#8 India, March 6, 2015

DSC09035In Bodhgaya, at first you think there are quite a number of temples and monasteries, but as you begin to walk the town, you find there are an awful lot of them. They’re everywhere. I’m not sure that I needed to see every one, or DSC09042report on them all to you, either. But they were pretty interesting. On the other hand, as I saw how people lived on my street and contrasted that with the resources that go into these temples, it becomes a conundrum.

It seems that each country that has a substantial number of Buddhists sponsors a monastery/temple here. On my first sojourn I saw the Holyland Temple, the Indosan Nipponji Japanese temple, the Bhutan Temple, the Thai Temple and some others.

The details are interesting—a DSC09047roof filial, a temple guard, a wall DSC09059DSC09062painting—lots to look at.

And yes, I guess it does provide jobs for the residents of this town, but what kind of jobs? DSC09050If I owned the world, I wouldn’t know what to do about this! Clearly a lot of people get aide and comfort from all these temples. Well, luckily, I don’t own the world!DSC09063

Moving on, I went to visit the 80-foot-high Great Buddha Statue that was unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1989. It was impressive and set in a nice park.

DSC09088On the way through ‘my street’ that afternoon, it seemed that plans were being laid out for the building of a dwelling. Four men were augering a hole for the foundation.

A bit later the workday DSC09033was finished and the men began playing a game while the women finished their chores, looked for DSC09083nits (lice eggs) and then began rolling Q-tips. Some children were making DSC09112DSC09108‘mud toys.’

DSC09099That afternoon I became acquainted with Matthew from France and Quinn from Illinois. They were both teaching English in China and were here on vacation, staying at Mohammad’s Guest House. Later they invited me to go to Mohammad’s Restaurant for dinner, which I did although I only had mint lemonade. And I finally had a chance to meet Mohammad, at the restaurant. Mohammad has been in the restaurant business since he was nine years DSC09100old. It’s clear that he really understands pleasing the customer. He has learned to make dishes, like banana pancakes, that the backpackers like to eat. And he pointed out that Prem, who manages the guest house, has been with him for 20 years. He said there is no ‘boss’ here, and that the staff and he are like family. The staff at the restaurant and the guest house really go the extra mile to please the customer.

DSC09115The next day I walked a long ways to see two more temples. On the way I noticed that they were building another new one—guess they don’t have enough. Anyway, I looked at Tergar Monastery of the ‘Black Hat’ sect. This is a newly built, large enterprise with DSC09125lots of prayer wheels. The temple was extravagant and interesting. The interior was very colorful. There are a million individual things to look at and yet the total scene presents a harmonious whole.

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On the way back I passed a grain-threshing operation. People DSC09121were beating sheaves of grain on boards that made the grain collect in a spot.

DSC09151From there I walked to a Vietnamese monastery. The guard had just turned away two men who had come to look—it was closed. As I took a photo through the gate, the guard said something about Viet Nam. I said that I had been there. I’m not sure if that was the magic word, but he decided to let me in. So I had a few minutes to walk about and take some photos.

Then a long walk back to my hotel. DSC09168As I got to my street, a woman was making cow patties—cow dung, some grasses, and water, all mixed by hand and then portions slapped onto a wall or surface to dry. When it is dry, it is burned for fuel.

Monday it rained cats and dogs, most of the day.  I have only had rain twice on this trip and both times were at night.  The next morning one couldn’t even tell that it had rained.  Not so this rain—it turned the little byways into muddy rivulets.  Speaking of cats, where are they?  I can’t recall seeing a single cat on this trip.

DSC09172My linner at Mohammad’s Restaurant was a roti, dal, spring roll, and a Tibetan noodle DSC09169dish.  On the way back to the Guest House, it DSC09173finally stopped raining and a man was working on their new building construction.  The other men were taking a break with a card game.

DSC09218More temples and more monasteries—a monk in the Chinese Temple invited me to come into the temple where it said, “No entry.”  He was lighting some candles and later pounded on a drum and a gong.

In the Nangyal DSC09204Monastery, they had a giant prayer wheel.  A little boy thought it was fun to make the wheel go around.

I bought some tangerines.  Unfortunately when I got them back to the hotel, three of the four were spoiled!  So after linner, I bought some more, this time examining each one.

DSC09243Either somebody has a sense of humor or it is their way of identifying their chickens.  DSC09246Maybe it’s part of Holi, the festival that is taking place all week, and the reason I had such trouble getting a train ticket from Gaya to Patna.  I gave up and hired a taxi.  I did see the preparation of ‘color’ displayed in the market, though.  They make water solutions of this and throw it on each other, leaving a wildly colorful bunch!

DSC09239DSC09240I’m keeping watch on the neighborhood building project and think I have a job for you—hauling cement—in a sari.

DSC09254My last day in Bodhgaya (whether I had reached enlightenment or not) I had my morning chai, as usual in Mohammed’s Restaurant, and then prepared to check out and be driven to Patna. (I had managed to hire a driver instead of going on the train at 4:00 AM!)  While I didn’t have to be in Patna until my 6:00 PM train, the driver didn’t want to go in the afternoon as then he would be returning after dark, and said that in Bihar (this state) they celebrate Holi with a vengence and he didn’t want his car to be damaged. So we left at 9:00 AM on the 5th. This area is big in grain farming and there were many DSC09296bucolic scenes of farmsteads along the way. Going through small villages, one could see that everybody had been celebrating Holi. We finally reached the Patna train station. I had DSC09303linner at an upscale restaurant near the train station—unfortunately the only thing ‘up’ about it was the price, not the quality. From there I asked the bicycle rickshaw driver to take me to the nearby highly recommended Patna Museum, but it was closed because of Holi. So back to the train station, boarding at 6:00 PM and learning the ropes of a DSC09304triple-tier sleeper car. We would sit on the seats until bedtime when we would lower tiers two and three and each would have sleeping space. In the meantime,

I had such a nice conversation with a young woman DSC09306who teaches Russian at a very good Indian University, and her two younger brothers. Another man was 60ish and so pleasant. At bedtime we each got a pillow, two sheets, a small towel and a blanket—all the comforts of home. It really worked out quite well and I did sleep on and off.

The train arrived Delhi four hours late at noon on the 6th—18 1/2 hours instead of 14 1/2. From my new best friends I learned that one could now take the metro from the train station directly to the international airport. Terrific! However they told me because of Holi, it would close down service at 2:30 PM. No problem, we were in plenty of time. However, as I was asking for more directions to the metro, a young man told me that it would START service at 2:30 PM and that it was closed down NOW.  OK, so I’ll take a taxi. I had been carefully managing my cash (the upscale restaurant took Visa) so I would come out about even. But I had enough for a taxi and proceeded to the airport. I was very excited because a year ago when I opened a new visa card with Chase-United Airlines, I had gotten two free passes to their lounge, anyplace in the world. Of course when I got to the airport, there were umpteen problems with using this (which I will spare you) so I couldn’t. It seems to me quite some years ago I made a rule NEVER to try to use travel coupons as they never work out! Clearly I had forgotten that rule and after carrying around these two free passes, of course there were reasons why I couldn’t use them!

