India, 2019

 

Barbara and I arrived late last night (November 16, 2019) on the same plane as many or even most other people on this tour. Because we were flying Premium, we were off the plane and waiting for our luggage for some time before the rest of them showed up. I think there are about 24 women on the tour. None them are frauds as I am. At the end of the day today as we headed back to the hotel, the director – Margot – handed out some fabric to be made into patches by the end of the tour, as well as large number of sheets of quizzes. I gave the fabric to Barbara, and put the quiz aside. It’s a foreign language and I have no need nor desire to learn it. I’m just delighted to be here in a new country with Barbara.

The security at the hotel was and continues to be amazing. The bus gets stopped at the entrance whenever it leaves, or returns, and mirrors are put underneath it to check it out. The tyres are checked – in fact anything that could potentially be harmful is checked.

Then all our luggage and hand luggage is put through a scanner, and we – all us lovely ladies – are scanned too. The girls doing this have been not exactly thorough, but it is nice to not have the airport air of assertiveness about the process.

Today we spent the day checking out various parts of the city. It’s got a population of 22 milion in about the size that London occupies.

The traffic is absolutely amazing. Today is the first day in about 2 weeks when the murk has cleared enough to let the sun shine through a little, and so everyone was out and about today. And of course, it’s Saturday. There are cars, and buses, and trucks, and motoroised tuk tuks, and man powered tuk tuks as well as lots and lots of men on motorbikes and/or scooters. Sometimes, there’s only one person on the motor-bike and sometimes, there are 4 or even more.

There don’t seem to be any road rules. There are few white lines on the road to delineate the lanes, and the traffic just goes anywhere. Today we sat on the road for about 45 minutes. We didn’t move. There was traffic to the front of us. Traffic to the rear, and traffic on either side. But the photos you get to take from the bus window when it’s basically stationery can be pretty amazing.

There are so many people, and there’s just so much colour, that it beggars descriptiion. I had expected both, of course, but I realised that I hadn’t expected there to be so much colour.

The tour group is, of course, all women. There are 4 of us from New Zealand – a mother and daughter from Auckland (or just north of there) – the mother being an avid quilter and the daughter being not. There is also a woman from Perth who isn’t a quilter or fabric person of any description too, so I’m in good company.

The local guide who will be with us for the entire trip is Shaitan Singh, and he has a great repertoire of “dad” jokes. He’s full of information about all the religious of India, and about India as well.

One thing I noticed today that I hadn’t expected is that there were no smokers on the streets. It’s not allowed in any except designated spots. Having said that, I did see one man today in a “booth/shop” light up, but he was the total exception. The streets are of course littered with plastics of all descriptions, but we’ve been assured that that is becoming illegal too . . . . . . although not quite as fast as many people would like. There is a LONG WAY to go to sort out the garbage situation.

Tonight, we had our welcome dinner. Barbara and I sat with Liz from Perth (who used to live in Zimbabwe) and Meg from South Australia. The company was very entertaining, and the food was good too.

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The dish was delivered to all the placings, and other things were added. The 2 dishes front and left were very tasty without being too spicy (my lips didn’t burn) The garlic naan confirmed once again that I don’t like naan bread. It was tough and tasteless.

Before dinner, Barbara and I went to the bar for a drink. We had a gin and tonic each. The total cost for the 2 was 3459 rupees which translates to about $75. I guess we won’t be doing that again. Food is cheap. Alcohol is not.

On the drive from Delhi to Agra, Shaitan talked about a huge variety of topics. And I made a point of taking lots of notes because I wanted to record as much as I could of this trip – because that’s what I do. I like to write, and travelling means I have lots to write about.

I took all the notes on my iPhone. In Evernote. What I suspect I didn’t do is click off the document. No matter what I did, the end result was the same. The heading for the notes was still there, but nothing else. Bugger! So I’m trying to recreate all the information from memory which isn’t very reliable.

Shaitan starts off the day with a “dad” joke. Yesterday’s joke was about a guy who had the choice between having Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. He choice Parkinson’s because it was better to shake the glass of wine all about, than to not be able to remember where the wine was! Today’s joke encompassed the fact that there’s a fort to check out today, and another one tomorrow when we head to Jaipur. By then, said he, we’ll be fortified.

Then he told us about his experience with an arranged marriage. In his caste, the dowry is paid by the bride’s father to the groom. He had 9 offers of marriage. When we exclaimed that that was a lot, he said that the guy who took the photos at his wedding, had 40. So maybe not. His grandfather as the head of his family had discussions with the heads of all the families where marriage proposals had originated. There were a number of reasons why various girls were rejected. Sometimes, it was a legitimate reason in their eyes – the caste wasn’t the same. On other occasions where they didn’t want to offend the family, they used incompatible astrologies as the reason. Eventually it was whittled down to one girl.  Shaitan was 23 and she was 19.

It’s all so convoluted. Her father offered 1 kg of gold and a car as the dowry. BecauseShaitan has a number of sisters, all possible suitors for their hands were delighted, because accepting that level of dowry augurs well for what his father will offer for his daughters’ hands in marriage.

A date was set for the wedding which had good auspices. And finally Shaitan and his wife got to meet. But he still didn’t get to see her as her face was covered. One thing that he kept on mentioning during the story was 5.4. His father-in-law mentioned this number, and Shaitan  didn’t know if it meant her height or what it meant. On the day of the first part of the ceremony, it was evident that 5.4 wasn’t her height. She’s actually 5.1, but can make 5.4 with heels on.

Shaitan is a Hindu of the warrior caste (more about them later), and in the caste tier, that’s the second layer.

The wedding can last for days and days, and all the relatives come to stay. They all need to be fed and housed. It’s not until the 3rd day that her veil was lifted and Shaitan got to see his wife for the first time. Their marriage has been successful in that after 10 years they are still together. They have 1 son who is 6. Shaitan  will not have any more children. He said there is a move in the Hindu community in India to restrict the number of children to 2. This doesn’t apply to the Muslims. The population of India is growing at the rate of Australia’s population (about 25 million) every year. Shaitan joked about needing to beat the Chinese at everything. He is very aware of the reality of population growth and the devastation this is causing mankind and the planet.

But back to the wedding. It’s a huge cost to both the families. Bearing in mind I lost all my notes, the above isn’t too bad for recollection. But there were many more finer details I’ve missed because I can’t recall them.

The other thing he talked about at length was the caste system.

From my recollection of teaching about life in India many years ago, and, of course my small knowledge of Indian history, I really thought the caste system was abolished in the 1940s. Apparently not.

There are 4 main castes:

  1. Brahmins
  2. Kshatriyas or warrior caste
  3. Vaishyas
  4. Shudras

The main castes are further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.

