From “Busiest Railway Station in India” to a Rajasthani Oasis

Three hundred  trains come and go every day at the New Delhi station. Fortunately, I hadn’t  read any of these comments before I left for the station  this morning.   Equally fortunate, I imagine,  is the fact that  I hadn’t read the India Times piece on the latest incident involving a woman tourist.

So when traffic stalled (as in Dead. Stop.) at 5 this morning, and  I realized people were emerging from cars carrying their luggage, I wondered how far the station was,and  how long we’d be stalled. When I queried the driver, he said, “The problem, Madame, is that we have no police.”   A shrug (from him), and I was gone, climbing unceremoniously  out of the taxi with my bags.

I  know a little about street condition here (wide cracks, missing chunks of cement), and about street hygiene, and I know that stall owners sleep on the sidewalks at their work stations. I was prepared for the walk to the station. What I’d forgotten were the stories I’d heard about the touts at the station: “What train are you taking? It is foggy, so your train is late, Madame.  It is cancelled, maybe, Madame. I will drive you where you want to go.” and “Madame, I will take your bags, they are very heavy for you.”  At one point I stopped for a nanosecond, looked towards the young man, and shrieked, “LOOK, I know what I’m doing. I don’t need you.” He backed off, and I kept going, laughing at my  stupidity and  mendacity.

No photos, because a.) it was dark; b.) I was lugging 2 small suitcases & a large purse; c.) I was late.

I put my luggage through “Security,” a slow-moving,  conveyor belt, and I ignored the “40rps/large bag” and “20rps/sm bag” signs and saw  everybody else ignoring them, too.   I’m not sure what Delhi’s new anti-corruption leader, Avind Kejriwal, would say, but We are in this together, everybody at the conveyor belt seemed to be saying.

Platform 2 was two  flights up and two flights down. Ahead  of me was an older man carrying 2 large pieces of luggage for a young couple who appeared oblivious, both of him, and of the fact that he carried their bags - on his head – until he asked for money, at which point they began to haggle.

Six hours and 3 breakfasts later, I arrived!  My driver was there holding  a sign I recognized as ME, and we drove through what appears, at first glance another world from the cities I’ve already visited  on the subcontinent. It bustles just as much, but there is also the muezzin‘s Call to Prayer, and the architecture’s minarets, reminding me of the large Muslim Rajasthani population, at least it seems it here in Jaipur, the capital city. We’ll see.

It’s pretty amazing that I am here, because last night when I called to confirm my reservation, I learned that I had the right hotel, but in the wrong city (don’t ask). A trip to my New Delhi hotel’s booking office (don’t ask), an arm, a leg (you definitely don’t want to ask), and I am here – chilly, but not even close to the Polar Vortex described last week in The Hindu. For now,  it’s a matter of switching from my  flip-flops to my Tom’s, a diaphanous  dupatta to a thin wool pashmina.

I had lunch outside here at the hotel, a haveli, which as far as I can tell means enclosed and full of verandas. Tonight I ate indoors, but found this fire when I walked out into the courtyard:

Home for 3 nights --

Home for 3 nights –

I’m meant to be packing

…but I’ve misplaced a 2″ (BODY size, never mind the dozens of legs) Brown Spider.  Not an hour ago, he or she  graced the wall just above my mosquito net.  It could be a long night.

YOU KNOW IT’S OK TO LEAVE ANANDA ASHRAM when…

–> you’ve stopped taking pictures (these and the rest are from 10 days ago):

–> you are not surprised to find your laundry, waving in the wind for 30 minutes, is bone dry, probably because it  is 87F.

–> the table in your hut,  the table  you’ve had piled with books, empty water bottles, mosquito repellent, and more books, looks like this once again.

Gear

Gear

(+ this computer and also + a stick of burning incense, named “Opium Flower”)

–> you haven’t learned his name, but you have learned what he is doing:

Palms for mats

Palms for mats

–>you are almost inured to this sight from your porch:

–> you firmly believe that the Italian singer, Mina, has slipped into the ashram, because when Loradonna sang the Magnificat for grace tonight, this is how she sounded. Exactly (30 seconds makes my point).

