Traffic and Trucks and Things you See Along the Road

Something that impressed me was the art on the trucks. This is all over India, though the level of detail can vary from place to place. I got a few photos when I was in Rajasthan.






Note how the back of the trucks say “Horn Please” or “Blow Horn.” Traffic works rather differently than it does in the States. There is constant horn blowing, though it is not angry or malicious; rather it is a form of communication between drivers. Sujal says most asian countries do not queue, and this would explain what Indians tend not to stay in their lanes when driving. Lesa describes it (as it was described to her), and India flows like a river (traffic, people, etc) — if something stops or gets stuck, the flow just goes around it. That is definitely the case in traffic. There are cars, trucks, bicyclists, autorickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, moped and motorbikes, and pedestrians, all trying to move along. Clearly, they move at different speeds. They all compete for places on the road, and so the horn becomes necessary to say, “I am coming up behind you on the left.” In general, I think Indian drivers are much more aware of what is happening on the road than American drivers. Since Indian drivers swerve and weave more than Americans, they need to know where other vehicles are and where open spaces are. They need to have a sense of how fast the other vehicles in traffic re traveling. Though many foreigners view this as “crazy driving,” it makes sense to me.

I also like the building as billboard approach. No space is wasted for advertising. This was also very true in Kerala.


Finally, so many times I saw overstuffed vehicles — a moped with a family of five, autorickshaws spilling over with passengers, and then there was this example, not uncommon to see on the roads:


When I went to Jaipur, my sister was nervous about Chauhan and me driving on the highway, because she said the trucks are very dangerous, that they often have inexperienced drivers. She said the highway in Haryana is particularly bad. Chauhan and I did see the aftermath of a bad accident on the Noida highway. Often I saw overturned trucks and smashed cars, but this one time, we saw a body being carried off. Chauhan said the man was dead.

Let me reassure you that Chauhan is a very skilled driver, probably the best driver I have ever encountered. But still, he can only control his own vehicle, so when a bus swerved in front of us at the last moment, our accident was inevitable. Luckily, we were moving at a low speed. When we hit the bus, we ricocheted off of it and then hit the median. Chauhan got out to talk to the bus driver, and the driver denied any wrongdoing. I’m not sure how most accidents are handled, but I get the impression that insurance information being exchanged is not the norm. Chauhan got back in the car and we drove off. I could tell that he was nervous and upset, so I suggested we pull over at the next open dhaba (roadside open air restaurant). There he told me he was so angry, he wanted to slap the bus driver, but he didn’t because I was there. (Phew!)

I jumped out of the car — did I mention we had been driving through walls of rain? — and ran to the dhaba to get us Limcas. As I was trying to pay my Rs 50 tab in much confusion, Chauhan came up and clarified for me that I was trying to hand them a Rs 5 note. That was why they initially told me 50 rupees but then were angrily saying 45, 45. After a good laugh, Chauhan and I took a bit more time to calm down and then continue on our way.

Did I mention the eclipse? We left for Jaipur the morning of the eclipse, which was a big phenomenon in India. We did not get to see it in Noida because of the cloud cover, but Chauhan saw in Delhi. Many people saw it as a very holy event. Chauhan said it was bad luck to see it. He later blamed the accident on the eclipse.


Been Back Almost a Week

I have been adjusting to the time difference, and I thought I was pretty much back to US time, but yesterday was a tiring day, and today I am going to see Springsteen. I am a little worried about how I am going to manage to stay up. I can usually make it to 10:30 or 11, but we will be in traffic for a long time, too.

Anyway, woke early this morning and began checking out a few expat blogs. I read a bunch before I left for India and found Our Delhi Struggle, which I liked. I’m following them on Twitter, not that I check my Twitter feed often, which pisses Sujal off to no end. I went on Twitter this morning to make a snarky comment or two about the movie to which I was dragged last night, kicking and screaming, District 9. (Why bring your wife, who hates sci-fi movies, to a sci-fi movie, with a bunch of dudes? Just go see it with the dudes.) Nonetheless, The ODS folks posted a link to another blog, Same, but Different. They are either expats who once lived in Poland as well, or they are Polish expats. I could not tell, because it kind of sounded like they were ragging on Poland a bit. What is it with the Polish and India? I swear, it is a marriage made in heaven, and I should know. 😉

Ultimately, that blog lead me to American Expats in India, and I really loved their photos. Honestly, I really miss being in India. Yes, I was on vacation, and that makes anyplace really awesome, but there is a certain busy-ness, a buzz of activity, that makes India vibrant. I also miss being around my sister and her family.

Sweet Home West Hartford

I’ve been home now for going on five days. I have been somewhat jet-lagged, but not too badly. The temptation is great for me to merely lounge around in my last week before school, though I have plenty of work to do. My fans beckon for me to finish the tales on my travels (and by fans, I mean Leslie and Lesa).