Outside of this Hindu caste system were the untouchables. These are the people whose duty it was to clean the animal skins.

Inter-caste marriage is frowned upon although it does still happen. However, the couple usually end up being shunned by everyone.

On the drive southeast yesterday, we started to see cows wandering wherever they wanted. As they are sacred to the Hindu, they are treated with considerable respect. When making bread, for example, the first batch is for the cos, and so they know where to go. We saw them yesterday meandering towards a sweet shop knowing that there would be sweets put out for them.

Along with the cows are the water buffalo. Everyone treats them warily and with respect. If there’s a cow wandering across the road, the traffic stops, but the cow’s course and behaviour is predictable. The cow will never change its mind, turn around and head back in the opposite direction. The water buffalo on the other hand are not at all predictable, and everyone gives them a very wide berth.

We also saw blue bulls which are a member of the antelope family. With the farmers’ crops, these animals are pests as they wander at will, and eat the crops.   Shaitan was telling us about his experience with them on his family’s farm of about 350 acres. He’s resorted to using electric fences which are solar powered to try to keep them out of the crops.

Before going to our hotel yesterday afternoon on our arrival in Agra, we went to the village of Kachpura. This is a small, poor village which has been built with a great view of the Taj Mahal from the top floor of their houses. Ostensibly, that was why we were taken there. We were told that we were “special” in that not many people get to go to this village.

We were conducted around the village by one of the men of the village, and then swarms of children. We had to step aside for land mines (not the kind that lept into your head, but large piles of pooh!), cyclists, boys on motorbikes, men on motorbikes, cows, water buffalo, goats (the meat of which can be found in many restaurants as “mutton”).

I’ve been put in this position before in a number of countries on a number of continents, and I don’t like it. I find it confrontational and I end up feeling like I’m the one on display to be pointed at and jeered at. It’s as if we are walking through a village in a condescending manner – we’re big, fat, white people and we’re here to show you how marvellous and important and wealthy we are.

We had been told in no uncertain terms NOT to give the children anything, but that didn’t stop them for asking for chocolate, biscuits and sweets.

And of course, we weren’t the only white people in the village. As we left, there were dozens of buses disgorging all manner of race and language, but all wealthy enough to be visiting India. And, of course, we all paid for the privilege of doing so. The trip to the village was part of the paid tour.

The photo below is of the man who guided us around his village, and some of the dozens and dozens of children who followed us.

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By the time we finally arrived at the hotel, it was about 6.30. Time for Barbara and me to go in search of a drink and something to eat. We opted to stay in the hotel rather than join a small number of people who were going to a local restaurant to dine. As it turned out, they got more than they bargained for. After having dinner, then ended up at a Muslim wedding festival – I have no idea how, and didn’t return to the hotel until 1am.

Barbara and I finally found the bar (it wasn’t all that easy and we never found the bar we went looking for in the first place) and had a vodka instead of gin – a much cheaper option. We ended up having dinner in one of the 3 restaurants in the hotel. The dishes we chose were delicious, but incredibly spicy. Thank goodness for yoghurt and raita.

Today we were awake at 5 so we could be on the way to the Taj Mahal by 5.30 and at the gates when they opened. I suspect that   Shaitan hadn’t expected as many people to be there. We waited and waited, and eventually, Barbara decided that she was missing the best light, and walked off to get some photos before the sun came up. Her photos are truly amazing.

The Taj Mahal was on my list of places to visit. So I’ve ticked that box too.

I have to confess, however, (and this is a comment made cautiously) it didn’t make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

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After lots of walking, lots of photos, and lots of dodging other people, we were back on the bus to the hotel for a much needed breakfast. And now as I’m writing this, it’s only just after 1pm, and it feels like it should be at least cocktail time. That’s what getting up at 5am does for you. Thank goodness I don’t have to do that very often.

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Textile Tour, 2019.

Shaitan says he gets lots of jealous looks and comments from other guides when they see he is travelling with all these women!

At dinner in the hotel restaurant the night before we left Agra, we were sitting next to 2 couples who were speaking English, so, as you do, we engaged them in conversation. They are indeed, from England, York to be precise. One of the 2 men was VERY engaging and VERY cheeky. So they (he) gave us heaps about beating us in the World Cup, and Barbara, quick as a flash, retorted with the routing the South Africans had given them. We never learned their names, but that wasn’t necessary. An entertaining hour was had by all.

Yesterday on our meanderings around Jaipur (more later), I was dodging people and trying not to get in the way when I was accosted with a giant bear hug from the aforementioned Pom. We laughed, exchanged some banter and moved on. It was an amusing interlude in a trip so far filled with so much.

Before I write about the expedition from Agra to Jaipur, I want to say a bit about India (or the very small part of it that I’m visiting) as a whole. I expected to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, the dirt, the rubbish, the poverty, the colour and the smells, and, of course, the heat. I don’t feel any of those things. Sure I’m grateful (as always) to have been born in New Zealand and to live there. But I’ve not been overwhelmed by any of the other things. There certainly are a lot of people, and there’s extreme poverty. I’ve been to Africa. The poverty is no different. That probably sounds very selfish and condescending. I don’t mean it to be. I can do nothing about the poverty and the rubbish.

The thing that’s surprised me the most is the smell. I had expected to find it appalling. Apart from the occasional whiff of sewerage, I’ve not found it to be smelly at all. However, I am sure my friends who have cycled in India would disagree with me. We are travelling an in air-conditioned bus with its own toilet. We are staying in 5 star hotels. I know I’m not experiencing the “real” India, and I’m okay with that. I am enjoying India far more than I could have ever expected. Having a great travelling companion certainly helps.

Most of the time, the temperature is in the mid to late 20s, so quite tolerable even for me. I know it will be different in Mumbai, but we are only there for a day to fly home, so I’m sure I’ll cope.

The drive from Agra to Jaipur was long. We left at 8am and arrived at our hotel at 6.30pm. We had stops along the way to check out a fort, and for food and toilet stops. The drive into the city took far longer than even Shaitan had banked on.

And now we are in Rajasthan – the land of the kings. The land in this province is more hilly than in Uttar Pradesh (which we’ve just left) where crops abound. We drove through thousands of acres of mustard which will be harvested about March. 80% of the population of India lives in rural areas, so, as we are only staying in cities, we aren’t really getting a look at how the majority live. 90% of people in rural areas use mustard oil for cooking. In the food, I had already identified that something tasted different, and I now realise it was the mustard oil.

Even the colours of the saris are different here – many more oranges, yellows and reds.

