A Travellerspoint blog

Varanasi

When I woke up this morning at 5:00 a.m., it was easy. I haven't slept past 5:30 the entire time that I have been here due to a busy schedule and lots to do! There was a knock on the door at 5:30 a.m. from the nice man that I had asked to bring me tea while the sun rose over the Ganges - incredible!

After tea, Kylie and I head out to meet our guide Pappu for a 6:00 a.m. boat ride along the river. We had done the same the night before but it felt very different in the early morning hours. The colors were magnificent as hundreds of people stepped down from the ghats to bathe in the holy water of the Ganges.

As we drifted down the river the night before, the burning ghats were glowing with fires lit for the ceremonial burning of loved ones who have passed. The bones that remain will be gathered by the family and given to the Ganges. It was an amazing sight and I felt privelaged to witness the ceremony that did not belong to me.

Earlier that night as we negotiated the alley ways, I stood in front of the burning ghat for the first time. As I stood not knowing quite what to think I heard Pappu yell, "Lift Up!!!" So, I quickly found a step to jump onto as men rushed down with the body of a loved one covered in the most beautiful fabric. When that one passed another was soon to follow. We would seem them later alight as we sat on the river.

It is still early and I am trying to make up for the meals I missed on the train ride here... off to breakfast. More soon.

Alicia xxo

Posted by AliciaD 19:58 Archived in India Comments (0)

Samode Haveli... pure luxury in Jaipur

The morning of the 19th was a bit frantic and we worked feverishly to pack our (now too little) bags for the early morning trip to Jaipur! So, there we were, the four (myself, Kylie, Stephen and Luci) of us rushing to catch our train to a new city. After a friendly squabble over the fare to be paid, we negotiated a fair price and did what we could to communicate our situation to the railway attendants who eventually directed us toward the appropriate platform. It turned out, that there would be a slight delay in the departure time but we were more than welcome to make ourselves comfortable in the First Class Lounge.

As you might imagine, the First Class Lounge at Rohilla Station is everything short of comfortable :) It is a cement block with a few chairs and lots of happy rats running from one end to the other in search of God knows what! So there we were, for the next 4 1/2 hours. While India has taught me many things in my short stay, it has also given me the gift of patience (which I desperately needed). So, I had a banana and finished a very good book.

The train carriage that Kylie and I had booked ourselves into was fantastic. Again, not first class but surely the nicest place I had slept in to date! We quickly made ourselves comfortable and settled in for the five hour ride to Jaipur.

Samode Haveli is a bit of heaven in the desert of central Rajahstan. The gentlemen at the front desk greeted us with smiles and cold drinks while we meandered through the formalities. The moment we arrived in our Majaraja suite, I thought I might not ever leave!!! The walls are completely covered with mirrored mosaics and wall paintings depicting various rituals and Gods.

Kylie and I had dinner in the courtyard that evening and got up early for the following:

7:30 a.m. Yoga by the pool
8:45 a.m. The best breakfast I have had in ages!!!
9:30 a.m. Ayurvedic Body Massage and Facial
11:00 a.m. Steam Bath and Cold Shower

It was pure bliss. Little did I know that it would keep me calm for the afternoon that lay ahead!

We begrudgingly packed our bags that afternoon and made our way to the train station for the long trip to Varanasi. With ten minutes to spare and a hideous amount of sweat, my massage began to feel like a distant memory. Little did I know how distance it would become... The train was delayed by a few hours and 3 Tier AC is nothing close to 'First Class!' We struggled a bit to jump on the train, which only stops for a few minutes while people get off and board at the same time. Now, there is clearly a skill to getting on the train that I am sure I could master if I weren't lugging the heaviest backpack in all of India!

I had booked the tickets prior to leaving India but failed to realize that the e-ticket does not indicate seat assignment. Long story short, I left Kylie with the bags, had a bit of an exchange with the grumpy conductor but got what I was after. Three tier AC is, as implied, a carriage with three bunks on all sides of the open carriage. We found ours and did our best to get comfortable for what would soon become almost 24 hours on the train with no food or water!!! For whatever reason, it sounds worst than it actually was and we made it to Varanasi with tired eyes, a few aches and all of our stuff.

A xxo

Posted by AliciaD 19:31 Archived in India Comments (0)

A heartfelt goodbye

Last day of build in Bawana

sunny 40 °C

I haven't had a moment to update the blog, so am a few days behind.

