I am not a patient person. I drive too fast. I don’t like to wait for people. I hate it when people are late. I am a neat freak. If you move my toothpaste, my sense of yin and yang are confused. So, I am at a little bit of a impasse here in India. It is dirty and smelly. People take craps in the middle of the street. Literally. It smells of sewage. There are so many beggars. Nothing is on time and nobody does what they say they are going to do. You get ripped off half the time and feel like you are getting ripped off all of the time. Everybody wants a tip, even if you don’t want the service they think they are providing (like little boys singing songs in English then holding out their hand). Everybody has the “best tour” or the “best hotel” or the “best food”.
So, why am I here, you ask. It sounds like a horrible place, doesn’t it? Well it’s not that bad. Sometimes I get a tad overwhelmed and aggravated with all the beggars and the dirt and the scams. But you have to look past that and see what else is there. And it is really quite interesting.
We went to a spice market the other day. The spices are yellow and orange and red. I have no idea what they are called. I think they may be saffron, turmeric and chili. I do know that what we consider “curry” powder is really a mixture (they call it a “masala”) of these spices. They stack them up in little pyramids (they are ground up, like chili powder or paprika) and they line up all the pyramids, so the market is row after row of colorful spices.
The women all wear saree’s, which is a skirt or pants with a matching top and a “shawl”. The shawl is actually a piece of fabric about 20 feet long by 3 feet wide and they wrap it around their waist a couple of times then up and over the front and around the back and sometimes over the head. The sarees are bright colors with crazy patterns. It is so fun to see a group of all the colored ladies together.
India was quite rich at one time. Before the Portuguese started doing the spice trading by sea, goods were taken over land, through India and Pakistan to Turkey or Europe, usually by camel. Silk, spices, tea and opium were some of the big exports. This made for some really rich cities with the king (Raj) sometimes having several palaces. In Udaipur, the king had a Lake Palace in the middle of the lake, a City Palace and a Monsoon Palace, which was high up on a hill and he would retreat to when the rains came. These palaces are all very opulent.
The Hindu temples are huge, with little carvings all over the entire thing. When you go into a temple, you must take off your shoes. Also, as cows are sacred (and treated as Gods) you must not enter the temple with any leather items on.
We went to one city called Jodhpur, which was not named after the riding pants, but actually it is the other way around. When the British first came here, they bought the pants in India and loved the pants so much that they started to sell them back in England as Jodhpurs.
The Taj Mahal, which we went to today, was built by a king who’s wife died. He built it as a monument to her. It took something like 22 years to build. Her body was buried in the middle of it. Everything is symmetrical. In fact, once he died, they didn’t know what to do, since her body was already smack dab in the middle, so it would mess up the symmetry by putting him next to her. They did it anyway, but built a little box around it, so the box around it still fits in with the symmetry.
So today we are in Agra. It is the home of the Taj Mahal. Surprisingly, I have only been stopped on the street and asked to buy post cards, a little tiny snow globe with the Taj Mahal inside, 47 tours of the Taj Mahal, “authentic” Indian paintings and antiques, breakfast, lunch and a “good rooftop view, the best in Agra”. But I put up with these things because I know that it’s all worth it.