Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Banana Kings

From Delhi, I travel to the first city of the Golden Triangle: Jaipur, The Pink City. I arrive in the evening and am too excited to sit in my hotel room for four hours before bedtime, so I strap up my boots and start walking along the streets. The chill in the air is a bit too much for me and my collard shirt, and I begin thinking about buying a sweater. All of a sudden these three kids approach me with open hands. How nice! "5 rupees" they ask for. Like most beggars, including children, you are not supposed to give in to their subtle demands, but they are persistent, and now they are calling me "friend." Instead of giving them the 5 rupees (less than a penny) they ask for, I tell them to show me where a sweater shop is, and then I would give them 5 rupees. They probably did not understand a word I said, but nonetheless, we end up at a sweater shop. The guy working there picks out 5 or 6 different sweaters, just one or two I would actually buy. I ask the kids which one I should get, and of course, they choose the ugliest sweater of the options presented, so I buy it and take off - with the kids trailing of course. At this point, instead of just three kids, there are now 9. I give the one kid 5 rupees secretly, but there are the 8 others still smiling and staring at me. I could have just brushed all of them away and left, like you are actually supposed to, but this is the beginning of my trip, and I am still a softy, so we all go to the market and I buy them all a banana. We share in delight this cheap snack (less than a penny for each banana) snap a photo, and we all part from each other happy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lubbly Jubbly

A Journey Before the Journey

Made it!
After three canceled flights, an eight hour drive from Pittsburgh to New York, barely receiving a standby seat, and an 18 hour flight (which was of course delayed an hour), I finally arrive in New Delhi.
It was 330, and I still didn't have a seat for the 4 o'clock flight. The supervisor, who was in charge of handing out any remaining seats for a plane that was already overbooked by 20 passengers, kept yelling at the last of us without a seat to "Get back, get back, there are no more seats left!"
I started to get that feeling of, Oh Shit, I will probably not get a seat, for this flight is set to leave in less than 30 mins. I was about to head back to United Airlines to change to a different flight - again, but somehow the supervisor granted me a ticket. I was to fly from JFK to DC, then DC to Frankfurt, and finally Frankfurt to Delhi. This quickly changed due to the entire Northeast of America, especially DC, getting bombarded with a snow storm the two days before.
Of course this happens, why would this trip be go as smoothly as you had actually planned? I remember joking a number of weeks or a month ago about my flight to India being the only thing set and stone for my trip - Ha. I didn't have much planned and had no idea of what I was to be doing. I just knew that I was to fly out Monday, December 21 at 230!
CANCELED - Just like that. It's OK though. United Airlines re-scheduled my for a one way to arrive in Delhi at 445 the next day - way better than arriving at 10pm with two layovers. Asside from not getting a confirmed ticket (United Airlines could only supply my with a Standby seat), this turned out to be much smoother of a transition into Delhi.
18 hours later, we landed.

Lubbly Jubbly
I made a friend on the plane who gave me a list of places to visit within India, after chatting with him on the plane and at the baggage claim, my backpack finally arrives and I head out. I meet up with a family friend, Manzoor, who holds a sign out with my name on it. We greet, and he takes me to his car that he has waiting for us, and the driver takes us back to his family's apartment. I meet his family, who are all wonderful people. We all sit on the carpet and enjoy a home cooked Kashmirian style dinner.
I stuff my face, and realize quickly that my exhaustion gets the best of me, and need to head to bed. Of course my body and mind are tired, but I still couldn't fall asleep due to jetlag.
A late wake up call was inevitable, but I soon become ready for my first day in India. The driver picks Manzoor, his brother, and I up at the apartment, and drives us into the city. We cruise around to see the India Gate, the host location for a big parade next month, the Presidents House with a random monkey roaming around, and peruse through some of the bazaars, which allows for constant people watching.
Well, we ended our day with a couple of beers at a bar near Manzoor's place, which was followed by a chilly, yet relaxing ride home on a bicycle ricksaw.
Again, we feast. This time we enjoy a lamb kabab, with raddish and carrots, rice and lentils, dahl and naan. After a successful first day, I am ready to retire for the evening.
Next Up: The Golden Triangle and Hyderabad