on a
lithe, nubile young woman may be attractive to some. Personally, I don’t find the sari as
an attractive garment on anyone. The idea of two overweight senior citizens wearing
them just turned my stomach. This was the closest I came to losing my lunch on the trip.
Naturally it was impossible for them to by a sari off the rack. I doubt that either would
have been able to buy a saddle off the rack. We lost an hour while they picked out the
fabric they wanted and then were measured. I sure hope the garment and not the amount
of material used was the basis for cost.


Just like the previous trips we took to third world countries, I spent lots of time initially
looking at the people, buildings, traffic, etc. from the bus window. There are lots of
motorcycles with 125 cc being a large engine. I did see a couple of 250’s but they were
both police bikes. There appears to be a headgear law in India – at least for the driver.
The passengers wearing a headgear are about fifty-fifty. Most of the headgear in use is
the full-face variety but it seems any non-pliable hat will suffice and it was not
uncommon to see someone with a construction hat or helmet liner. Our guide in Nepal,
which seemed to have the same headgear requirements, said that the fine for failure to
obey the law was equivalent to about $25 US. There is an out related to the headgear



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law. The driver does not have to wear one if he is wearing a turban. I guess the ruling
group of Hindu does not care if all the Muslim get their heads busted open.

We arrived in Old Delhi that is the old walled city area. It constitutes a very small
portion of the entire Delhi area. Old Delhi is even a worse slum than New Delhi.

The first night in India we had our welcome meal. It was good but I think I prefer Thai
and Chinese food. My preference made no difference. We were in store for Indian food
for the remainder of the trip. The exception to that was last dinner before returning to the
States. Now that the trip is over, I can assure you that it will be quite a while before I
have white rice again. It is not that I don’t like it but having it three times a day is just
too much. Almost every meal was buffet style. I can only remember two that weren’t
and one of those was the last meal of the trip. We were supposed to have another buffet
but Joe complained that Anna could not eat any of the food from an Indian buffet. She
had been doing so for the last two and one half weeks. In any case Joe wanted to go to a
restaurant where they had menus. The OAT person arranged for us to go to a Chinese
restaurant right in the hotel. Menus were handed to us but we were told that it was a set
menu. I told the waiter that I want hot and sour soup not the clear bullion they were
serving and if it cost more just give me a bill. That set change in motion. Sue decided
she wanted the sweet corn chowder. All three of us at the table, Carmen joined Sue and
I, decided we wanted fried rice – not white. We got what we wanted but the restaurant
personnel let it be know they were not happy by stretching out our meal to well over an
hour. We left long after the other OAT people left.

I guess I digressed so back to the trip. Sushant explained that prior to the English
showing up the concept of Hinduism was primarily geographical. The English tried to
separate the people by group and defined what made a person a Muslim and what made a
person a Christian, etc. When they ran out of definitions they just grouped all the rest
together and called the Hindu. Even in 1954, when they were carving out a constitution
they had the problem of defining what was a Hindu. For some reason, probably minority
rights, the Indians felt it important to define the various groups living in the country.

Another interesting comment by Sushant was that not all Muslim are
vegetarian. It all depends on where they live. Some eat poultry and some
fish. Some Muslim even eats non-beef meat. In other words they eat what
is available where they live. I suspect many are vegetarian simply because
they are too poor to buy meat.

The women, although they don’t rate as first class citizens, seem to be
doing all the work. They carry everything from farm produce to loads of
bricks on their heads. For the most part I saw the men as either merchants
(women were probably not allowed to handle neither money nor business)
or loafers.

In route to Pushkar we passed a lot of farmland. It was not the correct
season for growth and the land looked barren. They were preparing the



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land for planting and Joe commented on how it must have all been done by hand. I
explained the plowing had been done by machinery. This was evident by the tractor tire
makes in the mud in the fields. Then Joe wanted to know, since I was the agriculture
expert he snidely remarked, as to the where a bouts of the combines. All discussion
regarding agriculture stopped then when I told him that combines were used for harvest –
not planting.

Unlike the Chinese, the Indians waste lots of their potentially productive land. I guess
they have more than enough farmland to grow the food to feed the population. It is not
fair to compare the Chinese and the Indians. They are completely different cultures but it
is hard not to do so since I was in China so recently. Both are supposed to be third world.
It is just that India is more third world than China or any other place I have been.

We passed a group of people washing their cows. The people live in absolute filth but
the cows are kept clean. Sushant pointed out lines of trees planted along the road side.
He said the government was having the trees planted but failed to tell us why. There is so
much for the government to do it seemed surprising that they would start with tree
planting. Each tree had a number on it. I have no idea as to the purpose of neither the
trees nor the numbers unless they will be put on a highway map and marked as “Rest
Areas”. Rest areas are no closer than a 2 to 4 hour ride right now. Trees, bushes and the
sides of building are considered urinals. I know this for a fact since public urination
along the roadside was the norm. Anyplace with loose dirt that could be scooped out
would suffice as a commode. I know this as fact since, as we were leaving Pushkar early
in the morning, I saw the locals taking their morning dunk in public. Speaking of urinals,
I made another observation. For some reason that I just can’t fathom the urinals, where
they do have them, are very high off the floor. They must be at least a foot higher that
those found in the civilized world. This may be an explanation for peeing on the side of
building. They just can’t reach the urinal. The other explanation for this action is that,
other than the hotels we stayed in, the toilets were dirtier than the outside of the
buildings.

We passed through a slate mining area. The slates are not used for tile. They are used
for the children to write on.

                      The three wheel tractor type vehicles we saw in Tibet are used in
                      abundance here. The difference is that in India they are used more
                      for passengers than they are for work. Of course Tibetans have a
                      higher work ethic than the Indians do. It was not uncommon to see
                      ten to twenty people piled on one.

                     We were still in route to Pushkar when the police stopped our bus.
                     Apparently there was political turmoil in a town ahead of us and
                     we were not allowed to proceed. We had to back track for almost
                     two hours and then come into Pushkar by the southern route rather
than the northern. We went through an area where there were monkeys all along the side
of the road. The outcome is that we spent close to 11 hours on the bus going from Delhi



                                                                                         9
to Pushkar. That included 2 official rest stops. It is normally a 5 to 6 hour trip. The
alternate route included a detour that could be described at best as being a trail up a
mountainside. It was on this drive that I learned that the law of the road in India and the
law of physics were identical. The bigger you are the more right-of-way you have. We
had an extremely skillful driver who ran cars, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. right off the
road. He did have the courtesy to honk his horn – continuously. The only thing he did
not push out of his way were vehicles larger than the bus we were on and cows. It was
dark by the time we arrived at our tent cabin facility in Pushkar. We had a late buffet
style dinner and then off to sleep. It had been a long day.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention the road system in India. There are
                  three types of roads. The first are the national highways. These are
                  paved roads, usually two lanes – one each direction. Sometimes there
                  is a passing lane. Next we have the state roads. These are also paved.
                  They consist of one paved lane and hard pack on both sides of the
                  paving. Passing vehicles going either direction requires each to have
                  only two wheels on the pavement and the others on the hard pack.
                  Local roads have all the same features as the state roads except for
pavement. They are pot holed dirt trails.

