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India travelogue

  • Submitted by: Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper
  • Submission Date: 07th Feb 2005



Mark's Preface: Am I glad I went to India? Yes, I think so. India is wonderful. And India is terrible. It is spectacular and at times
disgusting. Did I enjoy my trip? Well, I have been to something like forty
countries and I would say that the most negative experiences happened to us
in India of any of our trips. Positive experiences--and some were very
good--were the minority. I am glad I could go to India and see a very
different culture and a very different people. Evelyn and I went to India
with the same sense of wonder with which we approach any country. And as
someone who enjoys having his cultural assumptions challenged, I found India
very stimulating. However, if a tourist looks American, if he looks
European, my recommendation is that he should not try India on his own. No
country I have visited treats visitors nearly as badly as India does. Of
all the countries we have visited, the one in which we encountered the
highest proportion of pushy and rude people is India and no other country
comes even close. Perhaps things are better if one takes a packaged tour.
But the assumption made in India so often is if you look American is that
you are rich, stupid, and an easy target. Not that the problem is crime.
Evelyn and I found crime relatively easy to avoid. More than once people
tried to pick my pockets but found the pockets they could reach were empty.
But in India your life is made miserable by being swarmed wherever you go by
people trying to sell you things, by cab drivers sneaking commissions from
the places they take you, by beggars, by children wanting gifts of pens and
rupees, by shoeshine boys throwing fresh (wet) cow manure on your shoes and
offering to clean them for a price (two consecutive days). The operative
words are 'mercenary' and 'aggressive' and incredibly 'rude'
and 'inconsiderate.' None of these people seem to target anyone but who
they assume are rich tourists. When there are three Indians and two
Americans in a train car and a beggar woman reaching through the window
spends five minutes begging from Americans and does not even bother trying
the Indians, it is easy to see what is happening. In this trip log you will
see that initially I treat the subject whimsically, but as time goes on and
fighting off people becomes an unrelenting necessity, it begins to wear on
me. It may not be obvious, but the descriptions of warding off hawkers
become less and less good-natured. It seems like a minor annoyance to just
tell someone no and walk away, and with 98% of the hawkers that is all that
is necessary. But the volume of that 98% and the persistence of the other
two percent just about whenever you are out in public, when you are in your
hotel, and just wherever you are is a very wearing thing. Indians touring
their own country where immune from being hassled. So if you look like you
are American or European, my strong recommendation is do not try India on
your own. Perhaps a tour group that can at least partially insulate you is
a better idea. India is one of the most stimulating countries in the world
to visit, or could be if the Indians would allow it to be, but it is a long
way from being an enjoyable trip. I feel a sense of pride and
accomplishment having visited India on our own. And I feel I have a much
better understanding of that part of the world, its culture and history.
But it is not clear even to me if that means I had a good time.




October 6, 1993:




Well, this is certainly the most adventurous trip
we've undertaken: three weeks in India on our own. We've been to exotic
places before, but usually with an organized tour. Southeast Asia we did on
our own, but there were five of us. All those constitute training for this,
we guess.

Excerpt from Mark's log: I am *not* a happy camper. We have never had
a trip start with such a bad omen. The trip is still 23 hours off and
already it is starting badly. I saw a mouse run across the kitchen floor.
We did have a problem with mice about a year ago. One had burrowed its way
into the foundation of the house. We started finding leavings (that's a
polite euphemism for mouse shit) in our den. Every day we would come home
and there would be leavings on the floor, or more accurately on the carpet.
Eventually we saw the critter but catching him turned out to be a difficult
task. We saw him under a bookcase but could not force him out. We watched
very closely, but somehow the mouse just disappeared. Several minutes later
we saw him in another room. Mice are dark and they move very fast. It is
like seeing a small shadow cross the floor. We called an exterminator, but
the thought of killing the mouse bothered me very much. Luckily we saw him
run out and discovered two holes at the foot of the patio doors. I stuffed
the holes with steel wool and that ended the problem. Mice hate steel wool.
It is worse than barbed wire would be for us. There is too much chance of
damaging their eyes. If they cannot easily push it aside, they just avoid
it. So that was the end of the problem. And it was a nice non-violent end.
Ahimsa is the Indian name for the non-violent way of life.

But finding a mouse hole takes time, and there was now no time for
that. We saw this mouse only twelve hours before we were leave the house
for three and a half weeks. We figured that means the mouse must be killed.
I went out and bought four mousetraps and baited them with peanut butter. A
little while later we saw the mouse run into the living room. It followed
the wall around and went into the 'pink room,' a bedroom we use as a library
of books about literature and cinema. The door closes very tightly, so we
closed it and the mouse was trapped. Or at least we think so. If we open
the door about a foot wide we can get in watching the floor very carefully
and closing the door almost immediately. We laid down newspaper across the
floor and put in one trap. I suspect the mouse will avoid both the paper
and the trap, but maybe that will tempt the mouse and give it a quick end,
though a mouse is smart and I suspect it will escape and do more damage
while we are gone. I wish there was a solution that would not kill the
mouse. Ethically, I think it is wrong to kill a mouse to avoid the
inconvenience it will cause. But I won't rationalize the action. I used to
work with someone who cheated on his taxes and had some argument why people
really should cheat on their taxes if they can. The guy probably did not
have a single ethical principle he violated. It bothers me when he violates
his own principles, but I have some consolation in knowing that I have
principles to violate, though admittedly it is more consolation for me than
for the mouse.

Well, that wasn't the best start. I promise to stop philosophizing
until I have written ten more pages. Of course, my pages are probably
shorter than your pages. I carry a pocket-size memo book on these trips to
write my log in. I wrote most of the above in the wee small hours of the
morning. Those of you who have read my logs before know that I have his own
weird way of avoiding jet lag. Most authorities tell you to get plenty of
sleep. I find what works for me is to keep myself awake the whole night
long the night before a very long flight. The next day if I keep active I
don't feel tired at all, though I recognize that I really am on the edge of
sleep. If I am doing something like typing at a terminal, my mind will go
off on a weird tangent for a second. It seems logical to me but suddenly I
realize that it was really something weird. I will look up and see a row of
K's across the bottom of my screen and realize I dozed off for just a
moment. (Needless to say, if you intend on driving, forget it. Jet lag is
much better than traction.) That may happen to me three times the next day,
but it is reassuring that I have a ready store of a useful resource--
fatigue. When I finally gets on the plane and relaxes, as much as one can
relax, I fall asleep. I have been known to sleep through take-off. This
for someone who usually finds it very difficult to sleep on planes. When I
wake up I have confused my internal clocks. To unconfuse them I just see
the position of the sun on the sky and accept it. I find if I keeps active
then I have almost no jet lag.




October 7, 1993:




Mark's log continues: So I was up all night watching
films, reading, folding laundry, that sort of thing. Except for three or
four ten-second naps I was able to put in almost a full day's work. Of
course, we had to leave at 4 PM. And of course there were a fair number of
people who were asking about the trip. We have six hours in Frankfurt.
Just to sound worldly, I called it 'Vronkfurt.' You could see them do a
double take. Does he speak German with a German accent? Is he that well-
educated? Is he just being an asshole? Actually, I'm just being an
asshole.

Of course, we get the usual question: where is the rest of our
luggage? We try to travel light, maybe twenty-five pounds (eleven
kilograms) each. Any more than that and you won't want to carry it all over
India. People talk about how they would like to go off and explore another
culture. Then there are those who ask why we would want to go to India. I
don't quite like Evelyn's answer that if you don't know, we can't tell you,
though there is some truth to that. If you are not intrigued by a really
alien culture and the thrill of culture shock, it cannot be really
explained. I think part of our fascination with non-Western culture is that
it is new to us as adults. It is sort of like the same phenomenon as
reading Kipling or Dickens as an adult. They are fresh and exciting when
you are reading something new, but you can never really appreciate those
pieces of Dickens or Kipling you were assigned to read in school. It spoils
their writing to be forced to read them too early. Well, perhaps the same
thing goes for culture. In school we came in contact with Western culture a
lot and were expected to know it and to have some understanding. But our
schools taught us next to nothing about Asian culture. That has kept it
fresh and new for us to experience when our minds are ready. People read
about Tolkien's Middle Earth and become enthralled by the completely
realized and self-consistent alien society that Tolkien has built. But
there are fully realized alien societies that you can actually visit. You
can experience firsthand a society with different cultural assumptions. And
because, perhaps unfortunately, our society demands little knowledge of
Asian culture, you learn it without pressure and can take the time to enjoy
it as you would Kipling or Dickens. The world you are visiting might as
well be fantasy for all the demands our society puts on you to know of it.
And as for the intrepid explorers who visit these cultures for twenty-five
days, we really are the people I wish I could be more like. I would have a
natural envy for the most world-traveled people I know, the person who has
seen all the strange temples of Egypt, of Thailand, of Mexico, of Rajasthan.
But as it happened, that's I. (No, I am not all that pompous, but I do like
to travel and I do recommend it if at all possible.)

I can just picture what all these places look like from memory and put
them into a perspective and continuum that contains all of them. Let's just
say I not only want adventure in alien lands, but I also like being the
person who has the adventures. And particularly in India and Southeast Asia
the price is surprisingly economical. Why India? Not in spite of but
because it is a barely understood alien world. And I mean *really* alien.
I want to go from understanding 1% of India to perhaps 5%. I frankly don't
understand why there aren't a lot of people doing what I am doing. And
Hinduism is to me a genuine enigma. It is a modern religion with the
complexity of a modern religion. But it is the only modern religion that
has visual imagery like a god, Ganesha (a.k.a. Binayak) with an elephant
head. (I really don't mean that as an insult even if it came out that way.)
But visual imagery like that is the mark of an older religion and very
rarely of a religion still living. After all, you certainly see imagery
like that in ancient Egyptian religion.

Hinduism also gave rise to the cult of the Thugee, which modern
Indians treat as an embarrassment. In fact, the Thugs (from which we get
our word 'thug') are perhaps one of the most intriguing chapters in the
history of religion. They are a real challenge to anybody's notion of
religious tolerance. Clearly this was a sect that deserved to be stamped
out as much as any religious sect of relatively modern times. We are
talking about a serious threat to non-believers.

It was the belief of the Thugs that Kali demanded her believers to
murder. The name 'Thugee' really means 'Deceiver.' They would find a party
of merchants on the road and say that the roads were unsafe and beg the
protection of the caravan. They would then ingratiate themselves with their
hosts and be rather charming, all the while watching for special signs in
nature that they would take as good or bad omens for the upcoming event.
When the time was right, they would whip out rumals (like scarves in which
they would knot coins in one end so that with a quick whipping they could
wrap it around their victims' necks). In seconds and silently every non-
Thug would be strangled or attacked with a ceremonial pick-axe. When all
were dead, they would be buried and the proceeds of the caravan would be
split up. There might also be ceremonies in which sugar called 'gur' would
be ritually eaten. The victims were almost never foreigners. I have heard
it said that while the British were exploiting India--as they themselves
freely admit they did--they did do two positive things for India. They
build the railroads and they suppressed the Thugee. The British were
distressed at the amount of crime on the roads but assumed it was random.
If I remember correctly, the fact that there was a strangler cult was told
as a single complaint by an Indian to a British missionary. The missionary
was incredulous but was able to confirm that there was something to the
story, and he passed the word on to Major General William Sleeman. He
started his own investigation and found out not only was it true, but it was
a genuine holocaust. Estimates are that millions had already been killed
without anybody guessing it was a single conspiracy.

Modern Indians tend to downplay the importance of a cult that murdered
millions of their own numbers. Why is enigmatic. First of all, most of the
Thugs were Muslims, not even true believers in Kali. Secondly, the Indians
were the victims. It may be because it was the British who did the most to
suppress the cult.

Anyway, back to the present. Finally 4 PM came and we were off to the
airport, getting a ride from Jo Paltin. Newark Airport had a nice little
display of Newark air memorabilia. Lufthansa had a long table of newspapers
for boarding passengers to choose from. That was a nice touch. Besides
leaving from Newark instead of JFK, Lufthansa also gives us frequent flyer
credit on United for the United States-Germany legs of the trip.
The plane is an A340 Airbus, our first experience with them and with
Lufthansa. We really like it. There are a lot of clever touches. Rather
than one screen for the video program there are four on a single bulkhead.
The probability that people in the aisle would block all four is remote.
There is more room in the seats (though Evelyn still found sleeping
uncomfortable) and in the storage. The earphones are real earphones driven
by wires rather than columns of air. That means they can be more
comfortable. Each person just puts on new earpads. Of course, it's tough
to get those babies on correctly. One of Mark's fell off at one point.
Evelyn was done with her earphones and gave them to him. We are told that
sharing earphones is one way to spread hearing AIDS.

When the video monitors are not showing a movie, they have a
computerized map that shows you your progress. It flashes on the bottom
what city you are flying over (e.g., Runnymeade). (Bet they wouldn't tell
you if you were flying over Lockerbie, Scotland!) The food was fairly
decent and they came by several times with beverages. Evelyn's meal is
special: Asian vegetarian. Mark ordered a Hindu meal. They were identical.
Dinner was vegetables on rice in a nice sauce. Really not too bad.




October 8, 1993:




We left Newark at 7 PM (well, 7:30 PM actually--there
was a long queue to take off) and arrived in Frankfurt about 8:30 AM. Mark
had asked Evelyn if Frankfurt was in East or West Germany before the re-
unification. It was West, of course, or they would not already have a fancy
tourist airport. There were a lot of East German tourists, of course, when
the wall opened but they were only East German for a short time.

Well, at this instant we are about 43% done with the travel from work
to our hotel in Delhi.

The plane landed at Frankfurt. Since our departing flight wasn't until
1:35 PM, we decided to see some of Frankfurt instead of staying at the
airport. We changed US$50 to DM67.60; the reason the rate was so bad was
that there was a DM10 commission. Well, that's what happens when you change
a small amount.

We checked our bags in Left Luggage (which wasn't easy to find, even
after locating it on the airport map), then got train tickets from the
machines for the S-bahn into town (DM2 each to the railway station, the
Hauptbahnhof). The train takes about ten minutes to get there, and from it
you can see garden plots outside the city that people in the city own,
similar to what we saw in Denmark.

This was not exactly prime time for seeing Frankfurt. We were there
from something like 8 AM to 11 AM. Nothing much was open so we were mostly
walking around to get a feel for the architecture and the atmosphere of the
city. From the railway station, we walked down Kaiserstrasse toward the
Rohmerberg, or old town square, which is the center of the historic
district. On the way we passed Goethe's House, and apparently got somewhat
turned around because we ended up at Katerinkurche. From there we found our
way though (we had a copy of the map from LET'S GO) and found the
Rohmerberg. Some of the buildings had Gothic architecture. One had a big
walkway over the street--what we'd call a skyway--but there would be stone
giants holding the skyway up with their backs. There were a lot of carved
figures in the Gothic style on walls.

The Rohmerberg is very historic looking, with the old town hall, lots
of timbered buildings, and the very simple Nikolaskurche. This latter is in
contrast to the Dom, a Gothic cathedral that is the main attraction in the
area. It is very elaborate and since we wanted to visit it, it was closed
for renovations. (This will not surprise long-time readers of our logs, but
newcomers may not yet be acquainted with Luck of Leeper.) We have seen a
lot of churches and cathedrals on our various trips, a lot more than there
are really differences. Every guided tour in the Americas and Europe
assumes that you have an unquenchable curiosity for seeing churches and
cathedrals. Mark admits that he is not really sensitive to nuances of
difference of these buildings. Not for him.

We wouldn't have had very long for a visit anyway, as it was getting
close to time to return. Other than the Gothic architecture, somehow this
did not strike us as a very interesting city. Of course, two hours is
hardly a fair test, but it seemed like most modern cities. It had a fancy
shopping area and an area near the railway station that was starting to get
run down a little. In fact, we saw a street fight break out in front of us
while store owners looked on to make sure the fighters stayed away from
their stores.

The trip to Delhi was much more of a hassle. Mark suspects that there
is a different standard of service for a run to the Indian capital. We went
to the gate listed for our flight, but then they changed the gate to another
one quite a distance away. There was a long line just to get into the
waiting area. They kept us waiting for about a half an hour before we could
sit down, checking every passport and visa in detail. We met a pediatrician
from Galveston in line who was going back to India to visit his family.

Then it turned out they changed planes on us. And before getting on
the plane you had to point out all your luggage. It was a real mess. Then
when we got on the plane they kept juggling us around because this plane had
different seating. We were asked to move several times. Mark ended up
sitting next to two young children and their mother. The flight was about
forty minutes late taking off. The meal was fairly good Indian food, at
least as close as we can judge it. It was spicier than we expected. Our
friends who think Mark is crazy to like food as spicy as he does will no
doubt realize that he means it as a compliment. The dessert was a sweet
paste, perhaps ras malai. The main course was okra and rice. There was
raita. Not too bad, for a plane. This was the Hindu meal, of course. The
other passengers got lamb and what looked like brie.

We wanted to ask about how to declare what we brought in so Evelyn
found our pediatrician from before the flight. He was sitting next to
another AT&T person who works in Holmdel. Evelyn told him her name and it
turned out he was a friend of Mark's brother David. Ran Bose had met David
at conferences. We were able to ask a lot of foolish questions about India
and have our minds set somewhat at ease. He recommended Bisleri water as
being safe. You have to be careful buying water. Sometimes you get tap
water. Or worse. In a lot of ways you have to be constantly on your guard.
A little paranoia is a good idea for the American traveler.

The plane was something like a hundred minutes late landing and we got
into the airport at about 2:40 AM Saturday morning.




October 9, 1993:




We are told that most international flights to Delhi
get in at weird hours of the early morning. In any case, it was really a
flood of activity at the airport. In retrospect it may have been only from
the one 747 that came in. The line at immigration was very slow. One
German woman little more than a teenager in front of us seemed to be
negotiating something the authorities were not happy about. In any case we
finally got through the line and went to change money.

Indian money is a trip all by itself. The books say to change a fair
amount each time because it takes so long in most banks, but what they don't
say is that you end up with a *huge* wad of money. At the current rate,
thirty-one rupees is one United States dollar. A rupee is about three
cents. The biggest bill you generally see is Rs100. Imagine commerce in
the United States if there were no bills worth more than US$3. You don't
have to be very rich to sport a wad of bills that would choke a horse. We
changed US$500. That means we got a lot of bills. They staple them
together in stacks of a hundred about a half an inch thick. Then you have
to remove the staples and a torn bill will probably be refused. It is a
very big mess removing the staples. It took Evelyn almost a half hour to
remove the multiple staples from one batch we got. We usually hide our
money in chest pouches. This trip the operative word is only place it
there. The bulge in our chests is obviously money. Our understanding is
that is just fine. Nobody will remove it by force. India still has very
little violent crime. If your money is going to get stolen, it will be
quick and painless, without your knowing it until the thief is out of sight.
Or it may be through some confidence game. It will not be through violence
or threat of violence. For the time being, anyway.

The Lonely Planet guide recommends getting a pre-paid taxi at the
pre-paid taxi booth to avoid the chaos outside. Now there are several
booths, moving the chaos inside--though much diminished. We arranged for a
taxi, going to one of the stalls there. The stall to the left was trying to
convince us to take their taxi, which had air conditioning. This is an
extremely commercially competitive country. At least that is a polite way
of putting it. Well, let us be a little more blunt. A lot of the people
you deal with seem really money-hungry, much more than in the United States.
All is fair in making money. On the street you have a constant barrage of
peddlers, beggars, people wanting to take you someplace in their car,
bicycle, wagon, anything. To tell them no is no discouragement.

In each of our first three monetary transactions, people have tried to
short-change us. Again, it is a good idea to be paranoid. Anyway, walking
away from the taxi desk Mark reminded Evelyn to be sure and count her change
for the Rs175 fare. She did, walked back twenty feet to the desk, and
picked up the Rs20 they had short-changed her. Mark didn't even know it had
happened when he reminded her to check her change.

By the way, the Lonely Planet guide was also wrong about where the
State Bank of India was. It's *after* immigration, but still before
customs.

Our taxi appeared to have been left over from the British Raj, and
probably not serviced since then. It may have had shock absorbers at one
time, but we felt no evidence of that.

Even at 3 AM the ride to the hotel was noisy. You are expected to honk
if you pass a truck, for example. There was a fair amount of traffic and
also road construction crews, but also just people bicycling or walking with
bundles on their heads or pulling carts or working or sitting around. And
even at that hour kids are hawking flowers on the road. They were chains of
yellow flowers, but in the reddish light from streetlights even the trees
looked yellow. Maybe you beat the heat of the day by sleeping then and
working when it's cooler. We got to our hotel, the Oberoi Maidens, and
checked in. We got a whole *suite* for our US$75 per night, wrestled
staples out of the money, and finally went to sleep in a real bed about 4:30
AM.

When we made the reservation (only a couple of days before leaving for
India) they weren't sure if we could have our second night here. Luckily,
when we arrived they said we could, because we slept until about 2 PM. Nine
hours of sleep! Mark says he is not sure if his jet lag approach really
worked here, and then adds, (P.S. Sure it did. It was making sure I got a
decent amount of sleep even if Lufthansa's schedule did not allow it. When
I went to bed at midnight I got a pretty good night's sleep and woke up at
6:15 AM feeling it was just about 6:15 AM.)

So here we are, up at 2 PM. Our first sight is the Red Fort. This is
the Indian equivalent of the Forbidden City of Beijing or the United States
White House and capitol. From here the Moghuls ruled India.

We got a taxi and rode through the anarchy that is Delhi traffic. Our
traffic system is basically one of queues and in Delhi it seems more like
one of mobs. There are all sorts of vehicles moving in different directions
relative to the flow of traffic. Horses pull carts diagonal to traffic. It
is a mess. There are some major thoroughfares where the traffic is more
orderly.

The part of town we were in was Old Delhi, as opposed to New Delhi.
Later we will see New Delhi, but our first impressions are obviously based
on what we saw. Evelyn described it as alien, boisterous, chaotic, dirty,
exhilarating, fascinating, glorious, hectic, intimidating, jarring, kinetic,
loud, maddening, noisy, odorous, people-packed, quick-paced, run-down,
scintillating, tumultuous, unbelievable, vibrant, wild, xenobic, yogic, and
zany. Buses, cars, auto-rickshaws (like tuk-tuks in Thailand), cycle-
rickshaws, horse-drawn carts, bicycles, motorcycles, hand carts, people and
even some cows crowd the streets. It's absolutely amazing. I loves it.

When we stopped at the Red Fort, we were besieged by beggars, people
wanting to sell us tours, etc. Stopping the taxi was just like ringing the
dinner bell. We fought our way to the ticket stand. Admission is a
whopping half rupee. That is over a cent and a half American. And there
are guards to keep out the riff-raff. When Evelyn gave the ticket vendor,
she Rs50, she got back Rs9. When she pointed this out, he smiled as if to
say, Oh, you caught me, and gave her the rest of the change. Between
having to count your change and examine it for tears, it's no wonder
transaction go slowly.
Inside things are a lot calmer though there are still a few people
pestering you to guide you, at least until you get past the Hall of Public
Audiences. One scam is to explain that the person is an official guide and
even has an ID with a picture. Take it from us, there are no official
guides and the Lonely Planet guide to India tells you as much as you want to
know. One thing Mark says is if you have the time to visit the Red Fort
during the day and to come back and see the Sound and Light Show at night,
see the show first. It makes the whole visit more meaningful. The show
gives you a more coherent history of the Red Fort. Let Mark refine the
history down to a few sentences: The Fort was built by Shah Jahan, a great
Moghul, from 1638 to 1658. The name 'Moghul' is a derivative of 'Mongol'
and the Moghuls are descended from Mongols. Shah Jahan built this beautiful
palace and later the mosque, and in a fairy-tale sort of life ruled the
people and lived in splendor. His descendents became great lovers of art
and beauty and much less warlike, so when the Persians came to invade they
raped the country three ways to Sunday. They treated India like a treasure
chest that they invaded and raided nine times until the palace and the
country were in terrible ruins. For example, their 'Peacock Throne' was
stolen from here. The emperor refused even to judge disputes that occurred
on the nearby riverbank because he said his empire did not extend that far.
Then the British came. Even Britain admits it exploited India. But Britain
was in fact a mixed curse. Much more than the Spanish, the Portuguese, the
French, or many of the other colonial powers, the British had respect for
the people they occupied. Indigenous religions were tolerated. There were
no conversions by the sword. Indians served in the military and might even
have decent careers. As occupational powers go, England was one of the more
enlightened. Eventually the Indians in Britain's own army led a revolt
against Britain. In May 1857 the Sepoys--the Indians in the British Army--
led the Sepoy Rebellion. The rumor had been spread that Enfield rifle
cartridges were greased with beef and pork fat. The cartridges had to be
bitten to be loaded. The Hindus could not taste beef fat; the Muslims could
not taste pork fat. It was against their religions. It is a fact that fat
was used on cartridges in Britain, but not all Enfield cartridges. It is
thought unlikely that any of the fat-greased cartridges ever got to India.
But it didn't matter. That, combined with Britain's earlier attempts with
missionaries to bring Christianity to India was enough to begin the end of
the British Raj. When the British tried to tell the Indians what they
believed was wrong and what the British believed about God was right, the
British sowed the seeds of their own demise. Oh, they were able to put down
the Sepoys by force. But it made them the Enemy. They could force India to
let them stay, but they could never again be welcome. It took the best part
of a century, but they left India and they left very few Christians. There
is a lesson there but few are willing to learn it. (Boy, am I is getting
preachy this time around.)

Okay, so we went into the Red Fort. It is clear that this was once a
very beautiful set of buildings and that the Persians and others stole
everything beautiful but the architecture. There are beautiful flowers in
the walls and once the blossoms were made of jewels. But the jewels have
been chipped out and what remains is their sockets. Though the outside of
the fort is red (from the sandstone), the buildings inside are mostly white
marble.

We did something that in retrospect may have been gauche. There is a
mosque to visit. Of course, you do not wear shoes and socks into the
mosque. You can check them outside for a price but we were already wary of
being pan-handled so we slipped off our shoes and socks and put them into
our backpacks. At other mosques we had been told it was all right to carry
these things into the mosque, just not to wear them. As we went into the
mosque, the shoe-checker told us no shoes were allowed. But what surprised
us was that when we came out, the shoe-checker made a point of telling us
what we did was all right. The second part still puzzles us. Maybe that's
why the shoe-checker did it. The issue was not the few cents but the
unwillingness to part with the shoes so necessary to the success of this
trip.

Outside the fort, down below the buildings, were fakirs of the
classical Indian variety. No rope trick, but one levitated and one charmed
a cobra (though he seemed to take the lid off the basket only when non-
Indian tourists were watching). They wanted you to throw money down to
them. The levitator lay under a blanket with only his head showing through
a hole. He placed sticks on his body perpendicular to his length. Another
blanket was placed on top and his body seemed to rise under the blanket. Of
course, his head never really raised further off the ground that it would be
if he just stood up. Clearly what happened was that he was somehow able to
stand up and lift the sticks, keeping them horizontal so it appeared that
his body remained horizontal but was in fact vertical. Got that?

Most of the buildings were in poor repair, perhaps since the days of
the Persians, perhaps more recently. At least there was no graffiti. These
days about all the bright colors you see are the saris the women wear.

Two Dutch medical researchers saw we had the new edition of the Lonely
Planet guide to India. The most common book in India seems to be the
earlier edition of the Lonely Planet guide to India. Lonely Planet dates
back to the days of back-packing hippies. There are no more comprehensive
travel guides for low-cost travel. So the last edition is seen all over
India and one of the rarest and the one that gives rise to the most
curiosity is the updated version. Mark had to call Lonely Planet several
times to find out when it would become available. It was due in June, but
the boat from Hong Kong was late. We got the book on what we were told was
the very first day it was available. It has been out only about a month.
Makes a great conversation piece. Anyway, two Dutch medical students saw we
had it and asked to take a look at it. Meanwhile they told us about their
experiences and what was worth seeing. One hot tip was that Jaiselmer was
really beautiful and not well known. This did not help us a lot as we were
already planning on going there.

One thing was a little disheartening. They were doctors and according
to them the probability of getting sick on this trip was 100%. Everybody
gets sick. That's about what we were expecting. We hear a lot of different
theories about what is and is not safe to drink. We will probably stick to
mineral waters recommended in good hotels, Bisleri mineral water, a few
sodas if they look reputable, and tap water seasoned with iodine to kill the
little critters.

Incidentally, in the back corner of the Red Fort is a rather small but
nice museum, showing you the goods of the Moghuls: swords, armor, writings,
dinnerware, etc. Most of the historical information of the Red Fort resides
in that museum. The rest does not tell you much historically.

After the museum (and about two hours of sight-seeing), we went for a
cold drink. Mark got what turned out to be bottled mango juice. Evelyn got
lime soda. (These were Rs7 each.) We also got a bottle of Bisleri mineral
water for Rs15 to take with us. In fine print later we saw that it said,
Retail price not over Rs10.

Most of the tourists in the Red Fort were Indian. There were a fair
number of Europeans, probably some Americans, probably some Australians, and
no Japanese or Chinese. It's really unusual to go somewhere as a tourist
and not see Japanese tourists.

We left the Red Fort about 5 PM. Since you really can't get the feel
of Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad) from a regular taxi, Evelyn wanted to take a
cycle-rickshaw back to our hotel. It cost a little more than a taxi but it
puts you right in the middle of traffic, hanging on for dear life and having
a heck of a good time. It is basically a tricycle with two seats in back.
We were right there in the middle of it all--in this case, all was rush-
hour traffic, so it was even more all than usual. Evelyn observes, One
thing that struck me was the number of drivers who had religious objects in
or on their vehicles, though given the traffic, this might just be
considered an added precaution. One cycle-rickshaw driver even had an
incense burner with burning incense on the front of his cycle! Another
auto-rickshaw had a string of small peppers or other vegetables hanging from
the rear bumper. Many auto-rickshaws and taxis had garlands on the rear-
view mirror or pictures of Hindu gods on the dashboard. Horns were sounded
constantly. People changed lanes every few seconds, jockeying for position.
No, that's not quite accurate, because that assumes there actually *were*
lanes. It was more like a mass of traffic moving in the same general
direction.

Arriving back at our hotel, we had the usual delay in paying the
driver. He had originally asked for Rs50, we had offered Rs30, we settled
on Rs40, and we decided to pay Rs45. But he wouldn't take one of the Rs20
notes we had (it had a small tear) and seemed to feel that it was fair for
us to just give him an Rs50 note and not get change. He did work hard and
it seemed foolish to quibble over Rs5 (sixteen cents), so we paid him the
Rs50. It seems that one should have exact change, as getting change from
drivers is tough.

Neither of us was hungry for dinner so we cleaned up and read. Taking
a shower felt really good, as it had been very hot outside. Normally we
wouldn't have gone out between 2 PM and 4 PM, but that was the only time we
had for sight-seeing today. About 7:15 PM we got a taxi for the Sound and
Light Show back at the Red Fort. The concierge thought it should be about
Rs100, but the driver insisted on Rs120 because he couldn't park at the
fort, but would have to move the car and return later. So off we went into
a glare of headlights. Many of the streets have no streetlights, which
makes the headlights even harsher.

We arrived about an hour warly (the English-language show started at
8:30 PM). So we sat in the snack bar and had a couple more sodas (a Limca
and a Thums Up). Our other choice of activity was a cycle-rickshaw tour of
Old Delhi, as all the cycle-rickshaw drivers outside had tried to sell us
for the hour before the show. But that seems a bit risky, as cycle-
rickshaws have no headlights. It's hair-raising enough in the daytime--
Evelyn isn't sure most people we know would want to do it even then.

At 8 PM we bought our tickets (Rs10 each--there are also Rs5 seats, but
the Cadogan guide recommends the expensive seats and the seller
automatically chooses those for Western tourists in any case). We also
chatted with a couple who had just returned from Kashmir and were headed out
to Bangkok that night. (In fact, they had to leave before the end of the
show to catch their plane.) One was a nurse from Oregon who had been
bringing medicine to Kashmir. She had given some Indian Army officer a
piece of her mind about Kashmir and they had since been making her life
miserable with body searches and luggage checks. There is a big military
presence in Kashmir--India holds it, Pakistan claims it, and there is also a
faction wanting independence.

The Sound and Light Show was quite impressive, with good use of stereo
sound, although echoes off the buildings at times made it hard to
understand. There was even a shooting star, but we doubt that every show
has one. There were also lots of bugs; our insect repellent helped.

What you get in the Sound and Light Show is a one-hour history of India
(and in particular the Red Fort) from the time of the Fort's construction to
the time of Independence. The show closes with the Indian national anthem;
everyone is expected to stand.

After the show the cycle-rickshaw drivers tried to sell us a ride,
claiming the taxi driver couldn't come in to pick us up. But of course he
was there and we returned through heavy traffic back to our hotel. The
circus was just opening that night next to the Fort and so that may have
made the traffic worse.

We decided we really should eat something, so we went into the coffee
shop at the hotel and ordered two vegetarian thalis. They were Rs75
(US$2.50) each, but were the same size as cost four times as much as in the
United States. (Of course, later in the trip we would realize that this was
incredibly expensive for India, but what did we know?) Evelyn also threw
caution to the winds and had a lassi, saying that if we didn't drink
anything we had been warned against by someone, we would die of thirst.
Even the bottled water has its nay-sayers.

We went to sleep about 11 PM. Evelyn slept for a couple of hours, then
lay half awake and half asleep for another three before falling asleep
again.




October 10, 1993:




Mark's alarm woke him at 6:15 AM and it felt to him
a lot like 6:15 AM. He felt like having a good Southern-style breakfast and
they had uttapam and sambar on the menu. Uttapam is like a spicy pancake
with vegetable and peppers embedded. Sambar is a spicy soup. Evelyn had
the more mundane porridge and coffee. Checking out took longer than we
expected, since our credit card was too thin for their machine and the
imprint wasn't coming through. Finally they stuck a couple of pieces of
paper under it and got it to work. Everything seems to take longer here and
always for totally unexpected reasons.

In the taxi on the way to the airport, Evelyn realized she was
definitely a city girl--she found herself wondering anyone owned the cows
in the street and who milked them, but of course cows need to be milked only
when they're domesticated; wild animals manage quite well without people.

It was Sunday, so a lot was closed, especially this early. We drove
down a street seemingly devoted entirely to tire stores. On top of all the
roofs were piles of old tires of all sizes, having one thing in common: a
partial or total lack of tread. The taxi fare was only Rs150 because the
domestic airport is six miles (nine kilometers) closer than the
international one. (The domestic airport, Palaam, used to be the airport
for all flights before they built the new one.)
Palaam Airport was a trip in itself. We looked up the gate and went
straight to it where there was a queue waiting to have their tickets
checked. When we got to the front we were told we had to get boarding
passes. So we went to a ticket window and stood in queue. We finally
worked our way forward. It took about ten minutes to get boarding passes
printed. Most of that time the man behind the desk was apparently waiting
for somebody to do the manual task of assigning the seat. Finally we got
the pass and went back to the gate. We gave them our luggage and it went
through the X-rays. They checked us for metal. Now as Mark says, I was
wearing a photo vest with lots of pockets and each of them had metal. It
made quite a pile. They had me take the batteries out of everything,
including my palmtop computer. (It has a hidden battery to preserve the
memory for a while, but I was desperate to get the batteries back into it as
soon as possible.) They also insisted I take the batteries out of a
flashlight they had given me at work for giving blood and which I had been
unable to find a way to open before. I was desperately fiddling with it,
and as necessity is the mother of invention, I actually discovered how to
get the two halves to slide apart. Finally I passed the metal checks and
put the metal objects (such as film which had the metal cylinder around the
film itself, pens, etc.) back. Just about everything seems to have metal
somewhere. Their detector even found some pills in a plastic bubble pack
with a foil backing. You never know when some terrorist is going to hijack
a plane with two square inches of aluminum foil. Luckily I did not have the
lamb last night. With the iron it would have put in my blood I might never
have passed the physical.

Next we took all the batteries to a security table and stacked them up.
They had Mark open his suitcase and take everything (and we mean
*everything*) out. They found his spare batteries. They clearly did not
trust anyone who carried so many batteries. Mark had to check his luggage.
So he put the batteries into his suitcase, locked it up, and went back to
the ticket line. He was next in line when an Indian pushed him aside and
put his ticket on the counter. Mark protested a little but the man behind
the counter took his ticket. So Mark waited until his transaction was over.
He got up to the front and was told the bag had to be X-rayed. Another
queue. He got it X-rayed and returned to the ticket queue. For some reason
they had to print a whole new boarding pass. Finally he went back to the
gate. Again he had his boarding pass checked. Again there was a body
search. (Let us be fair. This body search was a lot faster than the first.
Both were thorough, but this one wasn't punitive. Bless you, sir.) Mark
rejoined Evelyn. Then he had to go out and identify as his the bag they had
just taken from him five minutes earlier. Finally he was ready to wait for
our plane. The impression we are getting from other tourists is that while
India is anxious for and needs tourists, the military is not so sure. They
often harass tourists in the name of an inefficient security system. Having
passengers X-ray their own luggage and then carry it through non-secure
areas to where it gets checked in is an open invitation to terrorism. Yet
in the name of security they put American passengers through excessive
searches and restrictions (like batteries should not be in the passenger
cabin on the plane). This makes it hard on the tourist and makes it hard on
the people checking the tourist, while leaving open obvious security gaps.
The object may be not so much security but of employment. Eventually we got
on the bus to the plane. Once again, somebody saw we had the new edition of
the Lonely Planet guide for India. It was a couple traveling together, Max
from England (though he was of Indian descent) and Staci from Colorado.

On the plane they gave us snacks--cookies and mango juice. It took
about an hour to get to Varanasi (which used to be called Benares). We
suggested to Max and Staci that they could join us going to the Hotel de
Paris, which sounded good from the description in the Lonely Planet guide.
They agreed. Mark had to pick up his suitcase which he'd been forced to
check.

Mark describes the situation by saying, Now India tried for ninety-one
years to make life unpleasant for the British. They did and the British
left, but the Indians still had the talent. These days it is used against
tourists. The weapon is not even non-violence. It is service or the
desperation to be of service. It is what we call in America super-high-
pressure salesmanship. The pressure of their salesmanship is measured in
tons per square inch. They swarm the tourist, trying to port his bags, give
him taxi rides, or just plain beg. Telling them 'no' is paying attention to
them and paying attention to them is a big mistake. They will swarm you and
they will take you down and there will be nothing left but polished bone.
The book of useful phrases in Hindi does not list 'no' since 'no' (or 'nay'
in Hindi) is more dangerous than just ignoring them. It is best to pretend
to speak only Serbo-Croatian. If you can pull it off, you might get some of
them to back off. But as soon as you speak one word of English, it is like
cutting your hand while swimming with piranhas.

Of course, he says he may be over-stating the problem. Our
understanding is that when we get to Agra that's when he will want the
strong language. Suffice it for now to say that Mark got his bag. We found
Max and Staci, who had gone upstairs to the restaurant for a cold drink. We
called the hotel and we got a taxi. And every step was like swimming
upstream in a river of hot oatmeal. We must have gone about half a mile
with one driver hanging onto the hood of our taxi trying to convince us what
a horrible mistake we were making by not taking his taxi. The taxi fare was
Rs40 (US$1.29). (Actually don't believe anything from the hot oatmeal on.)
(Except for the fare. It really was Rs40.)

Regarding the fare, the pre-paid taxi here wanted Rs240 and came down
to Rs200. That seemed way out of line with the Rs40 the drivers were
shouting, but Max said to make sure to verify the hotel price by phone
first, otherwise we might end up with a higher rate so that the driver could
get his commission. When we called, we found out that air-cooled rooms
were Rs625 for a double, even higher than the latest Lonely Planet figure
(Rs575). Pulling out, Evelyn kept looking back to make sure our luggage
didn't get unloaded from the taxi trunk after we had gotten in. Part of the
paranoia was because after we had all gotten in, a sixth person got in and
spent the time it took to get to the hotel trying to sell us tours of the
city.

We got to the hotel and saw the rooms, but they would not be ready for
another twenty minutes, so we sat in the bar and talked to Max and Staci.
We should tell you that the hotel is owned by a wonderful elderly Indian
with a robust manner and an obvious love of both life and his profession.
He socializes with all the guests. When our rooms weren't ready he got us
free lime crushes, then went to talk to other guests (after finding out
about us). Mark says, That's what I want to do when I grow up. The man
is a real marvel.

So we talked with Max and Staci a while. She is a lawyer, and he may
have been also. They met at King's College in England. We suggested they
join us in going to see the ghats in the afternoon as it seemed late for a
trip to Sarnath. (We had planned on doing this, but there was no ITDC tour
there on Sundays, and even if there was it was too late for it. We planned
on seeing the ghats in the morning, but getting up for dawn was starting to
seem less and less appealing. We figured we could either do it again in the
morning or do something else--like sleep until a decent hour.) They agreed,
but first we all collapsed for a while, exhausted from battling hordes of
taxi drivers in the heat.

After about an hour's rest, we hired a taxi to the city for Rs135 and a
guide to the ghats. The streets were chaos, with people and cattle in the
streets, ramshackle buildings on the sides with bright and dramatic movie
posters. The current hit film in India is GUNAAH. You cannot tell much
from the poster, but it shows a man with a gun. That seems to be a formula
for success with audiences just about everywhere.

Anyone who claims that the worst city in which to drive in the world is
Rome or Paris has clearly never driven in Varanasi. Varanasi has everything
Delhi has on the roads--plus pigs, goats, and dogs. So, to avoid over-
crowding, they've eliminated other, less necessary items--like street signs.
There are occasionally directional signs at major intersections, but we
haven't seen anything resembling a street sign, even in Sanskrit.