So I sat in the airport for six hours until I could check in four hours before flight time. I used my last 400 rupees on a wretched sandwich and bad coffee. I finally got away at 1:20 AM on the 7th and landed in Paris, from whence I will proceed to MSP, getting in at 2:00 PM Saturday, the 7th (today, I think!)

This was a great trip! I really enjoyed all of it. I hope you did too, via these reports!

Roger and out!

Posted in 2015, India | 1 Comment

#7 India, Feb. 27, 2015

My hotel, the Samrat in Berhampore was a terrific hotel. And this is in an out of the way place! I didn’t see a single Western tourist in this town. The hotel room was nice, had a comfy mattress (for a change!). the staff was fully attentive (unusual), and they gave a complimentary breakfast, free delivery to the train station, and the cost for all of this?—$15/night.

DSC08904I hired a new (to me) kind of conveyance to take me sight seeing. (My surrey with the fringe on top?) I did enjoy seeing a 1723 Katra Mosque as well as other buildings, but truth to tell, the most fun was looking into the rural life here. Since Murshidabad is 11 km from Berhampore where I DSC08848stayed (and where the train and buses are), I had lots of opportunity to check it out.

Here was a rice field DSC08836with a water-mover. these are used to move water from one rice field to another by hand.

The houses were pretty DSC08844rustic; cows, dogs and goats were everywhere.

DSC08876Drying the laundry on the train tracks must call for some careful timing as the tracks are in use.

Laundry takes lots of water pumping. Who DSC08882could work this hard in a sari and keep it all together?

A makeshift market DSC08885apparently takes place wherever the space is available. There are lots of lovely fresh fruits and vegetables. One hopes that everyone can afford them. I think they can—poverty is not terribly evident here.DSC08865

There were many buses around the sights, which brought many students. Several chatted with me and took my photo. They always get excited when they ask my country and I answer, “USA.” The next word is usually “Obama!”

DSC08916On Sunday I took the early train (6:30 AM) back to Kolkata. There was no food served so the vendors were out in force. One was selling buttered toast.

After I arrived and while my room was being cleaned in my Ashreen Guest House, I went for a chai, then bought some water and fruit. On the way back I saw a baby whose DSC08919eyes were outlined with kohl. Other interesting people on the street—this girl is carrying a DSC08920heavy load of 6′ long bamboo poles plus a baby; this man is piling bricks on his head and then moving to somewhere else. every DSC08942time I’m on the street in India, I see the lives of people that are so difficult and so fatiguing, I can’t imagine my living them. Yes, we’re really lucky.

I walked a long ways to visit the South Park Cemetery. This is an old British cemetery with DSC08922lots of big monuments. The stories were DSC08937rather poignant—nobody was my age! The burials were mostly from 1790 through the 1800s. One man died on the River Ganga (Ganges), one woman had died along with her two babies plus her husband died a few days later (diptheria?) Many were in their teens, 20s and 30s. While the British certainly exploited the Indians, their life was no bed of roses, either!

One lady on my street had a beautiful henna DSC08945design on her hand. And a man on the same street was carrying quite a load.DSC08953

My last day in Kolkata I had several things left to see. They weren’t imperative, but I laid out a plan. I started by taking the metro north for four stops, then getting a man-pulled rickshaw to take me to Tagore’s House, whose location he DSC08947indicated emphatically that he knew. Well, he took me to the Marble Palace instead, which I photoed, but then he asked directions and we did get to Tagore’s House. Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, mystic, DSC08950and artist who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He attended a school in Illinois as a young man, traveled widely, and again visited the USA in the ’20s. His family home was huge and it mostly all had been turned into a museum. Obviously his whole family was illustrious going back generations.

The large museum probably told me more than I wanted to know about Tagore, but clearly he was an outstanding person. He died in 1941.

DSC08948After that I did ask a couple of people if they knew where the Ashutosh Indian Art Museum was (it was nearby) but they didn’t know and about that time I was having hunger pangs. Unfortunately none of the museum-type places open before 10:30 or 11:00 so the sight seeing gets a late start. I walked back to the metro and back in my neighborhood walked to Teej for my last meal there before I would be leaving Kolkata the next morning. As always, it was wonderful.

The next day I took a train to Gaya, the neighboring town to Bodhgaya, the town where Prince Siddhartha Gautama sat under a bodhi tree until he reached enlightenment in about 600 BCE. It seems to me ‘enlightenment’ means distancing yourself from emotions of life, similar to that goofy CA church where one ‘goes clear.’ Still many people, both Indian and Western, are here taking part in meditation, etc., and seem to get a lot out of it. I’m here more as an observer.

DSC08958On the train I ordered lunch and the lunch-man had “Meals On Wheels” on his uniform and cap. The lunch was delicious, even if it did arrive very late.

When I got off the train in Gaya, there were several cows on the train platform. Where DSC08960were they going?

The town of Bodhgaya is very peaceful and quiet (small—30,000 people) and therefore walkable. That is so nice as I have taken many auto- bicycle- and manual rickshaws lately and so have been shaken to a jelly. Not only the shaking, but all the really loud honking horns right in your ears is fatiguing.

DSC08961My, the fauna is interesting in this area. On the way over in an autorickshaw from Gaya (13 km) where the train let me off, I saw pigs that resembled wild boar (who eats the pork?) a camel, and the usual dogs, goats, cows and water buffalo, and also some ducks.

In Bodhgaya I got a very clean hotel, Mohammad’s House, which is the first on this trip that had screens on the windows. Now the beds were very hard (as usual) and there is no top sheet—I could fix both of these problems, there were two beds. The bathroom was big, had nice soap, nice towel, and good TP.  Mohammad also had a nearby restaurant that had wifi! In this little place! And the cost? $6.75 per night. I went over to Mohammad’s Restaurant and used the wifi while having a chai. Since I had eaten on the train, that was it for food for the day.

Later I sat on the rooftop of the hotel drinking a beer. At my request the desk clerk went three km away and bought me three, one for each day, and put them in the refrig. Well, the loudest things I heard from the rooftop were the crows, mourning doves, and far away, a few dogs. And the sun had slowly sunk in the west, so I finished my beer, went in and planned my next day’s sight seeing.

The next morning I had a chai and a fruit salad at Mohammad’s Restaurant. Unfortunately DSC08977the wifi wasn’t working. I gather that happens frequently. Then I started out on my sight seeing. On the way to the temple I came across a neighborhood wedding. The DSC08971bride, in a bright red sari, was about to enter a decorated car, but it seemed to take a lot of animated discussion before she could enter.

