Thursday, May 19, 2011

India Caprice, Part 3

I am sitting on a bus parked in the center of a country village near Ranthambore.  The others are out walking through the village and visiting a school there, although it is Saturday and school is closed, but (I found out later) the students had been assembled to sing their ABC’s in English for our group.  The bus driver has offered me some tea he picked up locally, and I'm sipping it slowly.  My nose is running, my cough is deep but loose, and I didn’t feel like walking with the others.  I can see enough of village life through the windows of the bus – the eager, shy children, the animals thronging the streets and gullies, foraging through plastic and other debris: the cows, goats, buffalos, peccaries (spiny-bristled pigs); the rocky, dusty, uneven dirt roads, faggots of wood and stacked rows of cow-patties lining the edges of tramped-dirt yards; a buffalo pissing in a yard then walking on; and motorcycles, bikes and jeeps plying the uneven “highway.” This is a one-lane paved road intended to accommodate two-lane traffic, where motorized vehicles move to the dirt shoulder when passing by vehicles coming in the other direction, and where cows meander singly or in groups down the center of the highway.  The women here wear skirts with large head shawls or else Punjabi dresses (pants with a tunic on top), or saris, and they pull the head scarf over their faces if a man is nearby.  Children carry baskets on their heads and sometimes have other children in their arms.

To continue the sequential narrative:  The second day in Delhi, we visited the now defunct mosque where the Qutb Minar is located.  This was a mosque and enormous tower built by Muslim invaders using building materials harvested from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples.  The tower, apparently the largest in India, was begun in 1209 by Qutbuddin Aibek, the first Muslim ruler of India, and was completed by his successor.  It is a spectacular, five-tiered structure constructed of different shades of red and pink sandstone.  Also in the courtyard of the complex was the famous Iron Pillar with Sanscrit inscriptions, produced during the 5th or 6th century AD and moved to Delhi after the Mosque was constructed.

Qutb Minar and mosque

Next, we stopped at the Bahai Temple in the outskirts of Delhi, but did not go into the sanctuary.  It is built like a lotus flower and reminds me of the Sydney Opera House.  After that, we went to a Sikh temple and did go into that sanctuary, covering our heads and removing our shoes.  (My feet were very dirty that night when I washed them.)

 Then we went to a place where they sell Kashmiri rugs (made in Kashmir but sold in Delhi because tourists don’t go to Kashmir anymore for fear of terrorism).  Several in the group bought rugs, although I didn’t even look.
We ate a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant near the hotel, then went browsing among the shops nearby.  Others wanted to find out where they could look for necessities, but I just wanted to go back to the hotel and rest.  I don’t exactly remember what we did next, nor even if the order of activities above is accurate.


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