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As we drove slowly into the city, Shaitan told us that this is wedding season. We saw so many wedding arenas for want of a better word – areas decorated with bright colours. There were decorated elephants, and horses everywhere, with bright lights and loud music abounding. The location for the wedding can cost half a million rupees – and that’s without any decoration. So the location alone costs $10,000 to £20,000 without adding the cost of decoration, music, all the trappings, food, accomodation for 100s of people . . . . And I thought weddings in New Zealand were expensive.

 

We were due out for dinner in a local home at 6pm. It was well after 7 by the time we got there. And what a treat. The lady of the house is the same caste as Shaitan. She and her husband have 1 biological daughter who was married in April this year, and 5 foster daughters who mainly came to her as babies. We didn’t find out anything more about the daughters and it didn’t seem appropriate to ask. She talked whist serving rum (made locally) about their life, and each daughter introduced herself.

The youngest one sat at the table I was at – she was fascinated by my hair, and wanted me to take her photo, and to show her photos of my family.

Shrimi (I think that was how her name is spelled – the hostess) showed us how she makes the cauliflower dish and then we got to try it. The food was delicious. One of the dishes was chicken (with lots of bones) and the rest of the dishes were vegetarian. Dessert was what I think was a sweet rice dish with pomegranate seeds in it which popped in my mouth when I bit on them. I had a second glass of rum too . . . . and why not?

i thanked the hostess for welcoming us into her home, and complimented her on her daughters and the hosting abilities. None of them held back. They all engaged with everyone. She told me that that is the reason she hosts the dinners – to make they become capable women.

Everyone on the tour agreed that this was a much more pleasant experience than the visit to the village.

Yesterday we went to the Amer Fort. What an amazing complex this is. The sheer number of tourists – not only foreign, but also lots of Indians – was mind-blowing. Amer Fort – or it is sometimes known as Amber Fort – is where the kings lived before the 1800s.

And it’s huge. It’s impossible to encompass the entire fort in one single photo. There are walls around the fort as well, marching up the hills and down into the valleys which are very reminiscent of the Great Wall of China. There are even towers at various locations along the wall too.

Inside the fort, there are courtyards everywhere – Shaitan was adamant that we not wander off because he was afraid he would never find us again. So we wandered into one courtyard, had a look around, then together made our way to the next.

The old water catchment area above was enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Imagine walking down those stairs with a vessel for water on your head, but imagine even more walking back up with a full vessel. No hand rails. Mind you, the water was a bit murky.

Tourists being carted around by elephants. They mounted outside the courtyard, walked around one section, turned around, walked out, and dismounted. Poor elephants.

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The photo above is of the first courtyard taken from the second one. You can just see on the right where the elephants enter.

There were gypsies dancing in one of the courtyards but I was more taken with these girls in their beautifully coloured saris.

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One of the courtyards had a garden in it, and mirror walls. The courtyards were all on different levels too.

There were lots of steps and even more ramps. On one occasion as we were walking down a ramp of stones, I had a vision of my falling and starting an avalanche of people. It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight, but fortunately I managed to maintain my footing. Many other women made a similar, although not as graphic, comment. So I was pleased it wasn’t just me who found the walk down challenging.

We had all had to go up to the fort from a parking area in “jeeps” – not British ones, but Indian versions. So we had to find the right jeep to go back down again. It was good to see the bus, and especially the water bottle I had left behind as I decided I didn’t want to carry anything except my camera.

On the way back into the city we stopped for photos at Jal Mahal which is a summer palace in the middle of a man-made lake.

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Once back in the city, we went to the City Palace which is the residence of the current king and his mother. While the others went to have a look at the textiles, I decided coffee was a better idea, and, along with Shirley and Liz, we trotted off to the place where we were all to have lunch. The restaurant was positioned so there was a wonderful breeze wafting through the entire outdoor area, and it was very pleasant.

Shirley and Liz are amazing women who have had amazing lives. They met in Rhodesia (which they call Rhody) about 50 years ago. They both now live in areas around Perth. Liz’s husband (I think he’s number 2) is in a wheelchair. Shirley who is a crafter asked Liz to go with her on this tour. Shirley was born in Hong Kong and was sent from there along with her mother and sister in 1941 to Sydney. From there, they ended up sailing to England with a ship-load of Italian prisoners of war, and some Americans whom they picked up along the way from a ship that had been bombed. She ended up in Rhodesia with her late husband, Peter, right up until the Mugabe era. It was only when her children ran into the house to tell her that there were bullets ricocheting around the back yard, that she said it was time to leave Zim as she called it – Zimbabwe. And of course, they had to leave everything behind. They were allowed to take only $1,000 with them by law.

It’s easy to tell that both these women are used to a totally different way of life with maids, and cooks, and chauffeurs. But they are both pragmatic about it.

After lunch, there were two options: bazaar or hotel. Barbara and I chose the bazaar. We were on a mission to get fabric for Barbara, as well as a variety of gifts we want to take home. The pressure to buy buy buy was overwhelming. All these women were disgorged from the bus, and the sellers pounced. I swore that if one more man stood with his %^$&ing drum banging it in my ear and telling me I could have it for 200 rupees, he would end up wearing it. Barbara didn’t need to come to my rescue as I restrained myself.

It was actually quite fun deciding on some things to purchase (in one case, I had chosen 2 t-shirts, and tunic top) and being told the price was 3500 rupees – about $76. He came down to 3,000 rupees as a “very special price, just for you”, and I said no deal. He then asked me to nominate my price. I said 2,000 rupees (about $43) and he was so vehemently opposed to that suggestion (I need to feed my family etc etc), that I just put the items down, and headed for the door. I got to the doorway before he agreed to my price.

The purchase that pissed me off the most was a set of puppets (Jane, if you are reading this, these are for you!!!). He started at 2000 rupees. I said 1000 rupees. He said no, and I walked away. He ran after me, and I purchased them for 1000 rupees. ($21) Then about 5 minutes later he offered me a set for 650 rupees, and even later still to add insult to injury, 350 rupees. Maybe it wasn’t the same man, but I did feel rather ripped off that I could have purchased the same thing for $8. Barbara was gracious enough to tell me that the $8 set were actually much smaller . . .

I got some silver bangles as well. By that time, my wrists were a little swollen. Who knew a salesman could get the bangles on me with the aid of a plastic bag over my hand? They slid on easily. Interestingly enough, I had to take them off in the shower with the aid of soap. I put them on the end of the bath (this room has a shower over the bath) and when I collected them this morning, still damp of course, there was a sizeable rust mark on the bath. Hmmmm. Silver? I think not.

