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Postby Mazec on Sat Jul 30, 2005 11:55 am

How are toilets in India in comparison with North American ones?
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Postby prplmtngal on Sat Jul 30, 2005 6:34 pm

All of the above!!!

Amazing events portrayed with white hot wit and wisdom, so fun to read.

Grazi!
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Postby el capitan danjou on Sat Jul 30, 2005 8:40 pm

Faiz you are the crazy Bill Bryson of the ea forum. Salut!
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Postby offal on Sun Jul 31, 2005 2:12 pm

Thanks for this, Faiz. Really fun reading. Do you have any pictures of this vacation you could post? That would be fantastic.
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Postby Mr. Chimp on Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:07 pm

Faiz,




Genius.



More.




Okay!!



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Postby Brett Eugene Ralph on Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:44 pm

Salut, Faiz! A totally riveting read. Makes me long for Ladakh, though not for the week of culture-shocked hell I spent in Delhi after four months of Himalayan bliss.

Great stuff, man. Keep it comin'...
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Postby elisha wiesner on Tue Aug 02, 2005 4:33 pm

faiz,

thank you. you have made my day. all the best.

-elisha
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Postby glynnisjohns on Tue Aug 02, 2005 10:09 pm

kerble wrote:Hey All,
I got my leg ground against by some Eunuch (the prettier of the two, one of them looked like an Indian Gene Hackman) Faiz



This image will make me laugh for a long time to come.

Hope 'yer well it sounds like a hell of a lot 'o fun.

Take Care Faiz, and keep the anecdotal evidence of life on the indian subcontinent coming.


Glynnis of the Gallapagos.
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Postby stackmatic on Wed Aug 03, 2005 12:09 am

kerble wrote:...and the tables are lined with tray after tray of clothing and items (bangles, shoes, stereo, jewelry, purses, dresses, ties, shirts, cologne, coconuts, dates, sugar, sweets, etc. etc. etc.) to more or less, show off the dowry and the gifts each family had brought for the bride and groom. A bit ostentatious and odd...


Someone brought the Bangles? As a gift? Including Susanna Hoffs? Damn...
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Postby kerble on Wed Aug 03, 2005 1:04 am

I'm going to steal this post so that the next entry will be at the top of the next page.


thx.




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Postby kerble on Wed Aug 03, 2005 1:04 am

I’m a bit nervous. The airport in Bombay (Mumbai) has been flooded for six days without any flights going out. I’m scheduled to leave on Saturday @ 3:00am. I hope I still get to.

Newspaper was even more comforting. Apparently yesterday’s flight from Hyderabad to Chicago skidded before it left the runway and got stuck in the mud. AWESOME! I’m assuming (and hoping) that by the end of the week shit’ll get sorted out. At least there was also an article about a feral boy named Chinny who was raised by a dog. According to the “article,â€
kerble is right.
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Postby Cranius on Wed Aug 03, 2005 1:20 am

kerble wrote:Well, as the folks were filing down for food, we were accosted by the photographer to take yet another everybody-stands-in-a-line shot with the groom. Everyone has a serious expression on their faces.


When I was in India I was often asked by Indian families to stand in their group photos, nearly everyplace I went. Likewise I have dozens of similar photos.

Salut Subcontinent!
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Re: India.

Postby yut on Wed Aug 03, 2005 7:50 pm

kerble wrote:the fine and totally inefficient folks over at Air India.


Veg or non-veg? That is the question...
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Postby kerble on Thu Jan 03, 2008 4:01 am

We finally landed in Hyderabad yesterday afternoon after three days of travel. Thankfully, the actual flight time had been merciful—two seven and a half hour flights from Chicago to Zurich and Zurich to Delhi and the short two hour flight from Delhi to Hyderabad. The day before we left, my little nephew, Kamran (kai) was admitted to the E.R. after having a fever and ear-infection induced seizure. The family has been hectic enough in the past week packing bags and preparing for the journey, which, as fate always has it, is inevitably an ordeal, and this just added to the frantic nature of heading back home.