The World Heritage-listed Mahabodhi Temple was my first destination. This entailed DSC08980getting a ticket (no charge) and walking a long ways to the two security booths. Well, it turned out that one could not take a cell phone into the temple grounds, and also that you had to have a special ticket (100 r) to take photographs. That’s fine, but there were no signs saying so, and so I had to walk back a long ways to correct all of this. That often happens in India—they have no regard for the ‘customer’ and often spring surprises on you when you get far afield. OK, another go at it—and, of course, removal of shoes. I don’t complain about this but it is tough for us Westerners that never go barefoot. I kept my socks on (they are more expendable than my feet) and nobody complained, as they sometimes do.

DSC08992The temple was first built by Ashoka in about 200 BCE, but that was razed and another was built on those foundations in the 6th century. Muslim invaders razed it in the 11th century and since that time it has been repeatedly restored, the last time in 1882. This is where Buddha DSC09008became the Buddha by sitting under a bodhi tree in about 600 BCE. Ashoka was a Moghal invader in the 2nd century BCE. His wife, jealous of the attention that he paid this special Bodhi tree, destroyed DSC09009the tree. Luckily Ashoka’s daughter had carried off one of the saplings to Sri Lanka, which provided a cutting, which was carried back to Bodhgaya and planted in this sacred place.

The temple is huge and dramatic. There were constant processions around it, mainly by monks.  There were a number of Westerners worshiping, too.

From there I went to the Archeological Museum that had remnants of granite railings and DSC09021pillars that in Ashoka’s time surrounded the Bodhi Tree. They also had many statues of Buddha from the 6th to 10th centuries.

I had decided that I would forget the last two destinations on my trip as they were nothing special, and spend more time in Bodhgaya. That meant changing my train tickets. Well, it turned out that there was a festival on about the time I needed a ticket and they were scarcer than hen’s teeth. I spent all morning Friday, going to a Bodhgaya train ticket booth, then to the Gaya train DSC09029station on a crowded autorickshaw (13 people fit into space for 8), then back to Bodhgaya to two travel agencies (nobody DSC09032there), then back to the train ticket booth, until FINALLY I got a ticket for 4:00 AM on the 5th of March. What a drag going home is going to be. In the meantime I’m enjoying Mohammad’s Guest House, even if it is across a narrow street from some interesting housing. Hey, this is how a lot of Indians live.

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So now all I have to do is figure out how I will get form Bodhgaya to Gaya at 3:00 AM on March 5th. Then I’ll wait 12 hours at the train station in Patna until I get my train to Delhi at 6:00  PM on the 5th, arriving Delhi at 8:30 AM on the 6th; then I shall go to the airport and wait another 16 hours until my flight leaves for Paris at 1:30 AM on Friday, the 7th. Then a 4-hour layover in Paris and then another eight hours home should put me in Minneapolis at 2:30 PM on March 7th. Got all that???? What a drag! Still there are many things to see in Bodhgaya before all that!

Posted in 2015, India | Leave a comment

#6 India, Feb. 20, 2015

What a special Valentine’s Day! My old friend and colleague, Jim Rice, was in Kolkata giving a speech, so he and I spent the next day together. We started by my coming to his DSC08598spiffy hotel in New Town (a half hour by taxi from my old town) to have breakfast at 7:30 AM. Then we taxied back into old town where we got on the metro and got off at Kalighat, the stop by the Kali Temple. We walked about eight blocks to the temple, passing hawkers selling garlands of hibiscus and marigolds, incense burners, (Jim DSC08608bought two) and lots of food. The temple was swarming with people—perhaps because it was a Saturday? Anyway, we got there in time (10:00) to see three goats sacrificed to Kali, the Destroyer Goddess. They immobilized the goat in a rack and DSC08602then a man with a huge semitar chopped off its head. Just like that! Fortunately for you, no photos were permitted! DSC08605

From there we went to see Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying. There were lots of empty cots—mostly empty, in fact. Does that mean they aren’t carrying on her work as much? Or are there fewer dying destitute people?

-Back on the metro to Maidan station where we could walk to see the Victoria Memorial. This was built in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in about 1904. I wonder how the Indians liked that? Maybe it provided lots of jobs. I hope DSC07342so.

From there we took a taxi to Mother Teresa’s motherhouse, but the taxi driver couldn’t DSC08612find it and wouldn’t follow my directions, so we paid him and got another taxi. How did we pick the only two taxis in Kolkata who don’t know where this place is? In spite of the religious display on the dashboard? Well, with help from a third cab, we finally found it.

Then back to ‘my area’ and a walk in really DSC08615old Kolkata. We stopped at my old restaurant for chai, but it was too late and they were out. (It’s a morning drink) From here we each took a person-pulled rickshaw back to near my hotel. Since there wasn’t quite as much traffic, it wasn’t as scary as it usually is. DSC08618Here we did get some chai and then went on to the Indian Museum.

Along the way we encountered a street concert with singing, cymbals and tabla.

The Museum was spectacular with its many 10th and 12th C. statues. DSC08624

Now we went to linner at my favorite restaurant, Teej. I think Jim liked it a lot, too. We each had the vegetarian thali with accompanying onions, peppers, and pickle. Then Jim got a taxi to go back to his world, the Novotel in New Town, and I walked back to my hotel. What a lovely DSC08635day!

-The next day the taxi came DSC08641at 5:15 AM to take me to SanTragachi Station (a regional train station) to go to Bishnupur. The ride to the station was spooky and so was the station. It was also foggy/misty and that added to the ambiance. But I managed to find my platform and board the train among many mosquitoes. Since I was in ‘Chaircar’ class, I thought there would be food, but there wasn’t. The 3 1/2 hour ride was uneventful, and soon I was in Bishnupur. I walked across the overpass and DSC08642got a bicycle rickshaw to take me to a hotel. I got my hotel room (not so clean but I couldn’t get into the one I wanted) and went to look for an internet. Since this was Sunday, most were closed, but I finally found one. Of course my account was locked again, since I was logging on from a different city in India. Could you hear me screaming? I would deal with this the next day. So I found an off/on sale liquor place and bought a bottle of strong beer to take back to my hotel room, which had a nice balcony on which to DSC08645drink my beer. I followed that up with linner in my hotel. There was no choice of what to order—everybody got the same thing—rice, curried fish, eggplant, and dal. It was fine. In this part of the country everybody eats with their right hand.