Our driver parked a couple of blocks away from the Dasaswadedh Ghat
because the area near it was being used for a Sunday market. A guide
suddenly appeared who said he would be taking us around while the driver
waited and would bring us back to the taxi afterward. How much? What you
want. If you're happy, I'm happy. We had a feeling someone might end up
unhappy, but decided to wait and see.

The ghats are really just stone steps down to the water, which seems
like an odd thing to build a culture around, but they have become an
integral part of the locals' lives--and the lives of the millions of
pilgrims who come to bathe there--since they are steps down to the sacred
Ganges. People wash in the Ganges and they bury their dead (or rather their
ashes) in the Ganges. There are bathing ghats and dhobi ghats, dhobi
being the term for laundry. At the dhobi ghats, laundrymen pound the wash
on the rocks and dry it on the back. Given the look of the water, it's not
clear how this can make the laundry clean. The water is very brown and
supposedly very polluted, though a system of pipes now carries the city's
waste water, etc., to an outlet somewhere downstream.

We arranged for a boat to take us up and down. They wanted Rs400; Mark
offered Rs200. They didn't want to accept that. Max haggled in Hindi,
telling them we weren't going to pay tourist prices, and bargained them down
to Rs200. (It's amazing how the Rs135 for the city tour grows.)

We climbed into the boat--which seemed ready to capsize with every
movement--and got out on the water and traveled up the river. There were
what once were fine houses facing the Ganges, but now it seemed like there
poor families were living in them. Mark thinks it might be a mistake to
call these people the poor. Poor they are by our standards and many of the
people seem to be living in houses that are ramshackle, but they do have
houses and food and do not seem to be too disease-ridden. Mark says he
wouldn't know if they would label themselves as the poor. And there are a
lot poorer people around.

Though most of the pilgrims come at dawn, there were still many bathers
at this hour. These were mostly holy men, while the morning crowd would
include a greater diversity of people. Also along the river were many
temples--it used to be said that this city had a thousand temples, but we
doubt anyone counted them, then or now.

In typical Luck of Leeper fashion, as soon as we got out on the water
the sky started to cloud up as if it was really going to let go. Now, part
of the reason for choosing October is that India does not get rain in
October. On the other hand, we went to Spain in a usually dry month and got
constant rain and their worst flooding in fifty years. Regular readers of
our logs will recognize the recurring Luck of Leeper theme. Particularly
when we are in small boats, be they in Phuket or on the Amazon or in the
fjords of Norway. We get rained on. Hard. So here we are on a small boat
on the Ganges in the dry season and drops of rain were falling on us.

We were dropped off at the burning ghat, Manikarnika. It is here
that the dead are burned on funeral pyres, one after another. It is a
constant sequence all day long. In fact, there were three going on when we
arrived. It takes a lot of wood to cremate a body; in fact, one of the main
problems caused by the recent earthquake was that there was not enough wood
to cremate all the (Hindu) dead individually and they were forced to perform
mass cremations. (Similarly the Muslims were forced by circumstances to
allow mass burials instead of individual graves.) The wood used here is all
brought from the north; Evelyn wonders if the quantity is sufficient to be
causing deforestation in some areas.

We left the boat here at Manikarnika and entered a scene that could
have been orchestrated by Cecil B. DeMille. It was just now that the wind
blew up. The sky was black and we were shrouded in smoke from the pyres and
dust. Above, the sky thundered angrily. We climbed the stairs to look down
on the pyres from about thirty feet above them. They were towards the end
of these cremations, Evelyn thinks, as she couldn't see anything like a body
remaining. But we could feel the extreme heat of the fire rising up and the
air was full or smoke, dust, and cinders.

Evelyn says in her log, I was reminded of two stories at this point (I
often find literary connections to our travels). The first I had been
thinking about before we left home: Lawrence Watt-Evans's 'Why I Left
Harry's All-Night Hamburgers.' It is basically about why people travel and
how they often don't see the wondrous close to them because they're looking
too far away. In it, a young man is offered a chance to go away on
something like a spaceship, but he can never return to Earth. Someone else
says to him, 'You want to see wonders and marvels, huh? ... You want to see
buildings a hundred stories high? Cities of strange temples? Oceans
thousands of miles wide? Mountains miles high? Prairies, and cities, and
strange animals and stranger people? ... But kid, you can see those
buildings a thousand feet high in New York, or in Chicago. You've got
oceans here on your own world as good as you'll find anywhere. You've got
the mountains, and the sea, and the prairies, and all the rest of it. ...
You want to see spaceships? You go to Florida and watch a shuttle launch.
Man, that's a spaceship. It may not go to other worlds, but that *is* a
spaceship. You want strange animals? You go to Australia or Brazil. You
want strange people? Go to New York or Los Angeles, or almost anywhere.
You want a city carved out of a mountaintop? It's called Machu Picchu, in
Peru, I think. You want ancient, mysterious ruins? They're all over Greece
and Italy and North Africa. Strange temples? Visit India: there are
supposed to be over a thousand temples in Benares alone. See Angkor Wat, or
the pyramids--not just the Egyptian ones, but the Mayan ones, too. And the
great thing about all those places, kid, is that afterwards, if you want to,
you can come home. You don't *have* to, but you *can*. Who knows? You
might get homesick some day. Most people do. *I* did. I wish to hell I'd
seen more of my own world before I volunteered to try any others.'
Eventually the young man takes the advice, and the story ends with him
asking, 'So, what brought you to Benares?'

Mark claims, however, that if what you want is Vrathub, you *still*
have to go to other planets, since you cannot find it on Earth and Vrathub
might be the best reason to travel of all. What is Vrathub? Mark says,
How should I know? You can't find it on Earth.

Note that the question So, what brought you to Benares? is not the
same question as, Why do you want to go to India?--a question to which
Evelyn's answer is, If you can ask that, I can't explain it. Throughout
this trip (well, so far anyway), she's been trying to look at this as an
alien culture in the sense of trying to see its rules and customs as the
basis rather than to see it as a series of modifications to our (European)
culture which rose from our rules and customs. How successful she will be
remains to be seen; she does occasionally lapse into the thought, Well,
this is a really silly/inefficient way or doing things (meaning, of course,
Why don't they do things for *my* benefit?).
The other story Evelyn says she was reminded of at the burning ghat was
Joel Rosenberg's story, The Emigrant. As she describes it, In this, a
Kohan (a descendent of the Jewish priestly class) is explaining why he is
leaving for the moon. Kohanim are subject to much stronger purity laws than
other Jews and one is that they may not enter a cemetery. The main
character explains that because crematoria at the Nazi concentration camps
put the ash into the global air patterns, effectively the entire Earth is a
graveyard. I wonder if the cremations at Varanasi haven't had the same
effect. (Of course, this is true of most cremations--only recently did
people start collecting the ash in urns.) Still, it's an effective story.

About this time it started to rain. Our guide led us to a shrine to
Shiva in a nearby building. The shrines are always open to visitors. He
told us a little about the shrine, but mostly we were waiting for the rain
to stop. Evelyn asked our guide if the rains here are short or long. The
guide told her, Lady, I am not God. We don't know how long we sat in the
dark foyer. It was probably about forty-five minutes. We even had a power
failure. Two or three times a day the power goes out for one to five
minutes. This is a Third World country after all. There is a fair amount
of work to keeping a power system tuned. Where we live we lose power
about once a month. Here you lose it several times a day.

While we waited, we watched the man from the house uphill from us use
this opportunity to clean his steps and the area in front of his house by
using a brush and the force of the water flowing downhill to clear all the
debris and dirt off, which ended up just downhill from him (and eventually
would end up in the Ganges, one supposes).

Finally we ventured into the alleys. There are a few wide streets for
cars. Mostly you have alleys to get around. Some are fifteen feet wide;
some are as little as four or five feet. Some are only three. Cows and
bulls wander freely, making walking not wholly sanitary. Max was given a
chance to pray at the Golden Temple, but he would have had to go barefoot
and he was less than happy about the prospect. He told the guide he would
pray a later day when he could take his shoes off at the door of the temple
instead of across the street. The rain had been surprisingly heavy,
particularly since this is not supposed to be a rainy month. It served to
distribute the cow dung around the alley. The prospect indeed did not sound
good.

Well, eventually the rain let up enough that we could head back to our
taxi. Our guide suggested that on the way we could go to a great guru who
could tell our fortune. We were less than keen. We wanted to get back.
Little did we know that our future held danger! And a voyage by water. We
found that out just moments later when we got to the street and found it
flooded to as much as two feet deep. We had left the car parked in the
street and now it was parked in a river. We could not get to our taxi
without going wading, an unhappy prospect considering how dirty the water
probably was. We turned and went back to another alley that opened onto the
main street only to find the water just as high. Still we could not signal
our driver. We puzzled for a while about what to do. There was a path to
the taxi where the water was only six inches deep, but it would still mean a
soaking. There was a stack of bricks and Mark considered making stepping
stones, but that would have been a difficult way to do it. Finally Evelyn
took off her shoes and waded to the taxi. The driver backed it up nearly to
the sidewalk, but not near enough. To bridge the distance a cycle-rickshaw
moved into the gap. It was a mess but we could climb on the rickshaw, cross
over to the taxi, and make it to the door. Evelyn moved to the front seat
and the other three of us climbed in back. The cycle-rickshaw driver then
wanted a tip, so Evelyn gave him Rs5. He seemed unhappy, but that's
actually high considering he didn't have to pedal anywhere.

Well, okay, we were in the taxi and not being rained on. (Oh, we paid
the guide Rs100 and he seemed satisfied--or realized that we weren't going
to stand in the rain listening to him if we weren't.) Then we started back
in the taxi that was part boat. In two feet of water it drove through the
crowded streets. After a while, water started leaking into the taxi and the
floor flooded. Evelyn doesn't know what kind of car this taxi was (it
seemed to be something called a PAL, and about thirty-five years old), but
she wants one for her next car. We drove through deep water like this for
twenty minutes and the engine just kept going. The brakes were a little
poor, however.

Throughout all this people were wading along and cycle-rickshaws and
bicycles were still going, but most cars and taxis decided to wait out the
flood, or had to. It was a most amazing sight to see all the traffic
proceeding through knee-deep water. Miraculously, we made it back to the
hotel about 5:30 PM without any mishaps and decided to up the driver's fare
to Rs200 for all he went through. Our jovial host was at the hotel door
amazed at the rain. Not even during the monsoon season had it rained like
it had today. October is usually a dry month. He had never seen a rain
like this in October.

We looked at the weather forecast in the morning's paper. Hot and
humid, but no rain for all of Uttar Pradesh. Total rainfall since June was
zero inches. It must have been a very dry monsoon season. The rain saved
itself up and all fell on us. We explained to Max and Staci about Luck of
Leeper. They had found the idea very funny. That is the first stage:
finding the idea funny. Most of our friends are beyond that stage and take
Luck of Leeper seriously, like any powerful and dangerous force of nature.
All Stacy could ask as we headed into the hotel was, Is it always like this
when you travel?

We invited Max and Staci to join us for dinner and we agreed to meet in
an hour, so we went to our rooms and showered.

For dinner, Evelyn had the tandoor paneer and Mark tried the lamb
Indian-style. It was okay, but a little greasy. He will probably stick to
vegetarian. Indian cuisine is the only cuisine he knows of where there is
more diversity and interest in the vegetarian dishes. We talked about
ethics and religion and film over dinner. It is funny how close they had
become as friends in about twelve hours. They seem like very nice people.
We got them to enter their names and addresses in Mark's palmtop. Then we
bid each other a good trip. We bought a bottle of water and went back to
the room where Mark wrote in his log and drank Band-ade. Band-ade is our
new nickname for tap water and iodine. Wait thirty minutes and you have
Band-ade. It tastes okay but leaves an after-taste that reminds us of the
smell of Band-aids. But it is safe to drink and can quench a thirst.

Mark woke up a couple of times in the night but fell back asleep. He
is sleeping much better than Evelyn.




October 11, 1993:




Another restless night, but at least we were able to
sleep to a reasonable hour. Evelyn had porridge again for breakfast. Mark
had stuffed paratha and curds. The flavor is much like potato pancake with
sour cream.

Our destination this morning is two temples that are open to non-
Hindus. (The Lonely Planet guide mentions that advertising for tourism
emphasizes all the beautiful temples, but fails to mention that most of
tourists won't be allowed in. However, in Varanasi there are a couple of
exceptions.) One is the Bharat Mata Mandir (Mother India Temple) and the
other is the Tulsi Manis Mandir. Both are fairly unusual as temples go. We
hired a taxi and set out once again on the roads. Mark says, I have been
taking a closer look at the buildings to try to put his finger on exactly
what makes one think of poverty when one sees these perfectly serviceable
houses. They look, in fact, a lot like the houses in which people live in
Thailand or the Dominican Republic. You see a lot of scrap metal being used
as roofs or awnings. Lots of times the building materials are falling
apart. There is a lot that is dilapidated and that is unlikely to get a
repair really soon. Sanitation is minimal and here India seems one of the
least advanced places we have visited. In many of the streets a sewer in
front of the houses is the only concession made to sanitation. That is
unusual; in Thailand and in the Dominican Republic outhouses usually replace
the sewers more often. This also may be why the recommendation against
street food is so strong here and so weak for places like Thailand. Now, of
course, we have seen only a small part of each country. It may well be that
Varanasi is not typical. I suppose at the time that it made a difference if
you pack people tightly into an urban area or have more out away from the
city where there is sufficient space for outhouses, but this later proved
untrue. Also, we may be talking about very poor urban neighborhoods.

But we were talking about the Bharat Mata Mandir. We haven't the
foggiest idea what makes it a temple. You take your shoes off to enter, but
there is nothing religious inside. Zero. What is inside is a huge relief
map of India and the surrounding areas. It is made of marble and is forty
or fifty feet square. One thing you learn is how flat most of India is and
how suddenly the mountains to the north spring up. Mark tends to question
if the mountains were not a bit exaggerated, both in angle and in height.
(He thinks the bases are to scale, but the height is to a different scale.)
The sides of the mountains went up at seventy-degree angles. Everest was
shown as about five inches high or more. It is actually five miles high.
If the map is fifty feet across, that is six hundred inches. Then India
would be only six hundred miles across. Clearly the mountains were
exaggerated in height. There are also tablets showing you the roots of
written Hindi. And you can climb down stairs to look flat across the relief
map.

There were some boys outside watching shoes (for a tip). Were they
supposed to be in school? Schools were open, at least the private school we
passed where dozens of girls in uniform were arriving on foot, on bicycle,
or in cycle-rickshaws. In general there seemed to be a lot of school-age
boys around during the day, so we don't know if school is optional or if
they just don't care that it's mandatory.

We also saw Tulsi Manis Mandir, after convincing our driver that we did
not want to stop at the Durga Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple due to
its resident population. It might have been worth a look, but 1) it is
closed to non-Hindus and could be viewed only from a walkway above, 2) the
monkeys are reported to be very mean and sometimes snatch the glasses off
your face, and 3) we were running late, as we had to be back to check out by
noon. It's a good thing we saved time for the Tulsi Manis Mandir, because
there was a lot to see there. It has scenes and text from the Ramayana
story (as written by the poet Tulsi Manis) all around the first and second
floors. For Rs1 you can go into an upstairs section that has action models
of scenes from the Ramayana. The figures are animated to the extent that
figures are animated in a shooting gallery. There are one or two moving
parts. One woman shakes a tambourine and moves back and forth on a track.
The whole thing was charming, but to Western eyes incongruous for a temple.
Evelyn says, I can't help but think that I'd never seen a Catholic church
with circus-like mechanical displays of scenes from the New Testament. It
would certainly pull in the crowds if anyone built anything like this,
though. (The closest we've seen are those mechanical clocks in towers such
as Prague's, where the twelve apostles march out every hour or so.)

On the way back to the hotel the driver pointed to the Cottage
Industries store, as had the driver yesterday. We have heard that these
are good places to shop, but we have absolutely no desire to shop yet.

We returned to our hotel in time to check out by noon. The man behind
the desk asked if we had paid the taxi and we said we had. But something in
how he asked made Evelyn realize that he had expected us to pay him and he
would pay the taxi after taking his share for arranging it. Sure enough,
when he arranged for our taxi to the airport at 1:30 PM for Rs150, he said
we should pay him and he would pay the driver.

Before then, though, we sat for an hour or so until it was time to go
to the airport. Somewhat dehydrated while we waited, we went into the bar
to drink Pepsis. Mark is not a big cola fan at home, but he said it did
taste mighty good. Then it was off to the airport. We had put almost all
our spare batteries into Evelyn's suitcase and then checked it.

Well, once more into Indian airport security. This time they rejected
two spare batteries of Evelyn's. From Mark they rejected a bottle of iodine
water he was holding for Evelyn and a Swiss Army knife. Mark had to go and
find Evelyn's checked bag and put these dangerous articles into it. Note
that Evelyn's identical Swiss Army knife was acceptable and neither knife
was rejected last time. So Mark had to scramble to find Evelyn's bag
including a stretch of about twenty feet in which he could have taken
anything from anyone who'd just come in the door and put it completely
unnoticed into Evelyn's bag. Oh, they did make both of us take a picture
with our cameras. Mark says he would be much happier with all these
precautions if they weren't leaving such holes in the system, but guesses
they are just sick and tired of us Americans coming over and hijacking
Indian domestic flights. (An explanation we got later said that the
military was really just trying to get baksheesh, which is why they were so
much stricter with Americans.)

After the high pressure of the porters, taxi drivers, and hotel
representatives at Varanasi, Khajurao was almost laid back. Anywhere else
it would have seemed like high-pressure, but there were far fewer avid touts
in Khajurao, perhaps because there were fewer tourists off the plane. For
most countries it would have been bad, but there was much less pestering
than Varanasi, Delhi, or (by all accounts) Agra. We made arrangements for
the hotel (using the phone in the Indian Airlines office because there was
no public phone--and they didn't even charge us for the call) and got a
taxi. There is apparently a set fare of Rs50 from the airport to town (not
counting the Rs1 per person airport tax which the Lonely Planet guide
doesn't mention).
The Hotel Payal (at Rs495) turned out to be decent (though being of
somewhat open design they have a problem with insects coming inside). It is
considered top-end by the Lonely Planet guide, but considering all the bugs
(flying and crawling), we would hate to see the lower ones. It is also
located outside the main village area on a side road, which has the
advantage of quiet but is a bit isolated if you want to go out in the
evening for dinner. The bathroom is also odd by Western standards, though
it turned out to be fairly typical for India. There is no shower stall,
just a shower head in one corner. There is also a hot and a cold faucet on
the wall (for filling the bucket provided for a sponge bath, though we found
these buckets convenient for doing laundry in), and a fifth and sixth knob
that we couldn't identify. There is an electric hot water heater that has
to be turned on about five minutes before you want hot water and off when
you're done. (The hot water tap on the sink didn't work at all.) There is
also a tap and a small pail next to the toilet for those who prefer that to
toilet paper.

One thing Evelyn noticed that might be mentioned as well here as
anywhere is that trucks in India are much better decorated than trucks back
home. (By trucks, she means cargo trucks.) They all seem to have artwork
painted on the sides and interesting metalwork ornamentation. They also
have painted on the back Honk Please--if other vehicles are passing a
truck, they need to warn the truck not to change lanes, which people do very
erratically.

We waited an hour or so writing and reading about Khajurao. At sundown
we went walking and to dinner. Khajurao is a very small, peaceful-looking
village and this beguiled us into thinking a walk into the center for dinner
would be nice. Wrong! Khajurao is based entirely on tourism. Immediately
a taxi driver fastened on us, wanting to sell us a tour for the next day.
We hold him we thought not. No, that makes it sound too easy. It took
about five minutes to shed us of him. We actually wanted to go to a
specific restaurant, so we knew which way to go. He suggested the other way
was good but according to our maps there was nothing out that way. (In
fact, there was nothing in that direction but a long way around to the
center of town and a chance for a padded taxi fare.) We went our way; he
went his. We thought we were rid of him. We found our restaurant (the New
Punjab) in a small set of shops. Touts out front tried to get us to go into
their various stores or take cycle-rickshaw rides. No, we knew where we
were going. We went to the restaurant and who should pop up but our taxi
driver from our hotel. He claimed he did not follow us, and in fact Mark
doesn't see how he could have (though Evelyn is still suspicious). We
chatted a little. Mark asked him if he knew what a mandapa and a sikhara
were. He had a vague idea that there was a mandapa in a temple (but clearly
wasn't sure exactly what it was). He totally struck out on sikhara. Mark
told him that one requirement for a guide to be able to tell him about the
temples of Khajurao was that the guide had to know more about the temples
than Mark did. He completely missed the point, saying that he could find
out for Mark what a sikhara was. Well, Mark already knows it; it was the
guide who didn't. Evelyn thinks that most of the people who want to be
guides just want to be taxi drivers, but guides makes it sound like
you're getting more for your money. You would think that taxi drivers would
have found time after all these years to learn about the temples in their
own town, but they apparently don't want to go through the effort for their
customers.

By the way, the one thing that all these temples have in common is a
large spire at the top. It is very characteristic and is known as a
sikhara. Typically, the temples are made of five components. There is an
outer hall called an ardhamandapa, an inner hall called a mandapa, and a
great hall called a mahamandapa. Then inside the great hall is a smaller
room with a doorway called the antaraia and in the center of this room is
a garbhagriha where the image of the god of the temple is displayed.

What our aspiring guide said was that his uncle knew all about the
temples. But his uncle wasn't the guide--he was! His livelihood was
guiding people to these temples and he never made the effort to learn much
about the temples themselves other than the car routes to get to them.

After dinner we went to see what was supposedly a Hindu festival. We
got latched on to by someone trying to get us to his shop. We started back
to our hotel and could not shake him. We had to walk down a dark road to
get back and Evelyn was nervous enough with just him there, but when two of
his friends showed up, Evelyn decided this was dangerous and we did an
about-face and headed back to a well-lit area. Everything we had heard
about India convinces Mark that we were not in any danger. We did know the
store the boy worked for--he'd given us his card. He would be easy to find.
But perhaps Evelyn did the right thing. Anyway, we popped into a bookstore
to shake our followers and found a copy of the Mahabharata for Rs25, so it
wasn't a complete loss. We took a cycle-rickshaw back to the hotel. We
spent the evening reading and log-writing except when we went out for a
drink. Mark had a Pepsi and Evelyn had a sweet lime fizz. Now Mark is
finally caught up in his log except to say, At midnight I concluded the day
by saying, 'At midnight I concluded the day by saying, At midnight I
concluded the day by saying, 'At midnight I concluded the day by
saying....''




October 12, 1993:




Keys are a real problem here. Both the last hotel
and this one have skeleton keys. Mark is pretty sure each must fit any
door. But also they are much smaller than the keyhole. You have to know
just how far in to put the key since the hole is big enough for it to go all
the way through. Judging exact depth is difficult.

There is only one temperature of water in the sink. There are two
faucets with handles, but one is one solid piece and just for show. The
toilet does flush--which it did not do in our room in Varanasi--but it also
leaks. The whole bathroom is effectively one shower stall and the whole
floor floods. That actually seems to be a fairly common design worldwide.
This room is, however, air-conditioned and quite comfortable except for the
number of garden insects that get in attracted to the light.

For breakfast the only thing exotic on the menu was a vegetable cutlet.
It was just okay. We had mango juice but it was warm. The bad weather
seems to be following us. We have a rather gray and dismal day. Perhaps it
will be cool, however.

Well, eventually the clouds went away. We walked up to the nearby
temples. (It's much less intimidating walking in the daytime.) With us
went a cycle-rickshaw from our hotel. The driver sort of latched on to us.
We sort of agreed to remember his number. And once you are riding with one,
the others sort of leave you alone. We walked to the Archaeological Museum
about 9:15 AM, but it was not open yet, so we went to see the temples first.

Oh, yes, we should tell you about the temples, which have been declared
a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Khajurao is on the map for one thing:
majestic temples a hundred feet high, legendary temples carved from
sandstone in the 10th to 12th Centuries and most famous for the fact that
many of the carvings are erotic. When people talk about how there are
pornographic temple carvings in India--and we have heard that for years--
they are talking about Khajurao. Incidentally, they are called erotic and
Mark guesses it is a matter of taste. He would call them explicit and
perhaps pornographic, but a long way from being erotic. Evelyn would
describe them as emphasizing the athletic and contortionist rather than the
enjoyable. Sorry to disappoint. Why are there these carvings here? One
explanation is that the god of lightning is a dirty old man and would no
more strike one of these temples with lightning than Jimmy Swaggart would
burn his pile of PENTHOUSE magazines. Others have suggested that they are a
tribute to the joy of life or a manual for young Hindu boys. However, why
these temples are in the middle of nowhere, just halfway between no place
and someplace nobody wants to go--that is less of a mystery. If the
invading puritanical Muslims would have found out about the temples they
would have smashed them and utterly destroyed them, as they did with
countless others which were *not* in the middle of nowhere. Of course,
those were less enlightened times. Right? Wrong! Just this year, Islamic
fundamentalists in Egypt got a phone call from Allah saying that all the
temples, pyramids, and sphinxes from before Islam came to Egypt have to be
destroyed. If you have been to Egypt, you know that the early Muslims
already did a real number on what was left of the ancient Egyptian sites.
Now Allah is once again calling for the destruction of the priceless world
heritage, or so Egyptian fundamentalists say. For years the Egyptian
government has called for the return of Egyptian relics to Egypt. They may
stop now if ancient Egyptian relics become the targets of terrorists.

But we are digressing again. We paid our half rupee each for admission
and went to the first temple. This is in the Western Group of temples that
is in the middle of town and is by far the best. There is also a Southern
Group and an Eastern Group. There are about fifteen temples in the Western
Group. The first temple you visit is Lakshmani Temple and that has got to
be the high point of our trip to India. This temple is just spectacular.
This is a temple of classic beauty, like those in Thailand or Cambodia, but
much more ornate. It has a high spire in the center curved outwards,
vaguely like a cucumber but a little more pointed. This is on top of a
temple at the four corners of which are almost pyramidal shrines. Actually,
many of them are also curved out like a cucumber. And all this is on a
platform with stairs leading up to it. And while it looks Asian, it also
looks a lot like something out of Chichen Itza in Mexico. In fact, the
architecture is very reminiscent of Chichen Itza, even to its setting in the
sparse vegetation. When you want around the temple you even see waterspouts
disguised as heads that look very much like something out of Meso-America.

All around the temple in bands a foot or two high are carvings.
Sometimes they are as innocent as a dancing Ganesha. They may be a dancing
Parvati. Or they could be a man having sex with a horse. The figures often
have very delicate features. Some hand will have just a very delicate turn.
One face will have a very subtle expression. There are repeating creatures
called sardulas. They look very lion-like. At the corners of the platform
on which the temple is built will often be an image of a maiden touching the
chest of a sardula.

A class was visiting the temple site and as we looked at the sculpture
they surrounded us and tried out their English on us. Mark joked with them
for a few minutes until their teacher herded them away.

In the dark insides of the temple there is the odor of bats. In one we
heard bats chirping. Evelyn said that she thought they were birds but later
Mark did see a bat swoop down. Besides, the shrines smelled a lot like
Carlsbad Caverns.

It would have been a good idea to bring loafers since at each temple
you have to slip out of your shoes to go inside. As a second best, Mark
loosened the laces of his running shoes to be able to slip into and out of
them easily. Evelyn had sandals on, so that was easier to manage.

As we went into a temple, an Indian woman with her family spotted
Mark's camera. She very excitedly pointed to the camera and gestured to him
to take her picture. He agreed and she called to her whole family to line
up and pose. Then her husband wrote their address in the back of Mark's
trip log. Yes, it was a hustle for them to get a free photo of them on
their vacation--that is, if the American gets around to sending it to them
and if he can get it addressed correctly.

An older man in a Nehru sort of hat (two flat sides almost like a Boy
Scout hat) saw this exchange and asked where we were from. He spoke very
good English and gave Mark his name. He was Dr. Something and was a
linguist who studied regional dialects in India. He was traveling to see
his own country. He philosophized that there should be peace in the world
since we are all one. He was very affable and very well spoken. He would
have been almost impossible not to like. We sympathize with his ideals.

By the way, Evelyn thought that one of the best things about the
Western Group was that it is a haven from hawkers and touts, who are not
allowed in. You hear just the sounds of nature and other tourists, but
since there are not a lot of the latter, it is very restful, with nicely
landscaped grounds around the temples. We spent three hours walking around
looking at all the carvings (this included about fifteen minutes for Mark's
conversation with the linguist). Most of the tourists here are Indian, with
some German and even a few Japanese. The cycle-rickshaw driver had said
there were also a lot of tourists from Israel, which Evelyn found hard to
believe until she saw a bicycle rental sign in English and Hebrew! And
later on, we did meet tourists from Israel (with Hebrew editions of the
Lonely Planet guide!) who said that India was a popular destination from
Israel because it was close (only a five-hour flight) and cheap.

We saw a few more temples, then left and returned to the museum which
was now open. It is not a big museum, but as with the museum in the Red
Fort there is sufficient to be of interest. Given the choice, it is better
to see the museum before the temples. After the temples, the museum is
anti-climactic. The museum guard showed Mark around the museum, either to
be friendly or in the hopes of a tip. Mark interpreted it as the former and
the guard did not ask for a tip. As the heat of noon came on us, we hired a
cycle-rickshaw back to the hotel for Rs15. When we got there, however, he
suggested we hire him to see the other temples that afternoon and pay him at
the end.

For the middle part of the day we wrote in our logs and rested. We
went to lunch in the hotel. Mark had curried vegetables and Evelyn had
chana masala. Mark noticed there was another couple in the dining room, but
could not tell if they were speaking English. We would see them again at
dinner. After lunch we did some laundry. Clothes get dirty very fast here.

At 3:30 PM the cycle-rickshaw returned and we rode to the Southern
Group of temples. These are not as well-preserved or as well-managed as the
Western Group. At each is an attendant who forcibly explains the decoration
and then wants baksheesh. Since the explanation is redundant after the
first time, it is extortion, but not too unpleasant because of the small
amounts concerned. The setting is also not as nice. It wouldn't be bad if
they were out away from everything, but they are next to run-down huts and
shacks, which detracts from their majesty somewhat.
(Men can skip this paragraph if they wish.) Evelyn writes in her log:
One of the things the guide books never talk about is the effect of travel
and time zone changes on women's monthly cycles, so maybe it's just me, but
I find that moving many time zones to the east tends to make my period
arrive a few days early. It happened in Africa and it happened here. Here
it added the further complication that menstruating women are not allowed in
Hindu temples (or in mosques, for that matter). Yes, I know the obvious
question is, How do they check? but I assume it's the honor system. In
any case, I have seen enough temple interiors in the morning to suffice. I
am glad that I didn't miss the temples in Varanasi, though; they were
unique. And there are no major mosques until the end of the trip.

Welcome back, men. (Actually, we bet you all read that paragraph
anyway.)

We went to the two temples of the Southern Group. They are out near
the airport. At each there was an old thin handicapped man begging. Mark
took a picture of one and gave him Rs2, but just ignored the one at the
other temple. AT&T's security package recommends in India that you do not
give to beggars and that you should not photograph beggars. Mark made an
exception and he hopes it helps the beggar.

We then went to the Eastern Group. The interior of the Jain temple
here was supposed to be interesting, but Mark decided to stay with Evelyn
and see only the outsides of the temples. The Eastern complex is bigger
than and more interesting than the Southern temples. (The Southern
complex is only two temples and they are not all that interesting.) The
Eastern Group is a group of temples in a compound, much closer together than
those in the Western Group. Where in the latter, the temples were a hundred
yards or more apart, here they were only ten or twenty. But it does not
have anything to compare with the Western complex. While interesting, the
Eastern temples were pretty much more of the same and we were probably
getting templed out.

We finished this complex as it was starting to get darker. Our driver
(cyclist?) took us through the old village of Khajurao. Actually, this was
an excuse to take us to a couple of shops (as Evelyn suspected) but we also
got to see what is undoubtedly a more authentic village than the collection
of shops, hotels, and restaurants that is the modern village of Khajurao
outside the Western Group. We did some minimal shopping, buying two fake
antiquity coins. This took quite a while, as the vendor couldn't make
change from a Rs50 note for a Rs35 purchase. This lack of change seems
almost universal. We can almost understand it for a rickshaw driver, but
even the hotel has trouble making change for meals. Apparently this was the
cyclist's village and he showed us the outside of his house.

As we were riding we happened to pass the airport just as the plane
from Varanasi was coming in (on time today) and it passed directly overhead
and not very high up. It's noisy but so far there are only two flights a
day; Evelyn is surprised they don't add more as there is usually a waiting
list for flights.

Finally we went back to the hotel about 6PM. At this point we were
reminded of why one should establish prices ahead of time. He had said we
should pay what [we] want. We wanted to pay Rs150, but he wanted
considerably more. Eventually we ended up paying Rs265 (it would have been
Rs275 but he didn't have change), not really over-priced by our standards
but probably considerably over-priced by local standards. Evelyn thinks the
most annoying part of traveling here by far is having to negotiate
everything you want and ward off everyone trying to sell you something you
don't want. At this point, she supposed we would get used to this and
develop better techniques as we've been here longer, but while our technique
improved, we never really got used to it.

At dinner the same couple Mark had seen at lunch came in. (We are
trying to pick hotels that have good restaurants, as getting out for dinner
is not as easy here as it was in Southeast Asia.) This time they were
obviously speaking English. So Evelyn went over to talk to them and we
ended up talking to them for quite a while. They are two teachers from the
University of Maine here on an NEA grant to study Indian dance. Their names
are Karen and Richard. We swapped stories and advice, getting the better of
the deal since they were already well-experienced with India, having been
here three weeks already (with another month to go). They made suggestions
on everything from what to do in Agra and Jaipur to which train to take to
Jaipur to how to eat Indian food using only the bread as an eating
implement. They are the second couple to recommend the Sunrise Hotel in
Agra and they actually had a telephone number for it.

They also had a better idea of what prices should be and we discovered
we had been overpaying for some services and items. We will have to be more
careful next time.

They also had some interest in seeing out new edition of the Lonely
Planet guide. Well, they were a big help to us.

Evelyn had finally conquered her jet lag the night before, but then she
had a Pepsi and tea with dinner and was up until 3 AM. Listening to flying
insects landing near her head in the bed didn't help her relax either. Mark
also had trouble sleeping.




October 13, 1993:




This is essentially a travel day. There is not much
left to do in Khajurao. We have arranged for a taxi at 3 PM. We had
breakfast at about 8:30 AM. (Given how late we got to sleep last night, it
would have been nice to sleep late, but we really had only the morning to do
anything interesting.) Mark had run out of the exotic breakfasts and had
fried eggs and toast. Since their veggie cutlet was not very good, he felt
he had made a better choice this morning.

After breakfast we took a cycle-rickshaw to the center of town for Rs5.
(Gradually we are discovering what the prices of things *should* be.) Mark
still wanted to get some Indian music cassettes for the room at night.
There was a music store on the main drag, but when we walked down there, it
was closed. The guy who was following us two nights before saw us and asked
what we were looking for. With some effort we conveyed that we wanted music
cassettes. As we walked down the street various shop owners tried to get us
into their stores. Mark would ask, Do you have music cassettes? Oh,
yes! But when he came in, they did not have them. They would tell him,
Oh, music cassette. Probably not find in town. However, the one boy kept
saying, Come, I will show you where there are music cassette. Then you
come to my shop. Just to look. We followed him and by gosh he found us a
shop front with cassettes for Rs25 a cassette. Mark bought two and thought
he was a fool not to have bought more. He had brought only two music
cassettes from home and we are getting sick of them.

So we did go to the young man's store.

We have many fine things.

Okay, I will look, Mark said.

We really did not see anything we wanted.

You promised to buy.

No, we only promised to come and look.

But many people come and look.

Good, then with so many fine things you will be a rich man.

He realized he had talked himself into a corner. Mark and he bantered
for about ten minutes. Thinking back, Mark feels guilty he did not do
something for him, as he did help Mark. Mark did all he promised, but feels
he should have done more.

Then we went back into the Western Group at the cost of one-and-a-half
cents each. We sat in the shade and wrote our logs. Yeats wrote about the
bee-loud glade, and while this wasn't quite the mosquito-loud glade,
there were definitely mosquitos and other bugs here. Still, there was a
breeze and shade to keep us cool (today was sunny, unlike yesterday's
welcome overcast morning). Occasionally some people would come and sit near
us. A group of young women in saris sat down. One of them kept looking at
us. Namascar, Mark said, looking up from his log. She giggled and said,
Namaste.

Well, it started to get late so we left. We hired a cycle-rickshaw
back to our hotel, checked out, and wrote in the lobby. (In retrospect, we
realized we should have asked if we could extend our check-out time to 3 PM.
It wasn't as if it was really crowded.) We paid our bill and the manager
short-changed Mark by 40 paise. Mark pointed out it was short and the
manager said, In India 40 paise is nothing. (A pais is one-hundredth of a
rupee.) At Evelyn's suggestion, Mark put down 60 pais and Rs7 more and
said, Could I have a Pepsi? A Pepsi is Rs8. The manager was not happy.
However, one of the bellhops whom Mark had joked with a few times saw the
transaction and had a grin three feet wide. One does not often best his
manager, apparently, and Mark had made his day. He personally brought Mark
the Pepsi, still grinning at him.

A little while later Mark saw the manager ransacking the front desk.
He came over to Mark and asked if he'd taken his calculator. No, Mark
hadn't touched it. A few minutes later he came back to us and asked Mark to
check again. Mark told him he had his own calculator, showing him the
palmtop. We don't know if the calculator was really misplaced, or if the
manager wanted to tell his staff that the American who had bested him was a
thief, or if someone else took it. But when the taxi came, the bellhop came
out to watch us go. Mark raised his right hand to his forehead.
Namascar, he said. Namaste, the bellhop returned.

We got to the airport at least ninety minutes before our flight. Mark
looked quickly at the stores; then Evelyn took a look. Evelyn got some
postcards of the explicit temple art. She then asked Mark if he thought she
could mail these postcards in the United States, or would it be sending
pornography through the mails? Could she get away with putting the
postcards up at work? These are question about boundary conditions of
arbitrary and capricious rules. Should a film get a PG rating if it shows a
woman's breast? Would it be a sin, Father, if I was eating a ham sandwich
and crossed the International Date Line and it was now Friday? Is staring
at a woman for fifteen seconds sexual harassment? Well, Mark thinks the
answer to every question like this is, It depends and, Arbitrary and
capricious rules can only be enforced arbitrarily and capriciously. That
makes these questions very dull. They are like, What if I flipped a dime;
would it come up heads or tails?

Okay, so here we were, all psyched up for what airport security would
be like this third go-round. Surprise, surprise. It was polite, friendly,
even a little laid-back. None of the empty your pockets routine. They
examined the contents of Mark's suitcase's main compartment, and they passed
him through. We don't think that security at the other airports was out of
line, but we just got stung by the rule that four or six batteries on board
are okay but more constitute a threat and the insistence that the batteries
be taken out of Mark's palmtop. There is a battery backup in the internals
of the palmtop, but you never want to depend on that for more than a few
minutes at a time. And the palmtop has been fairly if not extremely useful
on the trip. All the e-mail suggestions people have sent us for the trip
are in it and easy to index on a given subject. It does currency
calculations. It has an alarm. We have people type in their phone numbers
if we want to contact them when we get back. Mark even wants to start using
it to make notes on the sights we visit, since they are forced to be
legible. Mark worries about Thing. His palmtop is Thing because it is
small and very useful, like Thing in the Addams Family.

Anyway, we got through security to the waiting room and they had
entertainment. There was a dog--clearly already a mother--who was
alternately sleeping and rolling on her back to be patted and scratched.
Actually, rolling on the back is a sign of submission from pack days. When
humans pat and scratch a dog who has rolled over, they are unwittingly
repeating a very old ritual of wolves where one wolf submits to another and
the second wolf makes physical signs of acceptance. Like a hard pinch on a
cheek, it may not even feel very good to the recipient, but the affection it
symbolizes may be psychologically gratifying. In any case, this dog was
kow-towing to everybody in sight and a bunch of people were signaling back
that they accepted her. Mark doesn't know why this is, but some semi-feral
female dogs seem to have very pronounced nipples.

Well, the flight was okay, though the backs of the seats seemed a
little loose. The high point was probably seeing the Taj Mahal from the
air. We will see it closer up soon.

We had been warned that the touts make life miserable in Agra, but the
actual airport was not nearly as bad as Varanasi's airpost for being dragged
down and eaten by touts. The Sunrise Hotel was recommended by both Max and
Staci and by Richard and Karen. It is a real coincidence that both have
stayed at the Sunrise, so Evelyn called there. Amazingly, the call got
through--this was the only time that calling from a coin phone worked in
India. They said they would send a taxi for Rs200. Evelyn said not to and
we took our own taxi for Rs50. That was something of a mistake as it turned
out, but we wouldn't realize that right away.

Evelyn wanted to ask at the Government of India Tourist Office window
about tours but someone who was wearing what appeared to be a Goverment of
India badge said they pick up at all the hotels every morning. This sounded
odd, but Evelyn decided we still had our original plan--go to the Tourist
Office in the morning. (Later, she realized that the badge was merely a
badge allowing this person to be in the airport.)

We paid in advance and found the appropriate taxi. Mark had to push by
someone who stopped him to find out if he was Mr. Sakajima. Mark realizes
he looks like a foreigner here, he didn't think even in India did he look
like a Sakajima.

