12/19/2007 to 12/27/2007 | India , Rajasthan

Southern Rajasthan: Karin and Jeff trip part I

As I rode Dehli city bus 729 towards Indira Gandhi International airport crammed in aisle amidst the crush of humanity that is Indian public transportation, I was excited at the prospect of seeing my sister, Karin, and brother-in-law, Jeff, after nearly a year away.  I had just completed nearly a week of rest and relaxation in Delhi and I’m sure most people who have been to Delhi couldn’t imagine using rest, relaxation, and Delhi in the same sentence, as the chaotic, traffic-choked, polluted streets of Delhi would hardly fit anyone’s definition of restful or relaxing.  Nevertheless, I managed to fill the days with a mix of photo editing, HBO movies, and “food walks” in which I picked my way through the streets of Delhi partaking in any street food that intrigued me; a little barbequed chicken here, a mutton curry there, with a hot-out-of-the-clay-oven tandorri roti (bread) to soak up the sauce, maybe a few Indian sweets, and a lassie to wash it down.  An hour later I was stuffed for a little over a buck.  While I immensely enjoyed this hiatus of gluttony, I was ready to hit the road again by the time Karin and Jeff arrived and with barely three weeks in India, we would be moving at a much faster pace than I had grown accustom to.  The plan was to head to the southern Rajasthan city of Udaipur from Delhi and then work our way north making stops in the fortress town of Chittor, one of my favorite Rajastani cities Bundi, the wildlife sanctuary of Ranthambore, the Rajasthani capital and heavily tourist city of Jaipur, before meeting up with my father in the holy Sikh city of Amritsar, who was bring a group of college students on a 3 week mid-semester trip to India.

While Karin had been to India 13 years ago with me and the rest of my family, when my father took a group of students there for a semester, this was Jeff’s first time in India.  He didn’t get a soft arrival either, a mere couple hours after they landed we were wondering through the chaotic people and animal filled narrow streets of old Delhi.  When he ran down a side street to get a picture of a cow in the street my sister and I told him you won’t even notice that by the time you leave.  To which he responded “I don’t think I could ever get used to that.”  By the end of the trip we passed several more cows in the street and I don’t think he even turned his head.  It is amazing the kind of sights you get used to in this country.  Being with someone experiencing India for the first time reminded me of that bus ride from Madras (now Chennai) International Airport 13 years ago as an 18 year old kid I stared dumbstruck out the window at the mass of humanity that is India.  People and animals everywhere I remember, pouring out of rickshaws, buses, trains, like replicating “Agent Smiths” in the Matrix trilogy.  On this occasion it was goats possibly managing to out number the people.  Being a few days before the Muslim holiday and feast of Eid al-Adha, the streets were filled with goats.  A large plot of land near the Jama Masjid (Main Mosque) had been converted into an open air goat market.  Literally thousands of goats, all destine for the dinner table in a few days time, the Muslim equivalent of the Thanksgiving turkey.  Of course most Americans don’t buy their Turkeys live.

After a whirl wind tour of the sights of Delhi we took a night train to Udaipur.  Jeff is a big fan of the James Bond movies, so as the setting for the James Bond classic Octopussy he particularly enjoyed lake side city of Udaipur made famous in the West by the film.  After stops at the fortresses of Kumbalgarh and Chittor as well as the marble Jain temples at Ranakpur, we arrived in Bundi.  It was Christmas day when we made the day trip from Bundi out to Hindoli, the friendly picturesque village I had enjoyed so much last time I was in Bundi.  I had printed out some of the pictures I had taken there in Delhi and appropriately enough in the “season of giving” I went around revisiting the some of the family’s I had met last time handing out prints of the pictures I had taken.  A number of the kids who had formed my entourage last time apparently remembered me.  (A short aside:  Whenever I tell Indians my name “Micah” they invariably think I’m saying “Michael” to which the following response is often made, “Michael, Michael Jackson.”)  So I was greeted on the streets of Hindoli with calls of “Michael Jackson!”  I guess they haven’t heard about him lately, or maybe they have and I should be more offended than I was.  It was a fun day for me, although Jeff was battling that infamous Indian condition “Delhi Belly” and a case of diarrhea. Toilets in Hindoli are a rare sight; if they exist at all (I don’t think I’ve actually seen one).  Generally a bit of thick underbrush is about as much as one can hope for when nature makes its call, and it was ringing off the hook for Jeff. I’ve heard a number of “toilet stories” but this one makes me rethink my fondness for pork, maybe the Jews and Muslims have a point.  If you’re reading this over bacon and eggs in the morning, you might want to stop here.  While Karin and I distracted the entourage of kids that accompanied us wherever we walked, Jeff went off to “the bushes.”   He returned to describe how pigs were circling him like vultures over a wounded animal in the desert as he squatted.  As soon as he stood up, the pigs dove in for “the kill” burring their snouts in what was left behind.  After witnessing that, I guess it was no wonder his Christmas dinner consisted of pain toast.

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