>Tuesday, March 27

If there is one word to sum up my trip to India thus far, it is busy! We have crammed an immense amount of sightseeing and shopping into two full days. As I write this, I am on the bus going to Agra. Other than nighttime when I need to sleep, it's the first occasion I have had to really sit down and write. (Next I'll need to find some wi-fi to be able to post this…)

On Sunday, I mentioned that Ray, John, and I had some misadventures walking around. Since then, we discovered this was partly because it was too early to go out, and thus most normal pedestrians were not out. From there, the tour group left and we saw many historic sights (Qutb Mintar, Haymun's tomb where I peed in a bathroom that required squatting over a drain with little urinal mints on it), and two temples (a lotus-shaped Bhai temple with stunning gardens and a Hindu temple). I think the temple was dedicated to Vishnu or Shiva, but Kumar/Apurva, who I now refer to as Fearless Leader because he is the most incompetent guide ever, was impossible to follow. I know there was a statue of Shiva and Lakshmi in the temple, though. The courtyard had a Ganesh shrine, too.

After dinner at the hotel, we went to the worst show I ever sat through. It was at the Red Fort, which was built by Shah Jahan in the 1600s. We were told the show re-creates the history of Delhi through lights and sound. Cool. Except that what it really entailed was an audio track of random bits of information and "historic conversation" that played on surround sound while colored lights illuminating a few buildings. I've been more elucidated watching paint dry. Its one redeeming feature was an utterly insane comment from the narrator about how one Mughal emperor loved "a common slut." Yes, that is a direct quote. Then a "historic conversation" between said emperor and slut took place.

"You will come to live in the place with me," Emperor said.

"But what about so-and-so?" Common Slut, retorted slyly.

"Who is so-and-so?" Emperor asked, puzzled.

"She is my best friend who sells the most luscious watermelons in the whole market. You will never taste such watermelons as she has," Common Slut purred.

"Oh ho ho," horny Emperor chuckle. "Then she will need to move into the palace, too. I can never get enough watermelons."

I am not making this up. I pictured him rubbing his hands together in eager anticipation as a red light shined on a building.

Yesterday (Monday) morning, Ray and I went back to the area and there were many more varieties of people out, plus the shops were open. I bought a peacock blue Punjabi dress, which is what most women seem to wear here. I also got some little toys for my godsons, and as per her request, a "sexy belt" for the Sauce.

After our morning shopping session, the group headed out for more sightseeing. First they decided that unlike Sunday, people might actually want to eat lunch. Unfortunately, no one told us of this plan so we ate a super huge late breakfast and were not hungry. Worse, they took us to a Chinese restaurant. Sigh. Someone lost her passport at the restaurant, and then didn't say anything about it for a few hours. People are weird.

My favorite part of the trip so far came next. We took the extremely efficient, beautiful, and cheap subway a few stops to Old Dehli. Then Fearless Leader nearly lost half the group because he does not bother to try and keep track of people as we attempt to follow him down narrow jammed streets and across 6 lanes of traffic that never stop. (You have to find an opportunity to run across whenever you can.) Amazingly, we all made it, and he organized rickshaws to take us on a ride through the streets and markets of Old Delhi Think Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but with people and motor scooters and other rickshaws and carts drawn by men loaded with all sorts of goods coming at you nonstop. Some of the people in my group were beset by beggars, many of whom were children, but I was not bothered. I was, however, clocked in the shoulder when the rickshaw driver did not swerve to avoid a man carrying a number of pallets on his head. It was both terrifying and utterly exhilarating. I loved it.

Really, anything after the rickshaws was bound to be a letdown, and the Jama Masjid, the last grand architectural project by Shah Jahan was rather boring. A bird shit on me while we were there. The good news is that I have a ridiculously large straw hat, and the brim prevented crap from getting on me. It was easier to wipe off my hat than it would have been my shoulder or hair.

The final tour stop was at the place that Gandhi was cremated. The pyre spot is in a stunning and quiet park. Then the bus headed back towards our hotel, although half of us got off early and went shopping. I got a beautiful sleeveless shirt for myself, a birthday present for Sara (happy belated b-day, by the way!), a ridiculous hat for Husband that makes me giddy with anticipation, and a religious statue for Sister and Sister's Husband that ties a little into Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, our favorite movie to quote.

Speaking of Indy, the movie was all about renegade worship of the goddess Kali. As a result of the movie, I am slightly obsessed with Kali. I once asked Dr. H, who is Hindu, to explain more to me about Kali and she noted that Kali is not all evil as shown in the movie. Currently, devotees to Kali are celebrating a festival, which I am rather excited about. There was a huge Kali temple near the B'hai Temple and the roads were lined with booths selling items to offer Kali. Most common was a coconut wrapped in a red cloth. Then I noticed that the scary ramshackle temple (called mandir in Hindi, FYI) was a Kali Mandir, so that was quite thrilling. I wanted to offer a coconut, but the temple was actually surrounded by homeless people and beggars, so I stayed away.

That's the story thus far. Other than wanting to kill a member of the group I refer to as Piggy (after the character in Lord of the Flies, who continually makes inane, and worse, racist comments – I am Jack sharpening my spear) and Fearless Leader, I am enjoying everything immensely. More to come. (Sorry this is so long, but I was storing up a lot of reports.)

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