The following day we went to the Pushkar Fair. It was great and it was terrible all at the
same time. It was an assault on all the senses the body has – primarily that of hearing. I
turned my hearing aids off, which in effect makes them earplugs, and the noise level was
still beyond belief. I doubt if I will ever get all the camel and cow dung out of the cleats
of my shoes. At the end of the trip Susie left her shoes right in Nepal. Pushkar is a small
town of about 6 thousand. Once a year there is a pilgrimage to Lake Pushkar. Pushkar
has the only temple to the God Shiva in the country. Other Hindu Gods are prayed to in
the rest of the temples in the country. That is the reason for the huge pilgrimage to this
little town. The fair takes place during the 10-day pilgrimage. It involves auctions of
horses, cattle, sheep, goats and camels. It is a carnival with rides for the kids. It is a farm
fair with displays on how to get better yields from your fields. It is a boardwalk with
food, crafts, and souvenirs of all kinds available for purchase. It is a huge county fair.
More than anything else it is crowded. Part of the religious ritual associated with the fair
is the bathing in Lake Pushkar. This is not a large lake with a surface area less than a
square mile. Stand on any shoreline and it would be possible to see the entire lake. Two
hundred thousand Indians bathe in this lake during the 10-day religious ritual. That is
one lot of dirty Indians. Photography is prohibited in the lake area. That prohibition is
really enforced. I saw an obvious tourist (he was white) take a photo, have his camera
confiscated, hand-cuffed and led away all within 30 seconds from start to finish. He kept
                   trying to tell the police that he had official permission to photograph at
                   that site. Either the police did not understand him, believe him or care.
                   He was on his way to an Indian
                   lockup.

                   It was at the fair that I saw my first
                   leper. Then I saw my second and then



                                                                                            10
a third and fourth. In fact they were all over the place begging for money. Another
beggar was a dwarf and he was dressed in a diaper.

A festival of this size in any other country we have visited would have had a Tee Shirt
shop every 25 feet. I had found only two shops in total that sold them and we had
wandered around for about 5 and ½ hours.

We only spent a half of a day at the fair and returned to the campgrounds for lunch. Most
of our group chose to remain in camp while Susie, Pete, Art and I returned to the fair. I
did not come half way around the earth to sit in a tent. The afternoon crowds were even
larger than those of the morning were. The noise level was up and it was hot and humid.
It was fun. I even had my photo taken for a health food concern that had a booth at the
fair. The man asked if he could take my picture with my holding his product in my hand.
Apparently he wanted to use it in some form of advertising. Eventually we returned to
the bus and then the camp.

We left Pushkar early the following morning viewing the locals doing their morning
rituals in the sand as I mentioned before. We were headed to Shekhawati where we
would spend the night in an ancient fort that had been converted to a hotel. The name of
the fort was Mukund Garh Fort. This part of the trip was supposed to take place before
we went to Pushkar but as mentioned before the order of the trip was modified. That
meant we were once again backtracking and we spent the whole day for all practical
purposes on the bus. It was dark by the time we arrived at Shekhawati. The driver’s skill
really was demonstrated now. The streets were
very narrow and clogged with not only
pedestrians and motorized vehicles of every
description but also camel carts, horse carts,
donkey carts and any other type of cart an
animal could be tied in front of. I became very
alarmed as the driver wound our bus up and
around narrow streets that were completely out
of the business district of the town. We were
traveling on what could be best called an
asphalt walkway. I doubt that wheels from both sides of the bus could be on the hard top
at the same time. We would be in trouble if anything came from the other direction. It
was dark and we were entirely at the mercy of our guide, driver and bus boy. All of a
sudden we were at the gates of the fort. Not only was I relieved but also thankful that I
could relieve myself. The last rest stop had been 4 hours earlier and that was in the trees
along the road. Hey, when in India do as the Indians.

                               The room at the fort was magical. I think it was originally
                               part of the dungeon. There were rings in the ceiling of our
                               room and it wasn’t until much later in our trip that I found
                               their function. The big fans that the servants would pull
                               back and forth were suspended from them in days of yore.
                               That killed the idea of our room having been part of a



                                                                                        11
dungeon.

Dinner was great and the entertainment by a local family was fun. The entertainment
consisted of a puppet show (by grandpa) and local dances (by dad, son and daughter).
The troop leader was the daughter who I guessed to be maybe 11 or 12. This is where I
learned that the tip given to the group by Sushant was to me an insult. It came to less
than 50 cents per person. I, along with several others augmented the tip much to
Sushant’s chagrin. His claim was that now “those people” would always expect bigger
tips from the OAT groups.

The next morning I woke hearing the clanking of trolley cars. When I was completely
awake I realized it was a reflex triggered by the smell of fresh bread baking. To me the
two (fresh bread baking and sounds of a trolley car) always go together.

We had breakfast without fresh bread (?) and then went sight seeing. This town, like all
the other small towns we saw, had communal use wells. I don’t think any of the
buildings were plumbed for water unless they had their own well like our hotel did.

That day we traveled to Jaipur with stops in Dunlod and Mukundgarh where we visited
forts and museums. One of the museums, called Podar Haveli Rajasthan, was extremely
interesting with displays of the wedding costumes of the various castes of ancient and not
so old India. (Haveli means small palatial building) One of the most interesting things
on the costumes was that each of the female ones involved a nose ring that was attached
to the shawl they were wearing. Sue said they were attached to the ear that was covered
by the shawl. In either case it was a strange bit of jewelry. All the costumes involved
necklaces, usually identical, for both men and women. Some of the necklaces were of
gold. Some were of shells. One set was made of beads and flowers.

It was in Dunlod that Sue, Bill and I managed to get separated from our group at the
bazaar which I mentioned early on in this write up. Actually, getting lost was a lot more
fun than getting back in the bus and traveling for another seven hours. We had a chance
to visit a real Indian marketplace. Once Sue, Bill and I were found and back by the bus,
Sushant had to go find the rest of the group that had taken off rather than stick around
waiting for us to show up. It was really funny and I think Sushant now knows he is going
to have to keep his party together.