I changed hotels the next morning and got the best hotel that I’ve had on the whole trip! I also got my email unlocked so things were looking up. I hired a bicycle rickshaw DSC08769to take me around to see the old Hindu temples that were built between 1643 and 1758 by the Malla kings. We saw about DSC08652eight of them plus some tumble-down ones that haven’t DSC08664DSC08693been taken care of. They are wonderful with terra cotta tiles covering them depicting scenes of daily life, as well as scenes from the Ramayana, a religious text. Inside one temple a holy man was singing a religious service. At DSC08695one point he blew the conch shell, rang bells, and then it was over. I was the only observer.DSC08675 Bishnupur is quite rural and small DSC08714(pop. 62,000) but not poor. The streets are chaotic with many animals wandering about, has terrible traffic, but is vibrant and colorful, too. As often DSC08765happens on the trip, people ask to have their photo taken with me. There was a large group DSC08646of college students at one of the temples, and many ipad pictures had to be taken of me with various combos of students. I think it’s mostly that I’m from the USA—it’s their first question, typically. DSC08775

The next day at 6:00 AM I heard some music and singing, so I threw on some clothes and followed the sound to the front of the hotel. Outside there were four musicians playing music, chanting and processing in a circle. What a nice start to the morning! I went for a long walk, looking for some fruit to buy. These red toes of a mother and child caught my attention. Later I went to the local museum, which was very DSC08782DSC08798pleasant. There were many statues, musical instruments, and folk art. In the folk art there was an 8-inch Nataraj, much like the one I have in my living room. I really enjoyed Bishnupur.

I got a bus (no train) from Bishnupur to Shantiniketan and what a bus! Probably the most DSC08808rickety one I’ve ever ridden on. Actually it was two buses as I had to transfer in Durgapur. This town of Shantiniketan is really rural—herds of cattle coming down main street! I went to a bank to get change—nobody ever has change. When I asked for hundreds, fiftys, twentys, and tens, the bank teller said they only had hundreds and tens. OK, so I got 100 tens and five hundreds. That works! The hotel only gave me a bit of toilet paper; luckily I had some along with me. When that ran out I tried to buy some at 10 to 12 shops downtown, but nobody had any. They don’t use it in this part of the country (and many other parts, too) but use water and their left hand. Luckily I still have packets of Kleenex.

I hired a bicycle-rickshaw to take me to the sights on the campus of Visva-Bharati DSC08817University, a school that India’s most beloved poet, mystic, and artist, Rabindranath Tagore, started. The outing was kind of a bust for a number of reasons, mostly relating to a bad choice of rickshaw driver. I didn’t expect it to be stellar anyway, but the museum was closed that day along with most other sights. This town is not nearly s charming as DSC08827Bishnupur. I did have a nice dinner at a restaurant called Green Chiles. I had a thali and it was good.

The next day I again took two overloaded buses to go to Berhampore, the transportation hub for nearby Murshidabad, where I shall go sight seeing tomorrow. These buses work, but just barely. A bicycle rickshaw got me to the Hotel Samrat, which the LP had effused DSC08828about. I was put off by the long ways to get there over really bumpy roads. However, it was worth it! This really is a lovely hotel. It’s all in the people. It’s very clean and they explain what you need to know when they take you to your room. They even have lobby wifi, which is amazing, as even the Kolkata hotels didn’t have that! And the bus, today, went through miles of rice fields in a very rural area. Most of the villages that we went through DSC08830had mainly thatched roof houses.

An odd thing—on the bus I noticed that many of the men wore many jeweled rings with semi-precious stones. I hadn’t seen this before. I shall go sight seeing tomorrow—stay tuned.

Posted in 2015, India | Leave a comment

#5 India, Feb. 13, 2015

DSC08302I spent another day north of the Maidan looking at Tipu Sultan’s Mosque, which had market stalls totally surrounding it, with only one little alley through which you could access the mosque. But what a beautiful building!

Moving on, I walked quite a ways to St. John’s Church, built in 1787. The land was given by the DSC08289Maharaja Nabo Kishen Bahadur (I’m sure he was thrilled to do it!) At least he got his name on the plaque on the church.

A bit earlier in 1756, the nawab of Murshidabad recaptured the city from the British and dozens of British colonial aristocracy were imprisoned in a cramped space beneath Fort William. By morning about 40 of them had suffocated. The British press exaggerated the numbers, and the “Black Hole of  Calcutta” was born. A monument was erected to honor these people, but the one in this cemetery replaced the original monument and was moved here in 1940. DSC08298Actually the plaque on this monument said 138 died, some later, so who knows what the actual count was. Clearly Indian efforts at independence went on for a couple of centuries before it finally happened in 1947.

The church did have some very nice stained glass windows.DSC08292

The next day I had decided to hire a taxi to do some touring to places that were a little beyond walking distance. While I was having a chai, a young man tourist sat down next to me. He spoke to me and I thought he was American. It turned out that he was German but had spent his last year in high school in Memphis, Tennessee and so spoke English with just the smallest of accents. I invited him to go on my tour with me, which he did. I had laid out six places for us to go in three hours, but the taxi driver said it would take six hours. I poo-pooed this as a ruse for the taxi driver to collect more money, but you know what? He was right. The traffic was excruciating! We only got to three of the six places and the last one was closed because it was past noon. So not a very satisfying tour, except it was fun to converse with Martin, from Germany.

DSC08308The first place was Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission. The main temple was built in 1938. There were other smaller temples on the premises, which was on the bank of the Hooghly River.

DSC08312DSC08313DSC08326DSC08318We moved on through horrendous traffic to the Kumartuli area. This is where DSC08327artisans make giant puja effigies that will eventually be immersed in the Hooghly River. The effigies start with straw frames, which are covered over with clay that they get out of the river banks. They are painted and are used in religious ceremonies. It is fun to see these and the workshops all busy with making them.

From there we went to see Jain temples but unfortunately we were too late as they closed at noon. I had no idea traffic could be this bad. So we went back to Sudder DSC08330Street and walked to my favorite restaurant for lunch. This was lovely, as always. After linner, Martin and I parted company—a very nice day.

Sunday I got an early start and noticing that the traffic was not so bad, I walked north to see some of the religious buildings. I found the BethEl Synagogue, the Moghan David Synagogue, which looked more like a Christian DSC08346Church with a big spire, the Holy Rosary Cathedral, and the Armenian Church, which is the oldest church in Kolkata, from 1724. The buildings were not all that special, but it gave a reason to walk in the lanes and byways of Kolkata, taking in all the atmosphere. Here was a knife DSC08340sharpener, there a herd of goats, then a parade, then two men carrying DSC08390_2DSC08358DSC08385impossibly big loads.

A lot of Kolkata looks pretty poor. Still it does have its beauty spots, too. Since the traffic didn’t look too bad on Sunday, I hired a taxi to try again to see the Jain Temples. DSC08361There were three in one group, the spiffiest of which was the Sheetalnathji Jain Mandir. It was a sparkler made up of pastel mosaics, mirrors, and stained glass. There were two pastel buildings on either side of the square, where the garden was full of fantasy. The interior was DSC08366lovely, too, and clearly is used as a working temple. This temple was built in 1867. Two other temples in this group were not so interesting.

Elsewhere, the Digambar Jain Mandir was an attention-getter. The bright red of the temple in the DSC08378beautiful grounds was stunning.

Its interior had lots of rice grains on the polished marble floor, apparently used in a ceremony. They make tough walking in bare feet—those hard little grains!DSC08383

On the way home I figured DSC08395something out. I had been seeing signs at intersections saying,”SWITCH OFF AT SIGNALS.” I thought AT signals were some kind of electronic thing that people were supposed to turn off. I finally caught on—it meant for cars to switch off their motors as they waited for the (long) red lights.

