India 2001 Travel Diary, Part 19

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© 2001 Giles Orr

Saturday 2 June 2001, 1400

Late tonight (or early tomorrow morning, around 0145) we board a plane for Zurich. I can hardly believe the trip is ending. It seems a lifetime. I suppose I'm ready for the whirlwind to stop, and yet I hardly want to go back to Milledgeville.

Jantar Mantar Observatory. More pictures here.

We were on the bus at 0730 this morning. We went to an observatory built in the 1600s (?), all sweeping curves, stairs, and angles. Very strange, very pretty. My lack of a wide-angle lens really killed me there. Then on to the Red Fort of Delhi, which Marc likes better than the one at Agra, but Catherine and I liked less. Very hot. A pretty amazing monument, but I think we're all about numb to monuments now. Then on to the Craft Museum store. Catherine and I went into the museum itself, and I followed her to look at the textiles. Then the bus drove us to Connaught Circle, where a lot of people got out to exchange money and check e-mail. The rest of us returned to Defense Colony. I stayed in Catherine's nice, aircon room until lunch was ready - the common dining rooms are not aircon. After lunch, I came back here. Meals, so long as we've been in "Sweetiee" Ahuja's buildings, have been home cooked, made by the live-in house-keepers.

Many of us expected a lot of cows in the cities in India. They were seriously lacking in our first week here, there are hardly any cows in South Mumbai. On the other hand, there were often a couple outside National College. And they're a given in Delhi - walking from Defense Colony C-83 (the women's building where we have lunches and dinners) to A-102 (where I am) you're pretty much guaranteed to see them - lunching in the garbage bin, standing by the stream (this is a nice area), or sleeping by the side of the road.

Something else we saw today that I hadn't expected was snake charmers. King Cobras in tiny little baskets, some guy playing his little pipe and swaying. They wanted Rs 200 just to take a photo, and others assured me they had taken some. I would like a picture.

We saw two elephants - one returning from (going to?) Agra, the other in Delhi - today, I think.


Doug and I are packed, awaiting 1830 departure. I've left a few items behind (ibuprofen, a couple rolls toilet paper, some notes, my battered umbrella), and everything fits. Having written that, I rescued the umbrella - what if it's raining in Georgia? Roxanne and I have to take the shuttle to Macon. Is that real? After another 24 hours of airplanes and airports, I will arrive back in Georgia - only slightly cooler, but much, much richer than here.

An interesting story goes with our stay in Delhi. Mrs. Ahuja, who owns and rents the three houses in Defense Colony that we're staying in, is a class-mate of Shibu Anand. Mrs. Anand did most of the planning in Mumbai and, while there were glitches, things went pretty smoothly. Mrs. Anand assured Marc that Mrs. Ahuja would "take care of everything." But when we got here, Mrs. Ahuja told Marc "I'm not a travel agent." She got us a bus, and a vague schedule, and didn't bother to find out the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays, although that changed about six months ago. It was only luck that had us talking in the hotel lobby, and the manager told us the Taj wouldn't be open the next day ... So we loaded back on the bus and went straight there, as tired as we were.

Sunset over the Taj Mahal mosque. More pictures here.

The Taj Mahal ... it's amazing to walk there, in a place so famous. It's amazing to see, because it's stunningly beautiful. I sat with Catherine to watch the sun set over one of the two mosques beside the Taj, the clouds dyed yellow by the sun. Took some pictures, I doubt they worked. It was marvelously romantic and beautiful.

The hotel dinner after the Taj was another buffet at the hotel. Excellent naan.

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by giles