Even before I had left, m’lady and I spent ten excellent days in the Mexican Riviera, visiting ruins, riding buses and boats between Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, eating a ridiculous amount of good food. She took me scuba diving as a gift, and my mind was destroyed from swimming through coral towers looming high above us in the water, a 95 foot deep wall dive and the brief glimpse of a spotted eagle-ray with a seven foot wingspan crossing our field of vision and fading into the translucent blue. Between our fantastic and much needed getaway, I had five days back in the states, four of which were spent working feverishly, and getting work for my students set up for them in our absence.

Kai ended up beating the infection, fortunately, and was allowed to travel with my brother and sister in-law as long as his temperature didn’t spike. We crossed our fingers and went on our way. My parents and I had the layover flight, but Sameer, Julie and Kamran had the direct flight from Chicago to Delhi to worry about. I spent the turn of the new year in a window seat looking over the vast expanse of Delhi at night with the asymmetrical city lights flickering like extensive campfires in between deep patches of pitch black ground that looked and felt like bottomless voids connecting the habitable areas of the city. The seat next to me was empty, and I wished m’lady was with me to see the just as expansive blanket of stars that floated above.

Delhi is surprisingly cold. I haven’t been able to see my breath in India ever, and was surprised to do so immediately after getting off the plane. It makes sense, seeing as how it is winter and Delhi is almost by the border of Pakistan. I haven’t been to Delhi in a good twenty years, and I believe then it was the summer. It has a completely different smell compared to Hyderabad or even Bombay. There’s an odd smokiness to the atmosphere that feels like breathing in a light dusting of construction debris mixed with cooking campfire. That and the chill in the air gave the city a lovely ethereal quality that was made even more dream-like by the sensation one gets from traveling to a time zone that is basically flipped from what one is used to. The head swims.
We got into the airport and found the driver from our hotel by spotting our last name on a hand-written placard, which was a first. My brother and his family had arrived a few hours early and we drove through the city at night, winding through the dark streets teeming with stray dogs and little else at that hour. There were a few patches of traffic we hit, but other than that, all we could hear was the shifting of gears in the white Ambassador’s engine and the rush and rustle of trees flying past the open windows.

The hotel was a few minutes away from the border between Old Delhi and New Delhi in a particularly run down and seedy part of town. The actual hotel was fine enough, but the general area seemed to have fallen into years of disrepair. Shattered concrete bricks and garbage dotted the roadside and banners hung limply between the buildings over the tops of the streets for a new year’s party that felt as if it had finished just as quickly as it had begun. We checked in and checked in on Sameer, Julie and Kai. They looked beat. Kai’s ear infection had made the 16 hour flight a little bit less than convenient, and they looked beat, having only slept maybe five hours between them. Sam informed me that he had figured out the mysteries of the rubik’s cube, and I’m going to learn how to do it on our trip. I’m actually shirking the cube homework he just gave me (I’ve just learned the ‘plus’ maneuver) to get this entry down before I forget too much.

We took the baby off their hands and let them rest, as we had a long day of driving to Agra the next morning. I had a small cot in the room, which was more than comfortable and drifted off quickly. We got up around 6:30 and headed down to the hotel’s restaurant for our complimentary breakfast. The paper thin omlettes and potato roti were Spartan if not delicious, but the coffee, once again was excellent. It’s strongly brewed, basically espresso, and powerfully sweet and milky. The juice was thick and nectar-like and the grapes stained our fingers with their rich purple flesh. We headed out to the small van we’d chartered to take us to Agra and were on our way. Sameer was definitely getting sick and neither he nor Julie seemed up for the trip.

We passed our way out of the city, which was unsurprisingly busier compared to the previous night. The streets were choked with traffic and the stop and go nature of the driving made us stop the car after twenty minutes of bumpy roads so that Julie could retch on the side of the road. For my parents and my brother and I, this type of traffic is no big deal. We’ve dealt with the herky-jerky nature of Indian driving for decades, and it doesn’t make one lick of difference. Julie isn’t so fortunate, and it made us all a little nervous, considering that there was still at least five more hours of road time before we hit Agra’s city limits.