DSC08399Enough tempeling and time for eating. I decided to try the street food near my hotel. I found a shop that sold cold beer so I bought one and took it back to my hotel to sip on while I did my pictures. Then walked to the street place where they had some benches and chairs, too. I was given a spoon for my chicken biriyani—everybody else ate with their right DSC08398hand. The biriyani was very good.

Monday morning I checked out at 7:00 AM, stopped for a chai, then got a taxi to take me to Howrah Station. I was anticipating difficulty in finding my train platform as I was going to Malda, a small out-of-the-way place. After only asking three times, I found it and got aboard. I had a ‘sleeper’ car—why, I’m not sure. Anyway, I sat in sort of a compartment, across from another woman. DSC08403The car was very empty—what extremes—first cars full of standing people and now empty!

DSC08457It was a 7 1/2 hour ride to Malda, through 351 km of rice fields. What back-breaking work! DSC08495DSC08512I did see a number of tractors, though, especially near Kolkata. As we got further out, oxen took over.

When I arrived I got a bicycle rickshaw to take me to a hotel. The room was pretty nice except the beds (there were two) were hard as a rock. So I put the mattress of one bed onto the other, likewise the sheet as there was no top sheet. This is the first time that my LP-recommended hotel didn’t have an English sign.DSC08515

The next day I hired a taxi to take me to see the ruins of the Muslim nawabs from the 1200s to the 1600s. Actually they weren’t ruined, but were huge and beautiful. They were also in pretty gardens; apparently the state of West Bengal recognizes the value of these historic things. I saw about a dozen wonderful mosques, mausoleums, and towers. They were built from about 1300 to the 1500s. The last site we visited was the largest mosque in India for a long time—I can see why. It seemed to be about a city block in area. The whole trip took DSC08578about four hours.

When I got back I sipped my Kingfisher beer in my room while I did my pictures, then went to have linner at a nearby restaurant. My, they do like to cheat the tourists (although I haven’t seen any other Western tourists here).  They charged me for water that I didn’t drink and for ‘fruit salad with ice cream’ when I only ordered ‘fruit salad.’ It wasn’t much money but that is so irritating. Still they’re always friendly when they correct the bill.

Wednesday I visited the local museum, which was surprisingly good. They had beautiful statues from the 12th C. When I went to take a non-flash picture, they wouldn’t let me. And they dispatched a man to walk three feet behind me while I looked at the beautiful statues. They didn’t permit pictures—how aggravating. I’ve found that before in rural, out-of-the-way places, museums are totally unfriendly. How many tourists does this museum get? Maybe one/month. And these statues are made of stone so to photograph them without flash couldn’t possibly hurt them. It could also be a revenue source. Lots of museums charge extra for photography—fine.

From here I went to a local bank to get change. (It pays to have small bills) There were scads of people in the bank, but I (the tourist) was put to the front of the line and they’re not even making any money on my transaction—just getting change. It kind of made up for the museum!DSC08586

So far I’ve been able to resist the Bengal Sweets. Apparently they are known all over India. I think they are the kind that are so sweet that they give you a pain in your forehead.

The DSC08585chai in Malda is made differently. It’s not as good, as they don’t cook the milk with the sugar and cardamom. They put sugar in a glass, then hot milk, then they put black tea in a strainer and pour in hot water, letting some drain into the glass. Weird!

DSC08587In the morning I got a bicycle rickshaw to take me to the train station. This driver was wearing the most beautiful embroidered wool shawl, and as the morning sun shone on it, it was gorgeous!

I got the train back to Kolkata in a ‘Chaircar,’ which means food. I had the same as last time, but this time it wasn’t quite as good.DSC08589

Back in Kolkata the next morning I took the metro to Kalighat stop to visit the Kali DSC08597Temple. The metro was surprisingly nice—very neat and well organized. However, on the way back during the rush hour, it was stuffed to the gills. Still, the people were orderly.

The temple was not especially beautiful, but the people, as always, were interesting. A young man took me round to see all the statues of the different gods; no photos were permitted, but nicely, I didn’t have to remove my shoes! Nearby there was some street art showing Kali, the destroyer, a fierce female deity, the god(dess?) being DSC08595honored by this temple.

The hawkers were out, too. One was selling fresh hibiscus garlands; another was mixing some dough for a special bread.

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Nearby was Nirmal Hriday, Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying. The work continues by the sisters; there were some patients on cots and other people were eating there. One can volunteer their services here. It looked like some people were getting ready to do just that.

Back on the metro, back to my hotel. Lunch again at the sidewalk stands just outside of the Indian Museum. Very good food.

Today my friend, Jim Rice, is giving a speech in Kolkata, and tomorrow I will be his tour guide. I’m looking forward to that. Stay tuned—-

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#4 India, Feb. 6, 2015

The bus from Puri to Bhubaneswar was unremarkable except I think I caught on to something. In Mexico and Bangladesh, the ‘conductor’ on the bus would pound the side of the bus twice for the driver to go, and once for him to stop. There were all kinds of pounding on this bus by miscellaneous people, (I had noticed this previously, too) not just twice but three or four times. It was confusing to me, but given some of their postures and gestures after they pounded, I began to think it was for ‘good luck.’ Heaven knows buses need it as the horrible traffic does cause quite a few accidents.DSC08230

After I arrived, oDSC08233nce again I had linner at the Maurya Gardens and thought that the vegetable salad was worth photographing. Walking to and from yielded some photos of various people DSC08234and their lives.

Sunday morning I had a date with Shabari and Gopi, the couple that I had met in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago. They picked me up at my hotel in a very nice small car and drove me to their apartment. They live in government housing since she works for the Government Health System as a physician. Sunday we had to meet later in the day because every Sunday morning she drives out to a village, which is largely Muslim, and spends most of the day seeing patients. The Muslim women must be seen by a woman doctor so if she didn’t go, they wouldn’t get DSC08239healthcare. What a generous thing to do.

They had prepared a lovely dinner, which we prefaced with some beer that I brought, and some rum that they provided. We had such a nice time talking our heads off. Shabari gave me a beautiful raw silk shawl as a gift! It was made by the Adivasas, the tribal people that live near DSC08238here.

The next morning I got the early train to Kolkata’s Howrah Station. This time I had bought a more expensive ticket (unknown to me at the time I was buying it) which put me in a ‘chaircar,’ which is more like first class. It was much more comfortable and cleaner than what I had when I trained to Bhubaneswar, but it really wasn’t as interesting. However, what a bargain! The price of the ticket was $10 (as compared with about $2 when I came) BUT: First I got a bottle of water. Then I got breakfast, which was a fruiti box drink, two dal patties, two slices of bread with jam and butter, and a cup of tea. Then I got a snack, which was a paper cup of carrot soup with two breadsticks and butter. Then I got dinner! That was a full meal with rice, dal, paneer masala, chapatis, pickle, sweet curd (yoghurt), and for dessert, Gulab Jamun, my favorite. It was served in wobbly foil squares and kind of made a mess, but the food was really pretty good—better than some airline food!