We threw our stuff in the taxi and left the airport. As soon as we
were out of the airport, the taxi stopped and the driver said he had to pick
up his boss. This did not sound good. We had been hearing stories that in
Agra taxi drivers actually kidnap passengers once they are in the taxi and
take them to shops rather than the requested destination.
No, this was not a kidnapping, but the boss was coming to give us a
sales pitch for hiring a private car. Only Rs5 more than the tourist agency
tour and we have the car all day. He didn't mention that the tourist agency
tour had a guide and his tour only a driver. But we had to hurry and say
yes before all the cars were taken. And this was the same guy, who in the
airport had claimed to be from the tourist agency! Now the taxi driver was
calling him his boss and he was selling private tours in competition with
the tourist agency tours. The price he quoted for the tourist agency tour
was a lot more than what we had heard, so we said we would not decide right
then. That was when he said that we must hurry because all the cars would
be taken. We asked for his phone number so that we could call him if we
decided to take his tour. No phone number, but he would come around to the
hotel. This whole deal smelled like a three-day-old fish.

We got to the hotel, checked in, and came back downstairs, and then we
ran into Moona. We were looking forward to meeting Moona. Richard and
Karen told us about him. He is supposedly very colorful and a drinking
buddy to all comers. He owns the Sunrise and seems to have been a personal
friend to both couples during their stays here. At least, he remembered
both couples well and Richard talked a lot about him. (I am easy to
remember. Whenever you look at the Moon, think of Moona.)

Moona was just getting back from the airport. He had heard we had
called and went to pick us up personally. That is not what the person on
the phone said would happen and something weird appeared to be going on at
the front desk behind Moona's back. In any case, Moona was very friendly to
us. His hotel is nice, but also funny in a lot of ways. The room itself
has little decoration so that it has the appearance of a well-furnished dorm
room. It has air-conditioning and is Rs600 a night. The beds are *very*
firm. The hotel shop is right outside our door and whenever we go out, two
Sikhs ask us if we want to come in. (Usually we associate large turbans
with Sikhs but at work we hired the son of a Sikh and he did not wear the
same sort of turban. Instead, he wore a tight black cloth tied in a knot
the size of a walnut over his head. This turns out to be what younger Sikhs
ear until they become fathers. One of the people in the shop had the same
headwear.) Anyway, we saw all this before we met Moona. We are just
mentioning it out of order. The hall floors are marble (and clean!), and
our room is at the top of the first flight of stairs, so we can hear
everyone wearing hard heels. Luckily, they're not common here.

There are two restaurants in the Sunrise. There is one on the roof
that gives you a nice view of Agra. (It claims to give you a nice view of
the Taj Mahal, but that's only if you have X-ray vision to see through the
other buildings in the way.) We went up there for dinner and they were just
opening. We sat at the corner of the porch next to a large light. There
were large lights at two corners and a third fluorescent near the doorway.
The big lights would at random turn themselves off and then five or ten
minutes later, turn themselves back on. Mark ordered a vegetable thali.
And his new Word Wealth word was masaladar. He is going to use it at
home also. Masaladar in Hindi is la in Mandarin. It means spicy hot.

Americans tend to think that Indian cuisine is spicy. And anything
that is a little spicy they make a big fuss about. So most Indian chefs in
the United States find out whom they are cooking for and if it is not an
Indian they back off at the masaladar. They think that Americans are wimps
when in actual fact it is just that a lot of the world's most vociferous
wimps are American. And they spoil it for the rest of us. In fact, while
Indian food is spicier than most American food, Mark likes his food spicier
than most Indians he has met like theirs. Mark has friends who think they
like their food very spicy, but who are aghast to discover him doing things
like taking a dried red Chinese pepper (like you'd make Kung Pao with) and
just taking it with him to a movie to snack on. Nibble very tiny bits off
and they last a long time. So masaladar is a very useful concept.

Moona sat at the table with us and we talked about tours, India, our
background, his background, etc. Mark suspects Moona was a little
disappointed we did not pan out as drinking friends. Moona has been a
businessman involved with many things over the years. He had been a
fisherman and a publisher with a press, though he never actually did any
writing himself.

After dinner we went back to the room and (of course) wrote. Evelyn is
spending less time writing this trip and more time reading. Mark thinks
that is probably smart.

Our room has a television, so we put on an Indian music program as
background. India is into music video as much or more than the United
States, but the photography is not so fancy and songs and music are Indian.
It is hard to tell what they are singing about without knowing Hindi, but a
typical plot is that a brightly dressed woman sings to someone who seems
uninterested in being her boyfriend. As they walk through a garden, she
sings to him and shakes two bracelets and two anklets at him. The jewelry
has about seven dozen bells in each of the four locations and undoubtedly is
why the young man wants nothing to do with her. She follows him through the
garden, singing to him, and he keeps acting as if she has head lice and bad
breath. Finally he is won over by the charm of all the bells, though
clearly these two people are highly incompatible. This all seems doubly
strange when you consider that most marriages in India are arranged
marriages and the concept of dating or pursuing a member of the opposite sex
this way is certainly not the norm in this culture.

There is also some English-language television on the Star Network. We
watched a game show from Britain called The Crystal Maze. It would have
to be pretty remarkable to get Mark to sit and watch something non-Indian in
India, but it was amazing. Mark describes it thusly: The show is a cross
between 'Beat the Clock,' 'Dungeons and Dragons,' 'American Gladiators,'
and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' A team of players goes through four fantasy
sets trying to solve puzzles and do athletic feats or feats of logic. The
host Richard O'Brien (Riff-Raff from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW) will say
(for example), 'The next game is a mental game,' and the team captain will
choose who is best at mental games. One game is that the person must go
into a room and on a huge 6x6 chessboard place six four-foot-high chess
queens so that none can take any of the other five. The person must solve
the puzzle and get out of the room before time is up to win a crystal. If
the person is not out in time, the door locks and the person is trapped in
the room. Trapped people can be ransomed with crystals won in other rooms.
When you are done, your prize is determined by another ridiculous feat that
you will have five seconds to perform for each crystal you have left. This
is one heck of a game show and O'Brien's off-the-wall role as a sort of
buccaneer is often upstaging the antics. He clearly has lost none of his
creativity from his 'Rocky Horror' days. We have no idea why the program
has not been imported to the United States.

Mark is afraid he is catching cold. This is very common for travelers
in Asia. In China it is called Beijing throat. There are hundreds of
different varieties of cold germs, and the ones that Indians are immune to,
Americans are not. Mark brought a lot of vitamin C which usually works for
him to suppress if not cure the cold.




October 14, 1993:




The bathroom is laid out very well at the Sunrise.
In our last hotel you had to do a lot of balancing with the night case.
This place had very well-designed facilities with a nice counter around the
sink. It is the sort of thing you don't think much about until it isn't
there.

Mark noted, Another thing that has proven very useful is a photo vest.
I expected it would be about as good as a knapsack, but it is much more
convenient. All my valuables are right on my chest and with one zip-up they
are secure.

Our morning wake-up alarm was the Goverment of India man trying to
sell us a tour at 7 AM and ringing us on the phone. That seems to be how
everyone in the hotel wakes up from the sounds of the other rooms' phones.
(At least he didn't call early enough to ask us if we wanted to see dawn at
the Taj.)

Agra is cooler than the last two towns we visited. There looks to be a
little more greenery than Khajurao. That last city seemed to have a little
more open space but not so many trees. The temperature in the morning was
pleasant. By all accounts afternoon at the Taj Mahal is pretty hot.

We ordered breakfast. Mark had stuffed paratha and curds; Evelyn had
her usual porridge. People often ask Mark how a fun, stuffed paratha sort
of guy like him can get along so well with a plain porridge sort of woman
like Evelyn. Well, he'll tell you: The woman makes a damn fine cup of
coffee. Mark says he lives in fear of the day somebody points out that he
doesn't drink coffee because he may have to make some difficult life
decisions that day.

Moona came to talk with us over breakfast and discuss our plans. He
also had to speed up our breakfast, which took over a half-hour to get
served. We had intended to go to the Tourist Office to book our tour, but
decided to go directly to the railway station, since it actually leaves from
there and can be booked there as well. So we took an auto-rickshaw that
Moona arranged to the railway station from the hotel for Rs25.

But first we had to stop and get gas. The same thing had happened in
Varanasi. It's as if they're worried about the gas going stale and won't
buy any until they have a passenger. We still made the station in plenty of
time.

The Agra Cantonment railway station looks like something out of THE MAN
WHO WOULD BE KING. If you haven't seen John Huston's MAN WHO WOULD BE KING,
put this log down and go find a copy on videotape or something and see it.
It's wonderful. Or you can go find the story by Rudyard Kipling. It is
pretty good too, perhaps better than the film, but the film is a great
adaptation. That's better than anything you'll read in this log.

The station is chaotic even when little is happening. The auto-
rickshaw went into a corral with about a hundred other auto-rickshaws
waiting for passengers. Outside homeless dogs and people sleep; beggars and
hawkers ply their trade. You cannot go more than a few feet without hearing
someone say, Hello, trying in some way or another to make money off of
you. We like the country and the culture and most of the people, but we are
getting very tired of people barraging us in attempts to make money off of
us. Although we are having a great time, but we have very strong
reservations about recommending India to anyone who looks American or
European. We are meeting a lot of Indians we like, but we are finding much
too often that we are more interested in the Indians we meet than they are
interested in us. They see us as a source of revenue first and foremost.
And for the majority of these, it is exclusively, not even foremost. It
is a serious problem for Indian tourism. India is the only country where it
might be anywhere near a serious consideration. And in India it is a very
serious consideration. In New York City, nobody gets into your taxi to give
you a sales pitch. Someone who jumps into taxis in New York City very soon
gets shot. New York City is civilized. But seriously, if your skin is
white, expect that you will look to a lot of the locals in India like a bag
of money with running shoes. While we are having a heck of a good time, if
you are reading this log to decide if you want to come to this country, take
the attitude of the locals into consideration. It is not difficult to avoid
crime, and it is tough to run into terrorism even if you want to, but the
chasing of the tourist dollar oblivious to any consideration for the tourist
himself or herself makes this country one that is pretty tough to recommend
to others.

The booking office for the tour was easy to find, though at first
Evelyn thought it was the wrong one because it said Uttar Pradesh Tourist
Office instead of Government of India Tourist Office, but it turned out
to be the right one anyway. Tours are now Rs60 (not the Rs120 that the man
was telling us--although it's conceivable he meant for two) or the Rs75
Moona had said. We bought tickets for the city tour and went out amid the
hubbub and chaos of beggars and hawkers and found our bus, an old non-air-
conditioned type with rather torn headrest covers. It was pretty hot
sitting there (Evelyn notes, I had foolishly picked the side of the bus in
the sun, though for riding it was the better side, being nearest the side of
the road). In addition, hawkers kept trying to sell us postcards and other
items. We did buy a liter of water (at the price listed in fine print on
the side of the bottle rather than higher, which was initially asked) and
two wire puzzle bracelets for Rs5 each. The vendor was asking Rs8, but
willing to sell two for Rs10.

At about 10:30 AM we finally headed out. Most of the passengers were
Indians; there was a New Zealander we talked to a bit and three or four
other non-Indians. As the books indicated, everything was conducted in
English.

The Lonely Planet guide recommends the Tourist Guest House in Agra.
It also says that there are several other places claiming to be the Tourist
Guest House that aren't, including the Kapoor Tourist Guest House, which it
says is a real dive. No matter what they say, if you're opposite the
Central Methodist Church, you're at the Kapoor. Well, we passed the Kapoor
and it now has painted above its name Recommended by: Lonely Planet
Publications! We assume there are no laws about truth in advertising here.

On our way to Fatehpur Sikri, the bus was stopped at a checkpoint by
the police for a random traffic check. Someone said the driver's license
had expired, but he got back in and started driving again anyway. Maybe he
got a temporary one. Then again, maybe not.

The road to Fatehpur Sikri goes through countryside and a few small
villages, but you can still tell it's a road that tourists travel. There
was a man with a couple of camels with spots painted on them sitting by the
side of the road, and another with a bear on a leash. These are what are
known as photo ops. We had never thought there were bears in India, but
there one was. Mark was thinking it probably wanted to shake us down for
rupees. Evelyn said that the Lonely Planet guide says that the bear has
been trained to dance in the road blocking traffic until the driver pays the
bear's owner baksheesh. It was a scam so that he would be paid to remove
the bear from the road. What a country!


We arrived at Fatehpur Sikri, another World Heritage Site, at about
11:30 AM. It is described as a Moghul ghost city, but what remains is
closer to a place or a castle than a city. This was once Akbar's capital of
India. Akbar had wanted a son and went on a pilgrimage to see a holy man
for some encouragement. The holy man said that Akbar would indeed have a
son. When the pressure was off, Akbar found it much easier to sire a son.
In gratitude, he built a great city, Fatehpur Sikri, and made it his
capital. It is twenty-three miles (thirty-seven kilometers) west of Agra.
His palace is a big complex of buildings employing many different cultures
of the times. Akbar had buildings dedicated to each of what he saw as the
four major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. He took a
Hindu wife, a Muslim wife, and a Christian wife. Mark said, I suspect he
also had a Jewish wife, but rather than consummating the marriage, she
probably redecorated the palace ('I think we'll re-do the harem quarters in
mauve. Akbar, what do you think about window treatments?'). Akbar,
incidentally, tried to unify all four religions into a single religion that
would end all conflict over religion. It was a failure because he didn't
recognize the religious significance of doughnuts and coffee the way
Unitarians do. He started the city in 1571. It was the capital of India
from 1571 to 1586. Then it is thought that water problems caused the
capital to be abandoned. The capital is constructed mostly of sandstone
mostly in the Muslim-Indian style that featured things like geometrical
filigreed screens on the windows. The Diwani-Khas has four bell-shaped
towers on the roof at the four corners, each held up by four pillars. The
courtyard sports a huge backgammon board with squares big enough that the
emperor and empress used servant girls as pieces. There was a house for an
astrologer. And to keep the whole thing cool, an artificial lake was built.
And there were flocks of birds kept for communications also. In fact, it
was a tremendously expensive set-up so Akbar could live in comfort,
communicate with people, play backgammon with his wife--assuming she was
interested at the time. And for the emperor to have that much comfort, a
lot of people had to slave and live in less comfort. Mark says, If Akbar
really wanted to be impressed, he could visit the Leeper Palace in Old
Bridge, New Jersey. No artificial lake for the Leepers. They tell a dial
on the wall exactly what they want the temperature to be. They communicate
with their friends hundreds of miles away virtually instantly, and with
two-way communication at that. If Emperor Mark wakes up in the middle of
the night, he can tiptoe into the other room and have a servant who will
play him chess or backgammon. The servant is ten miles away but can play as
if he is in the same room. Fine actors will perform their most famous plays
for his entertainment without waking the Empress. Some of the actors may
already be dead but they will still perform for him his choice of a thousand
or so of his favorite plays. Or great musicians will play for him. They
stand ready to perform almost every opera Puccini ever wrote, or any of
Beethoven's symphonies, and that is only about one percent of what the
Emperor has there. So who's impressing whom, Akbar? God, technology's
great! Yeah, this is a recurrent in my trip logs, but so is the splendor of
ages past a recurrent theme in my tours. It is interesting but cannot match
the splendor of the present. What pre-1950 monarch lived any better than I
do?

By the way, if you're looking for a historical handle on when Akbar
ruled India, it was during the Elizabethan period. Sometimes it helps to
connect to things you know.

There is a large courtyard for what is effectively a mosque. You have
to leave your shoes outside. Evelyn wondered if she should stay out also
due to a theoretical restriction against blood, but you would expect that at
least one in five women would have to stay out for the same reason, and
since nobody else was staying out, it appeared that either the rule is sort
of ignored, or that the courtyard did not count as part of the mosque
itself. Again, more splendor and scale.

Of course, it was very hot. So we were extremely thirsty. Outside of
Fatehpur Sikri we got cold drinks for Rs8 and they were very good. Then we
got back on the bus for the ride back to Agra and the Taj Mahal.

One of our companions on the day tour pointed out that two of the
Indians on the tour must have been on their honeymoon. The woman was
dressed in bright green trimmed in a sort of silver tinsel. This was
apparently wedding clothing.

The bus stopped very near the Taj at the Taj Kheema Hotel for a quick
lunch. We could see the dome above the trees. We found out that masaladar
is not so useful a word. Mark ordered a vegetable curry masaladar and they
added an order of dhal masala (masala dhal?). There were two power failures
during lunch.

One reason to take a city tour like this when traveling on your own is
that it is an opportunity to meet other people and hear other voices. One
reason *not* to is that you're almost always sitting around after each stop
waiting for the late-comers. We weren't sure when the return train to Delhi
was, so we weren't sure how much time we had left for the Fort and the Taj.
Evelyn particularly started to worry when we did the Taj next, as she was
afraid they were skipping the Fort altogether for lack of time.

Getting into the Taj was a bit of a mess. They do not allow food,
transistor radios, etc. We figured that they probably did not allow palmtop
computers either. Generally anything new not specifically allowed you can
assume is prohibited. We are sure there is no rule saying that computers
are prohibited, but we would be willing to bet if the palmtop came into
question, that would be how the rules were interpreted. Evelyn was checking
her whole backpack, so Mark gave her the palmtop. He watched as she went to
the checkroom and she just disappeared inside. The guide herded the rest of
the group into line to enter so Mark decided to hold a place for her. Still
she did not come out. Mark went through the line and was forced into the
grounds. Still no Evelyn. Four or five minutes later Evelyn came through
the gate. There were something like eight people in line ahead of her and
each had to fill out forms for what they were leaving.

The Taj Mahal is for most people the symbol of India. You enter
through a giant sandstone gate and can see the Taj at the end of a long
reflecting pool (except the water was a bit dirty so it didn't reflect very
well). Yes, it's beautiful, and yes, the stonework (pietra dura--inlaid
work) is marvelous, and, yes, the marble carving is very fine, but it has
all been given such a build-up that it can't help but have too big a
reputation to live up to. Mark Twain even talked about this in FOLLOWING
THE EQUATOR. Basically, we tend to take all the descriptions of things and
add them together, so if ten people say something is good, in our minds it
becomes great, and so on. Twain uses the example of Niagara Falls and says
that by the time people get there they expect a cataract miles high.

So while the Taj Mahal is beautiful and romantic and all that, it is
not the high point of our trip. So far that is Khajurao, though the general
ambiance of the cities may be even higher. Where else do livestock wander
the streets of metropolises of over a million people? (On the other hand,
Evelyn comments, New York City is worried about the pollution caused by the
few horse-drawn carriages it has, but compared to here, that's nothing. Of
course, here people collect the dung in baskets, form it into patties, slap
it on the walls to dry--all by hand-- and use it for fuel. I suspect New
Yorkers wouldn't go for that. But back to the Taj.)

The Taj Mahal itself is a beautiful building that we are sure the
reader can picture. What you may not realize is that part of the beauty is
enhanced by playing tricks with your eye. The minarets at the four corners
seem to stand perfectly parallel and very tall. They actually lean outward
just a few degrees for a more pleasing effect (and also so that in case of
earthquake they will fall away from the Taj rather than onto it). The walls
of the Taj lean outward also, and the Arabic writing on the Taj is larger at
the top than at the bottom. The result gives the appearance that the
building is perfectly regular when it is not. There are signs up that say
no tipping but that did not stop a would-be guide from latching on to us.
We tried to break away but could not. Our guide took us through the
building, showing us that the marble and the red stone used in floral
decorations was translucent. We don't know how that did any good since
there is not very much light that gets into the Taj. It seems like wasted
effort. It also had black marble from Belgium and white marble from Jaipur.
The building is, of course, a huge mausoleum that the Emperor Shah Jahan
built to memorialize his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She may well have been an
extraordinary woman in life. We will probably never know. But the Taj was
not started until she died and it took 20,000 laborers twenty-two years to
complete, at a cost of 22,000,000 gold rupees. We don't know how much that
is in American. At the current exchange rates, Rs22,000,000 is about
US$700,000. It took so long that by the time it was complete, Mumtaz was a
very ordinary skeleton. There is a phony mausoleum on the floor where you
enter and a real mausoleum on the floor below. Perhaps the Emperor thought
this would fool grave robbers. Anyway, the Taj is one of the Seven Wonders
of the World. I asked about this and Mark explained that it was so chosen
by the 1921 Seven Wonders Conference that met in Florence, Italy, and has
remained on their Top Seven list every year since but one. Mark also
said, It is also world-famous as a tribute to excess and wealth. As a
tribute to beauty that will last the ages it is second in India only to the
works of Ramanujan, the great Indian mathematician.

Well, we came out of the Taj. We walked back along the reflecting
pool, trying occasionally to take pictures. There were good photo points,
but there were always queues of people waiting to take pictures there.
Someone wanted to open a fenced-off area for Mark to take pictures from. No
doubt it was for baksheesh. Mark refused.

As we were leaving, Mark got a look at an Indian chipmunk. At least he
thought it was a chipmunk. It had the markings of a chipmunk, the tail of a
squirrel, and a size somewhere in between.

The Taj is near the juncture of two rivers whose names mean stop and
go. They feed the fountains which Mark thinks the guide said had run
continuously since the Taj was built.

Just as Delhi had a Red Fort, so too did Agra, built by Akbar the great
Moghul emperor. When he was just twenty-three years old, he ordered the
fort built. That was in 1565 and the high walls of the fort were build of
red sandstone. Three years earlier Akbar had started his conquest of
northern India. Akbar won the loyalty of the people with a carrot and a
stick. The carrot was tolerance for Hinduism; the stick was military force.
Akbar avoided making enemies by not insisting on conversion to Islam.

It took three or four thousand workers eight years to build the massive
walls. The walls are supposed to be so well constructed that no hair can go
into one of the joints. The buildings inside the fort were changed many
times since then, but the walls are still intact. The walls go up as much
as seventy feet and the perimeter makes a curve one and a half miles long.
It seems larger than the Red Fort in Delhi, but parts of this fort are
reserved for army use.

The inside includes the Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid). It was built from
1646 to 1653. It was also closed for renovation (Luck of Leeper, but Evelyn
couldn't have gone in anyway). The fort affords a nice view of the Taj, but
of course that was the plan when the Taj was built. There was more
sandstone work, more inlaid work, and so on. They are restoring some of the
buildings with a new coat of plaster and trying to fix up the gardens, but
it is difficult with as little money as is probably available. (They are
also building a new, wider bridge across the Yamuna that they've been
working on for six or seven years and it looks only half done. Evelyn
figures they'll finish the new international airport in Agra before either
of them. The tourists will then fly directly to Agra instead of day-
tripping from Delhi. It will probably be real hell then.)

One of the women on the day tour was from south India and she was
fascinated by Mark's palmtop computer. This was the first day he was using
it to make notes and both she and he son with whom she was traveling were
fascinated to see the new technology. Even the guide, an old dark-skinned
Indian man, started addressing his lecture directly to Mark. It may be he
figured the rich American could tip best. On the other hand, no one seems
to tip the guides on these tours anyway.

Both here and in Delhi the guides told us wherever we see that
something has been plucked out of the wall, it had been a jewel before,
almost always a diamond or a ruby. Mark thinks it makes for a better story,
but he is not sure he believes that there was nothing semi-precious that was
since stolen. There may be some exaggeration to tell us of the great and
regal past which might have been a little less great and regal than people
want to imagine.

After the tour of the fort, the rest of the tour was going to crafts
places. We split off and hired a cycle-rickshaw for Rs15 to go back to our
hotel. As we were riding, the rickshaw driver's brother came along in a
cycle-rickshaw and offered to take one of us, still for the same price.
(This was for their benefit, since there was a fair amount of uphill
pedaling.) We hesitated, but finally agreed on the theory that if they
started going in very different directions, we could always jump out. We
had them stop at the Agra Fort railway station (not the same as the Agra
Cantonment railway station we had started from) and we reserved our places
for the ride to Jaipur at 6:10 AM Saturday. That was pretty painless. It
supposed is a two-step process, one to get the reservation and one to get
the ticket, but that seems to have been collapsed into one. We got a
reservation slip to fill out, got the train number for it from a sign
painted on the wall (we guess schedules don't change very often), filled in
the form, went to the window, and paid and got our tickets (Rs236 each for
first class for 208 kilometers including a Rs15 reservation charge and a
Rs15 service charge) in about ten minutes. This was much faster than the
Lonely Planet guide indicated. (It was also about 30% more expensive, but
we had heard that Indian railways had raised their rates in an attempt to
lose less money--it is heavily subsidized by the government.) On the back
of the ticket is an inspirational quote from Gandhi and a request that
family and friends not come to see you off because it makes the stations and
platforms too chaotic.

Then we continued on back to the hotel. It was very slow. Evelyn said
she had never seen such lethargic rickshaw drivers.

You have children? we were asked.

No children.

The rickshaw driver said, I have five children. One with polio. You
know polio?

Somehow we knew this was not going to be an easy ride.

You want to see craft shop.

No.

Craft shop has many nice things.

No room in our luggage.

If I take you to see craft shop, I make Rs20. Just look around. Five
minutes. You don't have to buy.

We said we did not want to go, but we were trapped in the rickshaws and
they kept wheedling. Eventually we said we would go for five minutes.
(Evelyn suspects the reason for putting us in two rickshaws was so that when
they started pestering us to go to this shop, we would be unable to discuss
it with each other or help each other out. Divide and conquer, in other
words.) So we went. And we didn't buy. Mark used the time to good
advantage. There were paintings of Hindu dieties and he had the clerk give
him a short lecture on Hindu deities and historical people.

Then back in the rickshaw.

Just one more store.

No, Mark responded.

One more, you don't have to buy.

NO! I will not get up from my seat until I see Sunrise Hotel. I do
not rise until Sunrise.

Just one more....

I am being kidnapped.

It took a bit of persuading, but we got back to our hotel. So Mark
started to pay the Rs15. Only 15? the driver asked, as if he didn't
remember the price he'd asked for. FIFTEEN! He paid the driver. All in
all, probably a typical Agra experience. Evelyn had read a story in the
Lonely Planet guide about somebody who got sick in India and told a rickshaw
driver he needed a doctor desperately. The driver told him to get in and
drove at high speed to a factory. When the passenger protested (feebly), he
was assured that a doctor did work there! (The details may not be exactly
right, but we believe the story. It could easily happen in Agra, where the
Euro-tourist and the donkey are here to be used. That may be a bit of an
over-statement, but we bet people who have been to Agra will know what he
means.) We hope Jaipur will be better but we don't have high hopes.

We got back to the room, told the Sikhs we did not want to go into the
shop right then, and went inside. There we could not get the air
conditioner on. Also, the room had not been made up, but we didn't know if
this was standard or not for this hotel. (During our entire stay the room
was not made up. That did not bother us much, but we did have to find a
bellhop to get toilet paper which had run out that morning. Toilet paper
comes only on very small rolls, so it runs out quickly. And having the
wastebaskets emptied would have been nice. At least there is a wastebasket.
In most public restrooms there doesn't seem to be one. This can at times be
a problem for women. The hotel also puts moth balls on top of each drain.
Now we doubt that moths in drains are a big problem, so we wonder why they
do this.)

After about half an hour somebody showed up to look at the air
conditioner. After about five minutes he left and returned with a new
stabilizer. There is no night stand on Mark's side of the bed. There is a
stabilizer. We're not sure exactly what it does, but it is a big metal
box the size of a bread box with a red button and an electric gauge on the
front. The air conditioner plugs into it and it plugs into the wall. It
has two big silver grab-bars on the top. It must weigh forty pounds
(eighteen kilograms). Anyway, after about another five minutes the guy
brought someone else in to work on the stabilizer. He stripped wires, made
a few nice sparks, and then declared that the stabilizer would have to be
replaced. He took it out. A few minutes later he was back with a new
stabilizer and proceeded to install it. This took about another five
minutes. As he left, the air conditioner ran. Of course, at the next
brown-out which was just a few minutes later, it started acting flaky again.
It seems to go out and come back for no apparent reason, though at least
partly connected to when Agra has brown-outs, which is two or three times a
night.

Hotel rules here are different from the United States as well.
Apparently you can be evicted at any time for any reason (or no reason!).
And of course, there are interminable forms with passport numbers, visa
numbers, etc.

But the strangest thing may be Agra's version of trickle-down
economics--other less complimentary descriptions would also be accurate.
Evelyn thinks it's worse here than in Varanasi, but that may be just her
impression. Moona arranges an auto-rickshaw for a certain amount. He keeps
some (30%?--Evelyn thinks that's what one driver said) and gives the driver
the rest. The driver then takes us around and suggests a store to shop in.
If we go in, he gets Rs20. Somehow everyone is paying everyone else.

Unfortunately, India doesn't seem as accessible at night as Southeast
Asia was. There, we could walk out our hotel door at 8 PM and people were
walking around, stores were open, etc. Here the hotels are all isolated
from the street, surrounded by fences and guards, and you can't just stroll.
(Even during the day, it's hard just to stroll.) Then again, we're getting
old and probably need our evenings to rest up.




October 15, 1993:




Today was our day to pick up the sights we hadn't
seen yesterday. We had breakfast at about 8:30 AM, then arranged for an
auto-rickshaw to the far side of the river. We asked Moona what it should
cost to cross the river and see what is on the other side. (There are some
interesting sites to see, mostly tombs.) Moona said he would arrange it and
it would cost about Rs150, and would take about five or six hours. Moona
said we would pay him when it was over, and not to pay the driver anything
because the driver would try to cheat us. (We wondered how big Moona's cut
would be.) On this extremely reassuring note we set off.

Our auto-rickshaw headed out across an old two-level bridge across the
Yamuna river near the Agra Fort. It is not unusual to see some amazing
loads, such as a bundle fifteen feet in diameter moving down the road on top
of a tiny wagon.

This time of year the Yamuna is just wet mud for most of the way.
Cattle graze in the middle of the river. Oh, there are still sections with
some water and there were people fishing, but the fish in these pools
clearly were not getting much exercise this time of year.

The Itimad-ud-daulah is often called the baby Taj since it was a
precursor to the Taj Mahal in design and shares many of the same design
motifs, though it has slightly more Chinese-style decoration than the Taj
does. It is the tomb of a man who arrived at the court of the Emperor
Jahangir with no money and a widowed daughter, Nurjahan. She had no money
but she was greatly beautiful and that was all she really needed. Before
long, Nurjahan was the Empress and there were members of her family in many
powerful places in Jahangir's court. She had a beautiful mausoleum built
for her father--this domeless little Taj. Her niece was Mumtaz Mahal for
whom was built the big Taj. This was a family that believed in going in
style.

There were lots of monkeys on the grounds, with baby monkeys
suspiciously watching the tourists but also taking pride in the nice
buildings that primates build. There were not many tourists; one of the
books says that this is a much under-rated sight, and Evelyn says she
agrees. (We read later that someone wants to put a cable-car across the
river so that more tourists will go to things on this side.)

In the front garden we also saw a litter of puppies that could not have
been a month old. They looked like a cross between an adult dog and a
sphere. They still had spherical features.

We went into the mausoleum itself and naturally a would-be guide
started telling us just about everything there is to know in a totally
opaque accent. We ended up giving him a few rupees for his effort, useless
though it was. It was kind of a nice site, with the nice architecture, the
oddly tropical bird sounds, the monkeys, and the puppies.

The other two sights on this side are so under-rated that our driver
had to ask directions to them from people on the street. The Chini Ka Rauza
(China Tomb) is the tomb of an old finance minister. The fact that he could
afford such a lavish tomb is testament to the fact that he ministered first
to his own finances. However, the tomb looks a little less lavish these
days, as most of the tilework has been picked off. The place looks pretty
dilapidated, but it can afford its own beggar to pester tourists. The Ram
Bagh gardens are also neglected, with the pavilions in ruins. In both
cases, people appeared to be living in or at least sleeping in the ruins,
unlike Itimad-ad-daulah (which had only the monkeys sleeping there).

These took only a couple of hours, and when it was finished the driver
asked, Akbar's tomb? We had planned on doing this, but couldn't remember
if we had said so earlier. In any case, we figured we had the auto-rickshaw
for five hours, so what the heck. But for we had to stop for--you guessed
it--gasoline. What's more, the driver wanted Rs30 from us to pay for it,
which he said he'd deduct from our fare at the end. This sounded exactly
like what Moona had warned us against, but we appeared to be at an impasse.
We argued that we should not be responsible for his gasoline, but he said he
needed the gasoline to take us to Akbar's tomb. Eventually we gave him
Rs20, to be deducted from the final bill. He produced another Rs10 and got
the gasoline, and off we went.

Akbar's tomb was about ten miles north of the city in Sikanda and,
being out of the city, was in a more forested area. We went past some
fancy-looking movie theaters on the way. That was of some interest. We are
always interested in film. Our driver drove for a little while in truck
exhaust. In an open auto-rickshaw this is a real experience and very much
one to be avoided, if not for health, then because the exhaust is hot.

We passed a crew filling potholes. They do this by pouring hot asphalt
into them, throwing leafy branches over them, and pressing the asphalt flat
by having barefoot men stamp on it. They must not have the equivalent of
OSHA here, or maybe it's on retainer.

We got to the tomb just as a big French tourist group was arriving. We
faded into the group and got by the waiting predatory guides. Inside the
tomb itself another guide latched on to us, but we were able to shake him
when a mob of school children came in. It is an unfortunate thing that what
is most memorable about the tomb is how we avoided people trying to sell to
us.

We asked to see the local market that the Indians use and our driver
took us through one, the Kinari Bazaar, which is north of Agra Fort. It is
another source of culture shock. The air is thick with flying insects.
Also, we saw food being sold including what looked like big cakes of cheese
that had a multitude of flies crawling on them. Evelyn says, If this is
where everyone buys their food, it's no wonder that people get sick--it's
just surprising that more people don't. It wasn't all unpleasant. There
was plenty interesting to see. The spice sellers had a wide variety of
spices, all different colors. School supplies were on sale for the
children. Another shop (maybe ten feet wide) was selling paint, sinks, and
hardware. There were legions of children saying, Hello! and trying out
one of the few English words they knew. Pigs and goats walked through the
streets. We walked through a vegetable section and saw some vegetables we
did not recognize. We asked what the Hindi was for them, but they were not
in our book, so perhaps they had no English name.

We were going to stop for some more music cassettes, but our driver
said they would overcharge us because we were tourists. He said we would be
charged Rs100 each, and we said we had paid Rs25 for cassettes when we had
bought them. He thought he could find them for that. Of course he could--
that was the list price. So we sent him off with Rs50 to buy two film music
cassettes and we held the auto-rickshaw for security. He returned with two
cassettes and undoubtedly made something on the deal.

Then he wanted to take us to his boss's shop. Apparently his boss owns
a string of rickshaws and hires drivers on the condition that they bring
customers to his shop. Again, we had time so we figured it was part of the
Agra experience. It was very similar to the last store we went to. In
fact, it *was* the last store we went to! If you get taken to the
Handicrafts Gallery on Jaseria Enclave off Fatehbad Road, that's the place.
If you don't, that's a miracle.

We turned down an offer to go to another shop, but when our driver
asked us if we were interested in going to the Ram Lila Festival that
evening, it sounded interesting and we said yes before we realized what a
mess that would create. We arranged to have him pick us up at 7:30 PM and
bring us back at 9 PM for Rs40. Finally, we went back to our hotel. The
driver asked to be paid and we told him that Moona said we should pay
through him. The driver started to ask how much we would be paying Moona,
but he stopped short for fear of tipping us off that Moona was taking a big
rake-off, something that was already obvious.

We got back to the room and found that again it was not made up. We
were not really hungry for a full lunch, so we went to a shop around the
corner and bought some water and some biscuits. We snacked on those.

After a few minutes, Moona came tapping on our door. He asked how our
morning was and we told him. He asked for Rs200 for the morning. We
pointed out he had said Rs150. He said he did not know we would be seeing
Akbar's Tomb. (Evelyn wonders how he figured five or six hours then.) We
told him we'd already given the driver Rs20 for gasoline. He was not happy,
but he took Rs180 instead. We told him we'd made plans with the driver to
see the Ram Lila Festival. He said, no, the festival was over and not to
go. We said we'd made arrangements with the driver and Moona said not to
worry, he'd tell the driver the festival was over. Mark would have bet the
festival was that evening and Moona was sending a message that the driver
should not make deals without giving Moona his cut. While at first he
seemed colorful, we found we were liking Moona less and less.

This was about the point that Evelyn got disgusted with the whole
system. Was Ram Lila still on and Moona was trying to convince us not to go
to punish the driver? Was it over and the driver agreed to take us just to
get a fare? Was one of them just mistaken?

On top of all this, Moona asked us to go with him to see a marble
factory to see how the work was done. We knew we was going to rake off more
profit by getting us there, but Mark wanted a chance to tell him that he
thinks Agra is cutting its own throat by making like so unpleasant for
tourists.

When the time came, we walked with Moona and of course he asked how we
were liking Agra. Mark told him we'd been in many countries, some poorer
than India (like Tanzania), but in no country was there this aggressive war
for the tourist dollar like there was in India. Moona's response was that
Agra was growing very fast and would soon have an international airport.
Mark assumes that he meant there would be more and more sheep to fleece.

Sure enough, the so-called factory tour was a high-pressure sale pitch
to buy rugs (we steadfastly refused) and marble (we made a very nominal
purchase, and even there we probably overpaid). We did see a bit of how a
carpet was made, but even the factory owner admitted the loom was for
demonstration purposes only and the actual looms were in people's homes--we
were then ushered into a showroom and shown a couple of dozen carpets and
pressured (unsuccessfully) to buy. They even had letters of
recommendation they showed us which seemed mostly to say just that the
carpets ordered had arrived. Evelyn memorized one of the addresses and may
write and tell that person the use to which her letter is being put. Evelyn
also noted that there were stacks of rugs in traditional Southwestern/Navajo
designs. It's *possible* that convergent evolution produced similar
patterns in India, but it's more likely that a lot of Navajo rugs sold in
the United States are really made by genuine Indians.

In the marble showroom we ended up buying two inlaid marble tiles.
They had asked US$15 each, and Mark offered US$15 for both. Then Mark went
up to US$17, but said that it was a one-time offer. When they didn't
accept, he went down to US$16, which confused the hell out of them.
Eventually we got them for US$16 after leaving the shop and having Moona
offer to try again. Are they worth it? They're probably still over-priced
but not by much, and Mark had some fun. (Mark claims the shopkeeper was
standing there still confused after the deal was finalized at US$16, saying
to himself, I lost a dollar.)

When we got back to the hotel Moona said that he had something for us.
It turned out to be brochures for his hotel that he wanted us to give to
other travelers. Unlikely. Particularly because they say things like his
hotel overlooks the Taj Mahal. You'd need Superman's X-ray vision to see
the Taj Mahal from the Hotel Sunrise.

We spent the rest of the afternoon writing. We had decided to eat
dinner and get to bed early rather than take a chance on the Ram Lila
festival, partly because we had a 6:10 AM train and partly because we didn't
like the idea of being in the middle of a war between Moona and the rickshaw
driver.

So at about 7:30 PM we went to dinner. Mark can remember thinking that
this was about the time we'd arranged to go to the Ram Lila Festival. Moona
had seemed to think the driver wouldn't show up anyway, but when we finished
eating at about 8:10 PM, the waiter informed us, Driver waiting. Moona
was supposed to take care of the driver. Mark went to find Moona and found
him on the first floor.

Moona, you were supposed to take care of the driver.

I take care. No problem.

But he is waiting outside.

Be polite, he said helpfully.

You said you were going to take care of the driver.

Yes, I take care.

Well, are you going out?

No problem, he said, without moving. Mark went to find Evelyn and
tell her the situation.

What should we do? he asked.

I don't know. I'd like to just have it over.

I think we should tell the driver, 'No,' and pay him Rs20.

Moona said he'd take care of it, she said.

He is doing nothing.

Mark said we should just pay off the driver. Evelyn did not want to
pay off the driver, partly because she suspected he might have been lying
and partly for fear of angering Moona, since we were dependent on the hotel
staff so we could catch our 6:10 AM train the next morning. Mark told her
the situation was a mess and with less than a dollar we could end it. We
should risk Moona screwing up our ride to the railway station but pay off
the driver. Eventually Mark said he was going down and pay off the driver,
and Evelyn went with him. He explained to the driver that Moona had told us
the Ram Lila Festival was over. The driver said that it was still going on.
Mark told him we'd decided not to go out since we'd have an early train
tomorrow. That was true. He said he would take us to the train. How much?
Rs50. Evelyn said it should not be so much. Now we are talking US$1.50 or
so. Evelyn is refusing to pay that much, since it was only Rs25 to go to
the Agra Cantonment railway station and that was further away. First the
driver said that we didn't realize how far away this railway station was,
then when he realized we did, he said he couldn't get a return fare. The
story seems to change from moment to moment, making Evelyn even more
suspicious that he may have been lying about the festival as well. But Mark
is worried because we don't know if we can get a ride from Moona arranging
it or not. The driver won't come down from Rs50. Evelyn won't pay Rs50.
Mark gave the driver Rs20 for his effort and said not to come in the
morning, and we went back to our room.




October 16, 1993:




Mark woke up about 4:30 AM just from nerves. At
least we were not dependent on a wake-up call. We were glad to be getting
out of Agra and away from Moona.

We went downstairs and Moona was already up. He asked how we were
getting to the railway station--there was nobody here. He said he would
take us. He did, in a mini-van that had to be push-started. And he charged
us Rs50. But at least we made a clean getaway. Moona had said, Every time
you see the moon, think of Moona. Mark says that's a pity: previously he
had enjoyed looking at the moon. (We passed the Ram Lila grounds on the
way. They were not completely empty, but not really set up either. If
anyone out there can tell us if there was a Ram Lila festival in Agra on
October 16, that would solve one mystery.)