–> you’ve still not located the gigantic arachnid, but you are ready to turn off the computer and go to sleep. You expect to dream about the story Andrew told you last year in this very place, Ananda Ashram.  It was about how he arrived back in New Zealand one year after spending several months in India, and when he opened his suitcase for Customs,  out crawled a Gigantic Brown Spider. Andrew is our resident naturalist, so he would tell that story, wouldn’t he? And laugh, oh, yes, he thought it was just hysterical, didn’t he? 

And now, Gentle Reader, if you hear something at this second, let me explain that  it is the sound of 2 tiny suitcases and 1 huge purse being zipped up very, very tightly, just before I dive under my mosquito net.

‘It obviously behooves me to practice being receptive, open for the business of gratitude.” – A. LaMott

Briefly, from Ananda Ashram –

Today (Saturday) I head out to Bless School again, to work with the teachers. V. excited. More, as it happens (and as Internet is available)!

Hello from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Briefly:

Lost, but found: passport – thank you, Matthew, for running back with it.

Long,  but worth it: the Dubai – Chennai leg of today’s trip,  which included being bumped to Business class: Veuve Cliquot for breakfast and a massage chair that stretched out into a bed.

I’m  in Mamallapuram, a sort of Indian Capitola-Tahoe City-Grand Marais (when it’s hot). Or, “…like the coast of Florida, only with more elephants.”

It’s on the Bay of Bengal, and  best-known for the stone statues,  still done (with electric “knives & chisels,” I noticed), and for its 5th-7thc. temples on the beach.  I walked out to visit the Shore Temples, which Elizabeth and I had seen a few years ago, but not entered.

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I was there with hordes of schoolgirls – those matching uniforms – and families in electric orange.

My driver, who decided to walk there with me,  said all  the orange was for the lotus. Somebody else said it was to show they were a family; still another person said… you get my drift: I’m back in India!

orange

Consequently, the assault to the senses has begun: this hotel is on the main street, and horns replace turn signals outside the window of my 2nd floor room. The hotel seems full of agents and porters tripping wonderfully over themselves to help people like  Maggie Smith and Judy Dench.  DO TAKE 3 MINUTES to watch that clip, because it is iconic of  the colors, the dust, the energy of India: it [all] teaches me something.

So, a few photos in this  note from my hotel room,  where the a.c. is   going [more or less] strong, and where the Internet is doing similarly valiant, if spotty service.

As I was finishing this post, I looked up to see a 3-inch flying…?bee?beetle?…landing on a light fixture.  Those of you who know me, know I do not do flying or scurrying critters. One of the men from downstairs helped me. Full disclosure: I stood 10 feet away, calling out, “What are you going to do?  Where will it go? Shall I open the door?” The man wisely ignored me, swatted the thing onto the floor and out the door (bare-handed), and now I’m going in search of some re-vivifying seafood.

It’s good to be back.

A Child’s Christmas in Vienna

I’ve been here for several  days, now, delighting in Leilani and Matthew’s warmth in sharing their new city. We’ve had grand meals,  both at home and out. Lei makes her own tortillas in Vienna (yes, yes, she does).  We did Caffe Diglas  for a lunch of schnitzel and goulasch, and then a melange…

MelangeI’ve  visited the place where Matthew spends his days, and seen the view from his study room:

Matt'sview

 

AND, OH, DID I MENTION THAT MARY IS 14 MONTHS OLD?

****************************************************************

HER HAT IS ON, SHE’S READY TO GO –

MIB

 

Mary seems to own Dad’s study room, or at least the string controlling the blinds – 

Our  nights have been  full of Christmas markets: Stephantsplat, Freyung in the city center; there’s one in the Ehrenhof, outside the Belvedere Palace; the one we did last night  in Spittelberg is full of lanes, crowded with stalls selling handicrafts (think, llama blanket with polar bears) , art ( think waxart, which as we left, was going for 50% off), and chocolate of every color and flavor.

 lights 3afterXmasdinner

3 in St Stephen's
St Stephen’s for Mass: Haydn for 2 hours. Still, it was Haydn. Still, it was 2 hours.

FALL!

I expect to be somewhere else in a few weeks,but for now it’s great to be in the Twin Cities, which even HuffPost recognizes as amazing.

And look how these Cronin boys love the leaves —

TRAVELING

TRAVELING

INSTRUCTOR, CLIENT

Image

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