Day 10: Delhi – Leave Indira Gandhi Airport/Arrive in JFK — Parting Thoughts

Sunday, my last day in Delhi was low-key. I had lunch with my family-friends who arranged for me to be treated like a king in Agra.

During lunch we chatted about Red Fort Syndrome/Phenomenon (as my family-friends have begun to refer to the concept amongst friends). Despite how Indian television shows may portray the connected nature of Indian families (i.e. Everyone knows everyones business), seemingly all the changes is forcing individuals to attempt to maintain the pace by working longer hours, traveling more, and being more connected via Blackberrys and laptops.  The result is that families are becoming far more focused on their nuclear families, rather than on the community of families, friends and neighbors.

Indians are known for having chai and snacks with family-friends all the time, but now these events are diminishing. Despite all the leaps in modern conveniences — expressways, Blackberrys, EVDO cards, etc. – that should make connecting with people easier, people are too busy to actually enjoy the increased conveniences.

I have been really lucky to do a fair bit of traveling the past couple years. And, I realize that I am most jealous of the community aspect that so many countries still have. Despite what my family-friends have said about the Red Fort Phenomenon, India still seems very community-based and driven – where people actually know their neighbors.

I recall when our new neighbors were moving in NJ, and my Mom went to welcome them – they quickly went into her house and closed the door. We have tried multiple times and despite the fact that we live 20 feet away, we have no idea what their names are or anything about them.

Three years later, I think we have to simply presume they are afraid of us…

Looking back on the past couple years of the many neighbors I have had, I can barely recall any of their names or anything about them.

I really liked a quote that my neighbor from NJ that is living in Delhi had on her wall:

The Paradox of Our Age — His Holiness the 14th Dalia Lama

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

More conveniences, but less time;

We have more degrees, but less sense;

More knowledge, but less judgment;

More experts but more problems;

More medicines, but less healthiness

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back

But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever,

But have less communication;

We have become long on quantity,

But short on quality.

These are times of fast foods,

But slow digestion;

Tall man but short character;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window

But nothing in the room.

I left Delhi around 10PM last Sunday. I was really sad to go: I had an amazing time, in such a short amount of time. I got to meet a friend right before I left on Sunday, she said there has to be a reason you came here all of a sudden. Looking back at how perfectly everything worked out, perhaps there is. I am hoping I will be back very soon.

Right before I got in the car to head for the airport, my Aunt gave me a glass of water to take a quick sip of. Whenever I have gone on long journeys my Mom or Aunts in the states have done the same thing. I believe it’s a way of giving good luck for a safe journey. The small cultural innuendo was comforting, it made me feel at home.

I arrived in the US by 7:30AM on Monday morning, got to my apartment by 8AM, and got to work by 9:30AM — it’s been a busy week. Thanks for listening.

Day 9 : Mathura, Vrindravan – Temples

I woke up early on Saturday morning so I could go to Mathura (the birthplace of Lord Krishna) and Vindravan (where Krishna grew up) – after all, he is my namesake.

The odd aspect of these places is that the cities are quite slum-like, despite their spiritual and religious significance.  Kesava Deo Temple, the temple at the location of Krishna, was well guarded. Due to utter a few stupid Hindu and Muslim fanatics significant religious sites require 24 hour security.
The temple was actually quite simple – nothing too large or pompous. There have been a couple places that I have found very peaceful and calming – this was definitely one of them.
I felt comfortable but a little odd too – I can’t recall the last time I went to any place of religious or spiritual significance without my parents. Usually they led the way with what to do, but this time I had to figure it out on my own.
I then proceeded to Vindravan. After driving this SUV through streets intended only for pedestrians for nearly an hour, we had still not found the temple I wanted to see (there are 15 or more). Eventually, I told Manoj not to worry, and we should just continue on to Delhi. He insisted he would keep looking, so I just went with it. Eventually he took me to the Hari Krishna temple. I am sure it can be imagined, but a majority of the devotees/worshipers were Caucasian which I thought was really cool. Overall, the temple was a site to see – despite the chaos there was something very calming about it. The one difference between Hindu temples, and Mosques and Churches is that the temples are chaotic: there are 101 things going (It’s fun! Very few rules…)
I arrived in Delhi by mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

Day 7 & 8: Agra — Traveling like Royalty

 

I made an early start on Thursday since I wanted to visit the Amber Fort in Jaipur before heading off for Agra. The fort is set high above Jaipur. On the ride up we were stopped in traffic. A gentlemen, around my height and age, said, “Tour, Sir? Very important for Amber Fort.” I quickly said, “No, no.” and looked forward. He continued to follow me at the window, trying to convince me of the importance of the tour. For nearly 30 meters he ran in line with my window as we ascended the mountain – eventually, he ran into a bike and most likely bruised himself up a bit and stopped.

The fort was impressive; however Indian archeological sites of interest have a tendency of not being tourist friendly with respect to maps and history. Tour guides are usually needed, but I was in a hurry.

From Jaipur we drove straight to Agra. We arrived at the Jaypee Palace, my family-friend’s property in Agra. Within the first 30 minutes of being at the hotel, I am greeted by the head managers and the VP of the hotel. They have set up my itinerary for the next two-days and have arranged for one of the managers to accompany me to all the sites.

Anil, a manager from the Jaypee Palace, would accompany everywhere I went over the next two days.  I was hesitant about the idea, but there wasn’t really an option, as they had made all the arrangements for tours, a car, refreshments in the car (just in case I wanted something), meals, etc.

I arrived in Agra by 3PM and we head off to the Taj Mahal by 5PM. Anil bought me a refreshment and told me to wait for him as he bought the tickets. I was utterly confused but my family-friends seemingly took care of everything; I simply had to breathe, walk, and enjoy the sites.

Everyone told me the Taj was magnificent and words cannot describe it.  I just stood there and starred – the only other thing I have starred at similarly are the Swiss mountain ranges. According to Lonely Planet, Rabindranath Tagore attempted to sum up the Taj’s beauty: “a teardrop on the face of eternity.” Perhaps that is a better description? Beats me – just go see itJ

***

The following day we set off for Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort. They – Jaypee Palace management – had packed refreshments in a cooler in case I were to get thirsty. To say the least, I was traveling comfortably.

Anil could speak English quite well, so we chatted quite a bit about the changes in India. What bothered me during the journeys was how he attempted to cater to my every need: “Sir, does the temperature in the car suit you?” or “Sir, could I get you a refreshment” or “Sir, would you like to an Autorickshaw or horse and carriage” The whole concept of “Sir” when someone is older than me has been difficult for me to get used.

During Akbar’s reign of the Mughal Empire, Fatephur Sikri  was the capital. Eventually, they vacated the area because of the lack of water. The palace was magnificent and worth seeing. The most interesting aspect is Akbar’s palace because the architecture meshes Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. Akbar had three wives – one Muslim, one Christian, and one Hindu (and 300 concubines). Given all the conflicts that exist today amongst religions, I think it is awesome to see the representation of all the religions in architecture from long ago.