We saw a 50 foot tall statue of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman towering with scimitar in hand in the hazy morning air over the arch of a curving traffic flyover. As we pulled closer, and the statue came into focus through the thick air, we saw a screaming green demon skull with its mouth open between his feet providing an entrance into the interior temple through its cavernous and fanged maw. Hinduism has the best gods. This is a fact. We drove past the military bases and the still sleepy and closed storefronts with their corrugated metal doors, which would remain shut for at least a few more hours. Our driver pointed out bits and pieces of the city’s more notable spots on our way through Delhi. Once we hit the highway, the bumpiness of travel settled noticeably, but I still got glimpses of my sister in law looking pale and nauseous through the reflection in the rear-view.

I’ve never gone on a very long road trip in India, most of the time we’re just in Hyderabad or spending a day or two in Bombay. At most, we’ve driven a few hours to visit some tombs in the outskirts, and I was excited to catch a bit of the countryside. The highways have miles and miles of hand laid and painted brick medians with large green bushes and their showy red flowers between the traffic directions. From the passing streets, I spotted countless pick-up games of cricket in the hot reddish dust and some views of plains that seemed so Midwestern in appearance, that if not for the whitewashed Hindi lettering on the short brick walls, the rabbit towers and un-lush tree growth would have seemed like southern Illinois.

The cool breeze from outside mixed with the hot sun on my already Mexico tanned skin felt excellent. We saw scores of camels pulling impossibly large bundles of hay on wood-wheeled carts with turbaned drivers. While waiting for a toll to be paid at the city border, I saw my first cobra show, which was not as terrifying as I had hoped. The mauve colored snake seemed almost comatose from its time stored in the tiny round wood-woven bread basket, and the old man who was its master seemed more exciting to watch as he worked his gnarled and long nailed fingers over the stops in the wide-bellied flute as he wrung and wrangled variations on the ‘snake charmer theme’ that were as irritating as they were awesomely psychedelic. In the middle of this, a monkey man came with his leashed companion, who prayed, saluted and back-flipped right into the face of the sleepy cobra, who did little else than just fan out his cowl in indifference.

Aside from a short stop to stretch our legs, we basically drove the whole way through to Agra. We were going to have another five hours to drive back that night, and weren’t going to get to the Taj Mahal until after two, so we needed to keep going. The sights of the country were more than worth it. Between the oversized oil refineries and Ford motor plants were things like the Jai Guru Dev temple (you may recognize the mantra from the lyrics of “Across the Universe”), with a dozen strangely spherical onion domes made of faceted white marble over the small fort-like bulk of the temple. The domes were crowned with rings of small black birds that were nestled under the shade of their lower hemispheres, and we pulled over in the dirt on the side of the road to snap off a few shots.

When we got into Agra, the traffic was even worse than in Delhi, with every one of the two and a half million residents of the city seemingly out in the streets in cars, on foot, on bicycles, trucks, rickshaws and the like. About ten minutes from the Mahal, Julie could take no more and lost her breakfast in the middle of a wicked traffic jam. Drag. My parents and I were the only one feeling 100%, while the other half of our little entourage was all sick as dogs. Regardless, I had never been to the Taj Mahal, and there was little that could dampen my good mood and excitement to see it in the white marble flesh.

Just outside of the grounds, we stopped and picked up our guide, Laal (it means ‘red’, and was most likely a nickname considering that he had a full head of gray hair that was dyed a dark maroon from copious amounts of henna), and he talked us through a brief history of the Taj Mahal as we made our way to the gate. Since its inception into the modern wonders of the world a few years back, they’ve made an effort to keep the place as well maintained as possible, prohibiting gas cars from getting closer to the site than a mile or so, instead having patrons visit on foot, or take a quick, cheap ride in a small electric rickshaw.

We reached the high red sandstone outer gates that blocked us from the garden and realized that with the honor of wonder of the world, the Mahal has become a tourist nightmare. Long lines stretched down the block about half a mile for the visitors to be thoroughly frisked at the recently installed security gates. No bags or food or cigarettes or much of anything of any kind are allowed on the premises, which was fine, except that I had left my tiny bic lighter in my pockets and had to give it up at the gate. I smuggled that thing through security in Dallas and Mexico and Chicago and Zurich and Delhi, but couldn’t get it by the mustachioed, olive uniformed police officer with the automatic rifle slung at his back at the gates. Oh well. It was more funny than irritating.