With bags stuffed into bags, stuffed into bags, and wishing we’d brought a supermarket bag with us, we had had enough. We still had 30 minutes before the bus was due to return to collect us, so we decided a tuk tuk would work for us. 200 rupees ($4.30) and a hair-raising, bumpy ride later, we were back at the hotel, hot, sweaty and ready for a cold drink or a shower, or both.

Barbara decided she wanted to buy some new spectacles, and at 5pm a group set off for the spectacle man. Barbara returned a couple of hours later (I was in the bar drinking a Mojito) having purchased 2 pairs of prescription glasses for $60 each!!! They will be delivered to the hotel tomorrow.

Today, it’s Thursday.

The “artists” amongst us have gone off to do block painting. So I’m in the room writing. They will return to collect me and whoever else didn’t go, for lunch and the afternoon’s entertainment. A silver merchant and a Bollywood movie.

Today is Saturday, and we arrived in Udaipur late yesterday afternoon after spending all day on the bus from Jaipur getting here.

Back to Thursday afternoon’s activities.

We set out from the hotel to get lunch, and then to a jewellery store. We went down a back alley, past dogs meditating – that’s what Shaitan calls them. Actually, they are asleep, but they are almost as precious as cows and so are well looked after even though there appear to be thousands of them.

Those who chose the buffet for lunch were able to eat straight away. I chose soup, which I still haven’t had. After about an hour, Shaitan went to find out what the holdup was. The “chef” had had enough for the day and gone home. By the time we got to dinner, after the movie, about 8pm, I was beyond hungry. Fortunately for everyone else, however, I don’t get hangry. Shaitan was incredibly apologetic, but as I continually pointed out to him, there was nothing he could do about it.

The man below had “flashing” eyes. I have always heard and read about flashing eyes, but now I’ve seen them. He was very flirtatious – although it’s possible he wasn’t intending to be, but his eyes were definitely flashingEBCFB0CA-BBCC-4EC5-9E71-99BDDF047DF7

 

So at least there was entertainment.

We then trotted off to a jewellers. Below is a photo of other women on the trip trying to search in their bags for their “whispers” so they could hear what was going on as the man talked with us about the precious stones in their unpolished, uncut state. I had coffee and watched the performance, until Barbara called out to me to get my opinion on some jewellery she was intent on purchasing. I think I helped. Some women bought an amazing number of items. When I realised that the thousands I was looking at on the price tags were in Australian dollars, not rupees, I was no longer interested. There was a turquoise ring I liked the look of, but reminded myself that I already have one of those at home. And besides the price was 3,500. When I thought it was rupees, that’s only about $65 NZ, but then I realised it was AUD $3,5000, I totally lost interest.

From there, we went to the movies. There were hundreds of people waiting for the doors to open, including lots of school girls who were fascinated by the dyed red hair of one of the ladies (but not by my blue/purple hair) and wanted their photo taken with her.

The movie storyline wasn’t obvious except that the hero, and the baddies were really easy to pick out. The acting was dreadfully overacted, the continuity was totally lacking, the opening scene of the movie was also the end of the first half (which was when we left), but the audience participation was entertaining. There was lots of boohing and hissing at the baddies, and cheers for the swarthy looking, supposedly handsome (definitely to the audience and him) hero who always had a match in his mouth. Oh dear.

I found the seat terribly uncomfortable. And if that was the only movie theatre in the city to go to, I would never darken its doors. I had been looking forward to lots of dancing Bollywood style, but there was none. There was a Beyoncé style dance from some girls, and a romantic dance as a dream sequence, but that was about it.

Dinner was at a roof-top restaurant, with some loud live music and some bored girls dancing for our entertainment. It was at least 8pm by the time we got fed, so we were more interested in our meals than the dancing, sadly. I had chicken jalfrezi which had lots of capsicum in it.

I had had a runny nose/cold a couple of days ago, and as expected, it headed straight for my chest as my colds always do. I was cross with myself for not bringing the Vitamin C with echinacea tablets that I always use to ward off a cold. My throat was very sore yesterday, and of course, Barbara got it too. So we were both pretty subdued on the bus yesterday and quite pleased for a travel day.

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The photo above is of a rural wedding which we passed along the way.

Loud dance music was emanating from the truck on the right, and there was lots of dancing going on as we slowly drove past. Some of us waved our arms in the air in time to the music which entertained the men. And, as it was getting close to sunset, there were lots of cows on the road wandering back to their villages for the night. This time of the evening is called “cow-dust” time because of that (ie the dust kicked up by the cows at they meander back).

Udaipur is touted as the “Venice of Italy” and there are lots of lakes, but we’ve yet to see any canals. It’s also famous for its enormous statue of the Hindu god Vishnu.

It’s still under construction, but it is 310 metres tall.

 

 

I did manage to get the above photo of the sunset. It looks like there are 2 suns, and I wasn’t able to figure out where the second image came from. It’s certainly not a trick photograph, but an actual photo of what appeared in the sky.

I did ask questions yesterday on the bus. Shaitan has been very specific about the fact that ANY question at all about ANYTHING will be answered to the best of his ability, as long as it’s not about craft. So I asked about Hindus and meat. It used to be that that old cows were carted off to the slaughter house, and the meat was sold to Muslims (at least 20% of the population of India is Muslim). But then there were a number of incidents where the people in the slaughter house were murdered because it was thought that they were selling beef to Hindus which is totally unacceptable. So the slaughter houses were closed down. But that still leaves the problem of what to do with cows that are old, infirm or not able to produce milk. Shaitan said that the beef is exported, and Dr Google agrees. 18% of the world’s beef supply comes from India. Who knew?

Some Hindus eat mutton (which is goat for them), chicken and fish. They do not eat sheep meat because they consider it inferior to goat (fat content is definitely less in goat than sheep).

The province of Kerala – in the south west of India –  is a Christian province, and therefore, beef eating. I didn’t ask, but I imagine this makes it difficult for Hindus to visit as they shun even the stoves, and utensils used in the cooking of beef. I did ask why cows are so sacred, but didn’t really receive an answer, not because Shaitan was prevaricating, but, I think, simply because he doesn’t know. They consider it sacred, but it’s not a god and they don’t worship it. Many Hindus are, of course, vegetarian. So, as with Christians, there are many different sects of Hindus.

Today is our “look around” Udaipur day, with some miniature painting in the afternoon. Barbara and I informed the powers that be yesterday that we would not be joining any of the day’s excursions except the cruise on the lake this evening for dinner. So we awoke at 8 (unheard of for us so far on this trip – it’s always been 6.30) and wandered off “at leisure” for breakfast. Then, while our room was being cleaned, we went and played a few hands of Bridge, and since then, we’ve been downloading and editing photos, and I’ve been writing. A good way to spend a Saturday methinks.

