Sunday, March 30, 2008

Indian Road Trip and the Taj Mahal

traveling in style -luxury car with video monitor? like we need more Indian things going on

No matter how modern these guys tried to be with their pointy Italian leather shoes and the latest fashions, they still embraced tradition. We would oscillate between sexy Bollywood music videos, and traditional screechy wailing Indian. You can take the boy out of India, but you can't take India out of the boy. The culture is so strong, I don't think you could take it out of me, either. After only 3 weeks, I am forever changed. 

still a week after Holi, but these kids are still celebrating. They are drunk, have rocks in their hands and they want money. Problem is, they're the 20th batch of kids that had this idea from Udaipur to Mt. Abu. Luckily we had lots of 10 rupee notes (25 cents), or we could have been in serious trouble, as we saw some other motorist coming the other way who were stopped at a barricade with no small change and they weren't going anywhere. The virtues of good change management. 

a couple flat tires, but who's counting? Aryan our driver/friend is on task as a dust storm rolls through

Jain temple carved out of white marble. 

The Jains are a sect of Hindu that are so strictly vegetarian, that they wear face masks to prevent accidentally breathing in the smallest of  bugs, and they sweep every step they take to prevent stepping on anything living that might have been in their path.

Screenings of Octopussy nightly in guesthouses constantly remind you that yes, they filmed that here.

I was constantly asked to take people's picture. Kids, adults - they just wanted to be validated? and see themselves on the back of the digital camera. Adults would shake my hand or pat me on the back, and the kids would scamper off giggling. 

how could I come to India without visiting the Taj Mahal?
But it's surrounded by the congested city of Agra, a dust bowl traffic tout getto dump, which shrouds the beautiful monument to love with pollution so thick, it blocks the sunrise and sunset.

Since there were too many busloads of fat white tourists in shorts and tanktops at the Taj everyday, I hung out across the river and on top of my $10/night ghetto guesthouse.

my room had so much mold on one wall it looked like faux painting, but the view from the rooftop restaurant was priceless.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Celebrating Holi Festival in India

with Puri and Mukesh

Happy Holi! Another festival!  This festival is one of India's craziest, as even the kids get drunk (like letting your kids drink wine on Christmas), a lot of baang lassis get consumed,  and everybody rubs toxic paint over everybody. But it can get out of hand, as "nothing counts" on Holi day, as drunk boys feel themselves anonymous, finally having the freedom in this conservative society, to grope and feel for this one day. But Tanu, Puri, and Mukesh promised that they'd protect me. They grew up here and know the whole town, so I put lemon seed oil over all exposed skin so the noxious color wouldn't stain, and hopped on the back of a motorbike. We ripped around town like a color gang past castles and camels caught somewhere between ancient times and future/sci fi/ armegadon on acid. We visited everyone's family and friends and had to drink beer, coca cola, and eat a variety of sweets at each stop. Had I known how many visits we'd make I would have paced myself better. The cows and dogs were colored for weeks after, and still wandered around oblivious to it all.

check out this video!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

maharajas and camel farts

I'm actually splurging and spending $10/night for a room in a castle/fort, with my own carved balcony complete with silk cushions, overlooking Jaisalmer, a city carved out of sandstone near the Pakistan border. I feel like a movie star walking through the town square, never have I been so popular. I end up getting 'stuck' in Jaisalmer, as I end up meeting Tanu, and together with his friends, we hang out many evenings on the roof of his upscale hotel with the lights of the city below, and order up room service and home cooked meals like we're rock stars. I'm treated like a queen, or king, I guess, because the maharajahs didn't treat their queens very good in the day.


adventures with Cuba (Mr. Happy)
The local dialect amongst these desert people sounds very ancient, and I can't wrap my tongue around it. They would invent names up that we could pronounce, so I ended up meeting a lot of Mickey's and Lucky's, and I had to change my name to 'Dia' so they could pronounce my name.

I caught the neighbor girls playing dress up, until they saw me. Then they played dress up with me. They had to run next door to get a bigger dress, though. 

Matar was my fearless camel driver for 5 days. He would cook me chai and 3 hot meals a day, but by the end of day 3, I was wishing for anything, ANYTHING, cold. On day 2 we saw a black cobra, so I didn't sleep as good the following nights, just nestled between 2 blankets right on the sand. Here's a tip: try to be the lead camel so you don't have to smell camel farts.
Matar was Muslim, so he didn't drink, but every now and then I'd catch him chewing opium. 

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Holy Cow! I'm in India

India. All comedy, all day, but with no spell check, and cows wander about everywhere, like spoiled children. 

I'm overwhelmed by the warmth of the people, the colors, the filth, the beauty- and my eyes and heart are full, and overflowing and mixing with all the flowers, incense, curry, cow shit. India is "full power", and I think it's on acid.

They say to experience India is to share in the sorrows, dreams tribulations and almost unbearable joy of a billion fellow human beings. Help... I seem to be falling under a spell....

On the way to my camel ride I saw Jaipur, the city painted in pink, and Pushkar, a holy town around a lake with no meat, no eggs, no alcohol, but by all means have a baang lassi (pot yogurt drink). It's Shiva Day! (there is always a festival it seems going on in India) and I escaped the heat by following a new friend into an underground temple painted pink and lavender, where he gave puja (received blessings) with a priest, who's echoed chanting in the small chamber transported me to another realm.

I can't play, but I kept on playing, if you know what I mean.....

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