A Day Trip Full of Temples and Ruins

On July 15, while Lesa was at work and the kids were at school, Jon, Chauhan, and I got an early start and went to visit three sites in South Delhi: The Lotus Temple, The Kalka Mandir, and Qutb Minar.

First we stopped at the Lotus Temple, one of the newer structures. It is an impressive temple for the Baha’i faith, a religion that I have only recently begun to learn about. Sujal and I have some Baha’i friends, so it was particularly interesting to learn more about the faith and to visit this special site.


We could not take photos inside, so I only have a few shots from the outside. Obviously, it is an architecturally unique building. The inside is rather stark compared to Hindu temples. Jonathan observed that is feels more like a western church (or perhaps a New England church), because it is simply plain on the inside, which provides for a different type of beauty. One thing I really like about the Baha’i faith is how inclusive it is, not merely of people from other faiths, but of women. There does not seem to be the significant hierarchical nature when it comes to gender as there is in most religions. Perhaps I am wrong, but that is what it seemed like in their education section.

Next we went to the Kalka Mandir, a temple to Kali. For those of you who read my earlier post on a failed attempt to visit a Kali temple, you know how important Kali is to me. Visiting this temple was an experieince like no other. For the most part, Hindu temples have been busy but relatively peaceful places. To say this place was very busy might be a serious understatement.

We first had to walk through an older “village” within the city, through narrow roads and a market. Several stall owners were excited to have their picture taken.



Stall owners closest to the temple sold prasad (sweets for offerings) and other offerings for the temple. I also thought this elderly woman was particularly beautiful.


Side note: Taking photos of people caused me some mixed feelings. Most people seemed fine with it so long as one asks first and then shows the photo after. I feel like there is a fine line between respect and insulting people. I, personally, tend to not mind so much so long as people ask first. And I am in a number of photo albums after this trip to India.

We could not bring in a camera, so here is a photo of the temple from the outside:


Note how crowded it is on the outside. As we waited in line, some police (or guards?) came and moved us to the front of the line, claiming they were concerned about pickpockets. We were shoved into a wall of humans swarming the temple priest, quickly giving their offering and receiving their blessings. We each received a fistful of prasad. I wasn’t 100% sure of what to do with it, take it or offer it. I knew to offer some and take some, but I did not realize just how many alters there would be. Each alter was very crowded, and I would not describe this temple as peaceful, as it was very loud with lots of pushing. Yet at the same time, I loved it. When I got to an outer part of the temple, brahmins tied red threads around my left wrist at three different alters. Finally, there was a place for the faithful to tie a red thread and make a wish, which I did. We finally left and had to return through the marketplace barefoot to retrieve our shoes.

Then we headed to Qutb Minar, another Mughal complex built during Mughal rule. It is also a World Heritage site. The Minar itself is an extraordinarily high tower, given the time it was buitl. It has beautiful shades of sandstone and intricate carvings.



Here are Jon and Chauhan:


It is a large complex that has the remains of a former university.




I loved the intricate carvings.



The next emporor wanted to build a much larger minar, one architects hailed as unreasonable (and like untenable). It was begun but never finished.


There was also this “marvel” — and iron post that has not rusted for almost two thousand years.


Finally, we also saw this tomb in the complex.


A few other miscellaneous photos there:





I took these last two of dogs, because feral dogs are everywhere. Note all the dogs sleeping under shrubs. I love to pet dogs, but sadly, I could not pet these, because they are not used to humans and may bite. They are also dirty and likely disease-ridden. Everywhere you go, there are dogs — on the streets, in world heritage sites, you name it!

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Heading Home Soon

I know it has been several weeks since I have written, and I promise to detail more of my trip soon. I was in Kerala for ten days, and the immediately following, I went to Mumbai and Amhedabad. I am back in Delhi (and Noida), but I leave for the States tomorrow night. I cannot believe I will be home so soon. I am looking forward to Seeing my wonderful husband, but I will be sad to leave India and my family.

I just had a lovely last night here. Lesa and I went to INA and Dilli Haat, two markets, where we enjoyed bargaining, dining, and havering (which, I realize, is not indian).

I’m sleepy now, so good night.

Visiting the Taj Mahal the Special Indian Way


This passed weekend, my relatives took me to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. They gave me the royal treatment! First they hired a professional photographer to take pictures of me (and all of the family members). The got a few cute photos and then even one of me looking as if I were holding he top of the Taj. This is a very popular pose for Indian tourists.

Ekta did not come on this trip, but Sudhaphoi’s four year old granddaughter, Akanksha, came.


Here is a shot of Anilkaka and a shot of Samta:



The Taj Mahal is both beautiful and romantic. For those of you who do not know, the Taj is actually a mausoleum for ShahJahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He was heartbroken when she dies, so he had this beautiful complex built in her honor. It is completely made of marble with inlay of lapis and other precious stones.

This is a shot from inside one of the two mosques in the complex, my favorite shot.