The line at Howrah Station to get a prepaid taxi was looong, but there were free-lancers who one could bargain with that would take you right now for some extra money. This I did, and so got checked into my same hotel that I had earlier, the Ashreen Guest House.

Did you hear me screaming? My email account was again locked! I managed to live chat with somebody, though, so eventually (it took hours) I got it unlocked. There seems to be something wrong with their system if they can’t keep it unlocked for me to use.DSC08242

DSC08251To calm my soul, I went to visit Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The nuns were DSC08250most hospitable—we were invited to view her bedroom (pretty plain-jane) and her tomb. She was born in Albania, joined an order, and taught high school in Calcutta. Upset by the city’s poverty, she started the new order of The Missionaries of Charity. She was staunchly Roman Catholic and some Hindus were unhappy with her views. Anyway, she certainly did minister to the most destitute DSC08248of the people here. She lived to be 87, a contrast to her picture as a young girl.

I have now planned my itinerary for the next month. And in so doing, I booked a bunch of train tickets so I’m committed. It’s pretty much what I had planned initially, but I switched some things around.

DSC08261Here are some scenes from being out and about.

Would you like some sugar cane juice?

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Everyone needs a rest after lunch.

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Or perhaps you need a shave?

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Do you live on the sidewalk?

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Or do you raise goats?

Everything is interesting in Kolkata.

I eat one meal a day but have a fruit salad in the evening, bought from a vendor right outside my hotel. It’s a nice dish of fruit—papaya, watermelon, banana, apple, plus DSC08265cucumber and jicama. It is served on a paper plate with a toothpick and costs 20 rupees, about 35 cents.

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I finally got to the Academy of Fine Arts. Their opening hours are 4-8 PM, which is awkward for me. I met one of the artists exhibiting his self-portrait—Avandish, a nice young man.

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I just learned from BBC that the number of people in the DSC07439world living in abject poverty has halved since 1990. That’s good news. Still, I guess the more affluent suffer from the same things that we do.

Well, hallelujah, I finally got everything updated on my email so that if I get locked out again (and apparently they don’t think this old lady would actually be in some exotic place so it could happen) it will be easy to fix.

DSC08270My plan for Thursday morning was to visit several landmarks north of the Maidan, where there are many colonial buildings. I did see Tank Square, which became Dalhousie Square, which became BBD Square. ‘Tank’ was when it was the water supply for a young Kolkata; ‘Dalhousie,’ when it was named after Lieutenant Governor, Lord Dalhousie; and then ‘BBD,’ the initials of the three men who tried to DSC08274DSC08276assassinate Lord Dalhousie. There was the 200-year-old St. Andrews Church and the Writers’ Building (built for British clerks). Then the going got absolutely impossible on the DSC08278sidewalks. Walking in the street was too dangerous so I hailed a cab and went back to my street, consoling myself with a chai from my usual chai server.DSC08279

How can these people live here with all the congestion, niose, traffic—even foot traffic is impossible. Still one can’t say that the city isn’t vibrant!

I was walking along toward a restaurant for linner when I heard a voice say, “Carol, isn’t it?” To my surprise, there were Carolyn and Carl whom I had breakfasted with a couple of times in Bhubaneswar. They were still riding rented bikes, although they admitted that it was pretty difficult in Kolkata. We had lunch DSC08282together and caught up on our activities since we had last seen each other. Kolkata is a huge city, and it was such a surprise and pleasure to run into each other.

I’ve had just a couple of mosquito bites at night, enough so that tonight I’m going to put up my mosquito net. I use those 3M wall sticker things that don’t leave anything behind on the wall.

And I’ve decided not to take the couple of day trips that I had sort of planned. The destinations were not 4-star anyway, and one has to get a bus at the Howrah Station Bus Terminal, which I think would be very hard to do as Howrah is so big and sprawling and pretty intimidating. Certainly there is plenty to see and do in Kolkata, where I will stay for two more days. After that I shall head northwest to Malda for three nights and return.

Posted in 2015, India | Leave a comment

#3 India, Jan. 30, 2015


DSC07743Ah, comfort! I hired a car and driver to take me to four places that I wanted to see. The car was new (!) and the driver was very skillful, which it takes as normal traffic is quite daunting.

We started by going to the Nandankanan Zoo where I took the TigerDSC07615

and Lion Safari. There are huge jungle enclosures (many acres) each for tigers, lions, bears, and deer. No sightings were guaranteed as this is truly jungle. We did see a white tiger—I believe they are the
largest tigers in the world, and it was really big. I’m told they have blue eyes but you’ll forgive me if I didn’t verify that! The only thing DSC07625that can go into these enclosures is the safari bus on a dirt road.  Then into the lion enclosure where a pair of lions accommodated us by resting right by the side of the road.

In other pens, the orangutan looked prettyDSC07659 friendly (but BIG). I saw chimps, monkeys, lots of deer, beautiful birds, giant squirrels, mice deer, jungle cats, and on and on. I was surprised at how DSC07679up-to-date the zoo was for such an out of the way place as Bhubaneswar. It was also fun to watch the visitors watching the animals.

DSC07711Next were the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri that were carved by Jain ascetics in the 1st C. BCE. These rock cut shelters were quite dramatic. One cave was built by King DSC07724Karavela who ruled from 168 to 153 BCE.

Some young men were posing inside the tiger’s mouth.

On the way to our next destination, we came

DSC07746 across a woman drying rice on the highway.

DSC07748There were also some cow dung patties drying nearby. We were really out in the country. Of course there is no shortage of DSC07751cows and cow dung in the city, either. Cows are everywhere

and casually interact with this horrific traffic, looking pretty blasé.

Next up was the Edict of Ashoka that was carved into a rock in about 260 BCE at Dhauli. I wonder if anybody can read this, and what it says. Maybe a grocery list?

All of these places were within about 15 km of Bhubaneswar. We were constantly driving through small villages on poor roads with zillions of people, motorcycles, pedestrians, rickshaws, bicycles and cars; the driver definitely earned his money.DSC07761

And that brought us to our last destination, the Yogini Jain Temple at Hirapur. A circular structure, open to the sky has 64 niches in it DSC07754honoring the 64 names for Durga. There were small piles of rice in front of each little statue and some had cloth ‘shawls’ around them. There are only four such Jain temples in all of India.DSC07770

As I left the hotel the morning of Sunday, January 25h there was a parade/rally of young men in tee shirts with bull horns making quite a ruckess. Because it was Republic Day, they were holding a ‘Get Out The Vote’ parade.