I am hoping it will be a bit easier to talk about leaving Bawana as it has been more than a couple of days now... The morning of the last build was filled with a nagging anxiety, a sense of loss and genuine warmth for new friends found during the build. When the bus pulled into the village for the last time, it was truly bittersweet.

While the house I had been working on was not yet complete, it would be soon. I felt proud of the contribution I had made and could only hope that our efforts would improve the life of the family we had come to know by name and circumstance. By lunch time, the impending goodbye was palpable - not just for us but the people who had watched us with curiosity, confusion and affection. We did what we could to prepare the little ones for our departure, mostly because they were always asking when and if we were coming back.

For a good part of the morning, I carried Ditli (butterfly) on my hip while she rest her shoulder on my head and quietly fell asleep. Ditli couldn't be more than four years of age and has polio but can walk. Ditli's mother passed away when she was a baby and we were told that she lives with her older brother and father who drinks.

Even know as I type, I will never forget the feeling of her little arms wrapped around me and the tears that fell from her cheek while she worked hard to form a smile. I couldn't imagine the last time someone had picked her up merely to hold her. She seemed to need it. I think we both did.

I knew that saying goodbye that afternoon would be somewhat of an emotional experience but was horribly surprised to find out that it was harder than I could have imagined. I felt good about the work that we had done but knew in my heart and head that it was a small contribution to a country desperately in need of more than the government is willing to give and more than any NGO can provide on thier own. That said, I will carry the images of poverty with me and do what I can to improve the lives of the 'untouchables' in India and elsewhere.

As the day progressed, saying goodbye became unbearable. That is all I can say about my last day in Bawana for now.

Alicia

Posted by AliciaD 03:39 Archived in India Comments (0)

"A teardrop of time on the cheek of eternity"

Taj Mahal

Up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a train to Agra. I have just returned to the hotel after a five hour bus ride back to Delhi. As you might expect, the Taj was extraordinary. I think more than the building itself, it is the love story between Shah Jahan and Arjumand that moved me most. I am reading a book on the history of the Mughal Empire and am just facinated by the politics, ideologies and romance.

In case you were wondering, I did my best impression of Lady Di in front of the Taj!!! Please, you would have done the same :)

I am certain that this will not be my last trip to India!
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Tomorrow will be the sixth day of the build and it is anticipated that one of the four houses will be completed by Tuesday. I am eager to return to the house that I have been working on as I can only imagine how much work might have been done over the weekend by the family and hired mason. The family has been so lovely and with each passing day, I think I have been wearing the mason down with pure charm and a genuine willingness to work!!! Although few, there have been moments when I catch him smiling in my direction and it is nice.

While it is exciting to see the houses progress each day, I can already feel the steady stream of emotions that will result when our job is done. I have grown quite used to the drive to Bawana, the crowd of people that rush to greet us each morning and wave goodbye in the evening. I already miss the interactions with the children who have practiced my name and hold my hand during the breaks between work. There are few in particular that I will miss the most. More about them later as I am being pushed out of the business centre at the hotel due to closing time.

Love, A xxo

Posted by AliciaD 08:37 Archived in India Comments (3)

One Night in Old Delhi

The days have been long, dirty and incredibly satisfying. The house that I am working on truly takes a new form each day. Tomorrow will be the fifth day of building. I will never look at another ditch, brick or pile of mortar the same way again!

The family that we are working with have been extraordinarily gracious, incredibly helpful and seem to genuinely enjoy having us around. As a token of appreciation, the father purchased a 'western' cd for us to listen to while we work. We immediately followed up with a 'Thank You' in the form of dance... Shakira blasting in the background and at least 65 children looking on in fits of laughter :) It was an incredible moment that didn't require a translator!
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Old Delhi-

After a long day of work, we jumped in a taxi for a harrowing ride to Delhi Gate. From there, it was a brief negotiation with an Autorickshaw driver to Jama Masjid (India's largest Mosque) and a short walk to Karim's for dinner. Old Delhi is a predominantly Muslim community and feels a world away from New Delhi. The restaurant has quite the reputation for authentic mughalai food. I must say, they definitely delivered as it was the best meal I have had in India to date (which is saying a lot because the food has been outstanding).

The markets in Old Delhi are packed with locals, autorickshaws and shops of all sorts. I did my best to cover up (just about all of the women wear burqa's) but still felt a bit exposed. For the most part, however, it was a great night.

Off to bed for a bit of rest, A xxo

Posted by AliciaD 08:35 Archived in India Comments (1)

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