In summary, everyone else seemed to like the Hotel Sunrise, but Evelyn
says she can't recommend it unless you're into shady business intrigue.

In the early morning there is already a bustle in the railway station.
Little is very well marked. You step over people sleeping on the floor
looking for the right platform. We found it with some effort and some help
from people pointing in different directions.

Next came the search for our car. When we had taken trains in Thailand
it was never a problem to find the seat you had booked. There were labels
on each car as to what number it was. Here they had the brackets to hold
the number plates, but there were no plates. Somebody pointed to a car as
being the only first-class car on the train. So we boarded. The inside of
the train had few lights on. Mark used a pocket flashlight to find a
compartment with what looked like the right numbers for our seats. Well, we
were looking for seats four and five, and the compartment listed seats five,
six, and seven. We sat there and suddenly the lights went out. We opened a
window for a little light.

The conductor came in with a businessman and put a briefcase in our
car. The conductor asked to see our tickets. He said we would have to move
and he put us in a compartment with four Indians, a woman and three men.
This compartment was listed to have seats one through four. But there was
room for six so we smiled and nodded to the Indians.

A few minutes later the conductor told the four Indians they would have
to leave and brought in five Indians, all men, to replace them. Apparently
the protocol is not to label anything very well, let the passengers get on
and find seats for themselves, and then have the conductor work the seating
arrangements.

We had been told to try to get air-conditioned cars, not because they
were cooler but because they were cleaner, with less dust. First class had
no air conditioning on this train and the car was dusty. Also, the ashtray
had cigarette butts from a brand that could have gone out of existence five
years before. Mark pushed his bag under the seat and it smeared something
that was on the floor. He says, I prefer not to speculate what it was my
bag smeared.

Hawkers came around to the window selling tea and water. They have no
paper cups and instead serve it in small earthenware cups. They are
apparently disposable. The open windows have space for beggars to put their
hands in and ask for money.

At 6:49 AM the 6:10 train left the station. 6:49 AM is not a good time
to be looking out a train window in India. We must have passed over a
hundred and fifty people, almost all male, using as toilets the train
tracks, ditches, puddles, or just stretches of grass. You could pass a
puddle ten feet across and see seven people using it at once with everything
exposed to the passing train. (Evelyn commented, I haven't seen so many
penises and buttocks in a long time. India seems to have a very strict
nudity taboo for women, but not for men, which is somewhat the reverse of
the United States, at least United States movies.) Even the tribes on the
Amazon have learned better sanitation. It is bad enough to have cow and
horse dung around. You see disks of manure sold in the streets for fuel--
often with a big handprint in the middle as a trademark. But animal
parasites are not all that likely to affect humans. But with no containment
of human manure, it is amazing that this country is not ravaged by a lot
more disease. These people must have cast-iron constitutions. Mark also
saw the skeleton of a horse that a pack of dogs were picking clean.

Evelyn reports, It appears that most men squat even if just urinating.
And circumcision is not all that common, at least among the sample set I
observed. Just thought you'd want to know.

The ride was uneventful. It was five hours of rocking, dusty ride. We
had no scheduled stops between Bharatpur and Jaipur, but we seemed to have a
lot of unscheduled stops in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason.
The trip was 208 kilometers (about 130 miles), so we averaged about 40
kilometers per hour (or 25 miles per hour). And this was an express!

We wrote a little, slept a little, took pictures from the window a
little. As we entered Rajasthan the area started reminding us of the Middle
East. There were some palm trees and a lot more camels, and the people
looked and dressed a little more Arabic. Green farmland gave way to more
arid farmland with more sand and rocks. It was desert country--not Sahara-
type desert, but scrub desert.
The train was about forty minutes late pulling into Jaipur Junction,
arriving about noon. We were immediately besieged by rickshaw drivers. We
took refuge in the tourist office and arranged for a city tour for Sunday
(tomorrow) and asked about rooms. We got a room at the Ganguar (pronounced
like the character in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME) Tourist Bungalow. We had
hoped to take a tour to the Sariska Tiger Reserve on Sunday, but the
Rajasthan Tourist Development Corporation was no longer running them. We
got an auto-rickshaw to the hotel for Rs10, but had to fight the driver off
with a stick to convince him we did not want a tour from him. An air-
conditioned double room was Rs400, just what the Lonely Planet guide said,
but the 24-hour coffee shop mentioned in the guide was being renovated. Our
room was far enough away that the construction didn't bother us, so we
decided to stay.

For lunch in the hotel Mark had mutton soup and vegetarian thali.
(Okay, so I am inconsistent, he says.) By the way, thali just means
platter. It is a sampler of several vegetarian dishes. That's usually
about what Mark gets in the United States also, though it is much more
expensive there. Indian cuisine is the only one Mark knows of that has such
a good variety of dishes that are vegetarian.

Our plan for the afternoon was to see a Hindi movie. Yes, a movie.
Jaipur's Raj Mandir Cinema is listed in the Cadogan as being the second-
best cinema in Asia. (Our tour guide later claimed it was the best in the
world--who is rating these anyway?) Even if we couldn't understand the
movie, we had to see the theater. We walked down Mirza Ismail Road. It was
a long haul to the theater and we had to dodge traffic and fight off
rickshaws as we went. We passed a billboard advertising AT&T Home Country
Direct just as a camel-drawn cart was passing in front of it, and Evelyn
took a picture, but we were too far away for it to come out very good. It
was supposed to be only a mile to the theater, but it seemed like more. We
were starting to wonder how we would recognize the theater when we saw it.

In Bulgaria, we wondered if we would be able to find the synagogue in
Sofia since it was down a side street. It turned out to be the size of a
cathedral, taller than any of the buildings around it, with a big Star of
David on top. Well, the Raj Mandir wasn't *that* large, but it was
unmistakable, with its name on top in letters fifteen feet (five meters)
high. As we approached, a huge movie board announced it was showing Saawan
Kumar's KHAL-NAAIKAA.

The Raj Mandir is a movie theater in the grand old tradition. During
the Great Depression when people were working long hours for small rewards,
the film industry decided that people need glamor in their lives. Movies
became more glamorous and movie theaters became movie palaces. You paid
your few cents for a ticket and you entered a world of opulence. Most of
the palaces are now history or falling apart. Here in India, however, where
the world's largest film industry still thrives, the concept of the movie
palace is still going strong.

There is reserved (assigned) seating and six different prices (Rs7 to
Rs18). We decided to go for the most expensive, which turned out to be like
balcony seats and away from the crying babies in the cheaper seats. There
are separate lines for the more expensive seats and also for Ladies and
Gents. So Evelyn got in the Ladies line and Mark got in the (much longer)
Gents line. Evelyn asked the attendant if she would be able to buy tickets
for both of us and that was apparently okay, so when she had bought the
tickets she signaled to Mark and he left his line. We went inside.

The Raj Mandir is an impressive building, with mirrored interiors, pink
decor, and rounded rampways to higher floors. It might even rival Radio
City Music Hall. It's a combination of art deco and Hindu statues (well,
mandir does mean temple), with lots of pink glass thrown in. With a
capacity of about 1300 people, and a screen about twenty-five feet high and
fifty feet wide, this is the *big* screen experience, this is not your local
movie theater the size of your living room.

We found our seats. Then the lights dimmed.

KHAL-NAAIKAA is about two-and-a-half hours long and the plot was not
hard to follow even if it was entirely in Hindi. What helped especially was
that Evelyn pointed out how familiar the plot actually was. This was
Bombay's two-and-a-half-hour musical remake of THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE
CRADLE. Now we never bothered to see that film, but we did hear what the
plot was and it was pretty much all there, including the governess's weird
motive for her evil and even a greenhouse murder that exactly repeated the
scene in the coming attraction for the American film. (Do they have
greenhouses in India?) Mark thinks Mr. Saawan Kumar is not one to take only
partial advantage of the unenforcibility of copyright law. He is a very
thorough thief.

But what about is this about it being a musical? Well, just about all
Indian films are musicals regardless of subject matter. This was the very
first psychotic killer musical we had ever seen, but we bet others in the
audience had seen more than enough psycho-killer musicals. Before Mark gets
to the film itself, he wants to mention one more thing about the theater
itself. The ceiling of the screening room is highly fluted and apparently
at least two birds were nesting there and at inopportune times would fly in
front of the screen.

Kumar was often very creative in how he put in his production numbers.
The heroine is singing a production number on television at one point and
the villainess reaches into the television screen and pulls out the heroine
and the two sing together. A second grab at the heroine causes her to fall
back into the screen. All during this scene the Venetian blinds, which are
white on one side and red on the other, flash from red to white and back.
Rebecca De Mornay is fairly attractive and the part in THE HAND THAT ROCKS
THE CRADLE calls for her to be seductive. The Indian woman who plays the
same role in this film does fill the bill.

One of the things that helps the understanding is that there is a lot
of English language used in the film. Scenes in a doctor's office are in
English and a fair number of English phrases are used at odd moments.
People say, I love you, in English. Also, the revelation or strong
emotion scenes were all emphasized with exaggerated camerawork and music,
and Evelyn says she now knows where Jesus Franco got his directorial style.
(I guess you have to be a film fan to get that one.) It seems odd to come
to Jaipur to see a version of THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, but you do
learn a fair amount about Indian culture from the experience and it is a
comfortable and pleasant three hours.

Oh, and Evelyn notes that during the intermission you can buy candy and
drinks *for the same price they cost everywhere else*! Cold sodas are Rs7
for 250 milliliters; espresso is Rs3.

After the movie we wanted to get some data on the movie for Mark's
write-up in this log. Mark was entering some information from the poster
into his palmtop and an Indian boy came up, pretending to be looking at the
poster but rather obviously looking more closely at the computer.

We wanted to go to the bus station. Evelyn had read that the air-
conditioned buses were a decent mode of travel, perhaps better than the
trains, particularly since there were no air-conditioned trains (at least on
our last run). So we went to the bus station. There are no air-conditioned
buses either. Mark told Evelyn that air-conditioned land transport is like
the great mythical Garuda birds. You can read about them in books, but
should not expect ever to find one. We had our cycle-rickshaw take us back
to the hotel.

Evening was writing and watching an Indian movie out of the corner of
one eye. We did not have dinner, but we snacked on crackers and water.
Sounds tempting, doesn't it? Mark expects he may lose weight this trip.
Usually his weight just stays level on a foreign trip, but most foreign
trips we eat a lot in fancy restaurants. This trip is more rigorous and the
fancy restaurant eating is much less.

Mark woke up about 1:30 AM and realized he was under mosquito attack.
They apparently come out of the drains in the bathroom. (Maybe that's why
they put moth balls on them?) He does hope Evelyn is right about this not
being malaria season. She also said it wasn't monsoon season, but it was in
Varanasi.




October 17, 1993:




We got up at 7:30 AM and took showers. Mark had
fried eggs for breakfast. Hang the cholesterol, he said. I will worry
about it when I get back. You have enough health worries eating in India
without worrying about cholesterol also.

Actually, it turns out reading the paper that KHAL-NAAIKAA was not a
Bombay film, but was made in Delhi. We suspect it was a Bombay film in the
same sense that WEST SIDE STORY was a Hollywood film.

We were sitting in the room waiting for the bus for the day tour.
Evelyn suggested we could wait the twenty minutes in the lobby. Mark said
if we went to the lobby we would be hit on by hawkers. We waited about
fifteen more minutes, then went to the lobby. Someone sat down near us to
talk affably. Where were we from? Where have we visited? He ran the
bookstall. Did we want to buy English-language novels? No. (Evelyn
whispered to Mark that he was right about the lobby. We are not trying to
be negative. *Really*. We have visited about forty countries and we can
tell you of them the hawkers are really only a problem in Egypt and India.
They are really a serious consideration only in India.)

The bus did come and then started to pull away. We had to chase it.
It turned out it was waiting, just across the street a little way down.

The first sight we saw was the same theater we visited yesterday. We
were able to recommend it to other tour members. Next we went to the Pink
City, constructed by Jai Singh in 1727. (It was supposed named the Pink
City when it was painted pink in honor of a visit by Prince Albert Victor,
though one of the books implies it was called the Pink City even before
that.) Jai Singh inherited the kingship of Amber when he was only twelve
and his father died. The Moghul emperor Aurangzeb had other ideas and said
this little boy should not be king and ordered him to go to war with the
Maranthas (and probably be killed). The boy refused to go. The emperor
ordered Jai Singh to be brought before him. The emperor grabbed the boys'
two hands and asked, If you can't make war, who will protect you, little
boy? Well, since you hold my hands the way a groom holds a bride's hands,
aren't *you* going to protect me? Aurangzeb was impressed with the quick
wit and restored the boy-king.

Jai Singh wanted to create a beautiful city at a location he'd picked
out. He had the architect Vidyadhan build the city.

Jai Singh was interested in gems and birthstones and from there
branched into astrology and from there to astronomy. In his city and in
four others he built a giant astronomical/astrological observatory, the
Jantar Mantar. (He actually built five, but this one is in the best
condition.) What looks like a park full of modern art was built from 1724
to 1727. Evelyn says, This was definitely reminiscent of some of the
astronomical sites we saw in Mexico and South America, though far more
advanced (built with 18th Century technology instead of much more primitive
techniques). There is a novel design for a sundial eighteen feet high and
supposedly accurate to three seconds. We believe that figure but when our
guide read off the time it was two minutes fast. He claimed that if it was
not what our watches said, the error was in our watches. He was wrong,
however. Mark had not set his watch in twelve days, but it is about a half
a second fast per day. It would not be two minutes slow. We think the
guide just read the sundial wrong.

Of course, a lot of the instruments were used in astrology rather than
astronomy and that's how Jaipur's gem industry got started--selling lucky
stones according to horoscopes. The gem industry now employs 50,000 people-
--we were told this several times. Quite an impressive assortment of
instruments--we recommend it. (One thing we noted here and elsewhere was
that stairways and other high places had no railings or safety barriers
unless they were originally built that way. It's assumed people will be
careful, and if they fall, we doubt they can sue anyone.)

Included are large stone instruments to track the sun and to show
positions of the zodiac even during the day. Another measures how far away
the equinox is and another just measures the movement of the sun on just the
equinox days. One hemispherical bowl ten feet (three meters) across tracks
constellations; another does not have the constellations labeled and was
used to test students' knowledge.
Actually what happened was that Jai Singh's paranoia that he didn't
know what his enemies were doing led to strides in science. Now that is not
a bad use to put paranoia to. Of course, things are better now when strides
in science have come out of the space race which resulted from a paranoia
about what the Soviets might do in space. Mark hopes that now that the
Soviets are not trying to beat us in space some great new paranoia will come
along to boost science.

Jai Singh also built the wall around the City Palace, though much of
the interior was added after his time. Now there are museums in the old
City Palace. The current Raja still lives in and owns the Palace and was in
town today. When he is in town a special flag flies over the Palace.

The price to get into the City Palace is Rs20 per adult and Rs10 more
if you bring a camera in. The latter turned out not really to be worth it,
as photography is not allowed inside the buildings, only outside. (The
admission is very high relative to other sights; the Jantar Mantar was Rs2.)
That was Rs50 since Evelyn's camera went back to the bus. Mark gave the guy
Rs50 and said, Two adults and one camera. He gave Mark two tickets and
Rs10 change and said he had to get the camera ticket at another window. He
walked to the other window and handed them the Rs10 he'd just gotten. He
handed Mark the ticket, then started examining the change he'd gotten at the
other window. Money is no good. He showed Mark that the bill had a tear
on the edge. But I just got that in change at your other window. Bill
is no good. Namascar, Mark said, walking away with the camera ticket.

A bunch of flies can be feeding on animal dung or human dung and fly
over to a cake of cheese. Your average Indian (perhaps not the upper class,
but the average) is not too finicky to eat the cheese. A bill can have a
hole from being ripped away from a stapled pack, the hole can be as big as a
dime, and the average Indian will still accept it. But if there is a tear
one-eighth of an inch in the bill from wear suddenly the average Indian
turns finicky. Nobody accepts bills with torn edges. Oh, the government
does. To them they are still legal tender. But most Indians consider the
bill to be useless and to have lost its value. It probably started as an
urban legend that such bills were useless, but the belief persists and is
nearly universally accepted. It is just one more gotcha to watch for in
India. Now, there are plenty of natural gotchas to life in India. This
one is artificially created, helps nobody, and hurts everybody, but Indians
use it against each other and tourists. Funny country, India.

The first museum we entered was a fairly boring textile museum
(however, we find almost any textile museum fairly boring). And what
textile museum is complete without musical instruments colored with crushed
precious stones? Why did they do that? Well, the guide said you get the
richest color from precious stones. Mark says, I don't know that I believe
that. I guess that while he believes that the richest material to paint
musical instruments in may be expensive, I don't think that the most
expensive materials are necessarily the best.

Also in the museum was clothing of the giant Maharaja Madho Singh I.
He is claimed to have been seven feet tall, weigh five hundred pounds (225
kilograms), and have a chest four feet (a meter and a half) across. The
sleeves of his jacket were twice as long as Mark could wear and Mark is Tall
(five feet, six inches (170 centimeters)). Why do we think that someone is
pulling our legs?

On display are bright quilts dyed with vegetable color and embroidered
in gold. There is an exhibition of the makeup that the queens used. One
festival dress had eight kilograms of gold. That is 257 troy ounces of
gold. Obviously in the war to look better than other raja's wives, this
qualifies as glitzkrieg.

We went on to an arms museum that is small compared to such things in
Europe but was still diverting. They have a big sign that says Welcome
spelled out in muskets and knives, and another saying Goodbye. Some of
the other things to see were a knife with an ivory handle carved in the
shape of a monkey. It reminded Mark a little of Japanese netsuke, though
not so ornate. There were several of those odd Indian daggers with an H-
shaped handle. You had the cross-piece perpendicular to the direction of
the thrust. It also had a rather vicious-looking claw that you would wear
something like brass knuckles. It took a while to move from case to case
since the taller Indians in our group would surround the cases and lean over
them so the shorter people and the children could not see what was being
discussed. Then the shorter people would get a chance when the tall people
moved on. We tried to be more polite and leave room for children, but it
only meant that adults taller than us pushed in. The rule of India is that
if you are decent, you lose. (We should say that there were a few foreign
tourists on the tour, but most of the people were Indians who had come to
Jaipur by train in the morning just for this tour and who were going to
return home in the evening.) They also had the giant raja's sword. It
weighs 5.5 kilograms, or slightly over twelve pounds.

We also saw a raja's horse that was all decked out in fancy decoration
with pounds of gold. The guide called this a very lucky horse to wear so
much gold, but that was the guide's point of view. We doubt anyone asked
the horse.

We also saw the world's largest silver objects, two water jars weighing
345 kilograms (760 pounds) and holding 7200 liters (1800 gallons) each, used
to carry Ganges water for Madho Singh II when he attended Edward's
coronation in 1902. (We later saw the world's largest cannon on wheels.
Jaipur is into having the largest of a bunch of things.) The guide said
that we carry around one-liter containers of water but these were 7200
liters. Evelyn said that was true, but Madho Singh II didn't have to carry
them himself.

There was a satellite dish on the roof. We think it was a modern
addition.

In the great audience hall we saw other artifacts of the good old days.
There was the Raja's howdah--that is a big wooden box used for riding an
elephant. We also saw a palki--that is a big wooden box used for riding
four servants.

We saw early photography in India and some nice paintings. The
paintings had the rich lasting colors because the materials used for color
were crushed jewels. Or so they said, but we doubt it. First of all, the
colors were sort of pastel. But we can believe the colors will last. And
they probably do not use the best jewels. It is like you do not turn your
most beautiful olives into salad olives.

The current raja, we were told, was a career military man, serving for
the non-princely sum of Rs1 per month. He served in three wars but quit
over politics when he could not agree with Indira Gandhi's policies.

There was an exhibit devoted to this current raja. We continued with a
look at a collection old books, scrolls, some with miniature writing done by
hand. There was a collection of portraits of rajas including Mr. Seven-
foot-tall-ji.

Another case was devoted to the astronomy and astrology library of Jai
Singh.

We had picked out another American couple to talk to, Gail and Mervyn
from Novato, California, who were spending three months traveling around.
After the City Palace we stopped for cold drinks. Merv bought peanut
brittle from a passing vendor. He got a sheet about four inches by six
inches for Rs10 and he said it was worth every penny. Evelyn stood watching
the vendor and saw a local but a sheet for Rs5. She told Mark, who went
over and offered Rs5 for a block. The vendor accepted without batting an
eye. Mark figured, why tell Merv? Curiously, the brittle part they did
very well, but the peanuts had a burnt flavor.

On the ride to the fort we saw more of the camel carts and now we
started to see elephants also. Mark hopes the elephants are treated better
here than in Thailand. But that's another story. We also saw the Jalmahal,
the Water Palace, a palace built in the middle of a lake. Right now
nobody lives there since three different groups claim to own it and there is
litigation going on. The palace is actually a big duck blind (according to
the Insight guide).

About eleven kilometers out of the city is the Amber Fort. We then
drove out to Amber and the Amber Fort. The name is not derived from the
color of the fort, though it is yellow rather than the usual red sandstone.
This is a hill fort like out of the old movies. You know, the ones with
Victor McLaglen and Cary Grant. The fort and palace was built in 1592 by
Raja Man Singh, commander of Akbar's army. He built this fort to command
the whole valley. Of course, at the bottom were craft shops. They took us
to a craft and textile shop (of course!). The Indians did a lot of
shopping, but it gave Mark a chance to ask questions of the guide. The
tight headgear with the big knot the size of a walnut or a plum indeed
signifies a Sikh. Apparently when he becomes a father he gets a full
turban.

When we were done at the store the guide took a bunch of us up the
almost three hundred steps (huff! puff!) in the hot sun to the fort.
Normally there are jeeps (or elephants) to take you up, but that was closed
off for some festival (Dussehra maybe?). (The elephants were still bringing
tourists up the road to the base of the steps though.) All along the way
hucksters were selling books, religious articles, and plastic toys. At the
top of the stairs is another bazaar with all sorts of stalls selling
souvenirs, food, and who knows what. A few more steps up takes you to the
fort itself. We were joined by the rest of our group (getting them out of
the store was a problem) and began our tour, guzzling water constantly. The
fort has been white-washed yellow and of course has not been restored, but
you can still see what it must have been at one time. There are still some
nice frescoes and carved pieces of wall sculpture of elephants. We saw the
twelve apartments of Man Singh's twelve wives, all identical, with a center
section where they could get together, gossip, and play bridge. Also they
could make cute little sandwiches for their bridge parties. (Okay, maybe we
are extrapolating from our own acquaintances!) The most famous feature of
this fort is the Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace) with thousands of tiny mirrors
inlaid in the walls. Within is the Chamber of Mirrors which was the
Maharaja's bedroom and whose ceiling is similarly inlaid. When it is dark a
moving candle appears in the ceiling as stars traversing the sky. Also
there are beautiful views of the valley below.

When we were done at the fort the guide told us to follow him to see
one thousand years of culture. Somehow he had separated out just the
Europeans and Americans. The scene was out a balcony that viewed a bunch of
old buildings and towers. The balcony was just at one end of this rug
factory. Oh, boy! Then they started to show us how an Indian rug was made.
And this room to the side actually had samples of what a complete rug looked
like. And guess what? They were actually for sale. As we ran screaming
from the building it occurred to us that we did not know how to get back to
the bus. We figured we'd just go to where we'd left the bus.

On the way down the stairs--a lot easier to go down than up in the hot
sun--we bought out requisite tchatchka souvenir. We got two little cheap-
framed Hindu religious pictures: one of Hanuman and one of Ganesha. Each
cost Rs5 (bargained down from Rs10). They were cheap, small, characteristic
of India, and something a local would buy for himself. And when you see
them, you think, India. We don't know if we'd ever better fulfilled the
rules of our tchatchka shelf.

We were thirsty when we hit the bottom of the stairs. We tried to buy
a bottle of Bisleri mineral water and the hawker tried to sell us a refilled
bottle. Sure, get sick. I will have made money off it--that is the
attitude. If you just want to buy a bottle of mineral water, you have to
check:

1. That the price is not inflated. You may have to haggle.
2. That the seal has not been broken and in fact the bottle refilled with
water that will make you sick.
3. That they have given you the right brand instead of some mineral water
that is really tap water.
4. That the person has made the right change. About 30% of the time they
will accidentally give you too little change. However, 0% of the time
do they give you too much change.
5. That none of the change has torn bills.

It is different when foreign tourists come to the United States. We
have never heard that Americans put tourists through so much pain for so
little as to buy something to drink. Occasionally we shoot one, but then it
is over quickly. Here the constant effort to survive extends to the
tourist.

Well, from there we went back to where we left the bus. It wasn't
there. We were going to wait there, reasoning that our guide had to pass
here and in any case would look here for missing persons, but two other tour
members came along and said the bus was down the road a ways. And so it
was.

Lunch was at a restaurant at the top of the hill in Nahagarh Fort
(Tiger Fort) and was something of a mess in itself. We won't go into it,
but it took a long time to get served and ended up taking something like
ninety minutes. Mark ordered a vegetarian thali and Evelyn ordered cheese
pakoras, but we had to rush to finish them to avoid holding up the group.
The sodas were good--they were so cold they were partially frozen. We
didn't actually see much of the fort, just what was between the gate and the
restaurant (about a ten-minute walk). We've heard there are full-day tours
to this fort; we wonder what they cover.

Jaigarh Fort (there seem to be a whole string of these forts along the
ridge) is said by some (the guide) to be the world's oldest fort and over a
thousand years old, and by others (the Lonely Planet guide) to date back to
1726. We think the discrepancy is that there has been a fort in this spot
since 960 but most people say this particular fort was only built in 1726 by
Jai Singh (remember him?), and Nahagarh is also 18th Century. What we were
seeing did not look a millennium old.

The fort has two halls of a rather lackluster museum. They had some
small cannons and their history and some pictures of troops at the fort.
They had a few swords and daggers, but not really a whole lot shown off very
well.


But the real attraction of the fort is Jaya Vana, the world's largest
cannon on wheels. The barrel is twenty feet (six meters) long and weighs
fifty tons. The mouth is eleven inches in diameter and the cannon fired
twenty-two miles (thirty-five kilometers) when it was tested, the one and
only time the cannon was fired. (Does it really count if it was never
really used? Evelyn is not sure it counts, but Guinness thinks it does.)
To make the cannon maneuverable it was put on nine-foot-high (three-meter-
high) wheels. So lightly balanced is the cannon on its two wheels that only
four elephants are needed to re-aim the cannon.

Mark looked at the cannon; Mark looked at Evelyn. Mark looked at the
cannon; Mark looked at Evelyn. Mark said, The hills of Jaipur have given
birth to many myths and legends.

Mark doesn't think there is one person in ten thousand who would have
realized he was posing a trivia question and Evelyn, who had seen relatively
few films when he first met her, recognized that he was making a film
reference and knew almost perfectly the response. She said, Second only to
Keros. It was a nearly perfect response. It should have been Greece and
the islands of the Aegean, not Keros.

If you have no idea what we are talking about, it is an exercise in
film trivia. Ask us sometime.

On the way back from the forts we stopped for some photo ops. The
first was Jalmahal, the Water Palace. We also stopped at the Hawa Mahal,
or Palace of the Winds. This is the cover picture on the new Lonely Planet
guide and is a five-story pink sandstone building from which royal ladies
could see life outside unobserved behind marble screens. The facade is
beautiful, but if you look closely, you can see that the interior is a total
ruin. It reminded Evelyn of those false-front Western towns that are used
in movies. The fact that it was on a traffic-congested street full of all
sorts of run-down vehicles did not add to its photogenic qualities. (The
cover photo shows only the top two and a half stories.)

After that it was back to the city with one more stop at the Birla
Temple (actually the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, built by the Birlas, a
fabulously wealthy industrial family), a beautiful white marble Hindu
temple. As Mark described it, Around the outside are carvings of Hindu
deities, including Jesus, St. Paul, Socrates, Athena, and Moses. Again
remember Hinduism's odd approach to other religions. Rather than say other
religions are wrong and people must convert to Hinduism, it says that there
are many sects of Hinduism and any religion is such a sect. You don't
convert to Hinduism, if we understand it right. You have already been a
Hindu all of your life, but there is more to learn about Hinduism. That
certainly makes forced conversions unnecessary. Now if only it would get
rid of proselytizing. Of course if another religion takes the same
philosophy you run into the curious condition that each is a sect of the
other.

Mark continued in his log, If you have noticed in this log, I have
made a number of comments about religion. That is because as someone who
had little interest in religion as a young man, I have found as I grow older
I have very strong opinions about religion and what has gone wrong with
religion in the past. Each of these logs has me look at more of the world's
religions and crystalizes the principles of my beliefs. And they are:
0: It is impossible to know if there is a God or not.
1: There is no ritual sin. All sin is in your relations with other
sentient beings, exclusive of God, and we do not know if there can be
sin in your relations with yourself.
2: No action that is immoral without the existence of God is moral if
God exists.
3: Don't pretend religious knowledge exists and you have it. It
doesn't and you don't.

In further explanation, Mark says, Principle 0 says that the universe
just has not given us tools for a real knowledge of something like a god.
Principle 1 says that if there is a God He doesn't want your flattery. If
there is a God, He is good and just wants you to be good. Principle 2 says
that a good God cannot sanction hurting sentient beings to please Him. No
being worth worshiping could have wanted the Spanish Inquisition. Principle
4 says that you don't have the tools to have religious knowledge, so examine
other's beliefs with humility. Judge other's actions but not their beliefs.
Which means one cannot tell you these principles are right and yours are
wrong. But one can judge what you do to others. You can say you think
Christ or Osiris rose from the dead, but you cannot tell someone they should
agree with you. One cannot tell you that there is no Kali or that she
doesn't want you to kill. Believe that all you want. But if you decide to
start killing as a result, it is a virtue to restrain you and, if need be,
to kill you before you kill others. I believe all this as strongly as a
Muslim believes in Allah or a Hindu believes in Rama and Krishna. In
addition, I believe that this is all consistent with my being a Jew. Not
all Jews will agree and that is fine. I am proud to be a Jew, but these
beliefs are more ingrained than my Jewishness since they are not what I have
been told, but what I myself believe. Okay, off my soapbox.

After this we had hoped to make our train reservations, but we forgot
it was Sunday and the reservation office was closed. We did find out that
the train we wanted left at 12:50 PM and arrived at 10:05 PM, which was
useful information, and we bought some crackers and water (for which they
tried to overcharge us Rs10). Then back to the hotel for a well-earned
rest.

We spent the evening in the room writing. As we fought off mosquitos
in our room, Mark suggested that perhaps we want to have nicer hotels in the
future than the one we currently have. There is something to be said for
Tour hard, sleep easy. Waking in the middle of the night knowing you have
been bitten several times by little blood-suckers, having rooms not made up,
having equipment in the room not working, having to fight the toilet, having
to eat off of a sticky placemat and drink from a glass that has food from
someone else's meal on it, having a key that does not work in the door,
having to step over construction, having a shower that is nearly unusable,
having no hot water, getting hit on by hawkers in lobbies--these are all
things that qualify as sleep hard. Unfortunately, when we found what
sounded like a nice hotel for US$35 in the Lonely Planet guide, they had
just upped their price to US$80 a night.

Since Mark had used up something like two and a half rolls of film in
one day, it occurred to Evelyn to ask if he might not be going through his
film too fast. Well, Thing, his palmtop computer, has been telling him
right along what percentage of the trip was over. With a few instructions
Thing started to tell him also how much film he would have used up if he
used all his film at a uniform rate and also how many pages of log he would
expect to have used. Thing thinks he is actually using film a little slower
than necessary, but log pages he is a little more likely to run out of. If
he does run out of log, Thing will fill in the slack. Thing is useful in
many ways.




October 18, 1993:




Well, Mark woke up at 6:30 AM and started writing to
try to catch up after a full day yesterday. At about 7 AM there was a loud
noise, sort of like you'd get from a door slamming, and at the same time the
power went out. Mark doesn't know what happened but the power was out for
about fifteen minutes.

We went to breakfast. Mark had fried eggs and orange juice; Evelyn
ordered iddlies. Mark's came first and he'd finished it by the time they
served Evelyn. A few minutes later they brought him eggs three and four.
He tried to explain he'd already been served. He could not make himself
understood. Eventually the waiter just said, You don't want? Yes, I
don't want. He seemed put out that Mark would order what he didn't want,
but he took the two eggs away. He charged us for two eggs and we don't know
if he ever figured why Mark suddenly did not want eggs, but having eaten
breakfast already wrecks his appetite.

We had a bunch of errands to run. So we negotiated an auto-rickshaw
for Rs30 to take us to the railway station, the bank, the Central Museum,
and the Johari Bazaar. First we went to the railway station to book the
train to Jodhpur. Mark writes, We were able to get in the short line which
was reserved for 'soldiers, foreign tourists, the elderly, and freedom
fighters.' Maybe someone somebody can tell me how Indian railways
recognizes 'freedom fighters.' Maybe anybody who pushes into line to get
done sooner is a sort of freedom fighter. Now of those categories the least
pushy is the elderly, or so I'd figure. However, it looked like someone
from that category who shoved ahead of us in line.

Tickets to Jodhpur were Rs307 each, including all fees. (That's about
US$10 for a nine-hour train ride.) We got done so fast that it was still
too early for the bank. So we found a telephone to reserve a hotel in
Jodhpur, since we were scheduled to arrive there at 10 PM. Our first choice
(the Ajit Bhawan Palace Hotel) didn't seem to exist any more or has changed
its number; at any rate, we got the wrong party. Our second choice was a
nice luxury hotel. This was the one we referred to before that had doubled
its rates (from Rs1100 to Rs2300). And we could not find a phone number for
our third choice. Back to the drawing board.

Public phones here are different than back home. Here rather than
phone booths there are whole STD/ISD offices (Straight Telephone
Dialing/International Straight Dialing). It is an office in which somebody
maintains phone books and helps the user make a call. (Since the Lonely
Planet guide doesn't always list the city code for a city, this is useful.)
You call your number, an LCD display keeps track of the charges, and when
you hang up a piece of paper with the amount on it is printed. The clerk
shows you this and you pay him. Labor is cheap and technology expensive. A
local came to the office at the same time we were there. He got his
connection, identified himself, said one sentence, and hung up. No times
for pleasantries at these prices, Mark guesses. (There are also some public
phones for local calls that take a Rs1 coin, but these usually don't work.)

Our next stop was the State Bank of India to change another US$300, as
we had gone through two-thirds of the US$500 we changed earlier. On the way
we saw some workers sitting down to cool off and they'd seen us and were
smiling at us. Mark smiled back and waved; four people waved to someone
they'd seen for only about eight seconds.

Mark writes, Hey, don't get me wrong when I complain about some of the
people I deal with on the trip. The vast majority are very nice people.
There are just some I am having trouble dealing with.

Our driver tried to sell us his services as a guide, and wanted to show
us that he'd had good comments from other Canadians. By the way, we didn't
mention that when possible we are Canadians this trip. United States people
are pestered more than people from countries other than the United States.
So for kids on the street, taxi drivers, etc., we are from Toronto. So far
Mark's work is usually computers or mathematics, but he says he is
considering for part of the trip being a spy-novel writer doing research for
a spy novel set in India. Indians seem to like action and adventure from
the film posters, and this might get me a little more respect. Didn't my
film DARK WAYS TO DEATH play here? I know it played in Delhi.

The money exchange went quickly and easily, contrary to what the books
claim. At least this time the bills weren't stapled together; if they had
been we were going to ask the clerk to remove the staples for us.

Then we were off to the Central Museum of Jaipur in Albert Hall, built
in the 19th Century and patterned after the British style. Mark says, What
a strange museum! Not that it was a very good museum, but it was weird.
They don't have very much of anything or a good display of anything. And
the collections seem to be set up almost at random. You can be looking at
paintings, then walk three feet and be looking at a fiber glass reproduction
of the organs of a snail. The museum is somehow incoherent. Among the
collections we saw were:

- wall paintings from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana,
- a plectrum (it looks a bit like a big bass sitar),
- an exhibit of damascene (i.e., gold inlaid on other metals),
- huge shields with scenes from the Ramayana,
- stone carvings,
- a collection of bronzes,
- minerals sealed in glass,
- preserved worms in jars,
- big plastic models of cross-sections of flowers,
- fine art paintings,
- models of planes and battleships,
- dyed textiles and textile prints,
- bronze toys, some partially hidden behind their own label cards,
- two cases of ivory carvings,
- paintings mislabeled (Maharaja on His Horse has no horse, and
Maharaja Fighting Lioness actually had a tiger),
- fake antique Greek and Egyptian statues,
- stuffed fishes and carved snakes, and
- the skeleton of a body with the head on backwards.

Then there are plaster models showing 1) yoga positions, 2) dramatized
versions of vices (including a little model opium den), and 3) dramatized
versions of famous violent crimes. In the latter exhibit there are scenes
of torture and dismemberment rendered with six-inch-high figures.

A young woman in a bright yellow sari said hello to us. We said hello.
She pointed out one of the little scenes was of a woman killing three
thieves with a sword. Very brave woman, she said.

Yes, Mark responded.

You are husband and wife?

Yes, wife twenty-one years.

Oh. And you?

No, husband-wife twenty-one years, but Mark doesn't know if she
understood.
Actually, the exhibit that seemed to attract the most attention wasn't
really an exhibit, it was Thing. Some people saw Mark making notes on Thing
and said quietly, Computer. Several asked what Thing was and Mark said,
Chota computer. (Chota means little.) They wanted to know about us.
Canadian tourists now bring computers in their pocket to India. Wow!

Evelyn wrote in her log, This was not so much a museum of the objects
in it as a 'living museum' of what museums were like in Victorian times.
Dusty specimens in glass cases filled dim halls. Copies of artwork from
around the world decorated the walls: Egyptian tomb paintings, Japanese hunt
scenes, Assyrian inscriptions. One case was full of dusty mineral
specimens, another crammed with models of plants and flowers. There were a
lot of animal and human models that looked like something from an old
anatomy lecture. There was even one best described as 'the visible snail'
(a term meaningful, I suppose, only to those who remember the 'visible man'
and 'visible woman' educational toys). Many of the cases had business cards
people had slipped in around the doors (which didn't seal)--as advertising,
I guess--and some of these had almost as much dust as the exhibits. There
was an Egyptian mummy, a stuffed crocodile, and a model of a battleship
sharing one room with a whole bunch of other unrelated objects. It was a
visual cacophony. (It was also an aural cacophony, as Monday was free
admission and the place was crowded. I see a lot of children in the streets
in school uniforms, so it doesn't seem to be a school holiday, but I also
see children with their parents traveling or at museums.)

The Central Museum is not considered to be much of an attraction in
most of the books. Mark says, It is a lot like a little boy who carries
his most prized albeit tattered possessions in a little shoe box and they
find their own order in the box. Many of the exhibits are worth seeing, but
the oddness of the collection is the most lasting impression.

From there, we asked to be taken to a tailor shop to get one of the two
pair of pants Mark had brought shortened. They tended to hang low and with
a lot in his pockets, he often ended up walking on the cuffs. (Evelyn
noted, I knew people lost weight in India, but I didn't think they got
shorter!) He had turned up an inch or so inside and safety-pinned them,
but Evelyn suggested we could get it sewn here.

Even though we were near the Johari Bazaar at this time, where one
might assume there would be tailor shops, the driver took us a long way
through the city, further than we expected. We passed two different
political demonstrations. One group had white flags; one group had red.
Mark later asked the driver what they were demonstrating for. He laughed as
if Mark had made a joke and said nothing.

Eventually we got to our destination, a sari shop. They did not do
tailoring there, but could send the pants to their factory. It would take
two days. No, thanks.

Okay, we told the driver, take us to the bazaar. Instead, he took us
back near our hotel to a genuine tailor shop. It was a little place about
fifteen feet by twenty feet (five meters by six meters) with two sewing
machines. Yes, they could do it. How long? The guy showed thirty minutes
on his watch. How much? Rs5. (The last time Evelyn had a skirt hemmed
back home it was US$10, and that was several years ago.)

The driver said we could go to a nearby shop while we waited. What the
heck. He'd found what we wanted, let's get him a commission. Okay, we got
in his auto-rickshaw. He started it. It moved. It stopped. The shop was
about twenty feet from the tailor shop. Fine. We got out. Nothing we
wanted at the shop. We walked up and down the street. We got a few people
giving us hellos and requests for pens, but not too bad. We got some
water at the main street end of this side street. After about twenty
minutes we checked the shop. The stitching was done by hand with nice even
stitches. Very nice work.

We'd decided to give our driver at least Rs10 over the Rs30 we
bargained for since he found us a tailor shop. It didn't work out that way.
He'd bargained to take us to the bazaar, but suddenly he stopped his auto-
rickshaw about a block from our hotel, hailed another one, and said that
this was as far as he goes. We gave him Rs30 and no tip. The other driver
wanted Rs25. No way. We started walking off. A cycle-rickshaw driver
agreed to take us for Rs10. In general, if you're asked an exorbitant price
for a rickshaw and you start walking in the right direction, a passing
rickshaw driver will give you a better price. This is a bit less true of
auto-rickshaws than cycle-rickshaws, but it's worth trying.