The inner courtyard and garden before you come to the Mahal is gorgeous. Wide sandstone paths lead up to the front gate, also made of sandstone, engraved with ornate Arabic script and tessellated archways surrounded by a high castle wall. Shah Jahan really did a number on it. There were 22 small onion domes at the top of the outer wall to indicate the 22 years it took to construct the biggest tomb I’ve ever seen.

As you rounded the corner to the front of the gate, the darkened, high-ceilinged entryway frames the far away Taj Mahal brilliantly and I think is really the first time that the size and scope of it is really apparent. It is epic. The throngs of people on the pedestal plaza the Mahal rests on seem as insignificant and equally scaled as gnats. We took a few photos similar to every photo you’ve ever seen of the Mahal from in front of the fountains, and I was excited to get closer and get some nice detail shots.

The Taj Mahal is more of a complex than just the one tomb, with two large sandstone structures on either side of the pedestal, both symmetrical to the center line of the tomb. One is a masjid, or prayer hall, and the other is a guest house. The symmetrical garden path to the white tomb and the flanking buildings are so aesthetically wonderful, that it’s easy to see how so many starry-eyed visitors are distracted long enough to get their pockets picked by the children, men and women weaving through the crowd in tightly controlled slaloms.

When you make it to the actual structure, you have to cover your shoes up with small paper booties and then brave the slickly worn marble steps up to the plaza. It’s a precarious business, as the flood of people coming down is just a swift moving and jostling as the crowd rushing up. Losing sight of the top dome upon reaching the plaza puts a nice perspective on the immense size of the building itself, and the pristine and shimmering sheets of marble flooring tile with their rough grouting catch the sunlight, and occasionally give a hint to the translucent nature of marble. You can shine light through the stone.

We wound through the crowd to the end of the line that stretched halfway around the structure in about two bands and I got to fill my camera with details of the etched slabs of white inset with lapis lazuli, opal, and India’s own red precious stones. Chiseled marble trellises surrounded the shaft into the actual tomb and the octagonal structure of the building was heavy with incredible, yet obviously hand carved flowers and grids, as rough as they were exact.

While winding around the interiors of the building, we caught grids of light shining through marble screens, giving brief blasts of brightness in the otherwise dusk-like dark. When the immense and hollow inner dome was being etched, its center flower made of more than 40,000 separate facets of stone, the worked piled dirt and mud high up into the pristine white tomb and made a natural ladder from where they could do their handiwork. When it was done, the mud was washed out into the Y_____ river that runs along the actual front of the building. The river itself is almost bone dry at this point, and the sandstone foundation for the proposed Black Taj can been seen across its thirsty banks. My favourite structure in the whole complex was the tiny straw shack that sat opposite the looming tomb on the other side of the river, clearly the tiny and unimpressive workshop of some local.


More soon. Gotta go for a bit.



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Postby Ekkssvvppllott on Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:17 am

Rock me amadeus, Kerble!

(Just felt like typing that out for some reason.)

Enjoy your trip.
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Postby hench on Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:00 am

kick ass! super stoked to see a new travelogue!
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Postby sunlore on Tue Jun 24, 2008 3:44 am

So the girl is flying to Delhi on wednesday for a few weeks, any stuff she shouldn't miss out on around there/Northern India?

Thanks.
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Postby pwalshj on Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:46 am

Wow, kerble. Excellent read. Thanks for taking the time to share this.
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Postby Ty Webb on Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:54 am

Ditto.

And I still want to know where to get a good, elegant sherwani like your black one. Everything I find looks like it was tailored for Liberace.
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Re:

Postby piut_ on Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:45 am

sunlore wrote:So the girl is flying to Delhi on wednesday for a few weeks, any stuff she shouldn't miss out on around there/Northern India?

Thanks.


Faiz,

I'm going to Delhi in May for a business trip. Any suggestions on what to do/where to go?

My pessimistic colleagues keep saying that I shouldn't bring any expensive things or they would get stolen. But that's just them and I feel like this should be a poor excuse for me to get myself the Ricoh GR2 I've been dreaming of, and go to Delhi and act like a classy tourist with a non-SLR digital camera

Thanks
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