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 —

‘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


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!


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.