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’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.



(+ 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)!