 

Oh, and there’s one other thing. Barbara and I both had our palms read last night. What I find interesting is what he told me about me just from my birth date, and looking at the lines on my palm. There was, of course, some generic stuff that might have been obvious to someone in the know, but there was some specific stuff as well.  Just looking at my palm now, I realised that despite a shower last night and again this morning, I didn’t have a very good wash, as I still have blue dots on my palm. He told me about my what he called “negative” marriage, he told me about my 2 sons, one of whom didn’t stay with me for very long, and the other of whom is a lovely, gentle caring man, and he told me that I would live till I’m 93 and then just go! What more could I ask for. He didn’t find any health problems at all in my palm. He did suggest that there would be a new relationship in my life between now and September next year. And 2027 would be a year filled with travel. Hmmm. He also said that I would continue to work until my late 80s! I found it all most entertaining.

This evening we went putputting around the lake and up into a canal. I had thought we were dining on the boat, but alas I was wrong.

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So it was back to the bar eventually, and then Barbara and I had soup in the restaurant being served by one guy who plays cricket and was a fan of one of the NZ cricketers, and another guy who admired my hair.

Life is good.

Yesterday (Sunday), we spent another day on the bus getting to a new province and a new city. We did, of course, stop for toilet breaks, lunch and a visit to a sari museum (which I found very tedious and boring – but looking at the glazed looks of many of my fellow travellers, I don’t think I was the only one). Barbara told me last night that this is the first time this tour has taken place, so, as the test dummies, I guess it behoves us to provide lots of feedback. To my mind, as a NON-TEXTILE person, I think it’s even more important for me to do so. I will be gentle. Had there been workshops where we were actually being taught how to do things and then being given the chance to have a go, I think it would have been better, not only for the non-textile people, but even more so, for those of us (and there are 4 non textile people on the trip) who aren’t.

We left Udaipur at 8.30 am yesterday, and arrived in Ahmedabad at 7.30 last night. The last 2 hours were spent getting across the city to our hotel. This city has a population of 6.5 million. I think all of them were on the roads last night, and as Indians cannot drive without their hands on the horn, the cacophony was overwhelming. And the honking, and tooting achieves nothing because no one appears to take any notice.

However, being captive on the bus for the day did give me the opportunity to get some questions I’ve been saving up answered.

The quantity of vehicles on the road, and the quality of the driving has continued to amaze me, so I wanted to know if the vehicles all have to be registered and have warrants of fitness. They do. And what about licences? You have to be 18 to get a driver’s licence at which I scoffed. There are rules about the numbers of people in vehicles, and the age of drivers all of which are ignored. We’ve counted 20 people in a tuk tuk made for 4 or at most 5 people. We’ve seen 5 people on a motorbike. We’ve seen a man riding the motorbike, with a child on the tank in front of him, and child in the arms of the woman behind him, and a child in between them both. And no one is wearing a helmet. It’s compulsory to wear a helmet. Really?

On the road today, we did see a couple of policemen with speed cars (I know! That was what they were called). They had stopped people for speeding. Evidently the fines are hefty. But in all the time we’ve spent on the bus, that was the first time, we’ve seen policemen.

The speed limit for trucks and buses on the open road is 60kph. No wonder it takes us so long to get anywhere. For cars, it’s 80kph. There are toll booths everywhere. On yesterday’s trip alone, we must have stopped at at least 20. In the lead up to the toll booths, there are speed humps which are not just little bumps, but very deep and high. If anything drove over them at even a normal speed, the passengers would be airborne because, of course, no one (not even us on the bus) wears a seat belt.

The other thing I asked about was education.

There are government schools and private schools. The government schools have highly qualified teachers, but no equipment. So no stationery, no furniture, no cleaners, no security. Shaitan’s son who is 6 goes to a private school because of the cleanliness and security of the school.  He commented that “everyone” goes to university because you can’t get a good job and especially not a job in the government without a degree.

But later, when no one else was around, I quizzed him more closely and finally got out of him that education is not compulsory. We’ve been on enough roads now, and through enough rural areas to realise that there is no way it can be. And I also quizzed him about the “university” comment. I bluntly told him (in true Madeleine style) that I don’t believe that “everyone” goes to university. He made no more comment. The caste system is so strong still in India, and Shaitan is in a privileged caste, that I think he’s a little self-conscious about his fortune because the tourists he travels with have made him aware of this. There is no way the “untouchables” go to university. They probably don’t even get to school because it’s not possible for people from a higher caste to associate with them. This means there would need to be separate schools for them, and that certainly doesn’t appear to happen.

We are now in the province of Gujarat which is 80% Muslim. So no vodkas as an evening aperitif. The colours of the saris in this province are totally different.

The greens are very predominant and very green. But the reds and oranges are different too. Shaitan reckons, however, that if we come back in 5 years, the colours will all have vanished. Many people are wearing western clothes, and that trend will continue. I suspect the rural areas will stay more colourful for longer, but Shaitan said that the trend is definitely more urban as well.

The program today didn’t interest either Barbara or me, and besides, we’re still coughing up a storm, so we decided to give it a miss. After a leisurely breakfast, we went in search of the mall we had seen last night on the drive to the hotel. The concierge said it would take about 5 minutes to walk there, but he lied.

It took us at least 20 minutes to walk there, dodging beggars, sleeping dogs (do not awaken a sleeping dog we had been told on Day 1), a dodgy, broken footpath with all sorts of obstacles on it, motorbikes parked on the footpath, a non-existent foot path in places, and a 32 degree temperature. By the time we finally arrived, it wasn’t really a mall at all, but a supermarket with extras. On the ground floor there were all sorts of grocery items, and on the second floor up a a travelator which only started as you stepped onto it, there were clothes, kitchen utensils and luggage. That was what we were after.

When we get to Bhuj tomorrow, we have to make sure that the bag we are taking on the plane when we fly to Mumbai on Saturday weighs no more than 15kg. As Barbara has purchased rather a large amount of fabric and is ever hopeful of purchasing more, she wanted another suitcase so that she could put 2 on the truck to Mumbai and just keep what she needs. And I confess the bag which weighed 13.7kgs when I left home probably weighs more than 15kgs now, so we will combine forces and send all excess in its own suitcase.

Back in the food section, Barbara got some bananas and chocolate, and I purchased some nuts, and also chocolate. On every other tour I’ve ever been on, there are always “treats” on long distance drives, but not on this tour. So I bought lots of chocolates to share on our last long bus ride tomorrow.

We must have looked a treat on the tuk tuk ride back to the hotel – the suitcase on the seat in between Barbara and me, and the pair of us hanging on for our lives as the drive of said tuk tuk drove firstly down the wrong side of the road, then almost wiped out a woman on a motor-bike before doing a U-turn on 2 wheels. Whew. The ride was 50 rupees which is about $1.