Moving on to the State Museum, they were there, too, holding a rally in the courtyard. DSC07774The State Museum was more interesting than I anticipated. There were many interesting Buddha statues from the 1st DSC07784century through the 12th. The museum also had displays of Pattachitra painting, an old tradition, coins, writing, local fauna, and more. The musical instruments area was closed, DSC07800which would have been interesting.

In between times, I was tuning into Indian CNN to watch the arrival of President and Michelle Obama. Clearly the Indian government went way out of its way to show honor and respect to President Obama. The honor guard for Obama (with a 21-gun salute) was led by a woman, who called out the signals. Local CNN made much of this.

I had asked the hotel desk person if they served beer in the dining room, and she said that they didn’t. I did walk a bit up and down the street to see if I could find a store to buy some beer to drink in my room before eating my linner. No luck. So I went to eat in the hotel dining room. I asked the waiter if they served beer, expecting a ‘no’ answer. To my surprise, he said, “Just a minute,”—was gone a bit and returned saying that they did! OK. So I ordered a Kingfisher (by the way, it has gotten hotter so the beer really tastes good) and waited a long time. Finally the waiter came with a water glass with a paper napkin wound around it and yes, it had some liquid in it. “Is this my beer?” Yes, it was. “Can I take the paper napkin off?” “No, this is a family restaurant—-Would you like a straw?” OK, I get it. So I drank my glass and when I needed a refill, I brought my glass over to the sideboard, where I could see my beer bottle peeking out of a deep drawer. Shades of prohibition!

The next morning I again ate breakfast with a Canadian couple who I had met in the DSC07824dining room the day before. We had planned to go together to a ‘do’ that evening where tribals were going to perform with song and dance. This was in connection with Republic Day. When it was time to go, Carolyn didn’t feel well so I went by myself. Unfortunately the first 45 minutes were spent with DSC07822politicians making speeches in Hindi so I left, and got an autorickshaw back to the hotel.

Also in connection with Republic day, someone had draw an outline of India on the pavement with flower petals.

The next day I got a bus to Puri, a town on the coast. The Hotel Ghandara where I DSC07827stayed had a lovely respite garden although the noisy traffic outside interfered.

The beach, just a fewDSC07839

steps away, had a camel giving rides. I spent the afternoon arranging a tour and doing other ‘chores.’

The next morning I took a small overloaded bus for an hour’s ride to Konark, the site of the Temple of the Sun, a UNESCO DSC07843World Heritage Site. I had been wanting to see this for ages—in fact it was a factor in choosing this area for my trip this time. This 13th C. temple was built by Orissan King Narashimhadev I. The idea is a stone ‘chariot’ with 24 huge ‘wheels,’ pulled by seven stone horses. The whole temple is carved with tableau representing daily secular tasks as well as religious symbols. Sex figures prominently!

Given that it is over 800 years old, it is in remarkable shape. However, some had tumbled down during times past and has been reconstructed. I hired a guide, which I rarely do, who told me a rather fantastic story about the construction of this temple. According to him, there were small holes drilled in the stones into which was pored molten iron. As it hardened, DSC07862
this held the structure together. A huge magnet was placed at the top of the high tower, which attracted the iron and kept everything upright. (Maybe I got more than my money’s worth from my guide!) DSC07893DSC07857However, there were big iron bars, about 10 inches square, in a pile off to the side. In any case, the beautiful temple with the concept of a chariot with wheels and horses to pull it was very successful.

DSC07864DSC07882As were the sexual scenes, I guess! The guide said that the Kalinga (these people) had had a long war with Askoka, the Mughal, and their population was decimated. Therefore the sexual scenes were meant to convey the desirability for population growth. Given India’s billion+ population, maybe it was too successful!

DSC07961One day I went on a tour to Chilika Lake, a brackish lagoon off the Bay of Bengal. We saw Irrawaddy dolphins, or at least a few fins of them as this species doesn’t ‘jump’ out of the water like bottle-nosed dolphins. Actually these have DSC07963

no ‘nose’ at all—just a round head. It was funny because a gull was swimming near our boat when the dolphin appeared. As the dolphin would swim away under water, the gull would take flight and then set down where the dolphin was. For the tourists??? We saw DSC07944many birds, although we were told there are millions here from December to mid-January.

We also stopped in a rural village for breakfast, but instead of eating, I had a chai at a chai stand and then did some photoing.DSC07925

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An Indian family with a 17-
year-old-daughter was very cordial; I ate lunch with them and enjoyed it very much. The daughter spoke quite fluent English, the parents, less so. All of the tourists were Indian; I see almost no Western tourists here. Several people wanted to have their photos taken with me, the American!

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The last day I was in Puri I went to visit the Jagannath Mandir, the granddaddy of all the temples in India. Non-Hindus are not admitted so I couldn’t see much of the temple except the 175 foot high tower. It was built in 1198 AD and draws jillions of pilgrims every day. Since the autorickshaw let me off about three blocks before the temple, I had a good chance to see the people, cows, beggars, etc.

Everything is on a huge scale. There must have been 200 beggars, mostly sitting along the street. There also must have been 100 cows sitting or DSC08194standing in the street with motorcycles and bicycles going past them, missing them by inches. There wereDSC08181 hawkers selling everything you could think of, especially DSC08199jewelry and fruit. This was also where the renowned sweets of this area were on display. I did buy one and try it—yes, it was very good. A deep fried frittery-thing covered with honey.

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All the religious Hindus were there, looking exotic to my eyes.

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And boodles of women looking like butterflies in their beautiful saris.

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I was allowed to go upstairs in the ‘library’ (which was a wreck) across the street to view the temple, but I still couldn’t see much. Still, the people were the interesting thing, anyway. These people have tough lives—I hope their religion is a comfort to them.

Tomorrow I shall return to Bhubanesware by bus—only 1-2 hours, depending on the type of bus.

Posted in 2015, India | 1 Comment

#2 India, Jan. 24, 2015

DSC07440First I started off my day with a chai, as usual. There are many ‘restaurants’ at the side of the road near my hotel, with even a bench to sit on.

Then I headed to the internet as I’m still dealing with trying to ‘recover’ my email address. The young man had told me he opened at 7:00, but he was still sleeping on the floor along with another person when at 7:30 I knocked and woke them up. I tried some more to recover my email as I had planned to send out a mailing on the 18th but that wasn’t possible. Now I have tried “too many times” to recover it so have to wait 24 hours before trying again. The second person on the floor remained under his blanket while I used the internet.

Later I went for a long walk among the government buildings. Kolkata was the capital of DSC07442the country of India, formed by the British. They moved the capital to Delhi in about 1914. That leaves quite a few fancy buildings for their state government now.

First I saw the Raj Bhavan where the West Bengal governor lives. I also checked out the Town Hall and the DSC07452West Bengal Assembly Building. The most fun was seeing the High Court with lawyers DSC07444running hither and thither in special ‘uniforms’—black jacket with formal white shirt and then a black robe. I had a nice chat with three interns who were wearing black jackets and white shirts, but no DSC07447robe—not as formal as ‘real’ lawyers.

