Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jama Masjid



Continuing on the religious theme, I also checked out Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, which is India's biggest Mosque. I think the picture pretty much describes it: massive red stone courtyard facing the large temple. It's framed by two minarets -- the one on the left is where they make the call for prayer. The lines you see on the ground are where the worshippers kneel for their prayers.

Sikh Temple


Checked out the Gurdwara Bangla Seikh Temple this weekend… interesting stuff. The temple is open for worship all day and open to everyone, so long as you take your shoes off and wear a turban to cover your hair (which, luckily, the temple will lend you if you don’t happen to have one.)

Once you get your turban, you walk up a stairway that has a trickle of water flowing down it. The worshippers touch their hand to the water on their way up and brush it against their forehead, a few even doing it on each step.

Inside the large prayer hall, you find a place to sit on the ground, facing a brightly lit glass shrine (no idea what was in it, appeared to be a book and some robes) while three men play drums and sing. There was no centrally led prayer, just people sitting and rocking to the music.

After taking this scene in for about 20 minutes, I decided to head for the door. People exiting were routed to the front, past the main shrine and then down some steps to another smaller shrine, where they would touch their hands to the glass and saying prayers until an usher told them that they needed to move forward. Then it was back down the water steps to the exit, where you were given a handful of grain on the way out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nayabas




The town I went to last weekend in rural India was called Nayabas, in the state of Rajasthan. Two vanloads of us from work took off from New Delhi traveling East and South along a highway, and the towns and villages became smaller and smaller, as did the roads until we finally ran out of road and were driving on farmland paths.

None of us knew where Nayabas was and no map could tell you exactly how to get there so navigation was a bit more like sailing than driving. We'd try to keep an East-Southeast bearing, and as we got closer we would ask people if they knew of a road/path that would take us to Nayabas.

No one in the village had been told we were coming so there was an explosion of curiousity when the vans rolled up. After about 2 minutes of shyness, the kids wanted to start playing or having their pictures taken, and the grownups would invite us into their homes for tea or a smoke. Most of the homes were three-walls with a celing and a few of the buildings had a second story. There was also a central courtyard with about 10 buffalo for milk.

After dinner in one of the homes (and a wolf search that only turned up a few foxes), we slept on the front poarch of one of the houses under the stars. The villagers watched us fall asleep and were still there watching us when we woke up in the morning.

In the morning, the kids took us on a 10 minute walk past the town's wheat fields and we went swimming in the nearby river until a bunch of the buffalo showed up for their turn to wallow in the water.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Watch Me Dance

From the Holi party I went to. Impossible not to dance to these drummers.


video

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Elephant vs. Camel




So as previously noted, I've had the opportunity to ride both a camel and an elephant in the same weekend. Who knew that riding these two beasts of burden could be such opposite experiences?

1) Boarding: Both animals kneel down so you can climb on, but you board an elephant from the front, stepping on it's neck and the riding on the very top of its back. You board a camel from the back, riding behind it's hump (at least that's wht you do with a single hump camel,).

2) Liftoff. Once aboard a camel or an elephant, there is a moment of sheer terror at the beginning of the ride. An elephant rises on its front legs so that its back becomes sloped at a severe angle. You grab on and pray to holy god that you don't fall off the back. With a camel, its the opposite. The animal rises from its back legs so you think you're going to topple forward.

3) Ride: Both rides are very bumpy. I couldn't imagine trekking across a vast desert or jungle aboard either animal. The motion sickness would kill. but again there's a difference: An elephant has a rumbling gait that rocks you from side to side, while a camel lurches forward and back.

Finally, note the coloring from Holi on the elephant's trunk and face. Even the animals get in on the Holi fun!

Holi Photos

A few before and after shots from the Holi festival last week. I'm a nice, clean young man in flowing traditional garb on the way in. A mess on the way out.

The party was at a farm and a bit Woodstockish in feel, with peole drinking a marijuana-laced fruit drink called bhang while dancing to Indian music and throwing dye all over each other. A very good vibe and fun time:


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Add riding an elephant to the list. And going on a night-time search for a wolf on a wheat farm. And eating a dish called Raabv that's just like grits with an Indian farm family.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quick update

A few things I did rural India today:

Rode: A camel.

Drank: Buffalo milk.

Saw: In addition to the aforementioned camel, a monkey and an elephant.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Holi Holiday

Today is Holi, which is India's spring festival. Apparently I will not be able to walk down the street without getting doused in colorful paint. We'll see what happens... pictures to come!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Call to prayer

Just heard my first ever call to prayer from the Mosque near our office. Exactly at 5pm. Pretty cool.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

WK from Satellite Photo

Here's a link to a satellite image of the intersection where the office is located. We're in the building that's just south of the words "Adhchini Crossing".The hotel where I'm staying this week is about half a mile away from here. I walk into work along the road called Saheed Jeet Singh Marg.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=india&sll=42.358544,-142.646484&sspn=28.568463,56.337891&ie=UTF8&ll=28.536364,77.197661&spn=0.002078,0.003439&t=h&z=18

Flickr Photos

Here's a photostream that I think illustrates what I was trying to say about the poverty here being so striking, but that there's also an amazing vibrancy.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meanestindian/

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Made it to Delhi

Arrived in Delhi at 2:30 am and got a cab to my hotel. As I exited the airport, I immediately got hustled by a few men offering to carry my bags to the taxi.

In Delhi, it's impossible for a foreigner not to be struck immediately by the poverty and lack of infrastructure. From the airport's gravel parking lot, we took a patchy two lane road into the city. Dirt seemed to be the main roadside feature, along with the shanties and dilapidated buildings that ran along the street. As we drove past one cluster I could see a family sleeping on a mattress that lay on the floor of their three-wall shelter.

But there are several charming things about Delhi, especially after living in Shanghai for four months.  First, even though both cities have more than 20 million people, Delhi seems smaller. The area where I'm staying doesn't have many high rise buildings and there are nice patches of trees and grass with birds chirping throughout the streets. In Shanghai, there's never a moment where you aren't aware that you're living in a mega-city, whereas my neighborhood in Delhi could just as easily be in a much smaller town.

It's also very colorful. The buildings, the cars, the clothing, and the jewelry are all vibrant. This probably has to do with the weather: sunny and warm. Perfect conditions for city explorations this weekend!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

China Goodbye

Had a farewell to China dinner last night. It was actually at the same restaurant where I had my very first China meal. Full circle. The menu included pig's ears and jellyfish. I also successfully ate tofu with chopsticks, which isn't easy to do.

Next Blog post will be from India!