All of these little principalities that we passed through had some form of
fort/castle/palace. Call it what you will. The brothers and male cousins of the king
controlled these areas. The purpose was twofold. First, the people living in them became
subjected to the king and could be called upon to fight for him. Secondly, they became
the living places for the merchants and traders who in turn tried to outdo each other in the
size and beauty of their homes. The items of export were primarily carpeting, clothing,
carvings and other labor-intensive manufactured goods. Cheap labor made items were
the commodity they were really trading. Sushant told me that India did have and still has
a lot of gem mining but not in this area. This was primarily trade route area.




                                                                                         12
It was in Jaipur that we finally got back on our printed itinerary and that Sushant and I
had a major falling out. Shopping is an important part of any trip. Even I enjoy shopping
to some extent but when it becomes THE trip item I take exception. It was in Jaipur that
the shopping and wasting of time really started.

First we went to a factory showroom that did ink block printing and made oriental rugs.
That is a real combination for you. I even had elephant ink blocked on my hat at this
place. Naturally, once the demonstrations of the crafts were complete it was time for the
hustle. One or two people wanted to buy a rug so the rest of us ended up waiting around
for about an hour. The other Larry decided that he needed to find an ATM so 13 of us
climbed on the bus for a trip looking for an ATM. Eventually one was found so Larry
and Joe went to use it. They could not even get their cards to work in the security door
much less in the ATM. The instructions we received from OAT long before the trip
advised us the ATM machines were hard to find and unreliable at best. Failing in this
effort we returned to the Oriental rug shop to pick up Carmen. This futile effort took 45
minutes. She wasn’t ready yet so Sushant decided he would take us to another store that
specialized in woodcarvings and jewelry. This store also had antiques and other crap for
sale. Carmen remained at the Oriental rug shop and we were going to pick her up later.
Neither Sue nor I wanted to even look in this shop and asked for directions to a bazaar
that Sushant told us was close by. We walked as directed and never found anything that
resembled a bazaar so we returned to the shop and waited for over an hour while Diane
bought some gaudy piece of crap. Barbara also bought a ring but she made her purchase
rapidly and waited with the rest of us. Both the rings bought by Diane and Barbara
needed resizing. The merchant claimed he would do this and bring them to our hotel. I
just don’t understand why people will buy jewelry in a third world country from a person
they would not even speak to if he were not selling the jewelry. How they can trust
these merchants is just beyond my comprehension. While all this was going on Bill
decided to buy a couple of woodcarvings. Diane was still in the process of buying
jewelry when Sushant decided the rest of should board the bus and go back and pick up
Carmen who was now ready. Then we went back for Diane who was still not done
shopping. The merchant finally said he would get her back to the hotel so the rest of us
were going to go to the bazaar. Once again, on the bus. The walk that Sue and I were
instructed to take to the bazaar turned out to be a 20 minute bus ride. It was so late by the
time we got to the bazaar that we had 20 minutes before we had to leave. Sushant could
not understand why I was upset with him. The only thing Sue bought at the bazaar was
the little paste on dots (they go on the forehead) and managed to lose those before we
even got back to the bus. That was when I decided I was going to cut his tip every time
he wasted my time. By the end of my time in India, if I had held to this tip deduction
concept, Sushant would have owed me money.

Here is another dislocated piece of information. India, according to Sushant has no
income tax to speak of. The income of the country is primarily derived from outgo
(sales) taxes. The highest levied tax is 75% and it is on boxes of matches that are a
necessity of life. Matches are needed to light cook fires, candles, heating devices and
cigarettes. More than 85% of the adults smoke. There is even a State Seal on the
matchbox to prove the tax has been paid.



                                                                                          13
One of the real highlights of traveling with OAT is a dinner at the home of a local.
Supposedly the people we dine with are typical of the region. The home where we
actually dined was that of an elite family. Twenty-four people lived in the home. That
included not only the family but also the six servants. This was an extended family
dwelling. The home had been the family dwelling since 1721. It was filled with items
that would have made a museum proud to have on display. Gold, silver, crystal, trophy
animals, oriental rugs, antique furniture, etc. were all over the place. Great grandpa (long
gone) had to have been something close to a maharaja. The photographs of him that
hung on the walls indicated that this was a member of the elite. He was all decked out in
native costume of the period and looked the part of a warlord. He was actually the owner
of marble quarries and agricultural land. Grandpa (long gone as well) appeared to been a
playboy and hunter. He maintained the family businesses but from the trophies he
accumulated it was apparent that he spent a lot of time in the field with a rifle. Father
told me that there were 32 trophies in the house. This included the two Bengal Tigers
that caught my attention as soon as I entered the room. It was impossible to miss them as
they dominated the place. Father had 3 brothers. Father still ran the Quarry business
while brother number 1 ran the agribusiness. Father and all the brothers live in the home
with their entire families. Father had three sons – all single and brother had one son and
one daughter – also single. There were mothers and wives all around the place and I
didn’t have the appropriate score card to be able to keep track of the players. Father told
me that when the sons married they would move their family into the house as well. He
would just have another apartment added to the structure. An apartment, by his
definition, consisted of a bedroom, sitting room, toilet and shower room. All the families
shared the kitchen and dining room even though each woman cooked for her spouse and
children only. One of the roof gardens had a raised platform on which great grandpa
used to hold audiences with the people that lived on his land. He also used to entertain
the dancing girls on that platform per brother. Father told me that the land holding was
extensive but it has dwindled; being sold off to pay taxes. Even the family chapel was
“donated” to the government. Photographs indicated that at one time the home was
situated in a magnificent setting. Now all the land around the home was the locale of an
extensive bazaar. Walking to the home required going through the bazaar (after entering
the town gates) and then walking through what cannot be described as anything other
than garbage dump. This family has really fallen on hard times and father must really
feel despaired at having lost the family fortune. He is even taking in guests, such as we,
twice a week just to make ends meet and this must be degrading for him. OAT pays for
these dinners that are supposedly with the typical family.

Each of the trophies had a triangular ink stamp on it. I questioned this and was told that
several years ago the government required that every trophy animal be brought in,
registered and stamped. In this manner it will be able to tell if game poaching is taking
place. Now if a trophy shows up without the stamp someone is in deep do do.

The following morning we had to return to the jewelry/antique shop so Bill could make
arrangements to have the carvings he bought the previous day shipped to the United




                                                                                         14
States. I guess he never considered whether or not those huge things would fit in his
luggage. That was another 25 minutes of my life that I will never recover.

We finally got on the road and made a stop at a government school. It was typical of
those we have seen in other third world countries. The
                     school consisted of two rooms. Neither
                     had windows, doors, desks, chairs nor
                     lights. When Sue asked where the
                     bathroom was, they just pointed to the
                     field behind the building. Sue and some of the other trip participants
                     brought supplies to leave for the school children. Now we
                     experienced a first. The headmaster accepted the goods, itemized
                     them on paper, wrapped them in a large package and gave them to
Sushant. Sushant explained that he would take the gifts and inventory back to his
company who would then give them to the government. The government would then
divide and distribute them to schools throughout the country. There were two reasons
given for this action. First was that if the teacher or principal accepted the goods without
providing an inventory it was highly unlikely anything would ever get to the students.
The other was that even if an honest head master were found only the students of the
schools close to the tourist routes would get the benefit of these gifts. The way it was
done would assure that all children got benefit of the gifts brought by the tourists. At
least these children were learning something and that would make them part of the 54%
of the literate of the country.