We got to the Sanganeri Gate at one end of the Johari Bazaar (after
having a guy on a motor scooter ride along beside our cycle-rickshaw for a
while trying to convince us to go to his shop!), and started walking up the
street. The Johari Bazaar is about half for tourists and half for locals.
It is just a row of open-front stores, little more than stalls, like most
stores here. Since this part of Jaipur was a planned city, the streets
are all straight and perpendicular to each other, and the shops are all a
uniform size and shape. One shop had cassettes and we asked for classical
music. We got some sitar music and some film music. Classical music is
about Rs45 a cassette; film music is about Rs25. Oh, there is one odd
touch: when you buy music cassettes each side either starts or ends with an
ad for the cassette company. Maybe that is how they fill space to a
standard length, but it is irritating. Evelyn saw a cassette with music
from a garish gore film called WHEN A KILLER CALLS. She thought that would
be interesting for the cover of the cassette alone. Mark had seen posters
for that film. Ah, but did they have a cassette with music from KHAL-
NAAIKAA, our film of two days before? Evelyn said they would not have it,
but to our surprise the owner pulled it out. It shared a cassette with
another film and it was only the songs, not the nice credit sequence music,
but it was a nice souvenir. (They probably double up the films on a
cassette because with only the songs included, there isn't enough to film
two sides of a cassette from just one film.) We ended up buying five
cassettes.

Incidentally, Mark has found a solution to a common problem tourists
have in India, namely small bills. You end up with a lot of bills in small
denominations. Mark had been using a paper clip as a money clip, but the
clip gets bent and fails to work. You don't want to grab for your big
wallet every time you need a Rs5 note. You don't want to leave the bills in
your pocket. Mark took a cassette out of its case and is using the case as
a small-note wallet. Pickpockets are not likely to go for a music cassette,
so it hides the money well. If you fold the bills in half, it is just about
a perfect size. If you get too many bills, you may want to break off the
retaining pegs in the cassette box.

Next stop was a late lunch at LMB. This used to be a sweet shop and is
still known for its desserts, but it has expanded to a whole restaurant.
Outside it looks just like a stall, but go inside and it looks like a
nightclub. Evelyn had stuffed tomato (two small tomatoes stuffed with nuts
and vegetables in a masala sauce); Mark had mushroom paneer. We both had
cold sweet coffee which was delicious. The stuffed naan Mark got as an
eating utensil was almost a dish in itself. For dessert we shared an order
of gulab jaman and one of ras malai. Both were terrific. All this came to
only Rs240 (about US$8)--expensive by Indian standards, but still cheap by
American standards and definitely worth it.

Over lunch Evelyn suggested we go to a double feature playing at a
local theater, the Polo Victory. That sounded good. One film was DEAR
TARZAN; the other was THE WORM IN THE APPLE. (In some ads, Tarzan was
spelled Tarzen and Worm was Warm.) The idea of seeing an Indian
Tarzan did appeal to us. So that was the next item.

Most of the rickshaw drivers in the Pink City wanted only to give one-
hour tours, not provide transportation somewhere. The first driver wanted
Rs25 to take us to the theater and was insulted when we would not pay that.
He came down to Rs20 and we walked away. Outside the gate of the bazaar,
one cycle-rickshaw driver wanted Rs15. Mark asked a cycle-rickshaw if he'd
take us for Rs10 and he readily agreed. That was what we'd paid to get
there. We ended up giving him Rs11 because he got us there so fast. (He
was one of the most energetic cycle-rickshaw drivers we have had. Most just
sort of loaf along.) We got to the theater about 2:30 PM and the sign said
the films started at 3:30 PM, not 3 PM as we were expecting. So we decided
to wait. Someone who was sweeping the porch with a local broom made of palm
fronds told us, No 3:30 show. Okay, we will go back to the room and
write, then break up the evening going to a 6:30 PM show. We went back to
the room, listened to cassettes, and wrote.

6 PM rolled around and we walked back to the theater. It was much
cooler than it was earlier. (During the day it gets up to about 95 degrees
Fahrenheit, or 35 degrees Centigrade; at night it's about 65 degrees
Fahrenheit, or 18 degrees Centigrade.) But something was wrong. Only men
seemed to be waiting for the movie. Then we noticed the big letter A on
the poster. Is this like the British A-certificate? Mark went inside to
see the lobby cards and, sure enough, these seemed to be Indian sex films
(though probably not as explicit as R-rated films back home). Mark might
have stayed, but Evelyn was not anxious to be the only woman there.

We went back to the room a little bummed out. So the trip wasn't a
complete loss, we each bought a bottle of apple beer at a stand. It turned
out to be carbonated apple juice. Not bad.

At the hotel Mark asked if they had times for local theaters. The guy
fished a national newspaper out of the wastebasket and handed it to Mark.
Mark went through it, but there were obviously no film listings for Jaipur.
The guy smiled at Mark and said, I tried.

Back at the room we were writing but the mosquitos were actually
getting a bit thick. We decided to go out, look at the maps in the lobby to
plan our trip, and ask if they had mosquito coils. We asked the night
manager if they had coils. If you will be out of the room for ten minutes
we will use Flit. He took Mark's key. Then Mark realized he did not have
his log or Thing and if there was open food he wanted to close it up. So he
rushed to the door before the bellboy got there. He made it. He waited.
And he waited twenty-five minutes. Later Evelyn came to see what was going
on. We both went back to the desk. The manager handed Mark our key.
Bellboy is done.

I have been at my door the whole time. Bellboy never came.

The manager did not know if he should believe Mark so he went to the
room. Mark figured he would say the room had been done, but as soon as he
walked into the room he said, I will get the bellboy.

The bellboy finally showed up with a big pump aerosol. Into the room
he went while Mark held the key ready to lock the door when he finished.
And he sprayed. And sprayed. And sprayed. And sprayed and sprayed and
sprayed. My gosh, Mark thought. What is he doing to our room? I wanted
to be able to sleep without being bitten. I didn't want my room turned into
a Superfund site. Ten minutes later he came out. The whole hall reeked of
Flit. Mark said, Let's go sit in the lobby for an hour or so. Maybe we
should sleep there. Evelyn wanted to return to the room after half an
hour. Mark was not sure he ever wanted to go back. Well, we did go back
and the smell was still strong. It did seem to kill mosquitos since there
was about a pound of dead mosquitos in the bathroom.

We also debated whether to go on a camel trek in Jaiselmer and decided
we might take a one-day trip, but nothing overnight. We also decided not to
book any trains in advance; we would book the train from B to C only after
getting from A to B. Our route at this point is Jaipur-Jodhpur-Jaiselmer-
Jodhpur-Udaipur-Ajmer-Delhi. We'll see how that works out.




October 19, 1993:




Mark got two mosquito bites overnight. He had a fun
time brushing his teeth in the morning and look at dead mosquitos. GAG!
Mark came back into the bedroom and packed. The television had on Yoga for
Good Health. Mark left it on while he dressed and packed. As he describes
it, Someone was rippling stomach muscles. When I looked again at the yoga
program, somebody was demonstrating some sort of transcendental yoga
exercise in which he was sticking three fingers down his throat. At first I
thought he was brushing his teeth and spitting out water. But more and more
water came out and none was going in. Oh, I get it. This is a yoga 'make-
yourself-vomit-water-into-a-bucket' exercise. On national television, no
less. Now in the United States we do have yoga programs, but I don't think
they show water-vomiting techniques. I guess there is more nifty stuff to
yoga than I realized.

Mark continues, India is really different. Really. One of the most
rewarding experiences for the seasoned traveler is culture shock. But only
in India are you like to find actual culture hysteria. An Indian ex-
officemate once tried to convince me of the helpful value of drinking your
own urine. It is a popular pastime here. Yes, India is a land where the
traveler can find many new ideas. It makes India a challenging place to
visit.

Evelyn added, Everybody says India is a very spiritual country.
People come here looking for enlightenment. So far I can't say I see this
spirituality here more than anywhere else. I see a lot of evidence of
religion, but I've seen that other places. Most of the people we've come in
contact with (admittedly a skewed sample) evidence more greed than
spirituality. And it's clear that if you come here looking for inner peace,
you have to ignore a lot of outer discomforts. The city streets are often
open sewers and smell like them. There are cows, goats, and pigs rooting
through piles of garbage by the curbs. There are burning piles of garbage.
At night, families squat around small fires on the sidewalk cooking their
dinner and getting ready to sleep there for the night, that being their
home. Railway station floors are covered with sleeping beggars. Yes, parts
of New York are dirty, but it's not as ubiquitous as here. Yes, there are
homeless in the United States, but we're talking about orders of magnitude
of difference. Does all this mean my cultural biases are showing?
Probably. But I would say that, although I'm glad I came, I would not
recommend this trip for everyone. Even on a tour, where you'll probably get
better hotels, with fewer bed bugs, you can't avoid seeing the squalor
around you. (And most of what you want to see is *not* handicapped-
accessible--there are a lot of uneven stairs, river banks, unpaved streets,
etc.)
Breakfast for Mark was fried eggs. We called the hotel in Jodhpur that
had been our third choice and was our only remaining choice (the Ardash
Niwas Hotel) and got a reservation for the night.

If it seems that in Jaipur we spent a lot of time in the room writing,
right you are. That was partly due to planning errors, and partly because
there is a *lot* of log writing we have to do. Log writing has expanded
beyond the spare time activity it started as and has become a major chunk of
our time. The pressure not to get too far behind takes away more than it
should from activities.

It is 11:05 AM Tuesday morning and shortly we will check out and head
out for Jodhpur. We will start doing things rather than writing about them.
But for now it is nice to be caught up.

Thing tells Mark that we are now 43.93% through with the trip. What a
sense of humor Thing has!

In preparation for our train trip we are wearing shirts almost ready to
be washed. There is no point in wearing clean clothes onto the train--they
will be covered in dust by the time you arrive. Evelyn is wearing extra-
large T-shirts most of the time; they are loose to allow air circulation and
since they come almost to her knees they protect the pockets in her pants
from pickpockets. Mark has a photographer's vest with velcroed and zippered
inner pockets, and, of course, we have our passports, travelers cheques, and
most of our money in our chest pouches. (Evelyn's is actually around her
neck and threaded on her belt under her T-shirt.) It's hard to conceal them
completely as the thickness of a reasonable amount in rupees gives them
away.

Well, there we are. It is 12:50 PM and we are happily on our way to
Jodhpur. Well, not quite. Actually we are in a waiting room waiting for a
train that is two and a quarter hours late. So far. Maybe more by the time
it gets here. India does not have a government leader who has made the
trains run on time. India does not have a government leader who has made
the clocks run on time.

Mark notes, In the film PATHS OF GLORY, three innocent soldiers are to
be executed as an example to the rest. One has been knocked unconscious and
might well be unconscious for the firing squad, but the commander gives
orders that his cheeks be pinched so he is awake and knows he is about to
die.

Mark goes on to say, At about 1 PM I fell asleep in the chair. About
five minutes later Evelyn noticed I was asleep and woke me up. I guess this
wait doesn't really count as an inconvenience unless I am awake and bored.

While not waking Mark up, Evelyn spent the time studying TRAINS AT A
GLANCE, the abridged railway timetable, available for Rs8 from the Enquiry
agent (who as usual had trouble making change of a Rs20 note). While our
planned stop-over in Ajmer looks reasonable (arrive about 1:30 PM one day
and leave 8 PM on a sleeper the next), it appears that there is no overnight
train from Jodhpur to Udaipur. Then again, it doesn't list the Taj Express
either, so maybe it's just not listed in this abridgement.

The first-class waiting room has hard chairs, four wooden bed
platforms, a shower, toilets, and ceiling fans. Not exactly like the
first-class lounges in airports back home, though probably as good as one
finds in railway stations. But the announcements made on the platforms
don't seem to be piped to the waiting rooms, so about 2:15PM we went back to
the platform to wait.

Well, the train finally pulled in 140 minutes late and pulled out of
Jaipur Junction about 160 minutes late, at 3:30 PM. There is no concept of
picking up time on Indian Railways; it will be at least 1 AM before we
arrive.

Naturally they had decided we were in the wrong compartment. The
notation on the ticket is clearly inscrutable. We have no idea how you can
look at the ticket and figure out what compartment is yours. They put us in
a compartment with what appears to be an English couple in their twenties
who seem totally unsociable to each other and to us. Evelyn thinks, I feel
old. As soon as the train started they each took horizontal positions and
are napping. Evelyn thinks, I feel young again. The woman is wearing a
Sistine Chapel T-shirt just like one Evelyn has.

While we were in the first compartment at Jaipur Junction, we were
sharing the car with a prosperous-looking Indian. He looked every bit as
wealthy as we do. But when a beggar came to the window, she ignored him but
spent five minutes working on Mark. If you are Indian, the beggars leave
you alone. If you look European or American, they are on you in a flash.

We reach Phulera Junction an hour and a half later than the schedule
said. Does this mean we've gained an hour? The elapsed time shown on the
schedule for the trip is an hour less than that shown on our ticket.

Evelyn bought a cup of chai from the chai-wallah at Phulera. Chai is
tea with milk and sugar. It is served in little earthenware cups which you
fling out the window when you're done (not onto the station platform,
though). Evelyn tried to save her cup as a souvenir, but it was obviously
designed for one use only and crumbled fairly soon. The tea and the cup
cost Rs1.50.

This is the first day we have seen the sun set below the horizon.
Previously the best we could do we see it sink into a haze of pollution. In
the dark there's nothing to see out the train windows except the occasional
light or fire. Because the lights on the train dim when we stop, reading is
difficult.

Mark describes what he is seeing: We are in some place called
Kishangarh just after sunset. The train has stopped along the side of the
track. We see two very dark-skinned women walking, one in a bright red
sari, one in bright yellow. There is a public water fountain, a squarish
slab, tiled, with a trough on either side. An old man wrapped in a white
cloth is filling a bucket there. Beside him is another man wrapped in a
cloth with a shirt over it that goes halfway down his calf. He wears a
bright orange turban maybe three times as wide as his head. The houses are
boxes with flat level roofs. A group of men sit cross-legged in a circle on
the train platform, talking. The brightest lights that can be seen are over
the track. A wall in the background was good and straight at one time, but
now there are gaps and breeches where stones have fallen out of the mortar.
This is what I see from the window of the train at 6:27 PM on a Tuesday
evening, just after Sunday in a town called Kishangarh.

In Kishangarh the sky looked the color of a rare steak. But it is
getting gray and not red, as if the steak is grilling in the heat of the
night. The air coming in the window is already not as hot. Brushy trees
rush by the window and there still is just enough light behind the trees to
see there's a dry brown field. (Mark's writing is hard to read because of
the rhythmic shaking of the train.) Still no stars--the sky is still just
a bit too light. I see the gray-blue outline of hills in the distance and
some little points of light on the hills. Occasionally we pass a small
station and somebody blows a whistle. It must be a signal not to stop.
Maybe this is a mail run.

Now the lights in the distance are almost all in one flat line. That
must be a town. We are slowing at a platform. This time there is nobody on
the platform. There are houses and porches and children on the porch of the
low house come out to see the train. On the wall in the house is a bright
red piece of cloth. This is Magar or Madar. We can catch only a flash of
the sign between tanker cars on the next track. I think it is Madar. Yes,
another sign tell us it is. It is 6:54 PM in Madar and people are in their
houses.

Now there are some stars out. As yet not many. Odd burning smells
are in the air. We don't know if that is industrial pollution or home
cooking fires. We do see a pot and a fire under it in one house.

We have just pulled into Ajmer. That's funny, because Ajmer is not on
this line. We guessed wrong on the English couple. They are Irish and
jet-lagged. We made some conversation and lent them some of our reference
books.

Dinner was a little greasy, but not bad overall considering. It was a
vegetable thali, a bit spicy. Better than we would have expected for food
on a train. They tell us if we are only late and not a lot slower than we
expected, we are almost two-thirds done with this train ride. We still will
get into Jodhpur at 1 AM. We hope to get some sleep on the train to make up
for what we will be losing at the end. Of course, the guy who brought the
food keeps waking people up to find out if they want food or water. And it
may be a little hot to sleep. There are four fans in this compartment, but
they are Indian-style fans. They have scythe-like blades, not wide ones.
That makes them take less power, but they also don't move very much air.

We stopped for a good half hour in Marwar Junction. That was the
setting of a scene in THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. It wasn't too glamorous
then and it still isn't. There are a lot of very persistent boys in their
early teens out selling drinks at nearly midnight. It turns out the train
is going a circuitous route. No, it wasn't supposed to go through Ajmer,
but it did. Why? Some of the people on the platform told us they are
changing the gauge on the railroad and re-routing the trains while they do
it. Instead of going direct to Jodhpur, we are making a giant S through
Ajmer, Beawar, Marwar, Pali, and Luni. The people didn't think we would get
in until 3 AM. Perhaps that is Luck of Leeper again and perhaps it is just
India.

Mark decided to go ahead and pretend to be a spy novelist: Anyway,
these guys who we had assumed were hawkers got some excitement for their
pains. They got to talk to a Canadian spy novelist. Me. If I told them I
was the CEO of IBM they would have been bored. But a spy novelist with a
film that played in Delhi and Bombay--now that was something. No, I didn't
write about the same spy each time. They mentioned there had been some
terrorism and I said maybe I could use that in the book. They said I should
go to Kashmir and I said I wrote about dangerous situations, I didn't live
them. It turned out they were passengers from another train and they were
so fascinated talking to me they had to jump to get on their train as it
started to pull out. But they had a good time at Marwar Junction. They got
pulled into a fantasy. That is just what a good spy novelist would do for
them. So I don't feel too bad.

What I do feel bad about is that an hour or so earlier I am pretty
sure what I heard was the train hitting a dog, he concludes.

It is now 1:34 AM and the train that was supposed to arrive three hours
ago continues into the night. Mark got some sleep and a whole bunch of
mosquito bites. Mark says India is mis-named and dubbed it Gotchaland,
the land of unending gotchas. He says, The lateness of the train is a
gotcha; the mosquitos are a different gotcha. Even the tea sellers are a
gotcha. You have to close your door and lose the ventilation if you want to
sleep. Otherwise they come into your compartment and wake you up to ask you
if you want tea. When the Irish couple were sleeping earlier the sellers
did that. Evelyn tried to stop one but he was no fool. A sleeping
passenger buys no tea. Leave the door unlocked and it's gotcha. We have
been to deserts, we have been to the Amazon, but this is the most hostile
environment we have yet visited.

Well, we got in better than Mark was thinking. It was just one minute
before 2 AM. At 2 AM, even the railway station is quiet, though there are
still a lot of people sleeping on the floor and a few auto-rickshaw drivers.
We asked one to take us to the Ardash Niwas Hotel. The driver told us it
was two-minutes' walk away. He gave us directions and when we were not sure
how far it was down the street, he drove up in his auto-rickshaw and pointed
it out. He said he would wait in case we could not get a room--he knew a
good hotel. Still, he didn't ask for a tip for pointing out the hotel, and
since this was the first non-greedy rickshaw driver we had encountered, we
weren't sure how to react. By this point, we're suspicious of everyone.

The hotel had no record of our reservation, but did have a room. The
room has its problems: no soap, no toilet paper, no towels, the toilet does
not flush. They said they could move us in the morning, but said we might
just want to sleep now. How true! Mark put on the television, a good
television this time, about six channels. The last hotel had only one and
it was almost all Hindi. Locals will know it as Doordarshan. Evelyn took a
quick shower and we went to bed. About 3 AM we realized neither of us was
sleeping and we put the BBC on television, turned the brightness to black,
and went to sleep listening to a documentary on computers.




October 20, 1993:




We didn't know if they wanted to move us to a room
where the toilet works or to fix the toilet. At the desk they said they
would fix the toilet. It remains to be seen, we guess. We will be pleased
if they do fix the toilet.

Breakfast for Mark was an omelette with onions (Mark doesn't care for
onions in omelettes), buttered toast, and juice. Evelyn had porridge which
she did not eat much of because it was gummy. There were three quick power
failures during breakfast.

After breakfast we went to book the train out. First we went to the
station, but the booking office turned out to be in a separate building a
ways down the road. (There is supposed to be a foreign tourist quota office
in the main station, but it didn't seem like that was the place to start.)
There was a man by the door who may have been a baksheesh man or may have
worked for the booking office. He tried to fill out forms for us, but we
insisted on filling out our own. When we got into line he insisted that
Evelyn could push her way to the front, cutting in front of the ten people
in front of us. It's ladies first in my country! he said. Two women from
Norway told us that they had tried that, but couldn't get in. Evelyn tried,
but could not push in. Then we saw an Indian woman do it. Apparently to
take advantage to this concession to the frailty of women, you must be
assertive, aggressive, and able to shout down all opposition. Armed with
this information and her natural talents, Evelyn was able to get our tickets
in a couple of minutes. Mark says, Somehow it seems sexist and unfair, but
in India people seem to take every advantage they can.

This task concluded--and it was the most time-consuming reservation
yet--out next stop was the bus station to get a bus to Osian, a small town
thirty-five miles (fifty-five kilometers) north of Jodhpur known for its old
Jain temples. On the way we saw a billboard showing a woman with a washing
machine. The sign said, Oneida celebrates Women's Liberation. Mark
wonders how many women in India are liberated.

Mark says, Somehow that reminds me of one of my college stories. I
was in the Honors Program. There was a lounge that was set aside for Honors
students to get together and talk or study between classes. One day
Dr. Emerson bought a bulletin board for the lounge. (Everett Emerson ran
the Honors Program at the University of Massachusetts in those days.)
Anyway, one day he put up a new bulletin board in the lounge. Someone came
along and put in thumbtacks in a six- or seven-inch-high symbol of the
female--the circle and the cross--actually I have heard it is supposed to
represent a mirror and a comb. The female symbol stayed up for a few days
and that was fine. Then apparently somebody could not stand the tension
that people would not realize it was a political statement. They drew with
a pen a fist inside the circle, marring the new bulletin board for life. I
didn't think that vandalism spoke well for the cause and I put a note on the
board saying so. Someone, probably the vandal, wrote, 'Bulletin boards are
many, but truly liberated women are few.' My response, of course,
is, 'Horses are few but horses' asses are many.'

The way to get to Osian, according to the Lonely Planet guide, is a
public bus which takes two hours each way. The Lonely Planet guide, by the
way, is what makes what we're doing possible. Not only does it describe all
the major attractions of a city, but it tells you how to get to them. Most
guide books seem to assume you will be taking taxis or renting a car; the
Lonely Planet guide tells you about buses, trains, and other public transit.
It does describe auto-rickshaws and such, but those are usually cheaper than
buses back home. It also tells you how to get from city to city and how
long it will take.

The bus station was harder to figure out than the railway stations have
been. There is a sign over one bus stall for Osian, but we had trouble
finding a place to buy tickets. Someone directed us to the Enquiry window,
where we found out that the buses run every hour and the last bus back was
at 8:30 PM. We were directed to window 9 to buy the tickets, but couldn't
find window 9. Finally we found something that looked like a ticket window
stuck in among a bunch of food stalls and away from the other windows. It
had had a number at one time, but that part of the sign was rusted away.
This was indeed the infamous Window 9 and we bought two tickets for Osian
for Rs12.50 each. Yes, a two-hour bus ride costs 40 cents. (Actually it
was more like an hour and a half because we took an express bus.)

As Evelyn says, Of course, when you see the bus you realize why it is
so cheap. It looks like an old army bus. It's good to be able to see the
road, but it's not so good to be able to see it through the floor of the
bus. I could see the road through the floor of the bus. At least we got
to sit down. Some people had to stand, at least for the first part of the
trip. But on a bus like this, you are away from the tourist routes and the
people are decent, friendly, and curious.

The conductor made sure we got off at the right stop, which has been
our experience most places where we are clearly tourists on a local bus:
Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, even Belgium. He even pointed in which
direction to walk to get to the main temple. That might have been
unnecessary, since the main temple was at the top of a very big hill and
visible from quite a distance.

Between the 8th and the 12th Centuries, the Jain Buddhists thrived in
trade. The Hindus tolerated them and their different beliefs because they
could pay for their stay. They built fancy temples for themselves in the
trading community of Osian. Hindus also built their temples here. Where is
left is a poor little town with a lot of temples to bring in tourists. The
centerpiece is a very high temple which is supposedly Jain but seems to have
stonework nearly identical to the temples of Khajurao. Just no sex figures.
Inside were individual shrines clad in aluminum with religious symbols
pounded in, and decorations of mirrors, glass, and brightly colored pieces
of metal. (Oh, Evelyn is allowed back in temples now.) While many of the
temples are now owned by the government as archaeological monuments and have
some signs in English, this main temple was still a private (working)
temple and the only sign in English was one asking foreign tourists to fill
in the guest register. We climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed.
From the top was a great view of the town, including some of the other
temples. Most of the buildings in the town are painted blue, giving it a
very cool look, though it didn't make it feel any cooler. The huge sand
dune at the edge of town also served as a visual clue to the heat.

Unfortunately, you pretty much have to figure out what kind of a temple
you are in on your own. The guidebooks mention the town but not the
individual sites. Evelyn writes, We had hoped to wander around a little,
maybe see some of the other temples .... No such luck--we immediately
acquired our usual entourage of women with babies begging and children
saying, 'Hello. One pen. One rupee.' This was something none of our trip
advisors had warned us about, but then, they're all Indians. This probably
doesn't happen to them. To us, it happens constantly, making a walk down
the street or a rest in a park a strenuous task. We find ourselves sitting
in our room or outside on the hotel lawn instead of in a park or even
walking around because it takes too much energy to get rid of the hangers-
on, and you can't completely ignore them, because there is always the
possibility that they will try to grab your bag or pick your pocket. Maybe
that sounds paranoid, but having been through the pickpocket experience once
has made us cautious. (See our Peru logs for an elaboration/explanation of
this.)

Anyway, a local boy latched on to us and led us around; then he was
joined by two more but he could only point out where the temples were. At
one of them there was a caretaker (priest?) who showed us around and
explained a little bit about the differences between Jainism and Buddhism
and in particular how to tell the difference between a statue of Buddha and
a statue of a Jain thankar. Soon our young guide was joined by two more.
By the time the tour was over we were surrounded by a bunch, and while
waiting for the bus back, the number swelled. At one point Mark counted
thirty-five but even more showed up after that. Most were in one of two
school uniforms. A woman also waiting for the bus said something to them in
Hindi at one point and they did back up a bit, putting about a foot of
distance between us and them. Whether we would have wanted to stay longer
in town is unclear, but it was impossible to enjoy it with this entourage
(and one kid kept hitting Evelyn with his plastic-ball-on-a-string toy).
Eventually a teacher came out and said something angrily in Hindi and a
bunch scattered. Finally the bus came about 1:30 PM, and we thankfully
escaped on it, having covered the sights of Osian (as well as serving as
one) in an hour and a half.

Evelyn says, On the bus out, I had the oddest feeling of it being nice
to get away from the group. Then I realized--there was no group. Or
rather, we *were* the group. There was an organized tour group at Osian
when we arrived. They were Germans, of course. See our Mexico logs for an
elaboration/explanation of this.

You don't have to move far in India to see that while the country does
not have money for much, it does support an active and healthy army. We
passed a military train for carrying armored tanks and there were about ten
tanks on it. On the way back we saw a procession of about fifty soldiers on
camelback.

When we got back to Jodhpur, the bus didn't pull into the station, so
we overshot a bit before we realized we had to get off. Unlike Hong Kong,
though, there was no interesting market to walk through on the way back,
just a boring railway overpass.

India is a marked contrast to Singapore. In Singapore there are very
heavy fines for littering. Here, everyone throws banana peels, pan
packages, etc., onto the street. (Pan is the herb/spice mixture that you
get after an Indian meal to freshen your breath. It's sold here like
chewing gum, but it seems as though all the mixtures here have tobacco. At
least they all have warnings about it.)

We took an auto-rickshaw to book a tour for the next day. We also
asked about what time a theater we saw was playing a movie. Almost all the
theaters have four shows at hours divisible by three.

We were back at the hotel about 3:30 PM and Mark offered to take Evelyn
to dinner and a show. At 4:30 PM we went to the railway station for dinner.
Maybe that sounds weird, but the Lonely Planet guide recommended it as a
good place to get a meal. Service was slow, but we'd left ourselves plenty
of time. We each got a veggie thali and sweet lassi. The thali came with
three vegetable dishes in sauce, raita, rice, bread (three chapatis), and
salad. (The latter we had been warned to skip--not for here in specific,
but in general.) Very filling, and with tip the bill came to under US$1.
Actually it was closer to ninety cents--Rs28.

We took an auto-rickshaw to the Darpan Theater (or maybe the movie was
DARPAN; Evelyn wasn't sure). We got there about forty minutes before the
film. We walked around, then waited by the theater attracting a crowd.
People started arriving for the film, but not one woman. We were wondering
if we'd picked wrong. When no women showed up, we gave up. It looked like
it could be a violent drama, but probably no sex. We hailed an auto-
rickshaw and asked if there was a theater nearby that women went to. A
passerby got involved since we were having a hard time making ourselves
understood. He suggested a cinema nearby. The Girdhar Mandir is not as
fancy as the Raj Mandir and it has ineffective fans rather than air
conditioning, but it was a theater and it had a film. (It is also a little
cheaper, at Rs13.50 for the best seats.)

Now, when we got the cassette for KHAL-NAAIKAA we also got a cassette
with a particularly garish jacket. The film was AAJA MERI JAAN, or A KILLER
CALLS. The poster shows a hand holding an ugly serrated knife, and a bloody
female corpse. Well, we didn't know what we were getting as our film that
women went to, but that is what it turned out to be. Since it is unlikely
that most readers of this log are likely to see the film, we will say that
Until the last twenty minutes of its two-hour-and-forty-minute length, it
appears to be about a psychotic serial killer. Then it takes some
unexpected turns in the direction of a James Bond film with two small armies
shooting at each other, boat chases, and explosions. It was a bit more
difficult for non-Hindi speakers. The songs were not well integrated into
the story, but were mostly just nightclub acts grafted on to the film.
Evelyn says, It was sort of like a 'Beach Party' film, set at a resort in
Goa, and the songs were all production numbers staged by the entertainers
there. The hero is a singer there who also apparently works with the police
on special assignments. In addition to be just grafted on, the songs were
not as good as those in KHAL-NAAIKAA. (Don't you just love this sort of
intellectual criticism of a film by someone who can't even understand the
language it's in?) One of the songs was a sensuous snake dance. Mark
asked Evelyn if she's ever heard the chorus before. She could not identify
it, but when Mark pointed out that it was almost note for note Scarborough
Fair, she recognized it as very nearly a direct steal. The theater was
*not* air-conditioned and it got very hot, particularly since all the
tickets were sold with reserved seating in one little zone of people. At
the intermission we got Pepsis and wet down kerchiefs to keep us cool. It
was an enjoyable night, but not as good as the Raj Mandir.

Back at the room we wrote and watched the last half-hour of The
Crystal Maze. Then we wrote more and listened to the cassette of music
from the film.




October 21, 1993:




Evelyn writes, I would just like to say that this
is without a doubt the hardest 'vacation' we have ever had. Southeast Asia
was not as oppressive (and we had more people to divide the work up). Egypt
and Africa was on a group tour--it had its problems, but was also less work.
And we're staying in the nicer hotels and getting a reasonable rest at
night. I would *not* want to do this with budget hotels with string cots
and no hot water. But then again, most of the people doing that are a lot
younger than us.

She continues, One reason this was as unexpected as it was is that we
got most of our advice from Indians. But they aren't chased after by every
beggar, child, rickshaw driver, and shop owner who sees them. About the
only advantage we have is that we can use the foreign tourist railway
booking window--if there is one. This all sounds terribly negative, so I
must reiterate that I'm glad I came: India is unlike anywhere else we've
been. But I can't think of any of our (non-Indian) friends who would enjoy
it.

We got up early as usual and packed our luggage. Mark took a shower
and found that both the hot and cold water taps gave room-temperature water.

You stay in India long enough and you see just about everything. We
had a disagreement with the desk clerk over the bill. We claimed we'd
stayed two nights; he said we'd stayed only one. Our stay was 29 hours,
from 2 AM one day to 7 AM the next calendar day. To him that was only one
day. What we expected to pay Rs1000 for was only Rs450. The hotel had its
problems, but it was about US$14.50 for what seemed to us like two nights.
This was another hotel where they don't make up the room.

We left our luggage at the railway station Cloak Room and took an
auto-rickshaw to the Tourist Bungalow. That was where the tour starts from.
Mark had fried eggs and hot chocolate (served in a finger-burning glass).
Tourists from another table asked to see our copy of the new Lonely Planet
guide. We booked the morning tour and wrote in our logs until the bus came.

Our first stop was the Umaid Bhawan Palace, the youngest palace in
Rajasthan. It was built during the years 1929 through 1945 by the Maharaja
of Jodhpur. Actually, it was built by British architect H. V. Lancaster.
(Actually, it was probably build by thousands of Indian laborers.) The
location was one chosen by an astrologer and it is a particularly barren and
lonely site. The astrologer did not see the coming independence of India or
the pain of putting the palace there where they had to build a special
railway to bring the materials.

Now they are recouping what they can of the cost by dividing the palace
into three parts (like Gaul). In one part they have put a paying museum and
they have turned another 70% into a super-posh hotel. The Maharaja lives in
the third part. Mark notes, The palace had to be specially aligned with
the points of the compass because ... hey, I guess I'm not sure why. I
guess it's just a matter of form.

The museum has a photo history of the building of the palace and then
you walk through part to see the kind of opulence to make you jealous. Mark
almost admits, Well, finally we are seeing something that may be more
comfortable than my modest digs, but I doubt it. It has a theater that can
be a cinema. It has gold-plated ceilings. It has models of the Maharaja's
seven planes.

It has some of the Raja's personal effects, such as swords, hunting
rifles, and a dead leopard who got at the bad end of one or the other. Then
there is his collection of clocks and watches. He has big clocks and little
clocks as small as a watch on a ring. There are Dutch windmill clocks. The
museum part ends in a central hall that is 110 feet (thirty-five meters)
high. Our guess is that by this point everybody is so bored with this
description that they have skipped several pages ahead. If you really are
reading this log in this detail, send us mail telling us why you bother to
read about some maharaja's collection, in twenty-five words or less. The
most humorous response will go into our next trip log. He also had a clock
in the shape of a steam train engine.

Pushing skyward from a hill overlooking Jodhpur is what looks at first
like an Arizona butte but is actually a man-made structure. The structure
is tall and majestic and it costs Rs50 to photograph inside so you better be
willing to accept a verbal description. (Evelyn writes, This business of
charging extra for cameras is an iniquitous practice designed to fleece the
tourists even more than the reputedly higher entrance fees for tourists
already do--it's like the Death of a Thousand Cuts. Here, though, it might
actually have been worth it, since they allowed photography inside the
buildings as well as outside.)

The Meherangarh Fort was built in the 1400s by Man Singh, another Raja.
The fort is huge and, while once intended to repel invaders, now has its
life's-blood in attracting them. The gates that surround the fort are 117
feet (35 meters) high, or about one yard short of ten stories. The fort is
split into sections for men and sections for women. In the women's section
were collections of ivory carvings, including a detailed steam train so
pretty that Mark is sure the toothless elephant must have been proud. If
the elephant wants a quid pro quo tooth for a tooth, Mark says he has met
some Indians who prey on the tourists. There is also a collection of
cradles from the royal family, including one that is motor-driven.

Mark complains, Once again the guides pointed out what they call a 3-D
painting whose eyes follow you around the room. Of course, they have it
backwards. If it were 3-D, the eyes would *not* follow you; you would see a
different view from different places. To have the angle not change it means
you get no parallax, which is the property of a two-dimensional image. The
eyes of Michelangelo's 'David' do not follow you because they were sculpted
in 3-D. But when Clint Eastwood looks straight at the camera and says, 'Are
you feeling lucky, punk?' everybody in the theater sees him looking straight
at them. That's a 2-D image. I tell you, there are millions of tourist
traps. Don't believe everything you are told.

Everyone on the tour spoke Hindi but us. The guide gave separate
lectures to us. Evelyn says, English must be a much more concise language;
our explanation was always much shorter than the Hindi one. Suddenly in
the middle of one lecture to us, he stopped mid-sentence.

What are you doing? he asked.

I am making notes, Mark replied.

What is that?

Electronic notebook.

Mark notes, The guide had just discovered Thing. Mark is sure that
every once in a while the guides start seeing a new piece of technology
coming with tourists and they are not sure what to make of it. The
videocamera was something new in their lives a few years back. The time
will probably come when some percentage of tourists will be using portable
computers to manage their trips. The younger generation is very computer-
oriented, but it may be a while. For the time being there are not many
people ready to bring a computer into India. I think you have to be a bit
nuts to bring a computer here.

Anyway, the palace/fort was used from the 1600s to the 1800s. We saw
one courtyard in white that was used for the Holi festival. That is the
festival known most for the custom of throwing red powder and paint on
people. We are not sure how long this courtyard could stay white. Many of
the rooms had brightly colored stained-glass windows.

In the hall where art is shown--from the school of Marwar miniatures--
Evelyn found a picture called Opium Eaters Frightened by Rat--funny
activity by weird skinny people.

Mark says, It has been suggested that these palaces were built in
times of famine as a sort of WPA-type famine relief. I have also been told
by Indians that many centuries ago the Indian civilization was so high that
flying machines were common. I put both these statements in the same
category. I think they are the invention of people who are very anxious to
feel good about themselves. The truth, as I see it, is that the lower class
in India far outnumbers the middle and upper classes. Social welfare would
deplete the country's economy very quickly. The obscenely rich have
political power and remain obscenely rich. But there is not much concern
for the poor in India and the beggars search out visitors, not their own.
In fact, the societal structure is set up to deny connections between the
castes. 'I am a Brahmin; you are an Untouchable. You must not beg from
me.' It is difficult not to pass judgement on this society. To Western
eyes things have gone very, very wrong. I have heard Indians say that it is
unfair that America has so much and India has so little, but when India gets
more it all seems to go to those with power. If the world decided its
number-one priority was financial aid to India, the gap between the rich and
the poor would grow even greater.

From the upper rooms this really looks like a King-Arthur-style castle,
complete with turrets. (Or at least like a castle you'd see in a Hollywood
King Arthur movie.) Beyond the walls is a Brahmin village painted entirely
in blue--the color of Krishna and of Shiva.

The royal bedroom is about as comfortable as their technology could
make it. It has bright stained-glass windows, spherical mirrors on the
ceiling that look like big Christmas decorations in many colors, and a fan
run by muscle-power from outside the room. We will not describe in detail
the textile room, the folk instrument room (except to say that among the
instruments is a ram's horn), or the treasury room.

The arms room had some of the strange Indian daggers for which the
handles are shaped like an H. They are, Mark was told, intended for each
hand. The fist grabs the cross-piece of the H and the vertical bars
protect the arm and allow it to deflect blades. We also saw a kris, which
the guide claimed was an Indian design and just used in Malaysia. There is
also a room of houdahs (elephant seats) from different states.

Near the entrance you can see the marks of cannonballs on the walls
from battles, and also the suttee hand prints left by wives going off to die
on their husbands' funeral pyres. (Though the British outlawed suttee in
1829, the last recorded royal suttee occurred in 1953.)

On the way out of the fort we had some cool drinks, then went to
Jaswant Thanda, the Royal Cremation Grounds (from which there is a marvelous
view of the fort--but then that's probably true from a lot of places in
Jodhpur). The guide gave us a detailed description of a funeral ceremony
and mentioned the responsibilities of the sons but said nothing of the
widow. They don't like to tell tourists about suttee.

We went inside. At the doorway there were three Indian teens, a boy on
one side and two girls on the other. The boy said something in Hindi in a
high funny voice as we passed. When we left the two girls said, Hello,
and Mark returned Hello. Then in a high funny voice he said to the boy,
Namaste. The girls thought that was funny.

The last stop was Mandore Gardens. There were gardens there and a Hall
of Heroes that had figures carved in a rock wall and painted in the vibrant
Hindu style, representing gods and local heroes. It reminded Evelyn of the
Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, though nowhere near as elaborate. We also saw a
memorial to Maharaja Ajit Singh (now taken over by pigeons and monkeys--in
fact the pigeon population everywhere around here is such that walking is a
hazard both above and below). We saw more temples and listened to a street
musician.

Amazingly, there was no stop for a crafts shop.

At the Tourist Bungalow Mark had stuffed tomato and paratha bread.
Supposedly people lose weight in India but it seems like the meals have a
lot of oil.
After lunch we went to the City Museum and zoo. The zoo was closed.
The museum cost Rs2 and was a sad sight. There were stuffed birds that had
lost a lot of their feathers. Some of the heads had fallen off. There were
pictures of rajas with all their feathers. There was a little ivory
carving--again a train, a popular subject. There was also an ivory chess
set. There was pipe-cleaner art and carved stones in poor condition. There
was examples of rock salt carving, plane models, and puppets. As usual,
there was not much of any one thing. And the museum was dimly lit. The
biggest attraction was some tourist who'd brought a computer.

Now we were trying to decide what to do (since it was only about 3 PM)
and Evelyn suggested that we sit in the shade in the park around the museum
and write in our logs. Silly me--I forgot we were in India, she said
later. We hadn't gotten very far when a young man about fifteen years old
came by on a bicycle and insisted on talking to us. Every ten minutes he
would say, But I disturb you. You want to write. We would nod agreement,
but he would just keep talking. (Who *is* the current Canadian prime
minister anyway?) He wanted to see Mark's palmtop, Mark's watch, Mark's
camera. In the end (after about a half hour) he wanted a souvenir of Canada
and refused to believe we had nothing suitable with us. Eventually he put
the bite on us for a pack of Dentyne gum and a magazine we'd gotten on the
plane. He was incredibly persistent and annoying in his comments. (Evelyn
says, He didn't like Michael Jackson because he was 'half man, half woman.'
I'm not sure what he meant by this, but I wasn't in the mood to try to raise
his consciousness in any case. I should have said, 'Oh, like Ardhanari.'
(Ardhanari is Siva in a half-male, half-female form.) But you never think
of these come-backs until later.)

