Saturday, January 06, 2007

India redux, part 1: Delhi/Haridwar

hello lovles,
we have returned to Brooklyn... it is wonderful to be back. The cats are happy to see us, though our lovely subletter Sara Jane took great care of them and of our home, which made homecoming very sweet. PLUS we had almost a week in Trenton with my mother and stepfather, sleeping off the jetlag and catching up with ourselves and the fam.

I have decided upon our return to broadband to start posting the pictures that we should have been posting all along, with some explanations. This first batch is from our first week in India, in Delhi and Haridwar.

This picture is from our very first, very culture-shocky autorickshaw ride. We took a municipal bus from the airport into Delhi... and got caught in a traffic jam. Then we got left on a dusty streetcorner crowded with schoolkids somewhere near Connaught Place, where we had a room booked (at the YWCA). Later we found out that the traffic jam was due to the BJP rally that was taking place at the Parliament building -- right next to the Y. That first day in Delhi was a blur of traffic, dust, jetlag, and Hindu fundamentalist demonstrators on sitting on carpets covering the Samsad Marg outside the Y... this photo is a view of Aaron in the rear-view mirror of the autorickshaw we took to Samsad Marg, till we had to get out because of the rally and our first crew of Hijras (drag queens) met us, with our backpacks on... We gave them some rupees (it's supposed to be good luck -- bad luck if you don't! they are really beautiful in their sarees.) and stumbled in to the Y to get some sleep.

The next day we went to the Crafts Museum in Delhi, a really wonderful place if you ever find yourself in the subcontinent! -- they have a really amazing collection of arts from all over India, and samples of traditional huts and sculpture spread out over the grounds. We also stopped at the tank & shrine of a 14th(?)-century Sufi mystic, who is commemorated by earthenware pots stuck on the ends of tree limbs (???) It was a gorgeous spot, high up on a hill, and we were serenaded with harmonium and tabla. The shrine-keepers gave us prasad (sweets that are first offered to a divinity) and let us make the ceremonial circuit around the tomb.

Then we were off to Haridwar on the train, about 4 hours. Haridwar is what Aaron calls a "pilgrim mill," a destination for the devout... We arrived at night, and it was really cold there, in the Himalayan foothills. We caught our first bicycle rickshaw ride there -- I found it so strange to be perched on these little seats, with our backpacks, behind a man in a woolen shawl laboring to pedal us up the hill. Haridwar is full of shawls and pilgrims and steamy chai stands. It is somewhere between a town and a city, one of those places which has an extremely variable population depending on religious festivals. Every evening at sunset people sail little banana-leaf boats full of flowers and lit candles and incense down the Ganges -- it is the place where the Ganges comes roaring out the mountains. The water there is very fast and cold and blue. At one spot over the river, on a footbridge, some enterprising citizens with butterfly nets fish things out -- offerings that people have put in upstream (coconuts) and things that fall in (underpants!)... I spent the first couple of days in Haridwar with my jaw on the ground, trying to get out of the way of motorbikes zooming through the tiny crowded streets of the bazaar, vying with bicycle rickshaws and cows, not to mention other pedestrians... there's no peaceful strolling through there, and lots of beeping, ringing, buzzing, etc. Some of these photos are of old statuary, offerings left in the Ganges, that have been there over the ages.


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