On returning to the hotel, we checked out the shops in the foyer. What a treat. I ended up getting the remaining gifts I wanted to take back with me along with my obligatory silver ear-rings. That’s what I collect  –  at least one pair of silver ear-rings from every trip.

Then in the evening, after dinner, Barbara decided that we should check out the mall in the other direction. This, indeed, was a mall. The walk to get there was different in one exceptional way. We had to cross 2 busy roads to get there. We dutifully, on each occasion, waited until we had a green walking light, and crossed the road. However, we quickly realised that a green walking light didn’t necessarily mean we were going to be able to cross the road without interference. It would appear that the green walking light is only an indication to traffic to give way to pedestrians, and not a requirement. And of course, we still had broken footpaths, sleeping dogs, and beggars to contend with. But this walk was only a 5 minute walk.

It was 8pm and the mall closed at 9pm. (No, we weren’t there when it closed.) There was a dress that Barbara liked in one of the shops. She asked to pay for it with her Visa card which was acceptable. So we waited, and waited, and the man trying to take her money, said a sentence which involved slow net or some such. After about 5 minutes, Barbara offered to pay with cash, having been given her card back. Suddenly the price was 500 rupees more. The dress stayed exactly where it was, and we left. That was very strange, and neither of the attendants in the shop spoke enough English to make us understand why it should cost more for cash!

As we left the mall, there were a number of tuk tuks outside. Barbara asked the cost to get back to the hotel which we could see from where we were standing. 50 rupees was the answer. I don’t think so, said I. And so taking our lives in our hands once more, we crossed the 2 main roads and made it safely back to the hotel.

Today is our last day in Ahmedabad. Barbara has gone off to do the day’s activities, and I’ve declined. I’m not interested in going to a calico museum where you’re not allowed to take photos, you have to take off your shoes, and the person talking about the fabric is, according to all the people who went yesterday, very boring. This afternoon, they are going to a village. I’m betting it’s another “parade the wealthy foreigners in front of poor people” excursion. One was enough for me.

Just as an aside, here’s an observation I feel the need to share. I bought a dress before I left home. I thought it would be cooler than pants and tops. I’ve not owned or worn a dress in more than 20 years. There are 2 things to remember about wearing a dress. You MUST trust the elastic holding up your knickers 100%. You must realise that your legs will stick to any non fabric surface. Extracting said legs from non-fabric surfaces results in an upper leg wax free of charge. Ouch!

When we left Ahmedabad yesterday morning, it was soon very obvious that we were heading west into totally different country. There were lots of crops that grow in poor soil: castor oil, dates and cotton.  And then, as we drove closer to the coast, there was kilometre after kilometre of salt plans. Usually, by this time of the year, there would have already been two “crops” of salt taken, but with the monsoons being late this year, there hasn’t been sufficient drying for any salt to be collected.

There were also a very large number of wind turbines in this area with their blades turning lazily. Shaitan, when asked about electricity generation, said it’s all hydro- electric. However, a query on a Goggle revealed that 71% of India’s power actually comes from thermal power plants (hugely different from ALL hydroelectric. The “thermal” comes from goal, gas, diesel and natural gas.

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You can see from the map (the blue dot is where I am) not only how close we are to the sea, but we’re also only about 500 kms from the border with Pakistan. And Mumbai, where we’re going on Saturday, is only a 2 hour flight away.

We passed a number of camel trains today. The camels belong to a totally different group of people. Most of  the camels were being lead by women, most of whom were dressed totally in black. The camels carry their bedding and in some cases there were either lambs or kids on top too. They were just lying there, not trying to stand up, so this method of transport must be the norm for them.

They (the people – not the camels whom, I imagine, are totally indifferent to whatever is going on) do not like to have their photos taken because they were told that westerners take their pictures and sell them for lots of money. Must have been National Geographic photographers I guess.

Bhuj was struck by a 7.7earthquake in 2001. We saw lots of broken buildings, but then again, this is Índia. We’ve seen lots of broken buildings everywhere. Between 13,000 and 20,000 people were killed, but it doesn’t look as if the building codes (what are they I’m sure they would ask?) have changed.

Barbara was unnerved when walking through the old palace. There were cracks everywhere and towers that looked like they would tumble down with a strong gust of wind.

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The accommodation wherever we’ve been has been sumptuous: clean, large rooms with king sizes single beds, lots of clean towels, lots of drinking water and clean well organised, well stocked restaurants. Everything was spotlessly clean. Because I’ve repeated the word “clean”, I’ll bet you’ve guessed where I’m going.

In Bhuj, for 3 nights, we’re staying at RE:GEN:TA (that’s how it’s spelt) resort. This is a spacious area with lots of gardens.  The accommodation consists of chalets scattered around the place, and blocks of rooms. There’s a solitary golf cart to take all the guests around the resort because it’s hilly and the spread-out nature of the establishment means it’s quite a long way from the rooms to the restaurant. And . . . . the place is vegan.

All the above would be tolerable if the rooms had been the type of room to which we’ve become accustomed. But they are not. Granted, our room does have 2 king sized single beds, but the walls are dirty, the floors are dirty, the shower is brown and slimy. There are 2 dirty plastic chairs and a small dirty plastic table, but they are all variously missing feet, so they wobble. Everything is so dirty. There are 26 of us. There are numerous other guests (in fact, I think there’s a wedding taking place here this weekend and they go on for 3 days). The place feels as if it’s not been cleaned properly in years.

Had this been the first place we stayed, we would probably have said “this is India”. But we’ve been spoilt. My report will definitely say that this tour is around the wrong way. We should have flown into Mumbai. Then there would be no luggage issue. Because there’s a 15kg weight restriction on the flight to Mumbai, almost everyone has had to send luggage today by road to Mumbai at a substantial cost. This was only mentioned a week before departure. My way would have meant that there wouldn’t have been time to buy lots of fabric (Barbara has one suitcase full). In addition, the rest of the accommodation would be a very pleasant surprise. Ah well!

On returning from the day’s activities, we were greeted by Margot and Shaitan who wanted to inspect our rooms. They had complained to the general manager who had been instrumental in having the shower curtains replaced, and the rooms being thoroughly and properly cleaned. The GM didn’t stop apologising. He said he wants to keep having Western guests which won’t happen if there are lots of bad reviews. After talking to some others, it sounds like our rooms were the only substandard rooms. That, of course, doesn’t make us feel any better.