Tired of being hustled, we retreated to the lawn of the tourist
bungalow, rested, and wrote. Around 6:30 PM we went to the railway station.
We were missing dinner so Mark bought some sandwich cookies--mango-flavored.
There was so little frosting it could not hold the halves together. Just a
minor gotcha.

Mark writes, Earlier, Evelyn had expressed reservations about going to
the market because she thought we'd be fighting off hawkers and hustlers. I
expressed similar reservations about going on a camel trek and Evelyn
ignored them. I think this was our first disagreement of the trip, at least
the first of any length. We waited a while in the first-class lounge and
then Evelyn suggested we try the foreign tourist waiting room. The latter
proved a good idea. We got to talk to a wide range of tourists, from one
woman who wanted out of India as fast as she could manage. She had had
several bad experiences, culminating in a camel trek in which she got sick
two and a half days into a seven-day trek. She went back and the guide
stole her provisions. I didn't get the full story, but it didn't sound very
good.

We spent some time talking to an Israeli CPA from Tel Aviv. His
brother had visited Southeast Asia and loved it so he had come to India.
Mark told him politely that India is a lot more hostile than, say, Thailand.
It turned out that he was just loving India. There was always another
mystery to solve about why India was the way it was. He also said the
reason there were so many Israeli tourists in India was that India was close
to Israel (a five-hour flight) and very cheap.

Mark said he was going to ask a political question. Evelyn sort of
groaned but he went ahead. What do you think are the chances for peace now
that the PLO had acknowledged Israel and vice versa? It was a question he
seemed very happy to answer. He was very optimistic. He said only about 2%
of Israelis opposed the treaty, though that 2% had gotten a lot of news
coverage. All Israelis need is to feel relatively safe and they will have a
lot of good will rather than fear of the Palestinians. He thinks as long as
they don't start bringing in heavy armaments, the Palestinians should rule
themselves. This guy seemed awfully open and friendly. Mark said he was
hoping to see him on the train, but he was going second class to meet more
Indians.

Evelyn had asked at the Enquiry desk which our compartment was. It
turns out you can't tell by looking at the ticket. The actual seat
assignment takes place after you buy the ticket. That makes things
difficult.

At 10 PM we boarded the train. We had a tough time finding the first-
class carriage since it was a long train and we started going the wrong way.
We found it, though. Ours was a half-sized compartment and was for only
two. We waited for the conductor to come by and check our tickets--fending
off a very persistent mineral water seller--but he never did. Finally we
locked the door and went to sleep (about midnight).




October 22, 1993:




Mark had been somewhat traumatized by one very bad
sleeper-car trip in Malaysia. He says this was the second least comfortable
sleeper he'd ever had, but it still was not unbearable. It started too hot,
but he drenched a T-shirt and wore that under his shirt and it was a lot
more comfortable.

During the night Mark was attacked by mosquitos and had to put on Deet
left over from our Amazon trip. Later it got very cold in the car. Evelyn,
who had started off wearing a T-shirt, added a long-sleeved shirt and a
nylon windbreaker before thinking to close the window. Mark woke up three
or four times in the night, but usually fell right back asleep. By morning,
even though the windows had been closed for a lot of the night, dust had
blown big black rings around the bases of the mineral water bottles. It
also showed just where on Mark's arms he'd put Deet, which had collected the
dust.

As we traveled, the view out the window started really to look like
desert, with camels, dunes, and piles of some yellow fruit near the track
for long stretches. We never found out what the fruit was or why it was
there.

The events upon our arrival in Jaiselmer are a matter of some dispute,
so we'll give you both sides of the story.

Mark says, We pulled into the station. We got out. Someone called
out Narayan Niwas Hotel. Evelyn immediately identified us as wanting to go
there. I tried to stop her because I assumed this was just a commission
man. Evelyn was assuming this was a hotel service. 'Lose this guy,' I told
her. 'He's from the hotel. You'll see Narayan Niwas on his jeep or we
won't get in.' His jeep said 'Adventure Travel Agency.' 'Don't get in,' I
said. Evelyn got in. Blind obedience. There were a bunch of other
tourists in the jeep so Evelyn figured it was okay. The jeep sped off. I
tried to take a picture of the fort. 'Take pictures later,' snapped the
driver. The jeep stopped at Adventure Travel and the driver had all the
passengers but Evelyn and me get out. 'Are we IN IT!' I thought. He had
let all the other pigeons go to concentrate on his two prize pigeons.
'Narayan Niwas is very expensive,' he said. Oh, yeah. I'll just bet he
was sent by the Narayan Niwas. 'I have better hotel for you cheaper.' 'We
want to go to the Narayan Niwas.' We did and Evelyn checked the room.
Meanwhile I got a sales pitch for a safari. It turned out that either the
toilet didn't work or they had only air-cooled. 'See, expensive and no
good.' Okay, I thought. Let's see what he has. He took us to two
different hotels--one had no air conditioning and was full anyway; the other
was more expensive than the Narayan Niwas. We ended up being taken back to
the Narayan Niwas. We took the room with no air conditioning.

Mark continues, We went to the room since we'd been whisked away from
the railway station before we could book our train out. Another reason I
was unhappy was that Evelyn had suddenly changed the plan and trusted a
total stranger. It turned out we spent more for an air-cooled just okay
room than other people in the hotel spent for much nicer rooms.

Evelyn agrees that saying yes to the first person calling out Narayan
Niwas was foolish, but the guidebooks did say that many hotels sent jeeps
to the railway station to pick up guests, so this was not entirely out of
the question. In the end, she says, It seems to have worked out okay.
Yes, we paid more than some one else for a room, but hers was a single.

However, although the driver claimed that the hotel would make train
reservations for us, it turned out that we had to do that ourselves, so we
got an auto-rickshaw back to the railway station and then to the beginning
point of our tour. We got back to the railway station about 10 AM. There
were three Indians and an English couple ahead of us in line. Since we had
an hour before the reservations window closed, we figured we had plenty of
time. However, although we still don't know what the Indians were doing and
what the man behind the counter was doing, whatever it was, took about
thirty minutes after we arrived. (It seems as if Indians buying tickets
always take much longer than tourists--are they trying to decide where they
want to go based on the cost or what? Evelyn suggested that maybe it was a
mathematics puzzle where they had to cover every kilometer of track in the
Indian Railways system in as short a time as possible. By the way, Indian
Railways is the world's largest employer, with 1,600,000 employees--or 16
lakh employees, if you prefer. India even has different units of numbers.
Instead of the million and the billion, there is the lakh--100,000--and the
crore--10,000,000.)

We'd filled out the railway form and were waiting. A tourist with an
Indian driver or guide showed up. The guide filled out a form for the
tourist, walked to the front of the line, and shoved it inside the window.
Hey, this is a queue, one the English tourists said and pulled the form
and money back out and handed them back to the Indian guide. The Indian
guide walked around to the back of the queue, then up to the front on the
other side and tried to push the form in. Evelyn blocked him this time.
That didn't work so he went around the side and into the ticket office, but
the clerk at the desk threw him back out. And so it would go. He would try
to push the form and money in; we would block him. (The one time he did
manage to sneak it in, the clerk handed it back and told him it wasn't
filled in completely.) At one point he looked at Mark exasperatedly. In
India Indians should be #1, he explained helpfully, and wrote #1 on his
hand. However, he was out-numbered and blocked at each turn, so he pushed
into the line in front of two Indians behind us. (Clearly he was buying a
ticket for the tourist and had told him that he could get it done quickly.
He hadn't counted on the other tourists there being so impolite as to insist
that he wait his turn.)

One reason this was going so slowly was that this station was not
computerized like the others had been, so everything had to be looked up and
written down by hand in large ledger books and on forms in duplicate (or
maybe it was in triplicate). Our tickets cost Rs492, whereas coming here
they had been Rs510. Maybe you pay extra for a computerized ticket.

Well, finally we got done after about forty minutes in what looked like
a short queue. We started to leave and a goat limped by. The goat had
somehow backed into a bramble bush and had a two-foot piece of bramble bush
tangled in its coat. The driver held the goat and extracted the brambles.
Evelyn says the books say not to tip usually, but in this case he did a good
deed for the goat as well as waiting for us, so we tipped 25%.

From the railway station we went to Gadi Sagar Gate, the start of the
city tour in the Cadogan guide.

The city itself was founded in 1156 by Bhati Prince Jaisel. The name
means the Jaisel Oasis. As in Osian, the Jain merchants chose this as a
place to build some impressive temples. There were also huge merchant
mansions called havelis. Some of these were incredibly ornate with
filigree-like trellised balconies.

The Gadi Sagar Tank is an artificial lake that was used to hold water
for the oasis. The Cadogan guide says that it rarely has any water in it,
but it was full now. (The guide is a few years old; maybe things have
changed.) The lake was also full of frogs, at least near where we were--
hundreds of them small enough to run or skip on the surface. There is a
gateway to the tank donated by Talia, a singer and prostitute. The royal
family got in a tizzy that a prostitute would do such a thing and threatened
to pull down the gates. Talia put an image of Krishna on the gates and had
them turned into a temple. It's not nice to fool with Krishna.

Near the gate is a small folklore museum, the personal collection of
N. K. Sharma, who sits in the museum and welcomes people and shows off
objects and sells the guide to the city that he wrote. He talked to us a
bit and looked at the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide to see if it
still recommended his book about Jaiselmer--it does, but it doesn't mention
his museum. I guess at Rs5 each it's considered too expensive for the
really budget traveler. The museum is about five nine-foot by twelve-foot
rooms (three meters by four meters) but not bad for a private collection.

Next on the tour is the fort, so we walked into the city and found our
way (with some difficulty through the twisty streets) to the entrance. This
fortification was built in the 1200s not to surround only a palace, as in
Jodhpur, but also houses. Forts seem often to be know by the color of their
stone. This is the Golden Fort since it is made of yellow sandstone. You
follow a long rampway to enter the fort. It took ten minutes to climb into
the fort, and in that time we were hit on by a count of thirty-one hawkers.
That is a little over one every twenty seconds, though some take longer than
others to disengage from. Most you can ignore and walk by or just say,
Nay. Others are more persistent and take forty seconds or more to be rid
of. The heat, the hawkers, and our advancing age--let's admit it--makes
walking around here extremely fatiguing. But of the three, by far the worst
are the hawkers.

At the end of this climb and gauntlet was a huge open square, the town
square of the fort. Naturally there were vendors here as well, selling
textiles and puppets in a very colorful display. Here is also the palace,
standing at the highest point of the fort, but we saw it only from the
outside. Instead we walked up and down the streets, seeing the houses of
common people, often with fancy stonework. We stopped and watched some boys
playing cricket. It is surprising how much of the British ways are still
around.
We had lunch at 8th July, an odd restaurant with no Indian dishes at
all, alas. It specializes in tourist food and so has some Chinese food as
well as things like veggie burgers, pizza, and marmite. Mark had Maha-
veggie egg-cheese burger, a strange but very tasty sandwich. Evelyn had a
veggie burger. We broke another health rule by eating the tomato slices it
came with. We had been warned not to eat raw vegetables. (Evelyn says if
we followed all the rules we had been given, we would starve. Buy mineral
water only in pharmacies. Don't drink the local sodas. Don't drink
lassi or eat yoghurt. Don't eat raw vegetables. She goes on to say, In
the 1926 film version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, there is a section set in
modern times in which someone breaks all ten commandments. I'm starting to
feel like that--we're breaking more rules than we're following, I suspect.)
Mark also had a fruit smoothie, and it also was very good. One of the books
recommended their apple pie, so we shared a piece. It isn't what we think
of as apple pie. It was more like hot mashed apples and spice in a kind of
bread. Nevertheless it was quite tasty.

Actually, it might have been the lassi and the yoghurt that protected
us from stomach problems. Yoghurt and bananas are supposedly both old cures
for diarrhea and we ate a lot of yoghurt and bananas.

Evelyn is still wondering what significance 8th July has. Since the
restaurant is run by people from someplace in Central Asia, it probably not
named for the birthdays of Roone Arledge, King Edgar of England, Percy
Grainger, Vitaly Ivanovich Sevastianov, or Ferdinand, Graf von Zeppelin; the
anniversary of Warren G. Harding; the Russian victory over the Swedes at
Poltava; or the departure of Vasco da Gama's ships from Lisbon, but that
doesn't say what it was named for. Can anyone help?

We did see a boy filling Bisleri bottles from a water tap and capping
them. It could be innocent or it could be a gotcha for some tourist, the
spider spinning his web for the unway fly.

We walked around a bit more after lunch, looking at some of the
havelis, or homes of the merchants of times past. The outsides of these are
decorated with fancy carving and grill work in yellow sandstone. Inside
they are reportedly plain, but most are either private homes not open to
tourists or shops trying to sell things to tourists. Even the shops across
the streets from the havelis try to cash in on them by offering to let you
use the second floor of their shops to look across into the havelis. We
tried to follow a map to find the Salam Singh Haveli, but could not rid
ourselves of someone who insisted that we see it from the upper floors of
his carpet museum--admission free. (He said the carpet museum was sponsored
by the government. We saw several other carpet museums as we walked; we
hadn't realized that Jaiselmer had more museums than New York, but most were
carpet museums or handicraft museums. And all of them--and a lot of shops
too--are Recognized by the Government. Sounds impressive, doesn't it?
Evelyn asked Mark just what this meant and Mark said it means they pay their
taxes.)

The carpet museum's proprietor's pestering chased us away before we
could see the haveli well. After that we could not find the next site as
the map and streets just did not seem to match. The more we looked, the
more we were harassed by hawkers and kids asking for pens. Eventually we
gave up and went back to the hotel. Actually Jaiselmer must be very
liberated. Until Jaiselmer just about all hawkers have been men. Beggars
have been evenly distributed but hawkers have been male. Here for the first
time have we been chased--yes, that's the right verb, chased--by women
hawkers selling jewelry.

The hotel was a nice place to rest. It had a nice grassy center
courtyard, a few shops, and an open-air bar and restaurant. The Lonely
Planet guide describes it as decorated to look like a prince's desert camp.
Well, that may be an exaggeration, but it is quite nice architecturally.

We stayed in the room behind locked doors where nobody could try to
sell us anything. We left only to try to book a safari for the next day.
First we asked how much a three-hour jeep ride in the desert would be. It
was Rs600 for the two of us. We thought the jeep driver earlier had
mentioned a much cheaper price, so we went out to find a phone to call him,
accidentally stumbling upon a haveli we couldn't find earlier, and
eventually finding a phone. But the company wouldn't quote a price over the
telephone--we had to come in to discuss it. Well, this seemed suspicious.
We tried to price the trip at another place, but it was closed. (Oh, we
also tried to use USA Direct to call home, but it doesn't work from public
phones. That makes it pretty useless for travelers here.)

We returned to the hotel and after farbling a while, decided to book
the trek. But when Mark went to the desk he said camel trek and that was
only Rs350 for two. So we booked that for tomorrow. We also asked about
where to hear local music and were told our hotel would have a puppet show
at 7 PM and local music from 8 to 10 PM.

Evelyn writes, The whole subject of the camel trek is a touchy one. I
had been reading about Jaiselmer and how the thing to do was to go out into
the desert on a camel. The best treks were at least three or four days but
there were some half-day trips. Since the latter was all we would have time
for anyway, I figured that would be good. And I had thought that Mark had
been reading up and was expecting to go on a trek as well. But this was not
the case. So when I first mentioned booking a camel trek, his reaction
was, 'A camel trek?! What's this about a camel trek?' It turned out that
Mark was not as eager as I to go on a camel trek and one might say he was
even negative on the idea. But talking to people who had been, and hearing
it was only three hours out and back made him enough less negative that he
was willing to do it for my sake. (He's such a sweetie!)

Actually, Mark says, I had seen how elephants were treated in Thailand
when we took an elephant trek. I lost his taste for entertainment at the
expense of an animal, at least where there was a high probability the animal
would not be treated well.

We arrived at 7 PM for the puppet show but apparently misunderstood the
concept of a puppet show. This was a puppet show with show as in Boat
Show. (Or as Evelyn said, The puppet show consisted of them showing us the
puppets and then asking how much we would be willing to pay.) Nothing was
done with the puppets except attempt to sell them to us. Us and nobody
else. We don't understand the rules, but three times they came to us to
demonstrate the puppets and ask how much we would pay. Three times we said
we were not interested, but there was a sales pitch each time and we were
certainly not encouraging them.

There really was a folk music show with instruments, song, and dance of
the area. Thank goodness. We didn't want people coming to the table to ask
us how much we would pay for a dancer. The show started at 8 PM but went
only to about 9:15 PM. Then they decided there were not enough people left
listening or tipping and the music stopped. (Evelyn thinks the people left
to escape the bugs, which were moving in.) What we heard was entertaining,
though Evelyn liked the instrumental music better than the dancing. And it
was certainly better than the other entertainment option--a theater a block
away showing Stephen King's SILVER BULLET. (Evelyn wonders if they added
songs.)

The early end did give us a chance to catch up on our logs.




October 23, 1993:




We had quite a comfortable night in spite of the fact
the mattress was only about two inches thick. Mark was afraid he had
awakened in the middle of the night but when he found his flashlight, it was
5:53 AM. He spent the early hours of the morning writing the preface to
this trip log. We set out about 9 AM to see the Jain temples. We stopped
for breakfast at 8th July, prices in our hotel restaurant being outrageously
high (Rs15 for a soda costing Rs7 elsewhere). Walking there Evelyn was
struck by how lost one can feel on first arriving in a town and how quickly
one can find one's way around.

Mark's cold seems to be getting worse with time. It is just a nose
that has to be blown several times an hour. So far the 100% probability of
digestive problems has failed to materialize. We still drink water only
from bottles. We have cut out the Band-ade and drink any brand of mineral
water with a sealed cap. We have not bought food from street vendors,
though people say at least there you can see the kitchen. It may well be
that we have built up a resistance to travel stomach disorders. Mark
doesn't think he really wants to test this hypothesis, however.

After breakfast we walked to the Jain temples and got some pictures of
the outsides. Mark thinks the outside are probably the most interesting
part. Inside is symbolic sculpture that we do not understand very well. At
least it was not explained well at Osian. We probably should have done more
study before the vacation. (Also, cameras were not allowed inside but there
was no place reputable to leave them outside.) Evelyn found it interesting
that leather was prohibited inside Jain temples but a very high percentage
of the souvenirs sold just outside are made of leather.

We also found a bastion with a cannon (called in the guides the place
of the cannon) and got some impressive views of the city. We walked around
the inside of the walled fort for an hour or two.

It is tough to judge here when you see young children if you are
looking at a boy or a girl. We saw one child using the sewer as a toilet
who looked very female from the hair and the clothing, but the plumbing was
definitely male.

Speaking of the sewers, the fort is remarkably clean due to fast-
running water in the sewers. By Western standards it is pretty bad and you
find a lot of corners that smell of urine, but there seems to be less
leavings to avoid when walking.

Leaving the fort Mark took a picture of the archway and a woman who
happened to be under it at the time assumed she was in the picture and
chased us for baksheesh. However, since we were going down a long incline
and she knew she'd have to climb back up, she gave up fairly quickly. She
was asking for Rs10 and to be frank Mark didn't even know if she was in the
picture or not. (She was, it turned out, but so small you could barely make
out her face.)

We just wandered around the town for a while. Mark got a picture of a
rather dirty shop calling itself a medical store.

Mark says, I am getting used to seeing red-brown stains just about
everywhere. A very popular pastime is chewing betel nut, a stimulant. If I
was disgusted at the red stains in our Hong Kong hallway from where people
had spit betel nut juice, after a visit to India I don't think it would
phase me.

We stopped and got a Limca. Limca is a local soda--in fact, the best
of the local sodas. It is a tart lemon-lime, sort of like the locally
available Teem and better than 7-Up. Locally available sodas are American
brands bottled by Lehar--Pepsi, Teem, and 7-UP--and local brands such as
Limca, Thums [sic] Up cola, and Campa-Cola. They also occasionally have
Slice. Pepsi and Limca are probably the best to our taste. If they
substitute Teem for Limca, that is okay.

Wandering around a bit more brought us to what we usually gravitate to
everywhere we go--a used bookstore, the Bhatia News Agency (street address
unknown, assuming there is such a thing in Jaiselmer). Mark bought a ghost
story comic book as an interesting souvenir, and also a copy of FREEDOM AT
MIDNIGHT for Rs75; Evelyn got MAY YOU BE THE MOTHER OF A HUNDRED SONS. Good
reading for the train rides ahead (and necessary, as it turned out--but that
will come later).

We got back to the hotel in time for the 11:30 AM power failure. Mark
was mostly packed already but he was making last-minute changes to what he
would take on the camel trek. Looking at what we are actually going to
do, he says, I suspect my mis-apprehension about riding a camel into the
desert was probably ill-founded. We are not going very far, so if I do not
take to camel-riding it will not be much of a loss. As I said earlier, I
think I sort of lost my taste for riding large animals when we rode an
elephant in Thailand. I was not happy with how the animal was treated and
it seems to me I have better things to do with my vacation than make an
animal miserable. In Africa I was particularly uncomfortable on the camel I
rode, but later the same trip I rode a horse and got a better idea of how to
cooperate with the animal rather than fight it and would sort of like to try
again. If you just try to hang on and sit level, you are fighting the
animal. You have to sort of bounce in the rhythm of the animal's stride.

Still, I think going out on the desert is a serious matter, he
concludes.

Well, we repacked our bags so that we were taking with us pretty much
just what we would need for the trek and we left the rest behind the desk.
We went out to get lunch and a bottle of Bisleri to take on the trek. We
ate at a place called the Trio Restaurant. Evelyn had ker sangri, described
as desert beans and capers, but the main ingredient seemed like stems or
stalks of some sort rather than beans. Still, it was tasty, and different
from what one gets back home. Lunch came to Rs85. At about 2:40 PM we went
back to the hotel to wait for the camel trek. At 3 PM they said it would
start at 3:30 PM. It actually started at 3:15 PM. A tall man in a turban
came to the desk to get us. He was not a driver; he was an arranger.
Evelyn had thought that they might send a jeep around to pick us up and take
us to a general starting point, but that didn't happen. The arranger led us
out to where two camels were relieving themselves in the street. There were
four camels there in all and we got the two that were not busy. (Each camel
carried one of us and a camel driver.) These turned out to be Moria and
Borach. Mark got Moria. He says, It may have been good fortune. Borach
was just not very happy with his assigned task. Moria was a male but very
gentle. He may have had female aspirations. In any case Moria was very
docile but tended to worry overly about cars coming past. Well, it's easy
for me to judge that he was overly concerned. When I am the one doing the
walking the cars here scare me too.
We passed some school kids who waved at us and laughed to see the
tourists riding the camels. We never actually got out to any real desert
but we did get to some reasonably open country. The desert here is the Thar
Desert. Mark likes that name; he says it sounds like something out of Edgar
Rice Burroughs. One of the things that is amazing is how well sound
carries. We were out there with no buildings or man-made structures for a
good mile in one direction but there was the unmistakable sound of singing
coming from that direction. It must have been from a good long way off, but
it sounded no further than if it were a hundred yards off. Mark told Evelyn
that the heat of the sand heats up the air just above it, creating an
inversion layer that traps the sound and carries it long distances. Evelyn
said she had to take his word for it, but Mark told her not to because he
was making it up--but it did sound good.

Mark said that at one point Moria looked around at him and said, I
thought foreign tourists *lost* weight in India. He says that he's not too
surprised. He had always heard that tourist camels can be mean. Mark told
Evelyn that you do just the opposite of what your intuition tells yous.
Instead of holding onto the camel stiffly, you go limp and go with the ride.
Then when the camel gets up to speed, you reverse the stick. (That's
another of those film allusions!) Actually, Mark says he kept getting
images from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and Peter O'Toole riding his camel, but in
his case there wasn't a driver sharing the same camel. It occurred to Mark
to dig in his heels and say, Hut! Hut! Hut! but he was a little afraid of
falling off. A camel is a tall animal. With turban, his driver was well
over six feet tall, but when Mark was in the saddle and the driver on the
ground, Mark's foot was above the top of the driver's turban. If you get
thrown from a camel you have time to worry before hitting the ground.

In any case, Evelyn says that while riding a walking camel is fairly
easy--you just go with the flow--riding a trotting camel is something again.
Even with padding in the saddle, you can get fairly sore after a couple of
hours. (She also recommends that women wear a good support bra.)

Mark did have a problem while riding in that his left foot kept falling
out of the stirrup. Well, trying to fall out--it slipped out only once and
he immediately realized what a powerful military advantage the Mongols had
over their enemies with the use of the stirrup.

We were glad we had each brought a liter of water. You get amazingly
dehydrated under the desert sun. The saliva in your mouth turns to glue if
you haven't drunk water in the last three minutes. But a drink of Bisleri
at a camel stop is like water in the desert. In fact, it *is* water in the
desert.

Mark has heard that camels tend to spit. Our two camels didn't, though
Mark's driver did every couple of minutes. Mark doesn't know where he got
the saliva from.

Mark says, A couple of small facts about camels: India has only the
one-humped dromedary variety. I don't know where Bactria is, but I have
seen only one-humped camels. Camels here have a peg implanted behind each
nostril. Reins are attached to these. That is how a camel is steered.
(It turns out Bactria is in northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan.)

Our first stop was Bara Bagh, about an hour's ride away. We were not
exactly riding through trackless waste--the power lines and army lookout
towers reminded us of that. But you do get some feel for the desert--its
size, how well sound carries over it, etc. A camel's feet are also
interesting to watch in action: as the camel sets each foot down, a pad
spreads out to give a firmer footing on the sand or shifting rock.

Evelyn says, So as we plodded and trotted along, I found myself
wishing it were a weekday rather than a Saturday. It would be even more
enjoyable to be riding a camel across the Thar Desert if I knew that back
home people were getting ready to go to work.

Bara Bagh is a site of cenotaphs to ancient heroes. (In case you're
wondering what we were asking ourselves, a cenotaph is a tomb or monument
erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are
elsewhere, like the Kennedy grave in Arlington--oops, we weren't supposed to
mention that.) It also had--out here in the middle of nowhere--kids trying
to sell us fossil rocks or beg rupees or pens. Even so, it was a relief to
get off the camel and stretch our legs a bit.

After another hour we arrived at Amar Sagar, which has a complex with a
cluster of Jain temples. At Bara Bagh there had been a flock of children
begging for rupees and pens. Here they were intent on being guides.
Earlier this day we had disagreed if going to England and Scotland meant we
had been to two different countries. Evelyn said Great Britain was only one
country. When Mark's would-be guide asked him what country he was from,
Mark said, Scotland and that his name was Angus. He pointed out the
Evelyn that the kid accepted his country as Scotland, so that proved it was
a country. But Evelyn is one of those people for whom no proof is
convincing.

The Amar Sagar temples are being renovated by the government in a
project which has been going on for over twenty years. We can understand
why it is taking so long: tickets to the complex were Rs10 each, but the man
at the entrance said, Ten rupees each, one ticket, okay? In other words,
we pay him Rs20, he tears out one Rs10 ticket, and he pockets Rs10. The
whole project is probably stalled for lack of funding.

Then back on the camels for our return to Jaiselmer, rising out of the
desert in the setting sun like some magical fortress. And in some ways it
still is a fortress. Being so close to Pakistan, Jaiselmer has an army camp
nearby, and we apparently rode too close to it or something, because a guard
with a rifle came over and had a conversation with the drivers--in Hindi, so
we have no idea what was said. But it must have satisfied the guard,
because he let us ride on.

Mark doesn't know what happened to Moria while we were at Amar Sagar
but the camel had a bad wound on his face when Mark saw him again. There
was a place about half the size of a small coin where fur and skin were
missing. Mark doesn't know if he'd been bitten or wounded by the driver.

On the way back we stopped at Sunset Point to see the sunset. However,
we got there too soon and got a picture before sunset. The drivers were in
a hurry to get back. (Actually, Evelyn thinks the purpose of Sunset Point
is to get a picture of Jaiselmer at sunset, rather than of the sunset
itself.)

At the end of the trek a cold Limca was mighty good. We neglected to
mention that from the Jodhpur foreign tourist room on we'd been running into
the same English woman over and over. This was Anne Martin. She was in the
tourist room of the Jodhpur railway station, on our train, and in the same
hotel in Jaiselmer. We'd talked to her in the hotel after the entertainment
the night before. Now she was headed back to the same railway station for
the same train. She is the wife of a man who had been a diplomat but who
left for political reasons, wrote a book, and now does environmental work.
We asked her how much she had paid for her room. She had their nicest air-
conditioned room and paid a lot less than we were paying. Obviously the
Adventure Travel people were getting a big rake-off from the hotel for
bringing us there. Gotcha! (Evelyn points out that Anne paid less, not a
lot less--but of course that's subjective--and got a single and we got a
double, and that there is a price difference there.) (Mark and Evelyn agree
to disagree ... often.)

We got an auto-rickshaw to the railway station. The driver got in with
what Mark assumes was his younger brother or son. Mark thinks the driver
wanted to impress the boy and tore around the twelve-foot wide streets at
top speed. Mark was sure he would hit a bull which was standing crosswise
in the narrow street peeing. Later some kid in the street just happened to
drop the lid of his lunch pail as our auto-rickshaw was passing and the
auto-rickshaw smashed the lid. This our younger passenger found hilarious.

We got to the railway station and met a couple there. He was English,
she Australian, and they were on their honeymoon.

Come time to board and we found we shared a compartment with Anne
Martin. This time Mark did most of the talking to her. They talked about a
few small things until they found out they were both cinema fans, then they
talked for about an hour about films they each liked. Generally if one of
them had seen a film, the other one had also. It turns out that before Anne
was married she wanted to write about film. One of her sons has directed a
couple of films, one a film about Lebanon for Golan-Globus, and the other
THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT II. That one Mark knew was coming out but he
hasn't seen it.

Evelyn listened and read V. S Naipaul's INDIA: THE WOUNDED
CIVILIZATION. She had read Naipaul's INDIA: A MILLION MUTINIES NOW before
leaving and found its vignettes of current India fascinating. She writes,
In INDIA: THE WOUNDED CIVILIZATION, an earlier book, Naipaul's thesis is
that India spends too much time basking in its past glories, in how it has
survived invasions and conquests, in how it is eternal. This, he feels, is
used as an excuse for abdicating responsibility by many Indians--they feel
India will survive on her own without them doing anything. He ties this in
with Gandhian non-violence. With Gandhi, he says, non-violence was a
positive action, but it has been transformed into inaction, placidity, and
acceptance. However, even Gandhi's approach comes under attack since Gandhi
in his own writing saw everything in terms of how it affected his internal
state--he never described anything except in terms of his reaction to it.
This attitude, says Naipaul, is what is keeping India from progressing.
Instead of trying to improve things, people strive for inner peace and
tend to try to make poverty and other negative (to Western eyes) conditions
noble.

For a while we had an Indian Air Force officer in the compartment but
he decided to leave and stay with his friends in their compartment.

At 11:15 PM we went to bed. We did have a night light of sorts. A fan
in the car had a very bad connection and had a constant spark arc. The
whole car is in bad shape: one fan switch is just loose wires. There is no
consistency from car to car as to how windows latch open; each one just
follows the rules of the lowest bidder when the car was purchased. (And
often the latching mechanism is just plain broken.) These sleepers are far
more Spartan (cheap) than the ones in Southeast Asia. A sleeper is just a
car in which an upper bed folds down to make an upper berth and the back of
the seat folds down to make a lower berth. There are no curtains and no
privacy. The cars are filthy, the restrooms nauseating. Much of the
equipment is in very bad shape. And that is first class.

At 1:04 AM there was a banging on the door.

Who's there?

Open the door.

But who is it?

Open the door, repeated the helpful response. He eventually
identified himself as the conductor. He had someone else for the unoccupied
bunk. Mark slept restlessly and woke up about 4:30 AM or so.




October 24, 1993:




We arrived in Jodhpur and intended to spend the day
in the market and going to the movies, then catch the night train to
Udaipur.

Evelyn was going to rent a retiring room (like a modest hotel room in
the railway station), but Mark suggested that instead we check our bags and
use the foreign tourist office as a base instead. First we'd go there and
freshen up, then make our reservations for the night train, then check our
bags. Mark went in to wash up, running into Anne again. When he came out
Evelyn said that she had bad news. The night train no longer ran. We had
to spend the day traveling to Udaipur. Should we take the train or the bus?
The bus is faster. That is eight to ten hours. The train was more like
thirteen hours. The bus did not guarantee a seat; you might have to stand.
Either way the day was shot. (There was also an Indian Airlines flight that
would have salvaged part of the day, but it was US$56 each and our plans in
Jodhpur hadn't been *that* interesting.) The bus might get us in as early
as 5 PM; the train is scheduled--scheduled--to get in about 11 PM. Mark
said the train sounded better if we could make our hotel reservations by
phone before we left. Evelyn tried calling. She could not get through to
any of our hotel choices. Any way you looked at it, it was a hard day of
travel and uncertainty at the end. We opted for the train.

Since we couldn't get reservations until 9 AM, and it was now only 8:15
AM, we decided to eat breakfast first. Breakfast in the refreshment room
was cheap. Mark's two fried eggs on buttered toast with a glass of lassi
came to about twenty-five cents. Service was slow but the train would not
leave until 10:30 AM. Anne was there again. We had breakfast with her.
She left and the English-Australian couple came in. They were taking the
train also.
This time the first-class compartment was a half a car with the seats
in a U-shape. This meant that the doors to the compartment opened directly
to the outside instead of into a corridor, and made it handy to take
pictures out the door, or just hang out the door and watch the scenery go
by. It also had its own private lavatory. The car seats ten or sleeps six.
The couple also shared the car as well as there being Indians who shared the
car for short stretches.

We decided to try the bananas being hawked next to the train (bananas
being a fruit we could peel easily). They were about five or six inches
long and cost a rupee each. Mark chose a nice-looking bunch of six and gave
the man a Rs10 note, asking for change. The change Mark was given was four
bananas. It was all for the best, however.

We stop at Luni station. Kids swarm the window with shouts of One
pen!

A cow comes to the window. She has the white color and the hump of a
brahma on its back. Her semi-circular horns had been painted red at some
point, but it was wearing off. She sticks a nose three inches wide into
Mark's window between the bars and he feels her humid breath. Like the
kids, she gives up on him and starts to lick the side of the train. Cows
eat boxes, and newspaper, and worse. Why not lick a train car?

(Evelyn says that the guide books warn against thieves stealing luggage
by throwing it out the window just as the train is pulling out of a station,
so maybe the bars are partially to protect against that and partially to
keep people--and cows--from climbing in.)

A beggar comes to the window asking for money. Mark gives him a
banana, but he just takes it and continues to beg. Mark figures he should
try the bananas himself. They are just about perfect.

The cow comes back to beg. Mark gives her a banana peel. She loves
it.

Because this is a passenger train, it stopped at just about every
station. Evelyn counted thirty-three stops, but says she probably missed a
couple. This works out to a stop every twenty minutes or so. Most were
only two-minute stops, but at each major station where we stop--places like
Marwar Junction, Phulad, and Mavli Junction--we are there for half an hour.
At Phulad and Mavli Junction we also changed engines. The direction of the
train was changed at Phulad and the engine was replaced by a steam engine at
Mavli Junction. In Marwar Junction, the paymaster apparently had a huge
trunk of money he brought into the other first-class compartment, opened up,
and started to pay the railway employees with, resulting in a mob of people
in that compartment. The stations, even the small ones, are a cacophony of
sounds: cows lowing, dogs barking, people yelling, chai-wallahs hawking
their chai, boys trying to sell you soda or mineral water or a shoeshine or
just get baksheesh. (Mark started asking them for baksheesh and even got a
rupee from one, but he gave it back.)

We passed through a whole series of stations with exotic names:
Palimarwar, Goram Ghat, Kambli Ghat, Devgarhmadarya, Dola Jika Khera,
Kuwuntal, Char Bhuja Road, Lawasadagarh, Kuanriya, Bhimal. As we get into
the hills there is less hawking and begging. The scenery is nicer, with
hills and valleys. At Phulad we had also picked up people who rode on top
of the train and there may be as many people riding on the roof of the train
as inside. (They can do this on this train because it is a passenger train
and hence goes slower than the express trains we had been taking before
this.) If we get out at a stop we see them up there. And we see them when
we round bends in the track. Some of them want you to take their picture.
When we go into tunnels, they scream and whistle to hear the sound
magnified.

At Goram Ghat there are dozens of black-faced monkeys begging for food,
lots of mothers with baby monkeys hugging their chests. Somebody goes out
and throws pieces of chapati to the monkeys.

The train was a relaxing and comfortable choice for the day, a good way
to let India come to us. You see people in the fields watching the train go
by. You see men in turbans walking along the roads or sitting in the
stations. You see women in saris working in the fields or carrying huge
loads on their heads. You see cows and pigs and dogs and goats wandering
around. Only in the stations are you hassled and even there you can pull
the shutters down. (We never did, though we did have to lock the door
against boys who would try to come in.)

Evelyn writes, It is interesting to see some of the cultural
differences that you don't even think about beforehand. Men wear earrings
here, and not just plain earrings, but enameled flowers and others that we
in the United States would consider feminine. Women wear nose rings and
studs as well as toe rings and ankle bracelets. Most men dress 'Western-
style' (shirt and pants), but almost all women dress Indian-style (saris or
churigars).

We sightsee and graze on cookies, bananas, and mineral water. We watch
the terrain change. We take some pictures, and we get caught up in our
logs.

It is now 6:05 PM and twilight has fallen. The train has stopped at an
unknown station. Women wear bright saris and have their faces covered. Men
wear bright turbans.

At about 8:30 PM we pulled into a station and the other couple bought
dinner from stands. So far nothing has bothered us to eat (knock wood!), so
we got sufficient to keep us going for about Rs5.50. That included pakora,
a dish with chapatis, and a bun of some sort. Enough dinner for two people
for under eighteen cents.

Some travelers also ate and left some food on the ground. These were
six dogs and a calf who wanted the food, but one dog barked and chased off
anyone else who approached. Through instinctive behavior the calf put down
his head to butt the dog even though he was still too young to have horns.

Unfortunately, the greedy dog won out. The calf could probably have
made mincemeat of the dog, horns or not, but the dog was sneaky and bluffed.
And he did scare off the competition.

Mark writes, I tried reading some of FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT, but there is
really not much light at this end of the car. The designers put little
reading lights at this end of the car. Each is a metal box you open and the
light comes on. On one of the trains there was one that worked. All the
others have been corroded shut. The Northern Railway provides
transportation. Maintaining light falls more under the category of customer
service, which is bad for profits. If they start by maintaining the lights,
someone will want them to oil the fans and where will it all end? They'd
have to fix the peeling ceiling, the paint, and the spit stains on the
floor.

He continues, In Japan, you see a lot of sweating all the little
details. In India you see a lot of 'do only the absolutely necessary.' The
United States is in between. It is ironic that with labor so cheap in India
so much breaks down for lack of maintenance. But the Northern Railway
pretty much has a monopoly. And there is much competition. People like
Moona don't try to be better, they try to be sneakier and more vicious. Not
unlike the dog in the railway station.

Evelyn notes that one thing the Lonely Planet guide seems to be missing
is the Sanskrit for the towns. This would be helpful when pulling into
railway stations (as well as other times) since this is usually more
prominent than the Roman alphabet name.

Well, friends, we got another gotcha. We got off the train and
immediately an auto-rickshaw driver latched on to us and would not let go.
We tried to call the Sai Niwas Hotel, but the phone kept disconnecting. (We
think this is because the phone required a Rs1 coin even though it said 50
paise, but who knows?) We told the driver to take us to the Sai Niwas. He
kept saying that the rooms were small and he could recommend a better place.
We insisted on the Sai Niwas. He stopped at the end of a narrow street and
said, Down here. We went down the street. He followed. We got to a sign
that said Sai Niwas in front of a building at the end of the street. The
driver led us to the door. We rang the bell. We got there and the room
really did look tiny and wretched, but we could put up with it. The one
major irritation was that the bath was shared. Also, it seemed to have to
roaches. The book had said that it had attached baths and Anne had said it
was spotless. The room was Rs150. Now, the book had it in the Rs450 range.
We were not sure what was going on, but it was late and the room was cheap.
The owner said we should look at the roof and it did have a nice view. We
each had a drink. While we did, the owner and the auto-rickshaw driver had
an argument in Hindi, no doubt over how much commission the former should
pay the latter. The owner came back and said to register the next morning.
We went back to the room, really just a tiny house bedroom with a closet and
saw a sheet of paper that said Hotel Shivas. The auto-rickshaw driver
brought us to the wrong hotel. And we bought it. This one is listed in the
Lonely Planet guide as Rs60 to Rs90. Swindled again. Mark says that every
time he starts warming up to India, we hit more gotchas. Mark writes, We
should probably be more careful but, dammit, we just cannot see every damn
thing this country throws at us. Even if we did it would be just too
exhausting to fight the battle every inch along the way.




October 25, 1993:




Winston Churchill said of Calcutta: I shall always
be glad to have seen it--namely, that it will be unnecessary for me ever to
see it again. (Churchill actually had a lot of negative attitudes about
India and Indians.) Sometimes we feel that way too.

Evelyn's left ankle is the size of Bayonne, New Jersey, and about as
attractive--though it does have some very interesting colors and shading.
And how did this happen?

We had a very bad night of sleep with a lot of noise in our extremely
tacky room. At about 7 AM we packed up and left. Nobody was up so we could
not check out. Walking down the dark narrow stairway, Mark trod on a step
that was only half there. Because the steps were turning a corner, one step
had a triangular top surface. Mark's foot fell six inches and he landed on
his heel. No harm done, but he was surprised. He told Evelyn to be careful
not to do the same thing. She didn't. She twisted her ankle. Between the
dim light, the suitcase blocking her view, and the slowness of her brain at
this hour, Mark's warning hadn't registered in time. Instead of just
stepping six inches below where she expected, she missed the last three or
four steps entirely.