We went to a new marble temple while in the Jaipur area. It was really still under
construction but was also in use for services. A wealthy family who was looking for a
legacy to their social standing funded the temple. Seeing a mud hut school and a multi
million-dollar new temple the same day demonstrated the contradiction in values of these
people.

In route to Ranthambore we crossed the first river I saw since arriving in the country.
Farming right along the river’s edge looks prosperous. However, most of the fields
appear to be little more than truck farms and one good rain will see them flooded, being
so close to the river. By this time in our trip I had just about stopped taking photographs.
Everything looked the same. The land, as we approached Ranthambore, appeared to be a
major agriculture area – the first seen. Sushant did not think this important enough to
even mention. We passed through many small villages on this portion of our trip. It was
easy to tell when a village was coming up since there would be several speed bumps.
This was the only traffic control device I saw. In retrospect, I realized that the only
traffic lights I saw in India were in Delhi and these were few and far between. Telling one
village from the next is extremely difficult. Some appear to be just a little more decrepit
than others are. There was no doubt in my mind that the places we visited so far
represented the worst Sue and I had visited in all of our third world travels. The real
difference in India is that they all want to shake our hands, unlike most of the others
where bowing was the accepted practice. I was reluctant to do so since these were a




                                                                                         15
bunch of dirty little beggars but at times there was no escaping. I used one Hell of a lot
of disinfectant on this trip.

                         Shopping still seems to be a main concern to many of our travel
                         companions. We had been in India for over a week when we
                         arrived at the Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary. It had already
                         closed for the day by the time we arrived so we checked into our
                         rooms and walked to the
                         village (less than ½ mile) and
                         looked in the shops. Some of
                         the balloons I brought with me
                         finally found their way into the
                         hands of children. I managed
                         to get some photographs of the
                         local people as well. I finally found something I wanted, an
                         embroidered Tee Shirt. I felt obligated to buy a Tee Shirt at
                         Pushkar ($4) but the one I acquired in Ranthambore was one that
                         I wanted.      The merchant even threw in several hatpins
                         highlighting Ranthambore. Now I had spent a total of $8 on
personal souvenir purchases. We bought some more inexpensive items and Sue picked
up another Ganash. This one is a lot smaller, made of sandalwood and a lot more
expensive. The most surprising thing about shopping in this village was that the
merchant would accept my credit card and even more surprising was the fact that he had
a point of sale machine.

Our walk of the village indicated that our lodge was not the only place for tourists to stay.
There were hotels all up and down the road to the entrance of the sanctuary. This has to
be one of the big tourist attractions of this part of India. We learned that the chances of
seeing a tiger in the 100 square mile sanctuary were very slim. There were only 32 of
them and that number included some cubs. The best shot at seeing one would be right at
daybreak or right before sunset. One of the visitors at the lodge in which we were staying
said she had been out for four days and not seen one. I was becoming disappointed
before even having a chance to spot one.

Sue and I walked the grounds of the lodge before dinner. There were large green
parakeets all over the place. We saw many more of these beautiful birds as we traveled
in this part of India. We were told they are the largest of the parakeets in the world. We
also saw lots of monkeys jumping from tree to tree and then on the buildings. We even
saw one foraging in a vegetable garden. The men tending the garden threw rocks at it.

The following morning we left the lodge very early. It was cool but not cold. The trip to
and in the sanctuary was in a small jeep type vehicle. Actually it was an open top Suzuki
Samarai under a different name. Suzuki has a joint venture automobile manufacturing
deal in India. The nameplate is Maruki. Our driver took us around the sanctuary for
several hours. We saw lots of birds (of many varieties), deer (spotted and Sambra being




                                                                                          16
the most prevalent), monkeys, boar, crocodiles, mongoose and much other animal life -
but no tiger.

After lunch and a rest at the lodge we returned to the sanctuary with hope of seeing the
tiger in the late afternoon before official closing time of sun down. Once again our driver
cruised the trails and once again we saw lots of animal life but no tiger.

It was just about time for us to be headed back to the lodge. The day, although fun, had
been disappointing. All of a sudden a vehicle that was way in front of us, in fact it was
out of our sight, appeared and it was backing up. The driver of
this second car was indicating to our driver that he too should
back up, which he started to do. Then the highlight of the
entire trip appeared. She was gorgeous and she was walking
right down the road that we were driving on. I have seen tiger
in various zoos, in circuses and at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
They are not the same breeds of cat that this one was. Her coat
was so sleek and her muscles just rippled as she strolled down the road and then into the
undercover foliage near the road. She did not even appear to notice we were around. It is
possible that she just didn’t care but she did mark her territory before she went off the
road. I noticed that all sounds and movements of the other animal life stopped. The birds
and monkeys had sounded the alarm. We watched her disappear into the jungle and
started to head to the gate of the preserve. Within a mile of the gate a driver from another
jeep, headed in the opposite direction as we were told our driver that another female with
two cubs was not far away. Our driver got the directions and we were off. Mama cat
was barely visible in the bush but she was watching the cubs closely as they played in the
road on which we were traveling. They acted like any other 3-month-old kittens but were
just larger – about the size of a full-grown German Shepherd. It was too dark to get a
photograph of them but we saw them and that was good enough for me. We were so
fortunate to have seen 1/8 of all the tigers in the preserve in one day and nothing anyone
could have said nor done would have ruined that day for me. The driver and guide of our
safari jeep, which we shared with Barbara and Mike, got tipped real well. He could have
skipped the mama and cubs but chose to make sure we saw all we could. So much for the
tip pool concept. That evening I went to bed early, skipping dinner just so I would be
rested up for the trip to our next destination. This trip had really starting to look up.


The following morning we started to visit the ancient forts and religious houses of the
area in route to our next destination – Rajasthan. Once again I noticed the centralized
village wells. People were collecting water in round bottom ollas and carrying them on
their heads just like in Mexico. Only the rich and tourist hotels have in door plumbing.

The trip to Rajasthan took about 4 hours – a good portion of this was sight seeing. We
were to spend the night in a tented camp and take a camel safari at this location. The
luggage was brought to our tent by camel cart.




