I was so glad to learn the theme of this month's blogs would be travel, because I just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to India...or was it? I could go back there in a New York minute...well, except for the 18 hour plane ride.
I took loads of pictures and want to share them with anyone who'd like a first hand peek, here: http://s183.photobucket.com/albums/x185/ashlyn__photo/India%20trip/
It was clear from the moment we arrived at our hotel we weren't in familiar territory. Our cab was stopped before the hotel entrance and searched for bombs. Yes, this procedure happened each time I came "home" from shopping or sightseeing. I also had to go through a metal detector and let them search my bags before entering the hotel. Security measures don't bother me. I realize it's for my safety and for those who live and work there.
My husband and I went for a walk after sleeping off jet lag for a few hours. The sidewalks were cracked and heaving. Several different building materials had been used from stone to concrete. I asked my husband if they'd had an earthquake there. He simply laughed and said, "No, they just don't have our building methods." As I glanced around, it was clear that buildings weren't created equal or regulations may have been loosely interpreted. Some stores looked sturdy enough and right next to them could be a crumbling building you'd think must be unoccupied. Except, it was occupied.
While we were out on our walk, I saw a family of 5 on a motorcycle. Yes...5 people on 1 motorcycle. Dad was driving with Junior in front of him. Mom, in full sari, sat sidesaddle behind him. The middle child was sandwiched between them. And the baby rested in mama's arms. I watched them take a sharp corner like it was nothing. For more about driving in India, see my news blog.
We've become such a coddled society, and I wondered how U.S. soccer moms would handle their everyday world. Probably with a few freak-outs. I have to admit, I was glad to get back to the relative peace and quiet of our 5 star hotel. But in India, even 5 stars means about 3 to Americans.
Watching Bollywood movies and TV shows sometimes gave a peek into how the western world has been invading their culture. I watched the Home Shopping Network of India. They were speaking a blend of Hindi and English that I called "Hindish," yet I understood exactly what they were saying. "This would make a perfect birthday gift for your mother-in-law or your sister-in-law..."
And speaking of western ways...I was there over Valentine's Day. The younger generation embraced Valentine's Day with relish. Their newspapers were full of ads for chocolate, flowers, cards and jewelry! The older generation weren't happy about it, wanting to keep to their own holidays--and there are plenty of those.
We celebrated the Feast of Shiva while we were there. (See pictures of Mysore.)
We went to the temple of Shiva's wife along with thousands of faithful followers. A guide took us through, helped us to lay flowers at the right spot, get blessed with incense and holy water, and then to get our shoes back (shoes aren't allowed in temples) we had to pay...twice! LOL. Yes, if you're as white as I am, you're bound to be hit up for extra cash. After experiencing a taste of what their lives are like, I didn't worry about a few extra rupies here or there.
Well, I guess that concludes this tour of India. I expected I'd be happy to get home, but never anticipated the lump in my throat or the tears in my eyes as our East Coast came into view. My husband and I counted our blessings all the way from Boston until we drove up to our home in NH. We have peace within our borders, public toilets have seats and paper, we can drink right out of the tap, and nobody had to check our car for bombs. I heart the USA too.