DSC07457I thought that the Burmese Pagoda, tucked away in some DSC07456beautiful gardens would be fun DSC07460to find. Well, it was totally a wreck and under reconstruction, which was kind of interesting anyway. And there were certainly gorgeous dahlias in the gardens, along with some strange birds—maybe cranes?

Tuesday the taxi came at 5:00 AM to take me to the Howrah Train Station. Wow! Even atDSC07481 that early hour it was swarming with people, many who were sleeping. I found my platform without too much trouble, waited for the train and then wondered how to find DSC07483my ‘bogey.’ There was no such thing as a conductor anywhere, but I found a man who was pasting bogey numbers andDSC07486 lists of passengers on the sides of the cars. I asked him for my bogey number, DE2, and he gestured well down the line. I stuck with him as he pasted on about six more papers on bogeys and then entered the bogey that he indicated. It was pitch dark. I asked, “Number 24?” a few times (my seat number) and eventually someone with a flashlight gestured up ahead. I went into the next car and found 24, and sat down. I kind of wondered if somebody would chase me out, but nobody did, although I’m pretty sure I was in the wrong car.

At first the train was not crowded but as we made several stops it filled to the brim. Nobody ever came and took tickets. This whole thing was through the looking glass into the past. There were many food and chai hawkers, of course. Pretty soon a little boy and girl started doing an act. She was a contortionist (pushed her whole body through a tiny metal ring, etc) and he did backward flips. Talk about “Slumdog Millionnaire.” Later DSC07499about four pretty and beautifully dressed women got on with lots of jewelry. They would loudly clap their hands and collect money. They had all the bills folded between their fingers. Then they left. Later another four got on and I realized that they were transgender? Transsexuals? I asked the young man sitting next to me and he said that they were ‘neither man nor woman.’ I remembered something about a long tradition in India of these people forming a group who always helped celebrate at family weddings, etc. They demand respect and watch out for each other. They are called “hijda.”

It was very cold in the train with wind coming in all over. Eventually it warmed up DSC07493enough for me to open the shutters on a very dirty window. I even opened the window briefly to take a picture of the bucolic farming scene.

I saw some interesting signs on the way. One (in English) on a small shed said, “Dead Body House.” Another, DSC07500indicating the pedestrian walkway over the train tracks said, “Foot Over Bridge.”

When I arrived Bhubaneswar I went right to a restaurant near the train station and had a very good linner. I also had a nice talk with a couple that live near here. (She supplied the word, ‘hijda.’) They invited me to stay at their house when they come back from Mumbai on Jan. 29th, but I probably won’t be here then. We’ll see—I’m always flexible!

Got checked into the Shatabdi Hotel—a small not-so-spiffy hotel. There was a really good one that I wanted but it was full. However, this one is kind of charming—the next morning there was a knock on the door at 6:45 AM (I’m always awake by then) and I was presented with a hot cup of chai. How nice! Then to the shower—I called downstairs to see when the hot water would come on (they had said ‘morning’ when I asked if there was hot water 24 hours/day) and he said in 10 minutes. I waited and then tried the shower again—no, no hot water. Just then there was another knock on the door and there was a man with a bucket of hot water. OK, a bucket shower—not difficult, I’ve done it many times before.

I went to an extremely slow internet to work some more on my locked email. This reminds me of 25 years ago when it took two or three minutes for each screen to come up. I had just gotten the message that they had verified my account (hooray!) but before I could act on this, the power went off. Back to the hotel—I’ll try it another day! The next day I went to a four-star hotel to use their business center (which they weren’t crazy about my doing even though I would pay) and finally recovered my email. When I get home, I must update my info (phone number, etc) and keep track of my password for an alternate email so that if/when this ever happens again, I’m prepared. Then it’s only a matter of a few minutes to verify your account. This happened once before in Estonia.DSC07504

On the way to the hotel, I stopped for a shoeshine. Goodness, he had me take off my shoes, took the laces out, showed me where my shoe was coming apart, superglued my shoe back together and shined them up beautifully! What a deal!

I also bought some tangerines, which are soooo good here. What isn’t good here is the traffic. I thought it was bad in Kolkata,
and it was, but here, it’s bumper to bumper DSC07505with no traffic lights. Crossing the busy roads is really scary. Earlier today I hailed a autorickshaw rather than try to cross this mess.

 

 

 

One day I hired anDSC07502 autorickshaw for two hours and had him take me to eight temples (out of the 50 still existing, which are out of thousands that were built here in Orissan medieval times, roughly between 600 and 1200 AD. Several are still in use.

The grandest complex
is the Lingaraj Mandir, which had many pilgrims entering and leaving. The tallest part of DSC07519DSC07528the structure is about 160 feet tall.  Unlike in many other parts of India, this temple
forbids entrance to non-Hindus. However, they had constructed a viewing platform from which one could get a good idea of the complex. The entrance to this temple was a busy and gaudy place!

The other temples did allow admittance but IDSC07542 only went into one, as by the time I removed my shoes to go into the sacred courtyard, stepped gingerly over the hot, rough stones and around the dog and cow crap, I discovered that the interior was not all that interesting! In fact that one was full of junk!

DSC07588Some were set in beautiful gardens; one had a ‘tank’ (a four-sided enclosure for water), which an old woman was just entering for a bath.

The detail on the exteriors of the temples is amazing. Scenes from everyday life as well as religious scenes are carved in excruciating detail. One had a red-painted DSC07598DSC07552Ganesha as a focal point on an exterior wall; another had somewhat erotic carvings to keep people’s attention!

After I had located and looked at all of the major temples, I had the DSC07546autorickshaw man drop me at a restaurant where I had eaten another day. I enjoyed my paneer masala (like solid cottage cheese with a wonderful gravy) and was ready for a nap.

I had been having trouble with my new iPhone, in that I was unable to text, get my email, or the weather on it. When I was getting change at the bank I asked a young man there if he could help. He did—checked it out thoroughly, called somebody else for advice and concluded that the problem was that the signal was so slow/weak here in Bhubaneswar that it wouldn’t work. That’s probably right as it had been working fine, but I then discovered that the time when it quit working was the day I took the train here. And judging by the internet speed, I think that’s right. Shades of yesteryear, as I said!

Friday morning I decided to change hotels since I think I’ll be here for several days more. How nice to have wifi here—only in the lobby but that works. Breakfast is also included, which I had the morning I moved in. They served very good chai and then I had iddli with sambar and raita—a favorite of mine.

And now we’re coming up on a National Holiday at which there is supposed to be singing and dancing by the nearby tribal people—the Adivasi people. They have ancient cultures that are expressed in music, dancing and arts. Originally animists, they also are at odds with Christian missionaries and Hindu Naxalites (an ultra-leftist political movement), all of which they feel have taken advantage of them. There is also great excitement about President Obama’s upcoming visit. Stay tuned—-Carol

Posted in 2015, India | Leave a comment