                                                                                         17
It was safari time. My camel just gave a big grunt when I climbed on. Sue’s camel tried
to roll over on her and she was having trouble getting one of her feet out of its stirrup.
The camel jockeys were all over her and the camel making sure she was freed. There
were no injuries to camel or Sue. Undaunted, she got back on and this time the camel got
up. The safari took us through agricultural land and to a farmer’s home. The home was
unfired mud brick (adobe). It consisted of one room on the inside and one on the outside.
The outside room was really a 3-sided Ramada where they would sleep in the hot
weather. Farm animals wandered the area and to me it looked like the biggest crop was
dung. There were piles of dung pies everywhere. They were along the sides of the roads.
They were on the roofs of the buildings. They were piled in pyramids. You name it and
there were pies on or in it.

We broke camp early the next morning and commenced our final overland trip with this
bus and driver. We were headed to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Now we were going to see
the beauty and riches of India. In Agra we would be staying at the Taj View hotel for
two nights. This would be the last chance to clean the clothes we would need for the
remainder of the trip.

Our trip took us to a Jain temple. This was a religious group I had not heard about
before. These people are real fanatics – especially with respect to reincarnation. They
feel any animal life could be the reincarnation of a friend or relative. As such, they not
only do not eat meat but that they make sure they kill no animal life. They wear cloth
masks so they do not breathe in a bug that at one time may have been uncle Amir. They
sweep the path in front of them as they walk making sure cousin Enid doesn’t get stepped
on. I shouldn’t be making fun of these people but this was just getting a little too much.

Another sight that I observed from the bus window in route to Agra was a cow carcass
along the side of the road. The hide was being stripped from the animal by a couple of
men. I asked Sushant about this since I understood the cow was sacred and this sure
seemed to be a desecration to me. He explained that if the cow died a natural death, such
as by starvation, its parts could be harvested. This is part of the sacredness of the cow. It
continues to give even after it dies. The hide would provide warmth to the lucky family
that got it. I didn’t ask but I wondered if the meat from a cow that died a natural death
could be eaten, using the same logic. I assure you I had zero filets on the trip, even
though it was on the serving table once, after I had that thought.

                                The sights from the bus window just keep fascinating me.
                                The favorite outdoor toy of the children appears to be a
                                bald blown out tire, which they would roll along with a
                                stick like a hoop. We passed though a red marble quarry
                                area. Stonemasons carve in the marble and offer these
                                items for sale. Just what I need to take back home – a half
                                ton slab of red marble.

We just passed through an area of prostitutes. Prostitution is illegal and unaccepted in
India but there is always an exception. There is a caste society that has practiced



                                                                                          18
prostitution for centuries. Minority rights permit them to remain hookers. Born a hooker
you remain a hooker. There is no way out. These women have their cribs right along the
roadside and sell themselves to the truckers who pass through the area. I suspect some of
the truckers make a point of passing through this area since these are the first Indian
women who look in the least bit attractive. They even wear makeup. Sushant said they
originated in a different region of the country (the Northeast) but work here since this is
where the truck drivers expect to find them.

Our lunch break on the day we traveled to Agra was at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. This
used to be a bird hunting camp for one of the maharaja. Following lunch we took a
rickshaw ride into the sanctuary where a local naturalist pointed out many varieties of
birds. I am still not a birder but I had to admit they have some pretty ones. Fortunately,
we had a chance to walk a little while looking at the birds. This was the only exercise we
were going to receive for the day since the trip to Agra was a long one.

Two people shared each rickshaw. It was on the way out of the park that I noticed Janet
and Diane were sharing one. That thing could have rolled off the side of a cliff, flipped
over several times and the two of them would still have been wedged in the seat. The
poor kid peddling them must have been exhausted. I know our driver was and I tipped
him accordingly.

Our next stop in route to Agra was Fatehpur Sikri, which is a mysterious ghost city of the
16th century. It was a mammoth complex made entirely of red sandstone. This alone
was incredible since there is no sandstone; red or any other color, nearby. The only other
building material used was wood and that was minimal. There were several doors but
most of the portals and windows areas were just open space. There is no metal what so
ever. The first thing pointed out to us was a curved stone in the place used for the
audience of the commoners. Discontents would have had their head strapped to the stone
and then an elephant would step on the head. That surely should have kept the bitching
to a minimum. The Moghul Emporer Akbar had it built. He intended it to be a fort and
living area for not only the royal family but also a very large population in addition to his
army. Akbar was 14 when he started the construction of the place. It is a magnificent
group of structures and covers an incredible amount of territory. It would be an easily
defended spot, situated high on a hill and overlooking lowlands on all sides for miles
around. The only failure of the place, which is encircled by a 117-mile-long wall, is lack
of water. The place that took 8 years to build was occupied for only months before
Akbar realized the problem and abandoned it; thus a ghost city. Apparently, know it all
teenagers is not something new. I find it hard to believe that during the 8 years of
construction no one bothered telling Akbar of the lack of water. I just wonder what
atrocity fell upon the architect that picked the spot and the construction foreman who had
to realize the problem.

It was early evening by the time we arrived at the Taj View hotel. The next day we were
to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. The place is supposed to sparkle as the sunlight reflects
from the semi-precious stones imbedded in the white marble. This is supposedly a once
in a life time experience. So is a hemorrhoid operation.



                                                                                          19
It was still pretty dark as we                           rode to the Taj Mahal but I had
already determined that Agra                             was the dirtiest place I had ever
seen and this included the                               garbage dump in Yakutat,
Alaska where the grizzlies                               fed.

Our bus driver impressed me                              more with each passing day.
The biggest traffic jam I have seen in India took place in Agra but it did not phase our
driver. He just laid on the horn and pushed everything, but cows, out of his way.

Sushant took us to a point where he claimed the view of the Taj would be the best when
the sun started to come up. While waiting, I looked over the wall surrounding the Taj. It
was a slum. People were awakening and doing what everybody else in the world does
when they first wake up. Some people have bathrooms. These people had back yards.

All of a sudden Sushant says, “look – look”. I say, “look at what”. He says, “don’t you
                            see it”. I say, “see what”. He says, “the shining gem”. I say,
                            “where”. He says’ “there – there”. Now this conversation
                            goes on for several minutes before he tells me to look over a
                            certain doorway above and to the right of an arch. Finally I
                            saw one piece of colored glassy stuff glistening in the
                            morning sun. Shortly after several more pieces started to
                            glisten. Then there were more but since the sun’s angle on
                            the building was changing the original ones no longer
                            glistened. I doubt there was more than a dozen pieces that
                            shown at the same time. Personally, I was not impressed but
                            being a guest in India, I said nothing to Sushant when he
                            asked if I did not find that magnificent. We spent another
                            half-hour or so at the Taj and I have to admit the sunrise was
                            the best part. The Taj is just a large white marble, inlaid with
semi-precious stones, tomb built by Shah Jahan in 1631 to enshrine his queen, Mumtaz
Mahal. It took 17 years to build and employed 20,000 workers. That is 340,000 man-
years and based upon, in today’s money and using the generous average of $40,000 per
man-year, a cost of 13.6 billion dollars to construct. Now that’s impressive.

