Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magic Carpet Ride

In front of Humayun's Tomb
I am often asked about my trip to India and I will be doing my best to convey as best I can some of the highlights of my experiences there and what was a most wonderous time of life for me...

When I arrived in Delhi I felt at first that I engaged a very dense wall. A stagnant weather system has settled in the area and a thick cloud of arresting pollution immediately captivated my senses. I tenuously made my way  through Indira Ghandi Airport and out into the lobby ready to go full throttle forward into the crowd of taxi drivers clustered at the airport entrance. I see my name on a card, Mr Nicki Musick and yes that must be my ride. I felt a trusted acknowledgement of "everythings ok"  from the drivers and once we were off into the thicket of traffic, I began to notice other smells in the air that were of spices, wood fires and oh yes..holy cow.

Indians like to honk. I was amazed at all the honking but unlike the drivers in the big cities of the USA, they are not raising their fists and shouting obscenities. They are just honking. I think "Indians are the worst drivers in the world". But I change my mind. "Indians are the best drivers in the world". They can go fast and then stop a hairs breadth behind a bumper with great skill. I notice sometimes there are two lanes bound one way but sometimes there are more!

Women and children are in the middle of the thoroughfare selling flowers and with every traffic jam they run to the vehicles and back. I see dirt smudged toddlers hugging the traffic dividers with their wide eyes rolling back and forth under their brows in an alarmed search for the return of their mother.

Lotus  Center
It seems holy cow permeates. Holy cow is the essence of so much. Curd, crap, milk, butter, fodder for the fields. Having started out life on a farm, I found the smells different and disagreeable at first. Cow shit in the USA smells better.....but no, just different. My body had some adjustments to make at first with jet lag weariness due to the previous 14 hour jumbo jet ride over the arctic and the foreign  micro kingdom I am being  exposed to. Once on the ground I go into a spin of nausea. I finally reach the hotel I had booked  considered one of the best in in the area. It had a kind of victorian old world hospitality and some of the amenities I am used to. I was so tired when I arrived and a deep sleep had victory over excitement and anticipations for the days ahead.

Connaught Place
The next day I felt acclimated and well adjusted. I have the feeling that I have come home. I am graciously ushered to the cafeteria next door and have tea, dhal (spicy lentils) and a sweet bread in syrup. While I eat I gaze out on the streets filled with people who are hurrying at the start of the day and as I gaze I relish the unusual sights. Rickshaw cabs, person powered bicycle cabs, families on motorcycles, modern people, traditional people, saris, turbans, bangles, exotic women with beautiful henna artistry on their person, children, dogs, cows and goats running amuck, beggars and choosers. I take a vote of confidence and head out the door over to a tuk tuk (cab).The cab driver doesn't speak much English and proceeds to take me on a longer route than I had requested. But since I am so curious about my surroundings and I know where I am I let him the reigns. So, the fellow drives up to a tour shop and leads me in and I sit down and cheerfully tell the business owner that I am here out of curiosity but do not care to take his tour for the entire day for all the rupees he is requesting. He responds "of course Madame". I discover the cabbie is a fisher for the tour owner and I am learning fast how to get around. So I tell the cab driver, "ok, this is where I want to go and what I want to do. (Before I left home I failed to get my ducks in a row with global ready settings and what I managed to acquire before I left the states was lacking). I did not have a GPS, but remembered from all my reading where the things I was interested in were.  I had an amazing stay in Dehli, even though I had to haggle with the cab driver about fees. That was when I remembered you should haggle about fees first. I always felt a measure of warmth and humor when I encountered these kinds of shady transactions. I just figured exploitation for many Indians was the thing to do. It was something ingrained by the British, a normal thing, and many Indians have a long road to travel for the jaded perception of "profit" a word that is often a euphemism in my country. Not to be hungry comes first. Besides one dollar is 50 rupees! I enjoyed a lot of the time paying more. I gave away lots of rupees especially to mothers and children.

I loved the shops I visited and Connaught Place a shopping area seething with deals on everything. I visited a rug shop and fell in love with the sales clerk. He spent two hours showing me beautiful paintings of portraits of royal dynasties of India and landscapes. And he was very gracious when I told him I felt like I was in a magical place and asked him if he knew about flying carpets. He gave me such a beautiful smile and put large men to task with many an unroll and undulating wave of the most exquisite ones that just might have taken off if no big men were around.  He gave me advice on many of the clothing articles and gifts I left with and was understanding that I couldn't pack a magic carpet in my duffel, that I would forever dream about them. I didn't tell him I would dream about him too.  He was so handsome. His eyes were so dark and he was wearing patent leather shoes tightly pointed with a slight curl.

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