Then we went to Mathura and visited two temples to Krishna. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The day started to take a turn for me when we got to Mathura. At the first temple, a very beautiful and peaceful temple complex, I fell in the bathroom. It was pretty disgusting, because I fell flat on my back onto the wet bathroom floor. God knows what was on that floor. I hurt my elbow, bruising it and cutting it. It that moment, I was suddenly overcome with how foreign I felt. I felt like everyone was looking at the white girl who can’t even walk. Clearly, I am very odd to Indians — sometimes inspiring curiosity, other times inspiring disdain. Often, I am very aware of how bizarre I am to people around me. Most of the time, I am perfectly fine with it, but in this moment, it completely overwhelmed me. It got better as I went through the temple, but I was getting tired, and my cold seemed to be worsening. We went to another temple to make an offering just in time before they closed the entrance to see Krishna. Then we were in the marketplace.


We shopped for a bit, and I was getting increasingly tired. After a bit, we got in the car to come home. We stopped for dinner, but I was not hungry because I just wasn’t feeling well. I’d developed a cough and a sore throat. Finally, after being stuck in traffic, we got home at about 1:30AM. It was a very long day.

Again, I had another wonderful time with my relatives. They were so kind and generous to me, and I really appreciated everything they did for me. When I fell, they were very worried I had hurt myself. And they suggested several remedies for my cold.

I had a good long sleep, and I felt a little better the next day. That day, I went with Lesa’s family to have lunch with a Canadian family in Khan Market. We went to a place that serves western food. And today, I went shopping at the state emporiums and got lots of gifts for people back home. Feeling better today, but still on the mend.

Meeting Relatives

One of my best adventures so far has been meeting my new relatives. I was very nervous about meeting them, because I was filled with a mixture of wanting to impress them, fear or “messing up,” and concern about cultural misunderstandings. I was pleasantly surprised. When I first reached Nikafoi’s house, I was welcomed with this view:


I believe the intention of this wording is “Welcome to our home” or something along the lines of “Our home is your home.” Clearly, I was immediately part of the family.

Let me explain something about titles for family members. Aunts and uncles are called certain titles based on the relationship to the child. Father’s sister and her husband are foi and fua, respectively. Father’s brother and wife are kaka and kaki. Mother’s brother and wife are mama and mami, and mother’s sister and husband are masa and masi.

At this point, I was visiting Nikafoi. Sudhafoi just happened to be visiting from Mumbai, and Anilkaka flew in special from Amhedabad. So this was an extra warm welcome. When I arrived, Nikafoi was still at work (she works in the income tax dept. for the government), so Sudhafoi did a special blessing for me. It was a crazy little scene as I was trying to do the right things: take off my shoes, tough my relatives’ feet, greet everyone, etc while Sudhafoi was trying to do the blessing. But it all went well, and I felt very welcome.

Then Nikafoi came home, and this is a photo of us.


She pulled out an old photo album and showed me family pictures, which were lovely to see. I even saw a picture of Sujal from his last visit, 17 years ago. As one can imagine, family would like to see him again. I brought my laptop and we called him on Skype, so he got to practice his Gujarati. This was another level to the visit. Samta and Ekta (Ekta was the first person to welcome me, meeting me at the car) speak good English, as they learned it throughout their schooling. I believe their classes were conducted in English. Anilkaka also speaks good English. Nikaphoi and Sudhaphoi speak some English, though they understand more than they speak. But still, it can make communication tricky. Samta and Ekta translated, yet we still ultimately speak a different dialect, so sometimes there were miscommunications, though nothing egregious.

Finally, they took me to a large mall in Gurgoan and took me to a very nice Punjabi restaurant. Here is a photo of Nikaphoi, Sudhaphoi, and Anilkaka:


And a photo of me, Ekta, and Samta:


Samta and Ekta are lovely young women (both in their early 20’s). Ekta is a dentist, and Samta is studying to be an electrical engineer. They were both very friendly and chatty with me.

I know that I am rather unusual in my bedtime and need for sleep in that I usually am in bed by about 9PM, so getting home after midnight was a very late night for me. I wasn’t at my best, because of this pesky cold I have, but all in all, it was a perfect meeting! I could not have imagined feeling any more welcomed!

A Guest Post from my Nephew Evan

My aunt and I went to the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is very beautiful, but I did not go inside it. It is made of gold. I actually did not like it. It was very hot, and I was thirsty.

Have a Cold, Will Travel?

I’ve had a really nasty cold all week. I have also spent three solid days (and nights to some degree) with relatives on Sujal’s side. I have been very busy. Yesterday They took me to the Taj Mahal, more on that later (sadly, I forgot my Wyvern Nation t-shirt. Sujal’s aunts and uncles have been very welcoming, which I fully appreciate. Communicating can be a little tricky at times, but we are doing our best. Photos and stories to come…

Wagah Border

While in Amritsar, we went to the Wagah Border, which is the border between Pakistan and India. Each evening, they do a ceremony to close the border. You can see it on You Tube.