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January 16, 2005


My Internet time will probably be limited for the next few days--I've got some heavy travel planned, from Agra to Bharatpur, to Deeg for the day, on to Jaipur, then an overnight train to Bikaner, where I'll arrive the morning of the 19th. I wasn't planning to go to Bikaner, but when I found out there's a camel safari happening there soon, I changed my itinerary. I'm also planning to take a three-day camel safari into the desert from there.

So while I'm battling illogical queues of locals, rickshaw drivers fighting for my attention, and long hours of buses and trains, I thought I'd leave you with some random thoughts that have accumulated in my journal in recent days--a jumble of impressions and ideas in no particular order.

Trucks, rickshaws, all sorts of vehicles have painted on the back "Horn OK Please"--as if they need permission!--but I finally figured out why--they just drive down the street, in whatever lane or combination of lanes they like, with no idea who's behind them going much faster or who they're cutting off, since they can't see out the back and they have no sideview mirrors. So the constant horns are the only way they know to get out of the way.

Plenty of Indians are employed because of an apparently constant need to paint things--metal fences, curbs, concrete walls, etc.

Being an oddity, a curiosity, is overwhelmingly draining. These people think nothing of being completely in my face in ways that would be extremely rude at home--a man leant across the bus aisle to look at the pages of my book as I read, a bicyclist stopped right in front of me to look at the page of my journal as I wrote, numerous people have looked over my shoulder as I took a picture...

The Canadian guy at my guest house is definitely NOT a candidate for travel partner, as quickly determined from the following situation: out at dinner with our rickshaw driver at a local place, the locals were staring (of course) from across the room, and he shouted over to them, "Hey guys--take a picture, it'll last longer." Cringe.

The metal spire on top of the main dome of the Taj Mahal is 18 meters high.

Rickshaw driver extraordinaire: Iklqak Ahmad

Rush hour's when all the cows head home (down the middle of the road) from the country, and the merchant's horse carts head back to the country from the city.

I've seen families of four on motorbikes, and eight people in an auto-rickshaw. Rickshaws carry everything, from huge overflowing crates of who-knows-what to huge pieces of plate-glass to refrigerators. Today, a family of four on a scooter softly slid off the edge of the road into a dusty ravine a few feet below as busloads of people stuck in a rural traffic jam watched--luckily, no one was hurt, although the wife looked pissed and embarrassed, and the husband more worried about his pants having gotten dirty than whether his family was okay.

We saw a funeral procession making its way to the burning ghat between the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. We folded our hands, lowered our heads, tried to look without looking like we were looking.

The Agra Fort has a moat around it--of course--that used to have crocodiles in it. The next bit of land before the fort contained a tiger. And yes, there's a drawbridge.

I hate ignoring people, but I don't know how else to get them to leave me alone. Sometimes they just want me to say hello back, but I can't tell the difference a lot of the time! If they do want to sell me something, or for me to give them money, and I acknowledge their presence in any way, they just go on and on and won't take no for an answer. People trying to sell me things shout "Hello! Madam! Yes! Hello! [insert name of thing/service for sale here]! Very good price! Hello!" It's funny to me how they keep saying hello--as if to say, "You clearly need what I want, you just didn't see me standing here, and as soon as you do, you'll be so glad I'm here with exactly what you need!" "Yes! Hello! Madam!" And if I say no, they want to convince me--"Very good price--not expensive! Good xxx!" There is no comprehension of the fact that I might not want a rattle that looks like a basket, a drum, a light-up keychain of the Taj Mahal, or a rickshaw ride when I just got out of a rickshaw--if I just knew how good the price was, I'd want it. Outside Agra Fort, I said to a guy, whose price on postcards kept going down as he told me how nice they were, "I don't care how much they cost--I don't want any postcards!" Someone taught me how to say "don't want" in Hindi; wish I remembered the words.

Perhaps the tables have turned a bit--just like that old woman at the market in Peru who got huffy with me taking her picture and insisted on money, I've started refusing the innumerable young Indian men out sightseeing who want their picture taken with me. I understand that woman now, who just wanted to go about her business without getting her picture taken every five minutes. And if the pictures must be taken, at least get some money for your trouble! I wonder what they would say if I asked for 10 rupees...

I'm definitely not a guide person. It drives me crazy having someone tell me what to see, what to take pictures of... I'd rather not know what things are and make it up as I go along, free to wander at my own pace.

Animals seen in or along the road in India: cats, dogs, chickens, mice, chipmunks, pigs, goats, cows, sheep, water buffalo, camels, elephants, peacocks.

Hope you've enjoyed this stream of consciousness trip through India!

Posted by Amy on January 16, 2005 08:53 AM
Category: India

Ah, good old India. I should have warned you about the stares and roaming animals. But, it's quite the sight, huh?

Posted by: Nadia on January 16, 2005 02:05 PM

Hey Amy, How can you forget the golden words I told you. Hmm... The hindi word yuo need to use is .. "NAHIN" it means no. and IF you want to say you DOn't want then look those guys in eyes and say with a stern voice " NAHIN CHAHIYE " pronunced as Ne'-heen CHaa-hee-ye. DO let me know if you need to know any more Hindi words. Take care and enjoy you Rajasthan tour. Got a mail from Vlad, he mentioned you guys are planning to meet in Rajhasthan. SHould be fun.

Posted by: anshul arora on January 17, 2005 01:13 PM

ahh, so many of the things you mentioned here are just so damn true. it's definitely exciting on one hand, but tiring at other times to be the oddity in town. i've gotten sooo many stares, "hellos" etc. usually it's all good, but sometimes i just wish i wasn't so conspicuous!

Posted by: vlad on January 19, 2005 02:04 AM

Hello Amy! Hello! I enjoyed the stream of consciousness. Sounds like a dizzying place. I'm sure it makes South America seem about as foreign as South Jersey.

Posted by: Fred on January 20, 2005 11:38 PM
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