Saturday, April 07, 2007

home at last

it's kinda weird being here...where there are different spots for cars going one way vs. going the other way, separate places for people, for animals, for tractors...and where you can inhale and not be reminded of what other living creatures are in close proximity, etc.

The pictures - all 411 of them - are posted, and I think they begin to capture the poignant contrasts - beauty and poverty - that abound in India. Remember, though, that they don't capture a very important sensory experience of India: smell.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

yah, whatever.....

Could the Taj really be the rave that everyone says it is? It is exquisite beyond measure - in its scale and PRESENCE. It's hard to describe or capture in words or photo. Ya have to go if you are fortunate enough to have the chance. We arose at 5:30am in order to see the rising sun make the marble gleam that just-so-yellowish tinge, and I'm glad we did! (yeah, ME!)

talk about beachball stripes

At work we have a framework for communication that involves getting a diversity of opinions / points of view -- the analogy being that "every stripe on the beachball" should be represented.

This trip has provided an incredible array of beachball stripes. It started with corporate IT India in Hyderabad & Bangalore....engaging with the westernized, progressive, educated India we so often engage with in the States. It migrated to the rural and working class India in our exploits in rural Rajasthan....the hotel attendants, the people who take care of the camels, the bathroom attendants, Asif our driver and his family, and the myriad of people we see on the streets. We also saw a rising wealth in the home of the tour agency owner, Anil. Then in Delhi we've seen the Gupta home, B9 and the exquisite shops and life in Haus Khas village - and learned what that entails from a social perspective as well through Anna's stories about Amit's upbringing at Dune School and such.

I'm sure I'm forgetting many more stripes too....

Time with Anna!

What a blessing to be able to see Anna (and Sam!) India! Having coffee at Barista or dinner at Ploof transports us all from the rough, relentless harshness of life here to a "metro-anywhere" feeling - we could be anywhere in the world (and not Delhi ;). It's so wonderful to be able to see Anna doing some of her favorite things: having coffee, eating chocolate cake, buying shoes, or dressing us up in Saris. It's so hard to imagine that bright flashy smile not coming out as it does so often when we live in SF; I'm glad it is coming out this week. What a treat!

(it's still weird to be shooting the breeze withher & Sam in Choko La, the yummy cafe in Basant Lok, and look around & see women in Sari's and remember, "hey, we're in India!")

Purism's for the birds

As you probably know, I'm not a real pharma, drug kinda gal. But can I just hear some hallelujahs for whoever invented Cipro? If you haven't traveled to a developing country, let's just say that Cipro and the like are indispensible for those of us lucky enough to get the "traveler's friend" while partaking in the local cuisine.

Hallelujah for Cipro!

Monday, April 02, 2007

they say India is a land of contrasts....

...and we saw one that won't read in the guidebooks. It was the contrast between dinner at Anil's home (Anil is the owner of the tour agency we used), and the dinner at the home of our fearless and faithful driver, Asif.

When Asif extended us an invitation we were surprised, as we suspected he was a man of very simple means (an assumption proven to be true). Then Anil called to extend his invitation to us too (we were feeling quite popular). Not wishing to offend his boss, Asif asked us what we wanted to do. We wanted to go to Asif's, and we also wanted to honor Anil's we did both. Dinner, Part One was held at Anil's gated home on the outskirts of Jaipur. The exchange was cordial, the food (as always) tasty, and the ambiance....a bit stiff. It was 10pm by the time we made it back into the Old City center for Dinner, Part Two at Asif's home. There, we were met by his two boys, Sajid (16) and Samer (13) and his smiling, petite, beautiful wife Zarin (which Asif proudly told us means "shining" in Arabic). She had handmade us rotis, a chicken curry for Sue and a veg paneer for me.

The entire time, Zarin and Asif giggled with one another, and I was taken aback by the wink Samer slipped in to me when nobody was looking (I concluded that "Samer" must translate into "rascal" ;). The joy and warmth emanated so richly from this SINGLE room (no bathroom, let alone working kitchen) that the power outage and stench from the animals in the street faded to the background. How many proverbs talk about how it is better to be with little and have peace in the home, than have much and strife? Asif is a blessed man.

Asif - the modern-day Joseph

Lately at work I've been confronted by just how self-absorbed I am and how far I am from being a true servant to those around me. I've prayed to become more like a Daniel or a Joseph, who both served so extraordinarily well in their adverse circumstances.

Here in India, we have been blessed to meet a real, live, present-day Joseph in the form of a modest, Muslim car driver named Asif. Both Sue and I admitted to being a bit unnerved by his formidable photo the tour agency sent to us, but the moment we entered the airport gate, his sweet, welcoming smile made us feel the kind of safety that endured throughout our many miles with him. He was always always always so quick to anticipate our every need, from getting water for us, to opening the door, to being ready on the drop of a dime to get us, even when it meant waiting outside in the cruel heat for us to return to the car. Always with a smile and a cute head bob and a "yes, m'um." Always quick and anticipatory in his serving, with the biggest heart you can imagine. Combined with eyes like a hawk that scowled down any form of harassment from "without" our automobile enclave. I truly cried the day before we parted. A true, modern-day Joseph who I hope will be blessed to move beyond his very very (for lack of better word) modest circumstances.

the impact of air conditioning

the inescapable, incessant heat has been experienced by us to SUCh a limited degree....we choose to endure it to see a monument or site, only to be picked up IMMEDIATELY by our faithful driver Asif the microsecond we enter the parking lot area (more on Asif later). It's hard to comprehend what this must be like for the many many many people who stay outside all day, exposed to the relentless, merciless sun and heat. How do they have energy - or will - for anything? Life is an entirely different experience - entirely - when it is comfortable.