During the day, Barbara had asked to go to the bazaar, and this evening, Shaitan made that happen. We had our own guide and driver, and went for a 20 minute hair-raising ride into town. The market was really authentic in that we were the only two western women there. While Barbara was choosing fabric, the guide went off and bought us some fresh samosas, with minced up dates, tamarind seeds and spices. They were delicious. Then there was an equally hair-raising ride back to the hotel in time for dinner.

We’re now in Mumbai, ready to fly home at 11.30 tomorrow night. We then have a 12 hour layover in Singapore and arrive back in Christchurch at 10.40 on Tuesday morning.

The last day in Bhuj was actually my best day for the whole trip. We headed west towards the Pakistan border (Bhuj is only about 135 kms from the border), to a number of villages. The first one especially was totally different from anything else we’ve seen in India. This is of course a fabric tour, and the purpose of going to the villages was to check out their fabrics.

The first thing noteworthy about this village was its cleanness. There was NO rubbish anywhere. The “dirt” that can be seen around the house above is actually a mixture of cow dung and clay which is replaced every couple of months. But it’s made the whole place clean and tidy, and of course it’s kept that way.

The colours were amazing. They are quilt makers mainly, and the women in the photo at the top of the post are actually making a quilt that was spread out on the ground.

The three women pictured with the quilt were making it on the ground, stitching the sides, tucking in the stuff that goes into a quilt (I’m not a quilter so I don’t have the technical terms, and I’m not going to ask in case someone thinks I might be interested). They had created and designed it, and were rightly proud of it.

We did see a few kids running around with school bags on their backs. In that area, the older kids go to school earlier in the morning and then a “bus” (it was really a tuk tuk) turned up at 10.30 and the younger kids went off.

The whole time we were watching the women work on the quilt, there was a man just sitting watching the proceedings (the photo on the left below). The women didn’t actually talk to us at all. They didn’t seem to know any English, but the man who escorted us, had a good command and was able to explain things really easily.

The two men above sang a song for us which was very long. I recorded it if you ever want to hear it. If I can figure out how to edit it, I might even post a little of it. The guy on the right is – so we were told – a very famous and successful singer. (Why was he sitting in the village playing for us was the question in my head – fortunately it stayed there.) He kept on flicking his hair and smiling at the guy on the left so maybe he was singing him a love song. Who knows?

And then we were invited into the shop . . . . . . . which was of course why we were there in the first place. Bearing in mind we were given a 15 kgs weight restriction on our flight to Mumbai, I was stunned to see so many women spending so much money on such weighty things are bed quilts. In terms of weight, they would be far too light for a Christchurch winter, but I guess they would be warm enough in many parts of Australia. There was no denying, however, how colourful they were.

After lunch in a “resort”, there was more shopping to do. Had the group known there were going to be so many opportunities to shop, they might not have spent so much in the first village. Nah! They were all shoppers. They would shop until they dropped.

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The fabulous Shaitan purchased the above waistcoat at the second village and paraded it for us. He’s off to his cousin’s wedding next week and will wear it then. He wasn’t looking forward to the wedding at all. It’s 3 days of sitting around, and he will be sober as he doesn’t drink. The worst thing for him is having to listen to the stories of his male relatives over and over again as they get drunk.

On the way to the third village, we came across a caravan (?) of camels. Actually, I don’t suppose they can be called a caravan because they weren’t carrying anything. So it’s probably a herd? I guess I could google and find out, but quite frankly, I don’t care. The truck in the photo on the right was a milk truck. True. The open cans of milk had a man standing alongside them swatting away the flies. Even truer.

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At the next 2 villages, I didn’t get off the bus. I had had enough of quilts and seeing grown women ogle over them.

Back at the hotel, the promised “treat” were delivered over dinner. When Barbara and I had talked with the General Manager about the appalling state of cleanliness in our room, he had thanked us for bringing it to his attention, and also promised some small tokens of his apology. So we were served beer (non-alcoholic of course) and snacks with dinner, and entertainment afterwards.

We were treated to a couple of hours of Indian music played by the gentlemen on the photo above. The guy on the right started dancing and tried to encourage the women from our group to participate. Eventually, Denise took him up and started dancing, and then the driver of our bus (whose name I never did find out) and Raj (who was the right hand man of the bus driver) turned up, and they started dancing. So there was a party going on. Barbara and I snuck off and left them to it.

Early on Saturday morning we drove to the airport which is a military airport (I guess that was to be expected considering its close proximity to the border) and so we had to pass through 2 levels of security in order to sit and wait, and wait, for the plane to take us to Mumbai.

Mumbai is very much like Delhi only hotter and more humid. The humidity wrapped around us like a cloak as soon as we exited the terminal. Because we were too early to check into the Airport Hilton, we were dropped off at a Mall (the largest in India – whoopdeedoo!!) to fill in time until we can go to the hotel. I would have much preferred a 2 hour tour around Mumbai which no one (except us) is going to see anything of.

Toilets first, then lunch, and for about 30 minutes I trailed around after Barbara who was shopping, and eventually I suggested that I would just go to the spot where we were being picked up and let her go off shopping to her hearts content.

Last night, we had the farewell dinner which was very pleasant. The bullshit speeches afterwards not so much so.

The tour was conducted by Travelrite, and Australian company, and led by Margot (a German Australian with a love for fabric and shopping). Chris Jurd is apparently a famous Australian quilter who name was given to the tour. I’m assuming that because she lent her name to the trip, she was getting a freebie. She apparently publishes books, and takes courses all over the world on quilt making and their patterns. Bearing this in mind, I would have thought that the quilters who make up most of the tour would have had the occasional workshop with her. She did hand out patches and a pattern for a little box (Barbara made up the one that was given to me) as well as a multi page quiz (mine when in the bin in Jaipur). And on long bus trips, she did pull names out of a hat (not literally) and had out prizes. EVERYONE on the bus got one – EXCEPT (you guessed it) me. So at dinner last night (remember, we are no longer in a dry province and so I had had a couple of vodkas – in fact the 2 double vodkas that Barbara and I had last night cost about $230 – I kid you not.) when everyone was doing a show and tell of the best thing they had got in India, I pointed out that I had been the only one on the trip who hadn’t had a prize. I did check with each of the other non-fabric people first just to make sure. Chris didn’t even apologise. She just said she would slip it under my door before she left this morning.

Margot was the sort of person who in my opinion (just reinforcing the totally obvious here) couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. On one occasion on the trip, where Jackie had been left behind when we went on the boat cruise on Lake Pichola, the first words out of her mouth after the tearful phone call from Jackie, were “That will be a bad report for me!”. I couldn’t believe that she would voice those thoughts. Sure, she could think them, but to actually vocalise them amazed me. (It was Jackie’s fault she had been left behind. We had been told a million times what the departure time was, and she missed the boat. Tough!)