Following the Taj we went to the Red Fort, another stronghold constructed completely of
red marble. It was the largest structure we saw in India. Most of the portals gave a view
of the Taj Mahal. The fort was much more impressive than the Taj. Following this we
went to a store that specialized in inlaid marble artwork. Some people bought some but
Sue and I just walked back to the hotel.

That afternoon, while some members of our party continued to shop and others chose to
relax at the hotel, Sushant took Sue, Barbara, Carmen, Mike and myself to Mother
Teresa’s place. Sue had brought lots of gifts for the children and not been able to give
them away prior to now. We were given a tour of the facility. I noticed the wall
surrounding it had broken glass imbedded in the top and barbed wire was strung above



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that. The wire was strung in a manner that indicated they were trying to keep the people
in – not out. I suspect the facility was at one time a prison and was now for the 128
homeless that lived there. It was so saddening to see this but then I realized these were
the lucky ones. A Sister gave us the tour. The children would begin to smile as soon as
she entered the area in which they were located. There were no smiles prior to her
coming in. The love and care she provided was evident in their faces. Carmen, Mike and
I all dug deep in our wallets prior to leaving the compound.

Well we saw some more forts and museums, most of which were more impressive than
the Taj Mahal, and boarded a train to Jhansi. We were working our way to Chandelas,
the second most touted tourist attraction of Northern India for it is here that the erotic
temples are located.

The train ride was completely uneventful, passing through more of the same. We
boarded another bus in Jhansi and started to Khajuraho via Orchha. This is a cleaner and
apparently more prosperous area of India. We had lunch in Orchha and then upon
insistence of several of us we visited the ruins and monuments in the area. Sushant
wasn’t thrilled about this since the agenda said we would see these items not visit them.
The fort we insisted on visiting was called Gwalior. The architecture was a combination
of Hindu and Muslim. The maharaja of the area had it built for a specific purpose. He
planned to for the emperor to stay at this place. It took 30 years to build. The emperor
stayed two days. The Later we arrived at Khajuraho, which was at one time the center of
the Chandelas. The night was spent at the Taj Chandela Hotel.

Here comes a side bar note – from Sue. The toilet paper rolls are really small. The tube
has a diameter about twice what ours has and the amount of paper on it is about ¼ of
what we have on ours. All of it is single ply. The good part of this is that it does rip on
the perforations.

The part of the country we traveled in now was wet. There was a hydroelectric dam in
the area. There was even a fishery along the rode we came in on. There were a lot of
water buffalo here – but then they have water here. Even the cattle and other animals
look healthy and well taken care of.

Sushant continues to degrade as a guide. We pass buildings and he makes no mention of
them. A new building with the sign “Christian English College” didn’t even merit a look
or comment. One person complained about the bus being too cold. Sushant had the air
conditioning turned off. There goes the last of his tip. I opened the window to his
chagrin.

Here is another side bar. The red dot on the forehead is just for decoration. A red streak
in the hair and rings on the toes indicates that the woman is married.

We finally got a real good guide. This was our first city guide. Sushant had been acting
as both trip leader and guide up to this point but when we started off for the Erotic
Temples a local guide got on our bus. I never did get his name but he sure passed on a lot



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of information and led a swell trip. It was a memorable day. Some of the bits (accuracy
not assured) he passed on were:
        Kama Suta means the Art of Love.
        They always walk around their temples counterclockwise – Left to right indicates
                the path of the sun.
        The swastika they have in their religious symbols always goes from left to right –
                following the path of the sun.
        The left hand means female and right means male. Placing the hands together
                means the union of love and bowing indicates the respect of the love.

At one time there were 85 of these temples in Chandela. Twenty-five of the temples still
remain. When they were originally discovered by an English hunter they appeared to be
                     hills since the vegetation of the area had taken them over. All the
                     temples are built in the same fashion with a small spire in the front
                     and then increasingly higher spires. This gives the impression of
                     being on a mountain and going up and down until reaching the
                     pinnacle of the tallest spire. They even look like the mountains in
                     the background of the region in which they are located. The highest
                     temple is about 32 meters. Every temple has at least one stone lion.
                     The lion was the symbol of the king in power when the temples were
                     constructed. The story goes that the king, while a young lad, went
into the jungle and came upon a lion. He had a battle with the lion, won and then used
the lion as his symbol of power. I did not know and still doubt that lion are found in
India.

I found it unfortunate that the Indians find it necessary to promote the tourism of this area
by referring to the temples as the "Erotic Temples”. People would come to see these
temples on the merit of the art displayed. The pornography is minimal and could be
overlooked without detracting from the beauty of the buildings. The carvings that adorn
the exterior of these temples are magnificent and in an excellent state of preservation.
Only a very small number are erotic. Our guide had interpretations to go with many of
the carvings. How accurate these were is questionable.

Chandela was the cleanest place we visited in India. I am not saying it is clean – just that
it was the cleanest place we visited in India. Soon, like the next day, we would be
returning to the filth as we took our trip to and along the Sacred Ganges. I learned early
that it is not the Ganges River but the Sacred Ganges River.

We flew on Jet Air from Chandela to Varanasi in the afternoon. It would be in Varanasi
that we took our Sacred Ganges River trip.

It was said that Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world – having been populated
for over 4,000 years. It is the holiest of the Hindu cities and to be cremated in this city is
a high honor. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt three times. I think it is ready for a
fourth. It is a filthy shamble.




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The plan was to arrive at the river for a cruise along it when the sun rose, a supposedly
magnificent sight. This we did after riding through yet another slum. We had to vacate
our bus and walk the last several hundred yards since the street was too narrow for the
bus to negotiate. This also gave the hawkers a chance to corner us. My polite, “No but
thank you for offering it to me”, did the trick for me. Myrtis was her usual obnoxious
self with respect to the vendors. I even apologized to one who she physically pushed out
of her way. I assured several that she was not with me. Her actions were really
embarrassing.

We walked to the shore of the Sacred Ganges and boarded a garbage scow. Our boatman
pushed us through dozens more garbage scows that were waiting to board tourists. Even
though it was dark and we were on the river the hawkers were still able to find us. They
were in scows of their own and would hook right on to our boat. Diane complained that
it wasn’t fair. Our boatman had to paddle hard so he could maneuver our boat and the
two that had latched on to us.