Evelyn sat there a few minutes, then found she could limp on it. We
hobbled out (well, Mark walked and Evelyn hobbled--and it's a good thing we
travel light, because Mark had to carry all the luggage while Evelyn leaned
against the walls for support) and found the Sai Niwas just next door. The
sign in front of the Shiva which said Sai Niwas also had an arrow pointing
in that direction, but in the dark last night we hadn't seen it. (And by
the next day, someone had stuck an election poster over it.) It is a very
nice-looking hotel with a view of the lake and the water palaces. Mark
looked at three rooms and chose the most expensive, Rs475 a night (about
US$15.32). The man who runs it was in no hurry to have us register. He
said we could just rest up in the room and shower up. The day is gray and
cool, a combination of depressing and a relief from the heat. Mark wrapped
Evelyn's ankle with an Ace bandage. It looked like she had done a real
number on herself. We had breakfast, a sort of Indian Wheatena that was
good. Mark was dreading having to go check out of the Shiva but the
manager, after a quick flash of disappointment, accepted that we would not
stay with him three nights and smiled.

Mark returned to the new hotel and Evelyn. We checked in and went to
our room. Mark left Evelyn to rest her ankle and went to walk up and down
the streets and buy mineral water. Mark writes, If this were the first
city I had visited in India, I would judge the people to be very pushy to
try and get me to buy. Actually, this and Khajurao are the two softest-sell
cities we have been to. I can walk down long stretches of their market
streets with only minor attempts to pull me into tourist shops. I talk for
ten minutes to a boy who'd like me to see his art school, but when I say I
am not interested, he does not lose interest in finding out about me and
what I do.

When we told the manager of the Sai Niwas that we were thinking of
taking the city tour the next morning, he told us to save our money.
Everything in the city tour is within three or four blocks of the Sai Niwas.
Why go all the way to the Tourist Bungalow only to be brought back here?
Our guide books and walking will give us a better city tour for free. He
gave us a nice map of the area, and what he says is true.

People tell us that Jaiselmer is the prettiest city, yet the view out
our hotel window--with the lake, the palaces on the far side, and the hills
in the distance--is actually more peaceful and beautiful than any view in
Jaiselmer. If Evelyn's foot were better, things would be perfect. As it
is, at least she has a beautiful view visible to her while she lies in bed
with her foot propped up.

Mark returns to the room and finds there is a power failure that has
been going on for fifteen minutes. It is an hour later and still the power
is out.
Yesterday while Mark was writing in his log, Evelyn was reading the two
books she had bought. He got caught up in his log. Now he wanted to read
from FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT (about India's and Pakistan's independence from
Britain). So did Evelyn. Mark says, I am a little surprised at how well-
written the book really is. I wish my writing could approach the insight of
this book. Reading about the history of India has been of some interest,
but not as good as what I have read of this book. I almost feel I could
learn most about India by staying in my room and reading.

Mark relates, Evelyn is trying to do some walking so we can go on an
afternoon tour, but she still looks like a fugitive from a Mummy movie. My
legs are a little stiff from Moria.

We grabbed an auto-rickshaw to the Tourist Bungalow for the tour.
After getting some sleep on the train and being keyed up from the auto-
rickshaw driver, Mark was up most of the night. Now it was catching up with
him. He is jet-lagged from a ten-minute auto-rickshaw ride.

At 2 PM our tour started. They gave us a place by the door of the bus
so that Evelyn would be by the door. The tour started with a seventy-minute
ride into the country to the site of the battle of Haldighati. This battle
was fought on June 21, 1576 (a Thursday). It was a battle in a religious
war. Akbar, the conqueror of India, was trying to wipe out Hinduism.
However, Udaipur was first chosen as a site of Hindu worship because it was
so remote. You cannot wipe out what you cannot reach. However, Man Singh
did reach Udaipur and in the name of the Mongol Emperor Akbar brought a much
superior army to Haldighati to wipe out the army of the Hindus, led by
Rajput Rana Pratap.

Actually, it is probably an oversimplification to make this a battle of
Hindus versus Muslims. It is really the battle of the Muslim Akbar's
followers, many of whom were Hindu, versus the sympathizers with the Hindu
Rajputs, many of whom were Muslim.

You go into a twenty-foot (six-meter) square room and there is a relief
map of the field of battle. The guide explains what you are seeing and how
the battle proceeded. The way the guide tells it, the battle was a stand-
off, but the guidebooks say Pratap really lost. But he'd held off Man
Singh. Pratap kept the royal umbrella over his head and this made him all
too easy a target. Three times Pratap had to be rescued. Finally Pratap
had to be carried off the field by his horse Chetak. Legend said that
Chetak had a leg cut off by a sword held in an elephant's trunk (and
elephants were indeed trained to wield swords), but still managed to carry
his master to safety. Chetak is remembered as the real hero of the battle
of Haldighati. (Haldighati means yellow steps or, more accurately,
tumeric steps, for the color of the soil.) One of the books mentions that
Chetak is the only horse to have a traffic circle named after him, and the
train between Delhi and Udaipur is the Chetak Express.

Actually, it is not clear that the Rajputs would have had to give up
their religion had Akbar's forces won. Akbar had respect for all religions.
As you may remember from earlier parts of this log, he had a Hindu wife and
raised her kin to high positions. He also tryed to create a polyglot
religion of all the religions he found, but that was later. Actually, all
there is that remains to be seen at Haldighati is a small memorial to
Chetak. Part of the battlefield is a playing field and another part has
houses on it.

Next we went to an 18th Century Vishnu temple at Nandwara. Evelyn
decided not to go inside. With her swollen foot, taking off her shoes was a
slow and painful process and she wasn't sure she could walk without the
support provided, so Mark went into temple without her. At the time Evelyn
was under the impression it was a Jain temple, so Mark took off his belt.
It impressed nobody, he bemoans. The rule is also take off your socks and
walk barefoot.

Mark describes it thusly: As I walked inside, an officer or something
told me I had to sit down. He had me fill out a form with my name to
register. Then he put a pinch of something in my hand and told me I had to
eat it. I thought it was a spice, but it was gritty like dust or sand.
(Can someone please tell me what this is all about? Are they just laughing
at the American they got to eat dust?) I walked a ways inside and got to
the inner sanctuary. One of the Yeshiva boys saw I was a gringo and showed
me parts of the inner sanctuary. There were women sitting on the floor with
purple flowers there. It looked like someone was pouring oil into a
candelabra. Others seemed to be sitting around two stone elephants. In
other rooms people were sitting around. Suddenly it became clear to me that
I had no idea what any of this was about. Still a little disgusted from the
grit in my mouth and totally confused, I left. When I went to put my socks
and shoes back on, I found a large brown stain and a large flat ant carcass
on the bottom of my big toe. I gagged a little.

We won't go over the hard time we had finding the bus, but we found it.
We got some sodas, and Evelyn got an expensive walking cane. In fact, the
owner of the shop was not anxious to pull it down until he was sure this
tourist was willing to pay Rs20 for a walking stick. She was.

We lent the Lonely Planet guide to two English women on the bus, then
to two Indian men. They asked Mark what he did. He told them he was a
mathematician. They thought that was very funny. Because he was taking
notes they had guessed he was a historian.

The final stop was Eklingi. This is a temple complex with 108 temples,
one for each of the 108 Hindu deities. Mark walked around it for a while,
walking into this temple and that. Some were as small as ten feet wide and
fifteen feet high; others were bigger. At least one had a big clock inside.
(Evelyn says, Mark was in there a long time; he must have wanted to make
sure he saw every one of them.) After he left, Mark bought pictures of
Hanuman, Ganesha, and Kali as souvenirs.

Evelyn writes, It probably sounds as though the tour was wasted on me
since I didn't go into the temples, but actually I enjoyed it a lot. I was
able to sit down on the bus for long periods of time (these places are an
hour's drive from Udaipur and an hour or so apart) and see a lot of the
countryside, some small towns, and so on. For example, there seems to be a
plant that looks a lot like walking-stick cholla from the American
Southwest--I assume it's an example of convergent evolution. And temples
here are like cathedrals in Europe--after a while, you can get tired of
seeing them. And while resting in the room in the morning was okay (when it
was uncharacteristically raining), lying around all day after the sun came
out is not my idea of how to spend time in India.

Mark dozed on the bus on the way back. Just outside the Tourist
Bungalow we saw some sort of parade with lights and decorated camels, but
weren't close enough to tell what it was about. We ate a good meal cheap at
the Tourist Bungalow, veggie thalis, then got an auto-rickshaw to take us
back to the Sai Niwas for Rs15.

Well, we thought we did. The first auto-rickshaw driver wanted Rs20.
Mark asked the rest if any would go to the Sai Niwas for Rs15. One said
yes. We got in and went to the Shiv Niwas. No, No, we said Sai Niwas.
Oh. Another Rs15. An argument ensued, in which we said we would pay
another Rs10, but not another Rs15. After all, it was his mistake. He
insisted on Rs15. We said Rs10 and pointed out that as long as we sat in
his auto-rickshaw waiting, he wasn't making anything. Finally he said, As
you like, and drove to the Sai Niwas, where we paid him Rs25. He tried to
insist that we owed him another Rs5, at which point we said that he had
said, As you like, and then we walked away. It is pointless to stand
around arguing after you've been taken somewhere and have paid the driver.
Normally quibbling over Rs5 isn't worth it, but this was the principle of
the thing.

We later heard it was common policy for auto-rickshaw drivers to hassle
people staying at the Sai Niwas. The owner, Wing Commander S. K. Singh,
refuses to bribe the auto-rickshaw drivers to bring him guests. We will say
more about Singh later.

Mark tried to write but fell asleep early. He woke up about 1:30 AM
with mosquito attacks. He had gotten them every night but had thought this
hotel would be different. This time, he admits, it was his fault. The room
has a little electronic device called a Good Knight that looks like a
combination ashtray and night light, and it holds what looks like a tiny
tablet of soap. Actually it is a very effective bug zapper. It is on the
same switch as a light so we'd turned it off.




October 26, 1993:




Mark writes, Something I started to say in my log
on the flight over I choked off because I thought it lacked tact.
Ironically, being in India has convinced me that it was not so tactless as I
thought, but let me explain first why it is *not* tactless. In the West we
have decided that there are certain characteristics of religions that we say
are virtues. Perhaps the best example is monotheism. Why do we say that?
Well, most of the major religions we come in contact with are monotheistic.
And monotheism makes inter-religious diplomacy easier. Even in India, you
see signs up quoting Gandhi as saying the God of Christianity, the Allah of
Islam, and the Ram of Hinduism are the same god. This does not stop
religious rivalries, but it helps. Of course, you can always throw in a
little mystical glue to say all your deities are really just one in a way
you shouldn't think about, but just accept on faith. (Okay, maybe some will
consider that tactless, but that is really what is done with the Holy
Trinity, at least from my point of view.) But a belief that the common
characteristics of the different religions you have seen practiced where you
live are virtues is pomposity and self-congratulation. There is no
objective reason why monotheism is better than polytheism. There is
probably no objective reason why idol worship is a bad thing. And again I
will point out that there are Christians who pray to statues. Coming from a
society dominated by Christian-Jewish-Muslim thought (the thought of the
so-called 'People of the Book'), there are a lot of customs of early pagan
religions we say are just awful that you see in Hinduism. It has a lot in
common with the early pagan Mediterranean religions that Judaism reacted
against. This is really a pagan world in India, though I don't mean 'pagan'
in a judgmental sense. You see strange (to us) ceremonies worshiping idols
of the hundred and eight gods. Ganesha is an animal-headed god. Much of
what the 'other people' believed in Biblical films such as THE TEN
COMMANDMENTS is believed in Hinduism. This is a world more pagan and alien
than any we have seen to this point.

Mark also writes, It used to be said that India was a very depressing
country to visit because of all the poverty you see. I guess I was
expecting to see more poverty than I do. A moderately higher percentage of
the population are homeless than one would see in New York City, but that
just makes India marginally more downbeat than Manhattan. I think this idea
of poverty was spawned by people seeing the 90% of Indians in the lower
classes. These people don't have much by 'Western standards.' Fortunately,
these people do not have 'Western standards.' By their own standards they
would like to have more (who wouldn't?), but they appear to be no more happy
or unhappy than the people in Old Bridge, New Jersey. I wonder if this
concept of horrible poverty comes from a cultural narrowness on the part of
Westerners. True poverty is unhappiness and despair at your condition in
life. If there is really a lot of that here I do not see it.

He continues, Evelyn was reading that in the rural areas the
government drive for people to have smaller families is failing because
people know that more children working in the field means greater wealth.
Now the question I would ask is, 'Why don't people achieve this end by
partnering with a neighbor?' That is the equivalent of having twice as many
children and twice as much land. Both are measures of wealth in the rural
areas. My suspicion is that it is not done because it would mean sharing
power and each father wants complete control. I think people are too
competitive to make that work. Fathers want their own children to succeed
for biological reasons and they want to be in control.

One more random note: I was puzzled by the choice of the cow as a
venerated animal. I have never seen anything which suggested a human soul
was more likely to reincarnate as a cow than as a dog. At least one theory
is that it is economically convenient. Famines can get very bad, but you
always have a 'nest-egg' of dairy products, Mark concludes.

We woke to a beautiful dawn on Lake Pichola and its palaces and the
sound of temple bells. Unfortunately, we also got the sound of a dog fight
outside with more than just a couple of dogs. That's Udaipur, and perhaps
all of India. Our hotel is very nice, with colorful hand-painted shutters
and a nice central courtyard, yet in the alley (lane) outside is a pile of
burning garbage, and you have to watch out for cow dung wherever you walk.

Evelyn says her foot is better, though it had a big blue bruise. Mark
sat on the our balcony and wrote and looked at a view that looks like the
cover of a novel. A group of about eight monkeys migrated past. This is a
slow process because they stop every few feet and sit down and look around.
They adopt very human-looking poses, which I guess is not surprising. They
do not come into the rooms, but some sit as close as ten feet (three meters)
from our balcony. They sit, cross their legs, perhaps do some needed
scratching, then pick up and move another ten feet or so on their route.
Some mothers have babies hanging on to their chests.

Breakfast was in a pleasant cool atmosphere and Singh played music from
LA BOHEME. Puccini and fried eggs on buttered toast. Not very Indian but
surprisingly satisfying, writes Mark. We had to go to the train station to
book our rail ticket out to Delhi. Because Evelyn's ankle felt better,
first we just walked around the streets of Udaipur, looking in shops and
photographing the sights of the street, the Clock Tower and the markets.

One beggar just seemed to lie in a fetal position in the street and
roll. On a closer look, he seemed to be a leper who could not stand because
he was missing most of his arms and legs. Actually, there was a fair amount
of money in his collection pot, so it seems some Indians are charitable, at
least to those in evident need.
Everywhere are signs for the various candidates in the upcoming
elections, each with their own symbol (hand, flower, chair, camel, etc.).
This is not the same as our elephant and donkey symbols for the Republican
and Democrat parties. We don't know where the latter come from, but in
India the symbols are assigned by an election commission so that the
illiterates can mark their ballots for their candidates based on the
symbols. Evelyn assumes that the symbols are assigned this way to avoid
having some party pick a really favorable--or deceptive--symbol.

We flagged down an auto-rickshaw and asked how much it was to the
railway station and then to the City Palace gate. He did not know English,
so took out Rs35 and showed us. Okay. The train we wanted was the Chetak
Express. One wonders if it had all its wheels (being named for a three-
legged horse). It was full (at least in first class). We had decided to
skip Ajmer and Pushkar because of Evelyn's ankle and go directly to Delhi,
neither passing go nor collecting 6,200 rupees. What if we left today? It
is full. Thursday? Full until the 31st. Second class we could get, but
everything we have heard says you do not want second class. We returned to
the City Palace gate and walked to our hotel. At the hotel Singh told us we
were wise not to go second class. We tried calling the airlines. After
three attempts (calling first the number in the Lonely Planet guide, then
the number in the phone book, and finally a third number they told us to
call), we got through, only to be told to come in and discuss plane
reservations. Then we called again and specifically asked if there was
space on the flight. No, no space. For some reason the elections have just
about all transport tied up. Singh was angry that the airlines made us call
them twice to find out they were useless to us. At this point we were
starting to get a bit frantic. We could do the trip in second class if we
had to, but it would be very uncomfortable (the berths are basically
wooden-slatted shelves). Mark suggested taking a bus. Our bus ride the day
before had made Evelyn a bit leery: they seemed like the thrill rides at
amusement parks, but without as many safety features. Singh also said it
would be crowded and uncomfortable, but it did seem our only alternative.
It would also be faster, leaving about the same time (6:30 PM), but arriving
in the morning instead of mid-afternoon. He said then he would organize the
reservations, and that if there was any problem his friends in the traffic
department would make sure the bus couldn't leave until we got tickets.
(Evelyn suspects he might not have been joking.)

So we headed off for the City Palace. It is about a two-minute walk,
or three with Evelyn's bad ankle. (Skipping the City Tour probably made
sense for this reason as well--we would have really slowed down a group.)
We broke journey at the end of the alley to get two Limcas. We watched the
fruit man selling some local fruit that looks like small cherries or
cranberries. They looked nice and shiny. While we sat there, he pulled out
a sinister amber vial, poured something in his hands, and then rubbed his
hands into the cherries as if he were rubbing Vitalis into your hair. The
cherries were even shinier. No, thanks.

You enter through the City Palace gate to a three-door gate. The
maharajas used this gate for weight control. On their birthdays they would
weigh out gold and silver equivalent to their weight and give it to the
poor. This is actually one of the nicest palaces we have seen, and the
largest in Rajasthan (it is really four palaces cojoined.). It took us
about three hours to go through, following a very well-marked route that
took us through hallways, up and down stairways, and through rooms so that
we see basically the whole palace without getting lost or back-tracking. We
didn't get the anecdotal stories the guide would have told, but on the whole
we managed without a guide with no problems. Having been through other
palaces helped--we could recognize the rooms and their functions from
previous knowledge. The palace also had a lot of miniatures, armaments,
etc., which were pretty much self-explanatory. And it had a breeze from
Lake Pichola and nice views of the lake.

The complex also houses a Government Museum as unintentionally humorous
as any we have seen. As with all the other Government Museums we've seen,
this has the usual display of incredibly bad 19th Century taxidermy. There
is a stuffed ostrich missing most of its feathers, with a gap between the
neck and the body. A stuffed alligator is missing feet, revealing hollow
legs. The museum's prize piece is a stuffed Siamese-twin deer. Evelyn
claims that all these served to prove that the 20th Century has brought, if
nothing else, giant strides in the taxidermist's art.

There are also some funhouse mirrors incongruously placed. There are
the inevitable carved ivory trains. The whole thing looks rather silly.
While the palace was crowded, the museum was empty. The wives' palace was
nearly empty, and it housed some art paintings and a collection of old
vehicles--coaches and cars. On the way out we each got what we thought
would be soda. Mark's Slice turned out to be just bottled mango juice.
Slice is supposedly made with real fruit juice in the United States. Here
it is *only* fruit juice.

After all that walking it was time for Evelyn to rest her ankle. (The
slower pace is not such a bad thing in general. Luckily we're at the stage
of our trip where we can slow down.) She lay with her ankle propped up and
read FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT while enjoying the view out the window. Mark
napped and wrote in his log.

At 4:15 PM we headed out for Bansi Ghat, where we could take a boat
ride on the lake for sunset. We were following Mr. Singh's instructions on
how to get there which were mostly clear, but we were not sure. We got to a
point where we were not sure what the next step was, since it looked like
there was a fence across the path. A boy about eight or ten years old asked
where we were going, then said we had made a wrong turn. He started leading
us back in the direction from which we had come. He told us he was a
student here. His father drank and his mother earned Rs300 a month, which
is nothing. Mark guessed we were being had. The boy said something about
getting us a taxi and led us past where other people had pointed us in the
other direction. Mark was looking for someone else to ask directions of.
Someone did come along and Mark asked. They pointed us back in the first
direction and our little hustler started to say his was a shortcut, then
quickly disappeared when it was clear he was misdirecting us. We think we
have been told more lies here in three weeks than in a year back home. Just
about everybody thinks it is open season on tourists. We discovered we had
been about sixty feet (twenty meters) or so from Bansi Ghat when our hustler
decided to try and make us pay him for the last sixty feet. What had looked
like a solid fence actually had a gap in it for people to pass through. (We
did tip the person who took us back the right way.)

At the ghat, it was Rs30 for a boat cruise and Rs90 for a boat ride
which included Jag Mandir. Feeling extravagant, we went for the more
expensive. (We found it confusing that the short one is called a cruise
and the long one a ride. It turns out that the only difference between
the two is that for the ride you are dropped off at Jag Mandir by one boat
and then picked up by the next one.) Maharaja Singh built Jag Mandir, an
island palace, for Prince Khurram, who was later Emperor Shah Jahan. The
palace was named for Sagat Singh, son of the Maharaja. The palace is now
deserted, but you can go through it and take some nice pictures until you
realize that the last boat has left and you and five Italian tourists have
to be taken back to the dock in a small motor launch. We know first-hand
you can do this.

The view on the lake is magnificent, particularly at sunset. The sun
had been behind some clouds when we started out, but luckily for us emerged
in time to provide a gorgeous sunset. They say Udaipur is the Venice of
South Central Rajasthan, just like Amsterdam, Leningrad (St. Petersburg),
and Stockholm are each the Venice of the North. The world seems to have as
many Venices as it has cans of tuna fish. But it was nice to climb around
the deserted Jag Mandir. Some British used it as a refuge during the 1957
Sepoy rebellion and Udaipur is still a nice refuge for the foreigner.
Earlier in the day we'd talked to some Brits who'd been in the country three
days. We hate to disillusion you, we said, but this is about as good as
India gets.

On the way back to the hotel, we were again followed by kids wanting
gifts. Mark has started to answer the question, Wottis your nam? with I
am called Dr. No--no pen, no rupee, no chocolate. This seems to disperse
the questioners fairly quickly.

Here they also all want to show you their art school. There is one
famous art school here, but the rest are like the marble factories or
carpet museums--shops.

Back at the hotel, Mr. Singh told us he had some bad news about the bus
tickets, but it was only that he couldn't get us very good seats.
Apparently the upcoming elections have caused an upswing in travel and even
these seats were hard to get and he had to pull a few strings. (Evelyn
writes, This reminds me of the idea in the New Testament that everyone had
to go to their own city to be taxed. By the way, there is absolutely no
record that the Romans or anyone else in Judea ever tried to implement such
a silly idea. We now return you to your regularly scheduled trip log.)
The tickets cost about a quarter of what the train tickets would have cost
(Rs140 each for the bus) and there was not even a service fee charged by the
hotel for getting them, except for the Rs15 for someone to take a rickshaw
to the bus station! Afterwards Evelyn realized that we hadn't asked about
the other train to Delhi, but it left at 5:30 AM and arrived about 11 PM
(theoretically), so it wasn't a really good option in any case.

For dinner, Mark had curried vegetables very spicy and they were.
Evelyn had dal chana lauki, and we both had bhatia, a layered bread.

After dinner, Mr. Singh brought out a book called WONDERFUL INDIA. He
also brought a more modern book for Evelyn (about the maharajas of Udaipur),
but she soon joined me in looking at WONDERFUL INDIA. It is a big book with
travel pictures of India. We played detective and guessed it dated from
about 1939. Singh first thought it was from much later, but then decided
that there would be references to World War II and independence if it were
as late as he thought. It was fascinating to see what the places we have
been to had looked like then--what had changed and what had remained the
same. Mr. Singh was able to look at the pictures of Udaipur and tell us
which trees were still around and which weren't! We talked with him quite a
bit about Udaipur, about India, about what we liked and what we didn't.
Singh is what people claimed Moona was in Agra, the good devoted hotel
keeper. He is also very honest and devoted to making his hotel the best it
can be for his guests. He was able to get a good piece of property for his
hotel. It looks over some poor housing, but it has a beautiful view of the
lake and if you pay a little extra you can get a room with a balcony that
looks onto the water. His prices for the food he serves are a little up
from what they could be (Rs14.5 + 10% for a Pepsi), but the food is good.
Either we didn't have the rules right or the room is not made up daily. But
Singh got us a bus ticket and charged us the cost of the ticket plus the
cost of the conveyance for his son to get it, but no service charge. The
room, the ticket, two breakfasts, one dinner, and some local calls came to
Rs1900 for two nights (about 58 hours). That is US$61.29, about mid-range
for India. We have never plugged a hotel in our logs before but ...:
Wing Commander S. K. Singh
Hotel Sai-Niwas
75 Nav Ghat
Udaipur (313001)
Telephone: 0294 24909

It may be tough to get an auto-rickshaw to go there, as Singh says
auto-rickshaw drivers don't like him (which almost certainly means that he
does not pay them a commission and add it to the bill). If need be, go
instead to the City Palace gate, walk straight away from the gate and take
the alley to your left. At the end of the alley go right, down some steps,
and there should be swinging doors on your left. The neighborhood is safe,
but no better or cleaner than you'd expect in India. Once you pass the
swinging doors the inside of the hotel is clean and spacious. Singh says
the prices go up each year, but we expect he will give you your money's
worth. You might mention Mark and Evelyn Leeper.

Evelyn says, I'm glad we did Udaipur towards the end of our trip; it's
the best place we've been so far and leaves a much more pleasant memory
than, say, Agra.

We talked for a while with Singh and went up, wrote a while, and went
to bed.




October 27, 1993:




Mark finally had stomach problems about 1 AM. Not
too serious. He woke up about 6 AM, went out on the balcony, and wrote.

Mark had Indian Wheatena for breakfast and we got the bill for our
stay. As we said, it was less than we expected.

After breakfast, we went out up Burning Garbage Lane to Cow Dung Alley
to the main street. Our only real sight of the day was the Jagdish Mandir.
This is a temple to Vishnu atop a high stairway flanked by stone elephants.
(Luckily, Evelyn's ankle is much better in the mornings and she could make
this climb.) We checked our shoes and the boy checking them said we should
visit his art school. Mark theorizes, This town must have a very good
geography course. When I have told people I was Finnish, I was told the art
school was going to show its art in Helsinki. When I was Canadian for
someone else, the art show was going to be in Toronto. If I am from the
United States, the school is showing its art in New York. If I am Dutch,
the show moves to Amsterdam. That shows really moves around. This is the
country of a billion lies ... a day.

This temple was built by Jagat Singh. The most striking feature is a
Garuda bird statue. The interior was impressive, but temples here always
seem small inside. That is because relative to churches, synagogues, and
mosques, they *are* small inside. They don't need to be large since there
is no congregation; there is no one time when all the faithful gather
together to worship as a unit. Just another interesting difference.

After the temple we walked in the streets. We bought some souvenirs
for our groups at work and some cloth paintings. The paintings, of course,
required bargaining. Evelyn doesn't like this game, but Mark is not too bad
at it and sort of enjoys it. Somebody once said that after sex all animals
are sad. Mark finds that after bargaining he usually is also. I guess any
price that they are willing to accept makes me think I paid too much.
Evelyn thinks that another problem with shopping was that most of the
stuff wasn't worth buying. The textiles all reminded me of my college days
when Indian-print bedspreads were de rigueur. In fact, most of the crafts
work suffered from the fault of looking reasonable in its own milieu but
looking trashy and/or ridiculous back home. (Someone once wrote that buying
folk clothing was a waste of money unless you were in the theater or went to
a lot of costume parties.) And even if we saw something worth getting, we
would have to bargain for it and I hate that. I can do okay (I think) on
rickshaw fares because both sides are working under a time constraint and
also there are a lot of other 'vendors' right there that I can turn to for
exactly the same thing. But Mark seems to enjoy bargaining--and is
certainly much better at it than I am.

Back to the hotel for more writing, ankle-resting, packing, and check-
out. We sat in the lobby for a while reading. Then we said Namascar and
left. First stop was the Mayur, a restaurant opposite the Jagdish Temple.
It had been a five-minute walk to the restaurant that morning, but now we
were carrying our belongings. Somehow that brings the hawkers to feeding
frenzy. Either auto-rickshaw drivers are stupid or they think that we are.
They will see us walk past a dozen other auto-rickshaws waiting for
customers and then run up to us and ask if we want an auto-rickshaw. What
do they expect--that we'll suddenly say, Gee, what a great idea! I wonder
why we didn't think of that? And kids follow you laughing and making
comments in Hindi. Shopkeepers see you walking slowly and assume it will be
easier to get you into their stores.

Slowly we fought our way to the restaurant.

Mark tries now as much as possible to eat Indian-style. That is, your
sole utensil is a piece of bread. You tear off pieces of bread and pick the
pieces out of your dish and pick up sauce with your bread. You do all of
this pretending your left arm does not exist. Tearing bread one-handed
assumes you pinch a bit of the bread with your thumb and index finger and
push the main body of the bread away with your middle finger. You fold the
piece of bread in half--still one-handed--pinch a vegetable, then eat this
small sandwich.

The menu was funny. Very often you see funny fractured English in
India. This restaurant served stuffed tamota and potato onion friend.
Would you eat a friend? Mark had paneer matar and a mango lassi; Evelyn had
iddly sambar and a coffee lassi. It came to all of Rs50--why don't the
Indian restaurants at home charge this way?

They had a permanent sign saying Video showing 8 PM tonight:
OCTOPUSSY. That is the James Bond film with a big piece in Udaipur.

Mark told Evelyn our next task was to find an auto-rickshaw. Mark
thinks we both knew the real trick would be to avoid being swarmed.

The first driver wanted Rs20.

Fifteen, Mark offered.

Twenty.

Mark went to another driver and asked, Fifteen? He said, Fifteen.
The first driver said, Okay, fifteen. Mark relates, Now by rights I
would have gone with the first driver who offered fifteen, but Evelyn had
already settled into the first auto-rickshaw and didn't want to move, fair
play or not. (Evelyn, on the other hand, felt that the first driver we had
negotiated with should have the chance of meeting that price, and he did
come down to Rs15.)

On the way Mark saw a cow that had been painted to be a traveling
billboard for Youth Fair '93. Whoever said cows were sacred in India?

The bus station turned out to be a ten-foot by fourteen-foot office.
(This is because we were taking a private bus, not a public one from the
actual bus station.) When we got there the driver said the ride was Rs20.

You said fifteen.

It was a joke, he explained helpfully.

He would not take Rs15. Mark got out and put Rs15 on the dashboard.
The number of different ways they have to try to shaft the tourist is
amazing!

We sat on the five-foot bench seat in the office. It was better than
an hour before our bus was due and Evelyn suggested that Mark walk around
and see what there was to discover. What he discovered was that there are
some inter-cultural constants like what sort of neighborhood you find bus
terminals in.

When you don't understand the language, a bus terminal, even one this
small, can be real chaos. Evelyn said we should carry on our bags rather
than checking them. We did, but it was a mistake soon regretted.
(Actually, later people said that taking our luggage on the bus was a good
idea. Sometimes when you let them put it on the roof it disappears before
the end of the trip.) Even without the luggage, ours would have been a
wrap-your-left-leg-around-your-neck sort of bus. Evelyn had Mark wedge her
suitcase into the overhead rack so we'd have some room to move. Mark had
figured seats 27 and 28 were ahead of 31 and 32. This proved wrong. Rather
than numbering each row left-to-right, the numbers snake in alternate rows
increasing from left to right and from right to left. We moved but left
Evelyn's suitcase overhead on the other side of the aisle. Eventually it
fell on some poor passenger and we had to take it and juggle it. This is
not an air-conditioned bus, but it does have reclining seats. Of course,
all the knobs had been stolen. That means whatever position you find your
seat back in is the position in which it stays. Marks was fully reclined, a
pain for him and the person behind him. Note: Anyone coming to India should
bring vice-grip pliers. That and a lot of pens. Oh, the pens are not to
give out, but for filling out an incredible number of forms. Every hotel we
were in required not only a registration form, but also a Foreign Tourist
Registration with name, age, country, passport and visa numbers, issue
locations, ... it's like filling out your income tax. God only knows what
they want all this for, but they probably figure they want to be ready if
the need arises.

Mark says, So here I was, half-reclined, listening to loud blaring
music in Hindi competing with the bus horn, packed in so tight I couldn't
move, looking at the bus decorated with pictures of baby Krishna (whose skin
color is blue) and, I just started laughing. Evelyn asked what I was
laughing at. 'This whole thing. This is it,' I said. 'The dream vacation
of a lifetime.' With film and developing, this trip will probably come in at
under $2000 for two (not counting airfare), and it is a major experience, so
I guess I shouldn't complain.

Mark slept a little, but woke up to a loud noise coming over a
loudspeaker. The bus had stopped at the Hotel Vijay Deep Bhim and the hotel
was playing a tape of someone reading the entire menu. Just so we'd know,
they went through it twice, at least. (We also got to hear it twice again,
for the next bus arriving.) We each had sodas and Evelyn had some Uncle
Chipps potato chips. Mark says, One taste and I could tell that these
chips were made with different cultural assumptions than chips made in my
society. They had a heavy oily flavor and were also a lot spicier than
chips I was used to. These were not going to be a great favorite with me.




October 28, 1993:




What can one say about a seventeen-hour bus ride?
Well, for starters it was supposed to be only fifteen hours long. We left
late and arrived later, due in part to the fact that some time around 1 AM
the bus got into some sort of traffic jam in which there were long lines of
traffic waiting to go and traffic could go in one direction only. Sleep on
the bus was every bit as difficult and the bus was every bit as
uncomfortable as S. K. Singh had predicted, and the constant honking of
horns and seat problems didn't help. Still, we were better off than the
last few people to get on the bus, who got little rattan stools to sit on in
the aisle. (Of course, they ended up stretching out on the floor and
sleeping instead, so maybe they had it better.)

Mark woke about 6 AM and the early morning view was not as bad as from
the train, but not so good either. Actually Gandhi tried to get India to
stop all the public urination and defecation, but he was not very
successful.

We stopped for breakfast about 8:30 AM at a place that looked pretty
rustic and ugly. We both declined, eating cookies from our bag. This was
also the first rest stop for women since the 10:30 PM dinner stop. (They
had a couple of use-the-side-of-the-road stops during the night.)
Friday's newspaper coincidentally had an editorial about the lack of
restroom facilities for female travelers.

Most places provide water to Indians by having a pool or providing pots
filled with water. Usually a metal cup is also provided. You are expected
to drink the water without putting your lips on the cup. Either you pour
the water into your mouth directly, or you pour the water into your hand and
you drink from your hand.

The bus was supposed to get in about 8 or 9 AM and instead got to Delhi
about 10:30 AM. We had forgotten how terrible Delhi traffic is, but the bus
took until about 11:30 AM just to get to the bus station, fighting traffic
jams and losing all the way.

There are no camels in Delhi that we've seen but there are a lot more
horses than we have been seeing elsewhere. Taking an auto-rickshaw to the
hotel we were in one traffic jam caused by a horse that had collapsed under
his burden. (That reminded Mark that he had seen signs for Chetak Cement,
named for the three-legged horse. He says, I don't see signs for Chetak
Glue.)

Evelyn comments, I've been looking at pictures of Old Delhi and they
seem to be missing one constant feature--animals. It's as if the editors of
the books have air-brushed out all the cattle and horses, both of which are
ubiquitous. 'Old Delhi,' by the way, refers to the older part of the city,
not to Delhi of years ago.

Connaught Place was designed as an elegant Georgian shopping area to
replace the crowded markets of Old Delhi. Wide streets, tall columns,
elegant covered walkways of marble were at one time the height of
refinement. Now the facades are peeling, the columns carry many layers of
movie and political posters, and men sit and repair auto seats and shape
iron on the marble walkways. It may have been elegant once, but that was a
long time ago.

However, it is still a good place to stay, with lots of hotels,
restaurants, bookstores, and cinemas. (We all have our priorities.) Our
final hotel, the Hotel 55, is kind of dark and wretched (and on the second
floor, a bit of a nuisance with Evelyn's ankle), but it is the last hotel
that we will have to get and we think we can survive to the rapidly
approaching end of the trip. At Rs675, it's higher-priced than many of our
others, but not a bad deal for Delhi. Though the street outside is noisy,
the hotel itself is quiet.

By the way, by now Evelyn says her ankle doesn't hurt very much, but
after walking on it for an hour or so, it puffs up like a grapefruit. She
plans on packing elastic ankle supporters for future trips. She also says
that her three answers when she gets home will be:

- I fell down the stairs in our hotel,
- Fascinating, and
- No.

The questions will be:

- What happened to your ankle?
- Other than that, how was the trip? and
- Did you get sick?

For some reason, people always ask the last one. (However, it turned
out that the answer to the last one changed to, Only from the meal on the
flight back from Frankfurt to New York.)

After letting Evelyn prop up her foot for the first time in almost
twenty-four hours, we went out to have lunch, book tours, and shop.
Nirula's was recommend by the Lonely Planet guide. We got there and it
looked a bit too much like a Baskin-Robbins: the same colors, the ads for 21
flavors. Right across the street is a restaurant called the National
Restaurant, also recommended. (That's its name, not an official
designation.) It serves Indian food. Crossing the street is an amazing
experience. The traffic is terrible. You have a dense mix of auto-
rickshaws, motorcycles, motor scooters, cars, buses, bicycles, and more
auto-rickshaws. It has only a flashing amber light to regulate it.

The National Restaurant is known for its meat dishes, so for the first
time this trip Evelyn had meat, the half chicken tandoori. Her advice?
Stick to the vegetarian food in India. The chicken was scrawny and not
very tasty, at least compared with chicken tandoori back home. The
vegetarian food, on the other hand, has been tasty everywhere, even in
railway stations. Mark had chicken tikka. He'd heard of that before, but
did not remember what it was. It is liked spiced chicken kabobs. Good, but
nothing all that exotic. It came with onion salad. Mark complains,
Everyone else got chilis, but they figured the gringo couldn't hold his
hotsies. I had them give me two and ate them almost straight. I hope they
were suitably impressed. Indian chilis are very piquant. Few Americans
could have done what I did, but the honor of Old Glory was at stake.
Then we went to the ITDC booking office, hoping to book a morning tour
of New Delhi, an afternoon tour of Old Delhi, and a Delhi by Evening tour.
The first thing that we discovered was that there was no Delhi by Evening
tour, at least through the ITDC. Then the woman tried to convince us to
hire a car and driver for a day instead of taking the tours. It may have
been concern for Evelyn's ankle, but somehow we doubt it. We suspect there
was a commission in it somewhere. (It would have cost more than twice as
much and the driver wouldn't have been a guide.) We booked the morning for
Friday and planned to book the afternoon tour for Saturday if that worked
out.

After that we went to Nirula's. If you think it looks like a rip-off
of Baskin-Robbins on the outside, you should see the inside. The cups look
the same, they have sample spoons, they have a sheet listing the 21 flavors
of the month, and the color scheme is the same. What we think we are
seeing--someone can correct us if we are wrong--is that there seems to be no
copyright or trademark conventions enforced between India and the United
States, and in this as in so many things it is open season on Americans.
Anyway, Nirula's rips off Baskin-Robbins even more than KHAL-NAAIKAA rips
off THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. Mark had an Indian officemate who used
to talk openly about how he intended to smuggle computers from the United
States to India. In any case, we each had two scoops of the most exotic
flavors of ice cream they had. Mark had galabo and badaam khewra; Evelyn
had zafrani badaam pista (with pistachios) and summer wine (with maraschino
cherries and candied fruit). They did have more standard flavors like
jamoca almond fudge which is, Mark says, an Indian trade name. It is
cheaper than Baskin-Robbins, at only about Rs12 (forty cents) a scoop.

After that we walked around Connaught Place looking at bookstores which
turned out to be small, until Evelyn got very frustrated (at her ankle, the
vendors, the auto-rickshaw drivers, the shoe-shine boys) and wanted to go
back to the hotel. Right about then one of the shoe-shine boys pointed out
Evelyn's shoes needed cleaning. There was a dollop of cow shit on the top
of the shoe in a position where it had to have been dropped onto, since all
of the borders of the shit were above the sole. It would have been lower on
the sole had she kicked it. The boy claimed it fell from a bird. That's
what he said. So now these enterprising young lads have taken to throwing
cow shit on us in an attempt to make money.

However, by this point Evelyn was so irritated at being pestered that
there was no way she was going to pay for a shoe-shine. She cleaned off
most of it with a piece of newspaper and she is throwing out the shoes in a
couple of days anyway. (The soles are worn through and they're basically
shot. She only kept them to wear on this trip.)

(The Cadogan guide says in one of the towns tourists were getting
bitten by rats because local boys were playing catch with them over cycle-
rickshaws, trying to catch them by the tail, and sometimes the rat fell
short. We suppose this is not quite as bad as that.)

As much as I like the Indians I work with, Mark writes, the country
is losing my 'most-favored nation' status. It is always sad when a vacation
ends, but this time in some ways are looking forward to it ending. The
forces trying to make this country hospitable to tourism are no match for
the forces working in the other direction.

Mark reports, I am seeing a side of Evelyn I rarely see as she is
talking about going after some of these people with her cane. Maybe she is
just joking. I have joked similarly, but having people throw cow shit on
you tends to change your point of view. Being lied to and cheated has much
the same effect.

We went back to the room and then went to our third Hindi movie, EK HI
RAASTA. This one seems to have attracted a mostly male crowd, but Evelyn
saw one or two women go in, so decided it was okay.

