Day 6: Jaipur — Poverty and Massages

Despite a late start for Jaipur, I arrived by 2PM. Luckily, Mr. T was no longer with me, so I was not slowed down further. Manog, my driver, knows the streets of every City we pass through. I suppose he must do this Golden Triangle journey quite often for NRIs (Non Resident Indians).

Jaipur, “the pink city” is colorful and crazier than Delhi. While entering the City, we passed camels, cows, elephants, monkeys, stray dogs, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, pushcarts, and pedestrians peacefully using the unlined roads to get to their destinations. I was awed.

My hotel booking was at the local Holiday Inn. At the main entrance a guard stood stoically, when

I reached the door, he saluted me, stomped his foot down, smiled and then opened the door. I awkwardly saluted him, and proceeded to the check-in counter.

The clerk asks, “How many of you are there?” I hesitated, because I am confused, “Umm one, I mean two. Actually…I am not sure” In this brief two-second stint, I am sure this clerk thinks I am a fool. But, I am wondering where my driver is supposed to sleep. I quickly called my family-friends in Delhi; however, they did not pick-up. I told the clerk there would be two people staying so I could be on the safe side.

In Jaipur I saw three key sights: City Palace, Jantar Mantar, and Hawa Mahal.  The City palace is still owned by the former Maharajas family; thus, only 25% of the palace is open to tourists. The palace was pompous, as expected, but really didn’t have too much more to offer. Jantar Mantar, contains large astrological measurement devices (e.g., the largest sundial in the world). Hawa Mahal was a building created so that women of the palace could safely view the City and see what is going on.

After running around for a good 4-5 hours, I was pretty tired. I skimmed through my guidebook and found a Kerala Ayurveda Kendra (massage place) – it sounded interesting and Lonely Planet recommended it. We had to drive through the traffic infested City to get there.

At one point, we were stuck for nearly 20 minutes: I was sitting peacefully, recollecting the day’s events. I heard a tapping on the window, a Young Girl, no older than 15, was holding her famished naked baby. She kept tapping on the window and bowing to me and saying “Money…milk for baby. Please sir.” I looked at her for a moment; I looked at her baby for moment; I sunk my head into one hand — I was not sure what to do.

I had heard stories from my parents: Once, my Mom slightly lowered her window to give some money, and in moments 4-5 kids were hanging off the window asking for money. The driver attempted to speed away to get the kids to let go; however, they held on for a couple blocks.

The incessant tapping seemed like it had been going on for an eternity, but it had only been a few seconds. I picked out the first thing of food I saw in my backpack – masala chips – and cautiously looked around to make sure I wouldn’t have 4-5 children hanging off my window and gave them to the girl. I quickly rolled up my window. She looked at the chips and then started to say, “No feed baby. Please sir, money for milk.” This continued for nearly 10 minutes until traffic cleared up. I would like to think had I not been in traffic and had there not been other beggars around, I would have given her some money. I always think that simply giving money is not a solution — it’s like giving Tylenol to someone who has a broken leg – they might feel better for a little, but then what?

I continued on to the Kerala Ayurveda Kendra where I would receive a 70 minute massage for a little under 20 dollars. I felt guilty given that I was unwilling to spare 100 rupees to the girl and her baby.

Day 5: Delhi — More of Delhi, Art, and Buddhist Talks

On Tuesday, we visited the National Museum, National Galley of Modern Art, and Humayan’s Tomb.  I asked my driver to take me to the National Gallery of Modern Art: I asked, “National Art Gallery?” (with an Indian accent). Mr. T and my driver replied “Yes sir. Yes Sir.” I asked again, “National ART Gallery?” and again they replied, “Yes Sir. Yes Sir.” After entering, I could easily see that it wasn’t an art gallery. In general, I hear “Yes Sir” way too much, and I really need to learn Hindi.

Next, we visited the National Gallery of Modern Art.  As some of you may know I enjoy photography quite a bit. The main exhibit was Raghu Rai, he has this ability to capture moments perfectly. I think his photography describes India better than anything you can read. Please go search for him on Google, you will be impressed.

Lastly, I visited Humayans Tomb (the blueprint for the Taj Mahal) – a worthwhile visit and I was able to get a respite from Mr. T (I ran away from him and he could not keep up).  I then went off to my neighbor from NJs place, so I could join her for an art exhibition and a talk on Buddhism.

The art exhibition was awesome because it was the first art exhibition I had gone to, and because it was in Delhi. The two well known Buddhist speakers/authors discussed the concept of faith. I found it really interesting, if you want to hear more, let me know – I jotted down some notes and thoughts. Most everyone at both events was from America and lived in Delhi.

Up next…the Golden Triangle: Jaipur, Agra and (back to) Delhi.

Day 4: Delhi — I have a Body Guard?

My family-friends have kindly found me a driver and a Body Guard (actually, a Personal Security Officer). I am not sure if my parents expressed some concerns about me going around India on my own – I highly doubt this as rarely present any objections to my randomness. Nonetheless, Rathorg (I am not sure how to spell or pronounce his name.), a gentleman from Rajasthan was at my service (I will call him Mr. T for the remainder of my story). Mr. T. introduced himself as the former Prime Ministers body guard and some other credentials (Kung Fu, Tae Kwon do, etc.). Thankfully, he spoke Hindi, so I didn’t have to worry about making awkward conversation. Throughout the rest of my site seeing through Delhi, Mr. T was my shadow – wherever I went, he went.

I …We…Mr. T. and I visited Rajpath, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Connaught Place, and Lodi Gardens. Rajpath is basically a road in Delhi, at one end is India Gate (a memorial for Indians who died in WWII) and at the other end is the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House) – between the two points are government buildings galore. The Gurdwara Bandla Sahib was my first visit to a Sikh Temple — when going in, they tied a pink cloth around my head. I am uncertain why the guard at the front chose pink; however, I am happy to say I looked ridiculous. Connaught Place is a shopping area with mix of high-end stores (Indian and International) and local retail shops. Nearly all prices for similar goods in the US are the same price. After having an amazing lunch at McDonalds (their veggie burgers are a vegetarians dream), I ventured off to Lodi Gardens.

Within Lodi Gardens grounds are the tombs of Lodi rulers. My shadow always was a step behind (by the way, he insisted on carrying my backpack and calling me “Sir”), I found the whole concept awkward and annoying. The grounds are beautiful and serene; however, they are not well kept. Throughout the tombs I saw markings on the walls: “Poonam loves Raj” or “Amy

A couple side notes:
…at the Lodi Gardens and other touristy attractions, I have noticed quite a few lovebirds. Dating, sex, drugs, etcetera are voodoo topics in Indian households, I presume couples come to tourist areas where they are quite certain that they will not be caught.
… I get dinner with my sister (i.e. my neighbor of 20 years in NJ) and some of her friends — one of her friends is Nepalese and tells how the newspapers in Nepal have matrimonial listings by caste!
… I go out to a bar and club with my roommates sister, Aqua and Cuba – I feel like I am in a high-end NYC bar and club. I had a phenomenal time, especially listening to a Thai band sing American songs (None of the singers had a Thai accent!)