The women came to the Sacred Ganges first in the morning so they could bathe and get
home in time to feed their husband and children. The men came later for their bathing. I
did not see any children performing the ritual of cleansing themselves in the Sacred
Ganges. The West shoreline was wall to wall buildings. The vast majority was inhabited
ruins. Few were in decent repair. The East shoreline was void of any buildings. It was a
flat plain that floods when the Sacred Ganges runs high. It was low since this part of
India has been experiencing draught for years now. When the sun finally appeared over
the horizon it was bright red. The color came from all the air born pollution the light was
being refracted through.

A lot of little lit candles were floating in little baskets. We were told people who were
leaving the Sacred Ganges and saying goodbye put the candles there.

There was much to see along the inhabited shoreline of the Sacred Ganges in addition to
the bathers and buildings. The two most interesting were the laundries and the funeral
pyres.

Men, primarily, were doing commercial laundry on rocks. They were beating the
clothing and linen on the rocks and then laying them on the ground, fences and anywhere
else they could find to let them dry. These men are commercial washermen. That is their
caste. The rock(s) that they use for their business are passed down from father to son.
What a legacy. There were women doing laundry also but it appeared they were just
doing the family wash.

Cremation is still the accepted way of body disposal. There is an electric crematorium
near the shore. We were told that only the poor use this. I have trouble visioning rich in
this country but that is not part of this write up. Traditional cremation over a wood fire is
expensive, costing the equivalent of about $30 U.S. Electric cremation cost about 1/10
that amount. Thirty dollars buys one the wood for and a man to tend the fire. It may
even include a basket to carry the ashes into the Sacred Ganges by boat. It does not



                                                                                          23
include the shroud whose color is based on sex, social and marital status. There are three
sites where traditional cremations take place. Each traditional cremation takes from 2 to
4 hours. My arithmetic indicates that at best thirty-six such cremations could take place
in one day. Our boatman told me that about 300 people are cremated daily along the
Sacred Ganges. It just doesn’t add up unless the electric furnace is used for mass
cremation.

The time on the Sacred Ganges was a most interesting experience. We were told that the
water in the Sacred Ganges was so pure that drinking it was not a problem. This I just
flat out don’t believe. Nothing that smells that bad can be safe to ingest. Our guide told
us that research showed no harmful bodies in the water. I interpret this to mean that even
bacteria can’t live in this filth. Little flasks were one of the things the hawkers tried to
sell us. They were to be used to collect a little of the Sacred Ganges and take it home
with us. Fat chance – try to get that through customs legally.

The trip on the Sacred Ganges completed our tours in India. Late that morning we
returned to the airport in Varanasi so we could take our trip extension into Nepal. I said
goodbye to Barbara, Mike, Janet, Larry and Art. Sue felt obligated to say goodbye to
Myrtis. I didn’t. I was just glad to be rid of her.

The experience at the Varanasi airport put the finishing touches on the trip to India.
Sushant did not come with us but had some woman from his organization accompany our
party of eight plus another OAT party of nine. We arrived at the airport before her and
had absolutely no idea what to do. Chaos was the rule at this place. It was crowded, hot
and noisy. Eventually (like 3 hours after arriving at the airport) we boarded an Airbus
340. The flight to Kathmandu was uneventful. The reason for the long duration at this
and all other airports we used in India and Nepal was primarily for security check. First
they would X-ray the carry on luggage. Then they would go though it by hand. Next we
would pass through a metal detector. Then men would go one way and women another
for a frisk pat down. Now, we were permitted in the waiting lounge. When it came time
to board the plane our carry on luggage received yet another hand inspection and we went
through yet another hand frisking.

Norayan met us at the airport in Kathmandu. I immediately explained to him that we had
one member, Bill, who would be unable to keep up with the group and he should assign
his helper or the bus boy to act as his baby sitter. Within an hour Norayan did just this.
And that was the last I saw of Bill other than at meals and in the bus.

Within several hours the extension to Nepal proved to be the saving grace of the trip.
Working our way through immigration and customs was much more efficient than
anything I saw at the Indian airports. Norayan was a very good guide. The country was
much cleaner and beggars were not constantly bombarding us. Dinner that first night was
the best food I had since leaving the United States.

Nepal shares one thing besides a geographic border with India. That is illiteracy. Only
36% of the population are literate. This number is climbing rapidly since the new



                                                                                         24
government is stressing education. Previous rule felt just the opposite. They wanted the
people ignorant since they felt an educated society would overthrow the government.
Once Nepal adopted a democratic monarchy in 1952 things began to change for the good.

Kathmandu was a much bigger city than I expected. There is a lot of motorized traffic
but no traffic lights. Police direct traffic around traffic circles.

Rala was the first king to leave Nepal. He went to Europe and then returned to build a
neo Gothic palace.

We visited the home of the Kumari, the living goddess and were fortunate to get a
glimpse of her. The Kumari is a girl child about 4 years old chosen originally by the king
but now by the high priest to be the living goddess. She remains in this position until
puberty at which time she is returned to civilian life and a new Kumari is chosen. The
Kumari Palace and the neo Gothic Palace were located in an old section of Kathmandu.
The area was a massive bazaar. It was here that Diane fell down resulting in a cut up and
bruised arm. I did not see what happened, being way out in front of the group with
Norayan. I suspect she pushed someone, as she had been doing to me the entire trip, and
that someone pushed back. We lost some time while they took her for first aid.

The next morning 4 of our group chose to take a plane ride over Mount Everest. I chose
not to go because I just did not want to fly in a Beechcraft plane. My feeling was that the
plane would have to be one of three varieties. The first would be a small jet, which
would mean we would zip right past it and see very little. The second choice would be a
prop job with an underslung wide wing which would mean seeing nothing but the wing.
The last choice would be a high wing prop job. This possibility would have provided
good long looks but it would also mean that the plane was at least 30 years old. There
was no way in Hell I was getting on an old plane that had been maintained in a third
world country. It turned out that option 2 was what they went on and as predicted only
the people in the first two and the last seat on each side saw anything but wing. Sue and I
got the opportunity to see Mt. Everest and the rest of the peaks of the Himalayan chain
from the comfort of an Airbus 340 as we flew from Kathmandu back to Delhi. Not only
did we get this great sight and save $130 each in the process but also we had more time to
spend in the Thamel, a multi block neighborhood bazaar.

Our last spot to visit in Nepal and, therefore on the trip, was Nagarkot. It would be here
that we could view the Kathmandu Valley and get in some trekking. Nagarkot was about
an hour bus ride from Kathmandu. We stopped along the way to do some more shopping
and visit some ancient cities. The time spent doing each was well balanced and a lot of
fun. Of course we did get a late start since those on the flight over Mt. Everest came
back later than expected. They had to wait for the weather to clear before taking off.
This was compounded by the fact that Bill must have taken a nap after returning to the
hotel. The rest of us waited over an hour for him to come to the lobby so we could head
out.