While we were waiting, we walked to a tiny used bookstore in a stall
around the corner. While Mark was browsing, a local boy started reaching
for one of Mark's lower pockets but someone else saw him and ran him off.
The pocket was empty anyway. The photo vest and chest pack make it easy for
Mark to keep all his valuables in very protected places.

Mark describes the film thusly: EK HI RAASTA was the easiest to follow
of the three films we have seen. It is supposedly adults only (rated 'A'),
but it is based on every seven-year-old kid's fantasy. Karan (a male) is
training in the Indian army. The audience knows he will make a hell of a
soldier, but various people are holding him back for their own selfish
reasons. The Colonel--played by Saeed Jaffrey, a familiar face from THE
DECEIVERS, GANDHI, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE, A
PASSAGE TO INDIA, THE WILBY CONSPIRACY, 'The Far Pavilions,' and 'The Jewel
in the Crown'--because the Colonel's beautiful daughter loves him.

It turns out that Karan's chief rival Vikram is a traitor to India and
in league with some nasty enemy country setting up a base in the forest.
Vikram's uncle, whom Karan has previously won over, discovers Vikram is a
traitor and Vikram murders his uncle and frames Karan. So now Karan is
being chased by the Indian army. The nasties invade, kidnapping the Colonel
and his beautiful daughter and holding them hostage at the secret base.
They see Vikram walking about the base free and easy and realize what is
what. Vikram is making ready to rape the Colonel's daughter when Karan
comes out of the woods, guns blazing, and in a silly fifteen-minute battle
wipes out the entire base single-handed. The enemy leader tries to escape.
Karan sees him two hundred feet (sixty meters) away climbing a fifty-foot
(fifteen-meter) ladder up a cliff face. But when the nasty gets to the top,
Karan is already there. Karan gets all kinds of awards for his courage and
the Colonel is happy to have him for a son-in-law.

Mark continues, There are only three musical numbers, including one in
which Karan and his fellow soldiers, all in camouflage uniforms, dance for
joy at being considered really good soldiers. Their movements are just a
bit 'swishy' and feminine and the scene itself unintentionally hilarious.
(Evelyn describes this scene as Gen. Colin Powell's worst nightmare.) Music
is by Namesh Kishore, except for the military fanfare. That is a very nice
piece with echoing military trumpets. It is a little florid for their
purposes, but they got it free off the soundtrack to BEN HUR. Royalties?
What do you think the chances are?

One interesting touch: when the army tries to get a confession from
Karan, they torture him. That seems accepted matter-of-factly by the
audience. I think it may not be so absurd.

Other credits: The director was Deepak Bahry. The producer was Chander
Sadanah for Sadanah Brothers. It was written by Lalit Mahajan, and action
was by Veery Devgan. No translation was given for the title. Ek is one
and Mark says this was EK HELLUVA HI RAASTA. It was probably a better film
for our not knowing Hindi. (We later found out the title would be
translated as ONE TRUE WAY.)

Then back to the room which incidentally is roach-infested but, hey,
the traveler must make allowances.




October 29, 1993:




The trip is rapidly ending. We went to Nirula's
Potpouri (their breakfast bar) and Mark ordered the only Indian food on the
menu, sambar vada. They didn't have it. No demand, Mark supposes. He
ordered an omelette. The food is nothing great and the prices a bit higher
than we're used to at this point, but breakfast places seem to be somewhat
limited.

Mark says, After breakfast we went for our New Delhi tour. Our first
stop was Delhi's own Jantar Mantar. You remember Jai Singh? He was the
quick-witted little raja who saved his throne by making a joke at the right
time. In Jaipur he had built a huge set of observational instruments for
astronomical and astrological observations. No? None of this rings a bell?
Well, why are you bothering to read this at all? It obviously isn't doing
you much good. Okay, go back and read about Jaipur again. I am wondering
if I should put a quiz at the end of each section. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Mmmm! Mmm! Pardon me, boy, is this the Chatt.... Oh, it looks like you're
back You might have said something. Okay, does that ring a bell now?
Well, Jai Singh built five of these observatories of which only Jaipur has
been decently maintained. The Delhi observatory is kind of in bad shape,
and is described as 'no longer working.' (Evelyn says that she doesn't
quite understand how a fixed sundial can stop working without, say, a major
orbital shift, but that's the claim.) At any rate, it looks like some sort
of post-Modern playground. These days that is what it is used for. On the
way out we saw the first of many snake charmers this day. A real tourist
pleaser. I figure the tourists come to India hoping to see snake charmers,
so people with little or no ties to the original snake charmers have rushed
in to fill the need, each with a cute little cobra. Rs20 to take their
pictures with their cobras. Evelyn asked me what they would do if you took
one's picture and didn't pay. 'Chase you with his snake, I guess.' The
snakes didn't look that threatening.

Back on the bus we kept missing the lecture about what we were passing
because the loudspeaker kept failing. (Evelyn supposes that was to
compensate for the fact it was the first air-conditioned bus we had the
entire trip.) But it still was a nice ride through New Delhi, even if we
didn't know what we were passing.

Our next destination was the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, built in 1938 by
the Indian industrialist family, the Birlas. (These are the same people who
built the Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Jaipur.) Not surprisingly, it is well-
preserved, although in yellow and white with red trim, it is considered
somewhat garish. Evelyn says, I guess in general it's okay for temples to
be brightly colored on the inside, but the outside is supposed to be more
sedate, relying on carvings instead of paint. I suppose by some standards a
carving of a man coupling with a horse is more sedate than yellow and red
paint. It's just another cultural difference. It is a temple to Lakshmi,
the goddess of wealth and prosperity (appropriately enough for the Birlas),
but it is also a temple to Vishnu, and has some nice pictures of Kali, some
interesting stone lions, and, at least when we visited, one Anne Martin of
England--our previous travel companion.

Not since Agra have we been accosted by so many vendors. They clearly
know which sights are on the tourist circuit (no surprise there) and swarm
around them. And the prices they ask! One vendor wanted Rs100 for a wire
figure like the one we had paid Rs5 for. (He claimed his was best
quality; Mark thought it was actually worse quality.)

New Delhi was designed to be a lot like Washington, D.C. There is a
long quadrangle called the Rajpath (Kingsway) with government buildings
designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker at one end and a memorial
arch at the other end. The latter bears the names of 85,000 Indians who
died in fighting for India. Lutyens and Baker were supposedly working
together but had a falling-out over the Battle of the Gradient. Lutyens
wanted the Viceregal Residence on a higher level than the flanking
Secretariat buildings, while Baker wanted it on the same level so that it
would gradually rise into view as you approached it. Baker won, but after
construction was underway, it was realized that what really happens is that
the Residence is visible from a distance, then as you approach it, it sinks
below the hill, then rises again. In retrospect, Lutyens was probably
right.

We stopped on the middle of the Rajpath, where New Delhi smoke and smog
obscured both the government buildings and the arch equally well. The air
nearly perpetually smells of smoke through much of the city. There were
lots of small fires in the street burning trash, perhaps to keep the
homeless warm at night.

Our next stop was the tomb of Humuyan. This is one of the buildings
claiming to be an inspiration for the Taj Mahal as if that was one of the
great accomplishments of Indian civilization and everybody else wants to
claim a piece of the credit. It is one more very expensive tomb building
done in red sandstone and filigree trellises on all the windows. Again a
would-be guide latched on to us and would not let go. Mark kept trying to
show him he had no interest in him, but the guide would not go away. Mark
even passed up a camera angle he would have discovered for himself but the
guide pointed out first. Mark didn't want him thinking that we were taking
advantage of him without paying and Mark wasn't going to pay him just
because we were two of the few people on the tour who did not look Indian.

Our next stop is sort of the realization of old Akbar's dream to glue
together other religions into one big religion. Delhi has a Baha'i temple.
The leaflet claims this is the seventh such in the world, but apparently
does not count the shrine in Haifa, which is the center of the religion.
(Evelyn noted that the leaflet in Hebrew was in color, while the one in
English was in black and white.) The temple actually is a much nicer
looking temple than the one temple in Haifa. The building pieces together
spherical sections to form the shape of a huge lotus. At its base are green
pools. It has a very pleasing look to it. Incredible numbers of people
were parading into the temple from about a dozen tour buses, a constant mob
because admission is probably free to the tour companies. The main hall
seems to be very spare in a modern sort of way--obviously expensive, or at
least not cheap, but lacking any images or ornate decorations to distract
the eye. One is supposed to meditate; there are no ceremonies or sermons.
Evelyn comments, however, that the constant stream of tourists walking
through is probably more of a distraction than any of those other things
would be. Mark says in his log, It was a very attractive construction
started on April 21, 1980--a Monday--and the building was dedicated on
December 24, 1986--a Wednesday. Why do I make a point of the days of the
week? Just practicing my mental trick of figuring days of the week.

This, by the way, is another religion in which one takes off one's
shoes to enter the house of worship. But here you put your shoes in a bag
before handing them in to the checkroom, almost as if the caste rules of the
Hindus had been adopted and touching shoes was unclean.
Just now the lotus is one of the three symbols you see a lot of in
India. The other two are the hand and the wheel. Elections are coming up
and these are the symbols for the three parties most active.

The final stop was the Qutb Minar complex. This, the highlight of the
New Delhi tour, is not in New Delhi at all, but south of it. It is,
however, geographically closer to New Delhi than to Old Delhi, hence its
inclusion here. (Also, without it, the New Delhi tour wouldn't have enough
sights to get people to take it.) The complex was started to celebrate the
conquest of North India by Islam in the 12th Century. Towering over the
complex is the tallest minaret in the world, the Qutb Minar, built about
1230. It is on the order of 250 feet (73 meters) high. It looks like a
huge cannon barrel and is considered the most remarkable pillar in the
world. At one point it was about thirty feet higher, but a possibly
offended Providence brought a shaking of the earth and the top fell off. At
least that is one interpretation.

The Insight guide describes the Qutb Minar as Delhi's Eiffel Tower,
its Big Ben, its Statue of Liberty, and perhaps in some sense it is, yet
the latter three are known the world over and Evelyn doubts that the Qutb
Minar has even a hundredth the recognition factor they do. Realizing that
this is merely another example of the decline of education, Evelyn says, I
suspect that the Taj Majal (in Agra) is Delhi's Eiffel Tower et al.

People used to be allowed to climb to the top of the Qutb Minar, but
this is no longer true. One book says this is due to the number of suicides
from the top; another says that a stampede during a school trip which
resulted in several deaths prompted the closure.

In the middle of the (never-completed) mosque is a 4th Century iron
pillar. The purity of the iron is a mystery. For about 1600 years the
column has refused to rust. It is claimed to be 99.97% pure iron, though
how so pure a column of iron could be erected in the 4th Century is a
mystery. It is also claimed that if you stand with your back to the pillar
and can reach back around it and make your hands touch, your wish will come
true. Most of the people trying this were unsuccessful, but for some reason
Evelyn was able to do this with little difficulty. She had a little help
from someone standing there who then asked for a tip.

As Mark was taking pictures, a bunch of teenage Sikhs walking behind
him said, Hello. Mark returned, Hello, and then seeing that they were
Sikhs added, Saht sri akul. Apparently this surprised and pleased them.
Everybody knows the English greeting, but apparently few Americans know the
proper way to greet a Sikh, or even how to recognize a Sikh. They returned
the greeting, but it seemed to Mark that they pronounced the middle word
shri. It was one of the good moments in India.

On the way out a hawker tried to sell Mark a little dial perpetual
calendar. Mark told him that he didn't need it; he could figure out any
date in his head and offered to tell the hawker what day of the week he was
born on. He thanked Mark and went away. I love math, Mark commented.

After the tour, we tried lunch at the Coconut Grove in the Ashok Yatri
Niwas Hotel, a restaurant inexplicably not mentioned in the Lonely Planet
guide. We tried Kerala food: Mark had stew on appams--sort of steamed rice
pancakes three-quarters of an inch thick in the center and like crepes at
the edges--and Evelyn had kaalan (a banana and yam dish) and coconut rice.
All this was only Rs160.

After that we hired an auto-rickshaw to take us to a movie theater that
had a holiday fantasy (CHANDRAMUKTI) for Diwali. Well, they replaced the
family film with a sex film, so we found another theater and saw DALAAL. We
had just been touring, so Mark still had his camera. As we were going in,
after we had bought our tickets, there was a sign that said no cameras.
We'd clearly been sightseeing and that was the reason for the camera, and
Mark hoped they would let him by. Ha! Ha! Cannot bring in camera. We
will put in a safe place. The theater didn't look like one that had a safe
place. Evelyn said, Let's go outside. She slipped the camera into her
backpack and put her spare shoes on top of it. No camera, Mark said. The
man at the door frisked him. Sure enough, no camera. He did find the
computer in Mark's pocket.

What is this?

Calculator, Mark replied.

He had Mark turn it on. He pressed the buttons and verified it was
real. He went on to the other pockets, then said, Okay. Then a woman
came up and started arguing with him. The word calculator was about all
we could understand, but the woman apparently was very upset that the
theater was letting tourists bring calculators into movie theaters. Before
the decision could be overturned, we slipped into the crowd, trying to
blend, and climbed the stairs to the balcony. DALAAL is sort of a MONGOOSE
DUNDEE. A big, strong country boy comes to the big city and becomes
involved with a bordello that he first thinks is a hotel. It starts as a
comedy and changes into an action film. The film just assumes that of
course the police torture suspects. We see it occasionally in our prison
films, but there it is social commentary. Police torture is a very negative
comment on our police. Mark is not so sure that what we saw had the same
meaning in India. He doesn't think the films are trying for social comment,
and they are much more portraying what is considered the general order of
things. The Odeon (a very Western name for a movie theater) is only a block
or two from the hotel. At least we didn't get hassled, though we passed
more than the usual number of men peeing on walls. Some use the
convenience--a small private wall and a drain--but this time one five feet
away was empty and men prefer just using any wall they can find. Just weeks
ago Mark was very disgusted to see one person doing this in downtown San
Francisco. Incidentally, the red stain of betel nut juice is equally
prevalent and more obvious.

We were back in the room by 7 PM and wrote. We had brought about six
pairs of batteries to keep Thing, the computer, running. That was a bit
overly cautious. The pair of batteries Mark had put in back in New Jersey
had lasted up to about forty-eight hours before the end of the trip. Well,
Mark had plenty of replacements. He might have brought less had he known
how small Thing's appetite really was (and also that we would be able to use
the adaptor we bought to plug Thing into the wall in the hotel rooms). Mark
said again, I was probably foolish to bring a pocket computer to India. I
had had the computer for three or four months and while some people I have
met said they never used theirs, I think those people lack imagination.
Through this trip, Thing has done currency conversions, and has maintained
and searched copies of correspondence from people with advice about India.
One program gives me a bar graph of how far through the trip we are. I have
written a short essay summarizing my attitude about India which is the
preface to this log. I composed this on my computer, which gives me the
opportunity to revise and update and polish this preface. All this revising
would be a mess on paper, but on the computer revisions are easy.
Occasionally when I am bored, I play the minesweep game. It also tracks and
records new vocabulary I have learned in Hindi. And I have mentioned it
tracks how far I should be in my log so I don't run out of notebook. And if
I do I'll just enter the log directly into the computer. It also kept
reassuring me that I'd have enough film. And also when making notes on
tours, my handwriting is horrible but typed notes are easily read. It was a
real dilemma at the beginning of the trip if I should bring Thing or not. I
strongly suspected bringing Thing was stupid move, but I brought it anyway.
It worked out well.




October 30, 1993:




Mark says we should be able to cover the morning
fairly quickly. We went to Nirula's for breakfast. Still no place to get
Indian breakfast noticeable around, so Mark got what they call their all-
American breakfast: pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage. He is pretty sure
the sausages were lamb.

After breakfast we went to book the afternoon tour of Old Delhi. We
found it completely full for today, so booked it for Sunday instead. Evelyn
wanted to try some of the bookstores in the area. In fact, we discovered
they gave us access to some British books not available in the United States
at prices cheaper than they would be in Britain. We bought a lot more than
we expected to. Now we have to cart them home. At least there will be
plenty to read on the plane. Mark notes, We were there when they were
dusting the shop and literally flogging their books.

In spite of the access to British books, the bookstores here are pretty
depressing. The Oxford Bookshop, for example, has a selection of books
smaller than your average Waldenbooks or B. Dalton in a mall, and on a very
narrow range--India, applied sciences, self-help, and children's books seem
to form almost the entire stock. To someone used to the bookstores of New
York (or even Central New Jersey), it is amazing to find that a city of ten
million people is so bookstore-poor. It is possible that there are huge
only the Metropolitan Book Company (1 Nataji Subash Marg Darya Gang-2, 327-
--and that's just Manhattan.

We went back to the room to drop off the books and then headed out to
the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, cutting through the Palika Bazaar,
an underground shopping mall. When we climbed out again there were the
cobra charmers wanting us to pay to photograph them. Then we passed two
people who threw cow manure on Evelyn's shoe. They just walked on. A third
man looked on amazed. They just threw that, didn't they? he said. There
is a shoemaker here who can clean your shoe, he explained helpfully.

We got some gifts at the Central Cottage Industries Emporium. We would
not let two Indian girls cut in front of us in the payment line, so they
made sure to force their way in front of us in the merchandise pickup line.
Mark says, I keep reminding myself that I know a lot of very nice Indian
people. I cannot generalize, but India certainly has a higher percentage of
rude, greedy, and obnoxious people than just about any other country I have
experienced.

The way you do things in the Central Cottage Industries Emporium is
that you choose your merchandise and then take it and stand in line as
someone from that department tallies your bill. That takes five minutes.
You then take your slip and stand in a second line to pay for your
purchases. That takes about ten minutes. Then you get into a third line to
show the slip marked paid and pick up the merchandise. This can take up
to fifteen minutes. They seem to have a hard time finding the merchandise
that goes with the slip. One man who'd worked his way through the line,
presented his slip, and already waited a couple of minutes told a friend
that it shouldn't be more than another five minutes before he was done.
Another man who'd made purchases on multiple floors asked if all his
merchandise could be sent to the downstairs pickup window so he wouldn't
have to stand in line on multiple floors. The clerk responded, No, you
pick up right near where you pay. The man grimaced. It's a good system,
the clerk explained helpfully.

Once we were out of the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, we fought
our way past the hawkers waiting by the door. Look at this. I made it
myself, one said, trying to show Mark the same lion-shaped lock that three
other hawkers tried to show him that morning. Sure, it was a lie, but he
thought it might improve his chances of a sale. Salespeople lie to you
everywhere in the world, but it seems the threshold of possible gain is
lower here. There is little integrity. Mark writes, Good old even-
tempered Evelyn is getting to the end of her rope. When hawkers
persistently will not take no for an answer, she has started yelling at them
and even suggested she might use her cane on them. That last might be
partly my fault. I suggested jokingly that she could use the cane on the
next person who throws cow manure on her shoes. I have to say that this
reaction is very unusual for us, but in many ways India is the least
hospitable country we have ever visited (or heard of).

Back at the hotel we took a look at some of the books we'd bought and
saw that one had a very high regard for New Delhi's National Museum. We
didn't have much time to see it, but decided to go in spite of our previous
experience with museums in India. The museum was actually much nicer than
those we'd seen, though maybe it was just because it had a better
collection. The Insight Guide had a better description of the contents of
the museum than there appeared on the labels, even those in Hindi. Most
objects would be labeled only with the name of the people who made it and
the century. Mark chuckled at one piece labeled as being scenes from the
life of Buddha carved into it--in stone, as he remembers it, but it could
have been bronze--with scenes of the Buddha surrounded by women, all with
very big globular breasts. Mark claimed, This is sort of the Hollywood
version of the life of Buddha.

You start with artifacts of prehistoric people in India, then move on
to Indus Valley civilization, Mohenjo Doro and Harappa. You see wall
carvings, bronzes, and sculptures. There is another collection of central
Asian antiquities, collected by M. Aurel Stein, whose travelogue Evelyn
recently finished reading, and the inevitable miniature paintings. There
was a description of how figures are sculpted in bronze using lost wax
techniques. There was nothing we didn't know, but it was an explanation.

There was a special exhibit of Indian naval history which looked a lot
like an exhibit of British naval history. You see the naval uniforms, but
the dummies inside them look British. The centerpiece was a diorama showing
a naval battle with British and Indian ships. You see in three dimensions
the back end of a British ship and the rest of the ship is painted as part
of the background. But you see in 3-D all of three Indian ships ... uh,
boats. They actually look sort of like huge canoes. One had a head like a
Viking ship, but instead of a dragon's head it was a duck's head. It didn't
look formidable; it looked cute.

The museum is just off the Rajpath. We decided to take a leisurely
stroll to the Arch. The sun was just setting and we could feel mellow
except that every five minutes or so an auto-rickshaw driver would see us,
stop, and try to sell us his services.
I take you to Arch. Good pictures.

No, shokria, Mark would respond.

Get good pictures. After I take you to Connaught Place.

No! No! Shokria!

I give you ride.

No, thank you. We would rather walk.

You want pictures?

No! Go away!

Finally we would just ignore him and after a while he would go away.
Five minutes later another would see us and the battle would start again.
For a while we stopped and watched some large birds swooping and diving. As
we were getting toward the Arch, a tour bus showed up, obviously to
photograph the Arch at sunset. We walked a little faster to keep ahead.
That meant that the balloon sellers, the postcard sellers, and the cotton
candy sellers got to us first. One was sure we would buy a pack of pictures
of old New Delhi. After about a minute or more trying to shake him off,
Mark pointed in the direction we came from. Look. Big tour group. Lots
of money. He laughed, but saw Mark was telling the truth and ran off to
get some of that money.

Evelyn had read of an interesting restaurant in the exclusive hotel
Claridges. It is one of the poshest hotels in New Delhi and the auto-
rickshaw drivers don't seem to know where it is. Mark doesn't think many
people take auto-rickshaws there. Our first driver had never heard of it
and then wanted too much money so we let him go. The second one needed to
get instructions from another auto-rickshaw driver. We went with him, but
he needed directions again mid-trip. He asked some people on the street and
they couldn't help him. He then nearly drove past it, but Evelyn pointed it
out. It took us a while to even find the restaurant in the hotel. It was
actually outside and beside the hotel. We went and discovered it would not
open for another hour. We sat in their sitting room waiting for an hour.
An organist came in and played Western-like melodies, some with familiar
stretches. It took Mark a few minutes to realize these were familiar songs
from home since they were not coming out right. They seemed to be songs the
organist had heard once and was improvising from memory. Sometimes he would
play only one note where there were three in the original; sometimes a
five-note flourish would replace one or two notes in the original. It
became a challenge to identify what he was trying to play. After a while,
Mark could tell he was trying Never on Sunday or I Did It My Way, the
last singularly appropriate.

Dinner was a disappointment. Mark says he may be losing his taste for
meat, but Corbett's is a meat restaurant, and he thought the meat was salty
and over-spiced. The place is supposed to seem like a hunting camp from the
days of the Raj. Basically it is just in a tropical garden and there are
lots of animal noises from hidden loudspeakers. They claim that the
crocodile sometimes comes to the pond, but it is just a joke. Mark suspects
that with the exception of the guests, there is a much higher leg-to-animal
ratio at Corbett's than they would like you to believe. Mark had mutton.
When the time came for dessert the waiter came around.

Do you have kulfi? Mark asked.

No, sir. I am sorry. We have only Indian sweets.

What do you have?

We have gulab jaman or kulfi.

Okay, I'll have the kulfi, Mark conceded. He was willing to let it
go. Evelyn pointed out to Mark that he'd asked for kulfi to start with and
that the waiter didn't understand what he was saying. The kulfi was pretty
good, however.

On the way back to the hotel we got two mineral waters and struggled
with a vendor who wanted to sell us more things rather than giving Mark his
Rs20 change.




October 31, 1993:




This is our last day in India. We both feel sorry
the vacation is coming to an end. Evelyn said she was not sure why and Mark
said, Force of habit. We ate for the first time in Hotel 55, our hotel,
and also determined not to make the same mistake again. We talked to a
couple from Ottawa who do a lot of travel. Eight months of the year they
are in different countries. That doesn't sound too bad, actually. Mark's
amoeba and Evelyn's foot were acting up so we wrote for most of the morning.

At noon we checked out and had our luggage held for later pickup.

For lunch we each had an ice cream cone at Nirula's. It was a good
idea to put a Baskin-Robbins in New Delhi. Too bad it wasn't Baskin-Robbins
who did it. Just about as soon as we were out of it, an Indian started
hectoring us to go shopping where he wanted to take us. We got an auto-
rickshaw and he jumped in the narrow seat next to the Sikh driver and
continued to try to sell us on the idea of shopping. He had the Sikh stop
at what he claimed was the Central Cottage Industries Emporium but what was
clearly not.

You want to go in?

NO!

Now the Sikh spoke up and said, No problem, and drove off. Sikhs are
everywhere in India but more in New Delhi. Their population is centered in
the Punjab, however. Their religion is a cross between Hinduism and Islam.
We are pestered by a lot fewer Sikhs than we would expect for their numbers.
They seem to respect us more than most of the people we come in contact with
and the feeling is mutual. Their culture stresses avoidance of caste
discrimination, more emphasis on education, more of the work ethic.
Technical jobs and jobs requiring a lot of thought in India tend to have a
high proportion of Sikhs. Their success is resented but they clearly are
upwardly mobile for all the right reasons. The men do not cut their hair
but cover it with a turban. They wear wooden or ivory combs, they wear a
steel bracelet, and they are supposed to carry swords. They are also
expected to wear shorts though many do not. (Actually, they do, but they
wear them under their long pants.)

We got to the hotel about ninety minutes before our tour was about to
start. Mark went to the newstand. They had a decent selection of books but
none interested him. I asked the price on a roll of candy. Rs20. Forget
it. That little roll of candy wouldn't cost that much in the United States.
And the local hard candy is not as well made and usually sticks to the
wrapper.

Our tour started fifty minutes late due to the morning half of the tour
running long. This, we figured, meant the tour would go almost to 7 PM.
That might start to run us a bit late. Evelyn had asked about what time the
tour would get over and they said a little after 5 PM. That seemed to make
the tour way too short, only a little over two hours. How could they fit
all five sights listed in the Lonely Planet guide for this tour in two
hours?

Our first stop was at the Feroz Shah Kotla, the fortress palace of
Feroz Shah Tughlaq built in 1354. It supposedly has inside a forty-foot-
high sandstone pillar that lists Ashok's edicts. It now is in bad shape
because the stone was taken and used for building material for Old Delhi.
The guide said he would stop and we could take pictures from the road.
Suddenly Mark understood how our tour could be so short. This was not his
idea of including a sight. Or in his words, Gotcha! Mark says, India
is a country where you generally get what you pay for or know the reason why
not. It is just that too often it is the latter. And the reason is not
always convincing.

For example, our next sight (according to the Lonely Planet guide) was
supposed to be the Jamid Masjid. This is the largest mosque in India, built
by Shah Jahan from 1644 to 1658. It is red sandstone and white marble in
stripes and has room for 25,000 in its courtyard. It was pointed out from a
distance of a half a mile (a kilometer). In the ever-present Delhi smog, we
can just make out an outline. Don't we get a closer look? Mark asked our
guide later. No, traffic conditions do not allow it.

The tour had originally had five sights, but since we'd seen the Red
Fort already, only four were new. Two were just parks where famous people
had been cremated and two had real historic interest. The two we most
wanted to see we would see only from a distance. No wonder this tour was so
short.

We covered the Red Fort earlier, so will not cover it again. Seeing it
again was okay but not thrilling. Next we went to Shanti Vana, a small park
where Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and her sons Sanjay and Rajiv had been cremated.
About all you will see are waterfowl--geese, if we remember right.

Mark saw a teenager wearing a T-shirt with a big Mickey Mouse crudely
printed on it. You see in the Central Cottage Industries Emporium pieces of
brasswear with similar Mickey Mouse patterns crudely rendered. Some
American and European trademarks and copyrights seem to be respected here,
and some not. Nobody makes their own Coca-Cola here. At least not under
that name.

The Raj Ghat is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and was where he was
cremated. Mark writes, I don't know how they knew that piece of ground was
going to be a memorial to Gandhi when they chose it to cremate him. I guess
there was some sort of conspiracy. If you want to go in close you can take
off your shoes and walk through the memorial itself, or you can walk a ramp
and walk around the outside with your shoes on. We did the latter since it
seemed easier on Evelyn's foot.

That was it and it was one of the least interesting of our city tours.
It's interesting that the New Delhi tour includes the Qutb Minar, one of
the oldest sights in the area, and the Old Delhi includes the Shanti Vana
and Raj Ghat, two of the newest sights. It's all a question of geography.

At one point the tour bus stopped near a little girl sitting on a
corner. She was about five or six. She looked at Mark, which attracted his
attention. Then she stood up and started to walk to the bus. Mid-stride
she affected a limp and over to the bus she came to beg for rupees. She
clearly has to do better than that to be convincing.

After the tour we booked an auto-rickshaw to take us to see the Jamid
Masjid close up, then pick up our bags at Connaught Place, and finally to
take us to the Maurya Sheraton for dinner at the Bukhara Restaurant.

There is a large bazaar surrounding the mosque even up to the stairs.
There is smoke. There are goats tethered to the stairs of the mosque.
There are incredibly deformed beggars. Second only to--or perhaps tied
with--the burning ghat in Varanasi, this is the most atmospheric place in
India we found. It is exotic and very, very non-Western. It is a place
that could have shown up in a Sherlock Holmes story or a weirder Kipling
story. People laughed at us, but we did not understand why. There are a
fair collection of horror stories set in India and just at twilight this is
a perfect setting for one. You could almost believe there were Thugees out
there in the smoke scheming. We could go to the door but they would not let
us in. One person spoke some English and said we would have to wait fifteen
minutes for prayers to end. Ten minutes later he came over and said we
could not be allowed in. They probably allow tourists in only during the
day. We looked through the doorway and then headed back down the stairs to
the auto-rickshaw.

The driver had problems getting the auto-rickshaw started and twice had
to ask passersby to push it. On his way out he hit a woman who looked a
little startled but continued on. He took us to Connaught Place but not to
our hotel. He stopped first at a liquor store and said we had to pay him
Rs50 of the fare right then. He promised, unasked, not to drink while he
drives. He went out and came back with a bottle of whiskey, removed one
empty liquor bottle from the metal box that served as a glove compartment
and put that in a different box, and put the whiskey in the glove box. Then
he went to the hotel, hitting the arm of a pedestrian on the way. We picked
up our luggage and the driver took us to the Maurya Sheraton. This place
was fancy. It cost for one night more than we paid for ten. We had heard
the Bukhara Restaurant was pretty casual, but I think in our dusty clothing
we were pushing it. Mark had tandoori chicken; Evelyn had murg malai kabob.
It came to better than US$40. But it was our last night in India. Then we
sprang for an enclosed taxi to the airport.

We got to the airport something like four hours before the flight. The
guards apparently brandish full military machine guns. We had a fair number
of rupees left over. Mark let Evelyn rest her foot and went to find out
about airport taxes. Evelyn then walked around and said that the one shop
did have books. She suggested a P. G. Wodehouse that we had more than
enough rupees for. In fact, they also had a British edition of THE SUM OF
ALL FEARS by Tom Clancy. An airport employee (apparently--by his badge) sat
near us and asked to talk. And talk we did for about an hour about our view
of India, his view of the United States: Americans are good people. Very
honest. Very rich. But many young people have sex. This is a bad thing.
And are no marriages arranged? Well, that is not a direct quote, but it
was the sort of thing he was asking about. He had never heard we had many
homeless people in the United States and it surprised him very much. He
heard about welfare for the first time and independently re-invented the
concept of workfare on the spot. It is much better, he thought, for the
poor to work for money. Then they appreciate the money. Very
interesting, Mark says. I told just about social problems in the United
States and he is coming back at me with my own political philosophy as if it
is obvious. Is it my choice of the facts that lead to my own conclusions?
Is workfare more obvious than I thought? Do I take this as confirming my
viewpoint or only a mirror of my concerns?
Then we had to cut off the conversation because we had to check in. We
spent the last of our rupees on a book of travelers' tales and a British
edition of an Arthur C. Clarke Rama book. Mark counted and saw we had
about Rs30 left and asked the price of a roll of candy. Rs30. He figured
Mark would overpay just to get something for his rupees. Wrong. There were
two emigration lines for foreigners. We chose the short line and realized
too late that the guy going through the papers was taking about three or
four minutes per person. We were about halfway through the line when Mark
decided it still might be faster to get in the longer line. He did. He
went through about half of that line when Evelyn got to the front of our
original line. Mark got out of line to join her, but in that instant she
let a British family ahead of her because they had a flight coming right up.
There were five of them and they had passports from two different countries,
as well as some other special papers. While we waited at the head of the
first line, people four and five positions behind Mark on the second line
got processed. Evelyn's good deed had meant we had to spend another fifteen
minutes in line and had not actually done anything for the other family that
the airport would not have done anyway. Finally the world's most sluggish
immigration official got around to studying our passports and their stamps,
reading every line of the forms we'd filled in. Typing something at his
keyboard, searching for the proper key and then hitting it with his right
index finger, and waiting for a readout to come up on his screen, then
reading it very carefully. Finally he stamped our passports about six
minutes later. I don't know if he was being intentionally slow or it was
just his natural inefficiency.

We then waited for the security check. Now Evelyn had heard that only
on domestic flights did they have horrendous security. Wrong! Everything
out of pockets.

Remove all batteries. What is this?

Computer.

Remove batteries.

This scares Mark because he doesn't know how long the backup battery
will support memory. His guess is weeks, but who knows? (Actually, when we
got home we checked the manual and it said the back-up batteries were good
for several days.) Well, maybe he can get batteries from his suitcase. The
next guard says, Open suitcase. Everything gets opened, including the
night case and the laundry bag. Walkman batteries out. He found
everything that had batteries and the stash of spares--all confiscated.
Where is boarding pass? Suddenly Mark realized he was not sure what
pocket it went into after the first security check. And with the photo vest
he had lots of pockets. He searched again and again. Now he is sweating.
He looked back at the first guard, but he was checking more people through.
The second guard told Mark to take his suitcase a few feet away and search
it for his boarding pass. No go. Finally in desperation Mark asked the
first guard if he knew what happened to his boarding pass. It is over at
the X-ray machine with your batteries. God, what a system! Finally Mark
got through the whole line hoping Evelyn would have gotten through with some
batteries. Nope. So we settled down. Mark was worried about the memory in
the computer. He went back and tried to explain his computer needs
batteries or loses memory. You get batteries on other side with boarding
pass, the guard explained helpfully.

Can I put the computer with the batteries and put two in?

Just batteries.

Mark notes, No wonder nobody had seen portable computers in India!
These damn officious little bureaucrats make it a real pain to bring them
into the country. For an hour Mark sat and fretted about thing losing
everything in its memory. His one hope was that the flight was Lufthansa
and so the crew would be German and might understand that a computer might
lose memory without batteries.

After about forty-five minutes, Mark stopped fretting and read. They
handed out the boarding passes they had confiscated with the batteries.
People who did not remember their seat numbers were in serious shape.
Luckily we did remember. We don't know what happened to those who didn't.

When they called for boarding a huge mob stormed the door. Eventually
we got on the plane. Mark immediately pressed the help button, but the crew
was busy boarding people. And when they finished that, they started finding
passengers and giving them back their batteries. Oh, what a wonderful
sight!

A stewardess brought Mark his bag of batteries. Bless you, Mark
said.

Ja, and it's unbelievable why they take them.

But Mark knows why they take them. That is what they have been trained
to do. No questioning if it makes sense. No wondering if making it hard to
bring technology into India could be hurting the country. That is the job
they have been given. Besides, this way they get free batteries.
(Actually, we had originally thought some batteries were missing, but now we
think they were all there.) Change is bad. It brings insecurity. And
rethinking the process can bring change. Pointless battery confiscation was
our last grand gotcha of India. Now it too had passed.

November 1, 1993: It is amazing how comfortable the plane from Delhi
to Frankfurt feels. It is the same service we had on the way out, but you
come to want any cockroach-free toilets.

Dinner was not very good. It was skimpy and not very tasty.
Presumably it is a problem with their supplier in Delhi. But we were
dehydrated and they keep walking up and down the aisles offering orange
juice. The orange juice we got in India had a very weak flavor. Perhaps it
was watered down as one of our traveling companions suggested. This is a
good rich orange juice and is offered so often we eventually are refusing
it.

The in-flight movie was GUILTY AS SIN. Mark woke up from a nap halfway
into it and did not have any interest in seeing the other half. He almost
wishes that had run THE LUCONA AFFAIR again. That is a fairly intelligent
German film starring David Suchet and Jurgen Prochnow. An Indian woman to
his left in traditional clothing is passing the time reading Michael
Crichton's JURASSIC PARK.

Breakfast was chicken crepe. We guess it was breakfast. It tasted
better than dinner. We landed in Frankfurt and not surprisingly Evelyn just
wanted to rest her foot. That seems her only medical problem from the trip.
Mark is still coughing from a cold and just at the end of the trip got a
mild case of stomach distress, but nothing too bad. And we never were
actually victimized by crime.

Mark was in a small, silent battle of wills waiting for our plane. The
waiting area was full. It was hard to find a place to sit, but we finally
did. Opposite us was a tall, attractive woman who found the clues we saw
was probably Hungarian. She had a heavy purse taking up the chair on one
side of her while talking to a man on the other side. After about fifteen
minutes a timid-looking man asked her if the chair was taken and she said it
was. It irritated Mark that she would take up a chair with her purse when
people were standing. When somebody came along looking for a seat, Mark
would look her in the eye, look at the purse, then look at the person
standing. She saw him doing it too. Eventually a man with a cane asked for
the seat. She looked at Mark, then picked up her purse and put it in her
lap. It was a minor victory for decency.

Frankfurt security is more thorough than Air India. It also happens to
be a lot more respectful and a *lot* faster. They looked at film canisters.
They X-rayed Mark's photo vest and then knew exactly what they were looking
for. The process took maybe two minutes. Danke.

Of course, not everything was perfect. The wrong plane had pulled into
our gate, so they had to bus us to the plane. The bus, like a certain
rabbit, just kept going and going and going and going. Mark began to wonder
if the plane was in Stuttgart. Mark thinks the local radio ad says, Take
the *plane* to the plane.

This time we got an Airbus. The lunch was chicken with a fancy name,
but it also had smoked salmon, two nice pieces of cheese (one Camembert),and
plums with cinnamon cream. Evelyn got the vegetarian meal and it wasn't
nearly as good. The in-flight movie was BORN YESTERDAY, an updating of the
Judy Holliday/Broderick Crawford film. Mark says, They took the original
story and added a theme of 'trust your emotions,' a turning of the tables on
the bad guy, a reading of the Constitution to the 'Twelve Days of
Christmas,' some action and suspense, and a love story. The new film had
whitewalls, fins, flashing lights around the license plate, and a lawn-mower
engine. I'll take the original Cadillac classic version in black and white,
please.

They interrupted the film so you could look down and see the glaciers
of Greenland beneath the plane. Pretty dramatic.

What is amazing to Mark is how comfortable the plane feels. People
dread these long plane flights in little tiny seat spaces, but compared to
Indian first-class trains, and even more compared to their buses in which
we'd sit for seventeen hours, this flight is relaxing and pleasant.

Mark admits, I used to dread the end of vacations and I finally got
myself to point where I was neutral, but just getting around in India was
such an effort that this is the first major vacation that I actually can say
that it feels good to be going home. That is not intended as a slight
against India. (Although I have intentionally tried to be honest rather
than sparing the feelings of people who love India when I have written this
log. I have tried more for candor than discretion.) But I really want to
get home and start enjoying my usual lifestyle. I am getting to the point
where I appreciate the comforts of home.

[This is now two days after. Let us finish.] The plane landed about
4:15 PM. It was cold and gray in Newark. Customs was very quick, very
friendly. There was a passport check, but no interest shown in our luggage
at all. With uncharacteristically good timing, we got out of customs
withing twenty or thirty seconds of when Dale Skran arrived to pick us up.
Evelyn, who had not been sick the whole trip, was silent the whole way home
while Mark told Dale about the trip. (Usually Evelyn is the talkative one
and I am quiet.) As soon as we got home, Evelyn went into the house and
contributed her lunch to the New Jersey sewer system. The only food that
made her sick was on the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt.

Three of our four traps had killed mice. The whole thing was a sort of
downbeat discovery. There was no apparent damage from mice, so it probably
got them early on.

Evelyn's ankle seems to be improving. She did catch cold, and the cold
first manifested itself on the plane on the way home. Mark's digestion is
nearly normal. At this writing Evelyn has lost her voice. Mark is nearly
without jet lag. He will be a little tired in the evenings, but will stay
up until midnight and then sleep until about 7 AM, which is just about
right. Evelyn falls asleep about 9 PM and wakes up about 4 AM. Evelyn lost
about five pounds, Mark about seven. We were never the victims of crime.

Our expenses for this trip were as follows:

Lufthansa - $2510
Indian Airlines - 304
Pre-Trip Books - 100
Visas - 80
Film and Developing - 453
Hotels - 442
Train 80
Local Transportation - 87
Food - 225
Misc - 330
TOTAL - $4611

There is, of course, a certain irony to the fact that our film and
developing cost six times as much as our train travel, and in fact even more
than our hotels. Only the airfare was more. This trip cost slightly more
than our trip to southeast Asia, but that was a few years ago.

Mark concludes, Now let me be fair. This log is a record of what
happened, but we walked into this trip with our eyes open. We wanted an
alien culture and got the most alien culture we have ever seen in our
travels. We got a lot of experience and we got it cheaply. While this log
is in large part about the negative aspects, I must be fair. There were
lots of good and bad aspects to the trip. It may not be soon, but I suspect
we will return to India.




T H E E N D

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