Margot seems to be driven by the need to get good reports. And, here’s the kicker, we have been given no report to fill out. So what was the point in worrying about it? She was supposed to be the tour director, but it seemed to me that Shaitan did everything she was supposed to do (it was he who talked with the General Manager about the state of our rooms, not her, although she wittered on about them).

Shaitan as you will have already realised was the person who made this trip.

I had expected dust, dirt, smells, rubbish and people. I did get all those things (although not so much in the smell department). But I got more than that. A cold that went to my chest which has meant I’ve coughed and coughed and coughed almost the entire trip. It is getting better, but I will still have it for at least a week after arriving home.

But no, I won’t remember this trip for that. I will remember the colour. I had never expected that and that has surprised and amazed me. I did get to see the Taj Mahal, and although I’m pleased to have done so, it’s not what I will remember about India.

Oh. And one other thing. I will remember the cost of alcohol in India. Indians do not include taxes on any prices, and so a 300 rupee shot of vodka costs more than double once the taxes are all added.

As our flight doesn’t leave till 11.30 tonight, and as we’ve not had the chance to look around Mumbai, we decided that we would do so today. Barbara had already talked about this with the front office of the hotel, and then we met Shaitan at breakfast. Hey presto, 10 minutes later it was all organised. He was even there to see us off, and tell us how much to pay. We had a small 14 seater bus – a trifle excessive for 2 people – with fabulous air-conditioning, and a driver.

We set out and about 40 minutes later, we made our first stop where the guide was waiting for us. And so for the next 3 hours, we had a personally guided tour around a few of the sights of Mumbai.

This is Dhobi Ghat where about 100,000 items of clothing and linen are washed every day. It was gob-smackingly amazing, and we wouldn’t have seen it without our mini tour. It was founded by 140 washer-men about 100 years ago. Because of the monsoon season where there’s a lot of rain, they now have some industrial machines especially for drying. But watching them move clothes from one bath through a series of baths to clean water was amazing. Most of the washing is done between 6 and 9am, then dried, ironed, folded and returned. Amazing.

Our guide was a young man called Suffi who was anxious to show us Mumbai. But we knew he had been told by Shaitan what we were to see, and anything else was an additional extra.

Did you know that “Slum Dog Millionaire” didn’t do well in India? That was because it was too realistic. Indians do not like to be presented with their lives. They like to totally escape into another world to get away from their lives. So Slum Dog was too confrontational. One of my favourite Indian movies is “The Lunchbox”, but Suffi hadn’t even heard of it. So the Indians like their movies to be over the top, where the hero has bulging muscles, where the acting is cringe-worthy to a westerner (ie me), where there’s lots of romance, dancing and singing, AND where every one of the goodies lives happily ever after.

The first thing I noticed about Mumbai was how European it all looks. Of course, that’s because of first the Portuguese and then the British and their various influences on the architecture. Granted it was Sunday, but the roads weren’t as hectic, the drivers actually seemed to obey some of the road rules, there was no constant tooting of horns, and a vastly reduced rubbish/garbage problem. We were both sad that the rest of the tour group didn’t get the chance to investigate the city too.

The taxi picture on the right was to show a gutter with no rubbish. I ever saw lots of people with rubbish bags and brushes and shovels cleaning up the streets. The taxis and tuk tuks here are on the whole all black and yellow. And there are no beaten up tuk tuks. There were still lots of side-saddle saris though – women sitting as a pillion on the back of a motorbike sitting side-saddle.

Because the hotel is at the airport, in order to get anywhere, we have to leave the airport area. However, around the airport at all the slums where Slum Dog was filmed.

Blue tarpaulins seemed to be the order of the day in terms of roof covering. The city has tried to “clean up” some of the slums by building tenements elsewhere in the city and encouraging people to move out. But, although they do, they then rent their particular space to someone else, and so it continues.

Suffi said that the locals will go to the beach AFTER dark for a swim. This is because they don’t want to make their skins any darker. And of course, Muslim women wouldn’t be allowed there unless they were fully dressed. As an aside, I remember when I was in Zanzibar (Muslim country) in 2012 with a room right on the beach, being awoken at 6am with the sounds of many voices. On peeking at the window, there were dozens of women and children all going for a swim fully clothed.

The entire city was covered in a haze which meant that the view of the city – on one occasion we climbed a million stairs (ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but remember, my lungs aren’t working well at the moment, and the slightest strain on them makes me cough. It took me a long time to climb 7 flights of stairs) to have a “panoramic” view of the city.

We also stopped at a sports ground dedicate to the sport Indians of all races and creeds love – CRICKET.

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We checked out the hanging gardens. I’m not sure but I think it’s the Farsi sect who put their dead bodies out on platforms to feed the birds. The hanging gardens is where the water reservoir for the city is. It used to be open to the air, in this area where the bodies are put out, but the birds would drop pieces of meat into the reservoir thereby polluting the water. So the whole reservoir was enclosed and a beautiful garden grows right across the top.

We also checked out the Jain temple (another Hindu sect – these followers are of course strict vegans, but in addition, do not eat any root vegetable, so no onions, no garlic, not potatoes, etc). This temple was built by a very rich Jain who had a blind mother who lived in the area. He gave the money for the temple on the proviso that there were bells rung at 6pm every evening. The Jains only eat once a day at 6pm every evening. The bells’ tolling would enable his mother to know that it was time to eat.

The Gateway of India. All visiting royalty (British of course) to Mumbai have to pass through this gate. This is another borrowed photo as it was totally closed and covered in for a naval activity.

The Crawford market – all 7200 square metres of it. Suffi wanted to take us for a walk through it, but we’re all marketed out.

So he drove us by the most expensive house in Mumbai. There are 11 storeys to this house with 1 entire family (there will be several generations living there) occupying the entire building along with their 700 employees.

Having completed our tour, we then returned to the hotel where we stayed in our room until the agreed checkout at 3pm, and then went and found a quiet comfortable lounge with a small table where we played Bridge until it was time to head to the airport. One of hotel girls was fascinated with the game and asked lots of questions, and checked back often with us. Even as it was, we were still 45 minutes early at the airport and had to wait around till we could drop of Barbara’s 3 suitcases and my 1. I’m pleased to say that my suitcase weighed in at 13.7kgs when I left home, and weighed in at 15kgs for the flight home. My record for many years in terms of luggage weight remains unbroken.

Thank you, Barbara, for asking me to go to India with you. It was an awesome trip, and the best part was getting to hang out with you for 3 weeks.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Barbara says:

    Excellent. A great basis for one of your books, I suspect.

    Like

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