                                                                                        25
That afternoon we traveled to Bhaktapur, a capital of one of the States of Nepal before it
unified into a single country under a single government. One stop was made in route to
Bhaktapur. Norayan called it a shopping stop but I suspect he was giving a rest/pit stop
break. Right next to the place where we stopped was a terra cotta factory. They produce,
among other things, what I would refer to as olla. Norayan told me that these were used
to store water and I explained to him that the Mexicans did exactly the same thing. The
Indian olla even had round bottom like those of Mexico.

After touring the palaces and museums of Bhaktapur we shopped in the bazaar for a
while. The difference between this shopping and that in an Indian bazaar were night and
day. This was even fun. Then it was time to get back on the bus and go onto our lodge
for the evening. We passed beautiful terraced farmland as we climbed on a mountain
road. This was prettier and cleaner than anything we saw in India. The hills all around
us were dotted with houses. The vegetation included agave and
bamboo. It seemed funny to find those two growing next to each
other. We even went through a stand of what looked like Ponderosa
Pine. I checked the trees out the next day and although pine, they
were not Ponderosa. There were even pines that looked like Norfolk
Pine. The whole area reminded me of the Santa Catalinas except
that on these there was a huge hotel complex at the top along with a
good sized village.

We finally made it to our lodge in the hills of Kathmandu valley.
Prior to the trip here I did not think our driver was as skilled as the
one we had in India. All that changed on the trip as we wound up very narrow roads that
were curvy and had steep mountain grades that I guessed to be from 8 to 10 percent. He
deserved the applause he received when we arrived at the Fort, our lodging for the next
couple of days.

Upon arrival Norayan explained that two rooms for our party were not in the main tower.
He asked for volunteers to go to the out cottages. There was a complete hush from our
group and then Sue and I volunteered. Pete was next to speak up. The three of us walked
to the “cottages” and found magnificent rooms with patios that faced the snow-covered
peaks of some of the Himalayan Mountains. The view was spectacular. We had lucked
out and that evening when Joe, with a smirk, asked how the out building was I just
responded that it was okay but I suspected the TV reception in the main lodge was better
than ours. I knew there was no TV any place at the fort and I knew that Joe would be
having withdrawal symptoms by not having a TV to watch, hoping to find his boy, Bush,
had won the election. Joe told me they didn’t have TV in his room so I said I assume the
dish on top of our cabin was just for our set then. Still feeling like rubbing his nose in it,
I said that I assumed that he did not yet know that Bush had, “for the good of the party
and the good of the nation”, conceded the election to Gore. Joe did not say one word
throughout dinner that evening until Sue told him we were just joking. I was not going to
tell him and just let him sweat for the next couple of days.




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The hotel, although beautiful, was a firetrap. The only way to get the reading light in the
room to work was wiggle the bare wires. I unplugged that sucker real fast. Heat was
supplied by a propane space heater. Once I learned how to light it I took the chill off the
room and turned it off. Pete left his on all night and woke with fumes in the room. It was
lucky he woke at all. One of the nicer touches of the hotel was the distribution of hot
water bottles each evening. Sue used both since I didn’t find the room cold in the first
place.

The following morning we did some trekking. It was now that Sue gave away her last
stuffed animal.                      I can’t really call it hiking but at least it was
exercise. We                         all started off together but Bill and his babysitter
soon        fell                     behind. Carmen was the next to drop out after about
walking       ½                      mile. She returned to the lodge. Pete was the only
one keeping up                       with me and he did remark that he was happy to see
that I was at                        least breathing hard. Those of you who have hiked
with me know                         that I am neither a fast or strong hiker. You can
imagine how                          slow and weak these people were if I was the one
walking away                         from them. I suspect Pete was a couple of decades
younger than I was and he just didn’t want this old man walking away from him. He was
really sucking wind for a while. I did not explain that it was a natural thing to breath hard
when you are at 7,000 feet and are used to living at sea level in the Florida Keys. I
slowed down on the return to the lodge in the morning. Pete kept up with me but we did
lose Joe and Diane. Sue and Anna stuck close to Norayan.

The scenery of this valley is wonderful. There is a type of eagle; at least Norayan says it
is an eagle, which hunts in packs. It was easy to see that it was some form of bird of
prey. One look at the beak and talons proved that. It was fawn in color with a white
throat and white trailing edge feathers. I saw up to eight of them circling a field and then
each dived and picked something up in its talons. I spotted a kingfisher but Joe was
talking so loud that he scared it away before I could get a good look at it. There were also
lots of crows. These crows had a gray neck and appeared at first to be a pigeon because
of the different neck coloring. We saw bamboo and ferns growing side by side. There
were lots of small leaf rhododendrons in the fields along the road. It must be beautiful
when they are in bloom.

Norayan announced at lunch that we would take another short hike after lunch. Diane
didn’t even show up for that one. It was Joe and Anna, Susie, Pete and myself. Bill and
Carmen were also no shows. Bill was probably still recuperating from the morning walk.
I give him credit for making it to the turn around point. Norayan sent a bus to bring him
back to the lodge.

That night the stars were fantastic with the Milky Way being visible from horizon to
horizon. Dinner was a Thanksgiving feast, Nepal style that was minus the turkey,
stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.




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The following morning we left early so some additional shopping could be done on the
way to the airport in Kathmandu. Unfortunately, we went to a place to shop and we
arrived before the stores were open. Instead of waiting around we went back to the
Thamel, did a quick bit of shopping and then on to the airport. International flights in
both India and Nepal requires a minimum of 3 hour arrival before flight time. We were
just a little over that. The itinerary called for us to fly to Delhi and spend about 6 hours at
a hotel before we returned to the airport for our flight to Frankfort. Once again we stayed
at the Taj Palace. This is where we had the Chinese dinner I mentioned early in this write
up.

The group seemed to be falling apart by this time. Joe could not understand that he
would have to arrange for his own wakeup call. Bill could not understand why he had to
leave the hotel at 11 PM for a 3AM flight. Diane looked like an old washed out hooker.
Her clothing consisted of sweatpants and a man’s sleeveless underwear top. Carmen has
managed to alienate Diane by telling her she shouldn’t be so bossy and calling her a
bitch. Sue and I were just ducking for cover. The party was over.

The flights from Frankfort to Los Angeles to Phoenix to Tucson were all jammed and
uneventful. Once in Los Angeles it was possible to drink water from a fountain and
understand the announcements at the airport. Since we arrived in Los Angeles early we
were able to arrange an earlier set of flights home.

The trip is over. I reiterate that I am glad I went. I am even happier that I am home.

Traveling to India has one benefit not yet mentioned. From this point on future planned
trips will have to be an improvement. I just can’t imagine any other place in the world
that could be as dirty and backward as India.

Will I go back to India? “Never say never”, is a good rule to follow. Who knows; maybe
someday I will be on a plane that is hijacked to Calcutta.




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