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Uttar Pradesh

March 18, 2007

Hello from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and a couple top engineering universities.

It’s been quite a few days.

One thing that has become quite obvious is that I am trying to do too much. In the way that travel reveals much about my regular life, this element reminds me of how I cram too much into a day, trying to take in everything I possibly can. I’m doing that over here. There is so much to this life and I want to swallow every taste. I am way too attached to this experience of being alive but I don’t see it dampening any time soon.

The disilluionment I felt in Pushkar has melted and I’ve softened in areas I wasn’t aware were stiff. I suppose it’s not a bad thing to have your illusions broken down, but it’s not fun while it’s happening.

I am quite aware of a longing in me that drives much of my life. In India, it is quite pronounced. I just want to take this entire country into my mouth and savor it. Even things that bothered me so much early on have embedded themselves in my desires. A couple days ago I realized that I was finding the smell of a trash fire to be comforting, where for most of my time here I resisted the acrid smell of burning plastic and other garbage that burns morning and night. It’s amazing to see how something like that can become familiar and homey. I guess that’s how it happens that people take on practices that would drive crazy those unfamiliar.

I had a crazy experience two days ago. I had hired a car and driver for three days, a very common practice here, especially among Indians since few of them own cars. The driver had been annoying because he was fairly erratic, even for an Indian driver. After lunch on Friday, his driving became really bad, swerving from side to side and barely missing oncoming trucks. I tried to relax but it kept getting worse. The thought finally occured to me that he might be intoxicated. As the fear washed over me, I decided that, if it didn’t get better quickly, I was going to demand he let me out on the side of the road. We were halfway between Jaipur and Agra, with very little going on except scattered farms and occasional roadside stands, but I figured I would be much better off hitching a ride than staying with this guy. As the driving got worse, I began to yell at him to stay on our side of the road. Just as I was about to tell him to pull over, a large tour bus gradually pushed us off to the side of the road. The driver tried to back up to continue driving and I began to yell at him to stop the car. A second tour bus pulled over and blocked us in. At that point the driver of the first tour bus came over, grabbed the keys from the ignition of our car, and began screaming at the driver and slapping his face. I bolted out of the car, grabbed my bags and then tried to stop the one driver from slapping the other. A crowd had gathered and the slapping subsided but the yelling continued. I saw a tear flow from my drivers eye and felt sorry for him. But I was also angry, and terribly relieved to have been rescued.

I was then whisked into the tour bus, filled with surprised and sympathetic Dutch tourists. They could not have been nicer. I rode with them to their hotel, had some lunch, and then some folks from the hotel drove me the rest of the way into Agra.

I hesitated writing this because I didn’t want my mom to read it. She’s fairly anxious about this trip and I don’t want to add to her anxiety, but… well, mom. Shit happens. And, amazingly, sometimes the universe steps in and rescues us.

I’ve had a fantastic few days since then, my cancelled train to Varanasi last night notwithstanding. It seems that the best way to get there now is to take a train back to Delhi and then fly to Varanasi tomorrow.

Too many things. But, Varanasi is a must-do-hell-or-high-water for me.

I wish I had more time to write, about the warm encounters I had at the Taj Mahal with some teachers from Delhi, or the couple hours I just spent in a new shopping mall watching folks trying to navigate an escalator (many, apparantly for the first time) or the terribly sweet openings I felt at Vrindavan yesterday. Vrindavan is definitely a place I want to return to. It just tenderized me. I got to see the hundreds of widows chanting at one of the temples (look up “widows of Vrindavan” for more info.) I could have sat there listening for hours.

India has layed me open. It’s breaking my heart and I’m falling in love. I can see why people return here over and over again. There have been times when I have thought about spending my entire trip here.

There’s an autorickshaw waiting to take me to the train station. There, I’ll see if I can catch the Shitabdi Express to Delhi.

I’m having an amazing time and I also miss my family and friends. Be well, all of you.


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  1. Katie Burke permalink

    I felt a knot in my stomach while reading about the possibly drunk driver, knowing that you must have been pretty scared to yell (I can’t even picture you yelling!) … and I don’t know if it was the comic relief or just the funny visual image, but I laughed out loud – MANY times – at the part about the “surprised and sympathetic” Dutch tourists. I don’t know why I got such a kick out of them, but I did. Glad you are OK.

  2. Today, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube
    sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.
    I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  3. At this time it looks like Drupal is the preferred blogging platform available right now.

    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

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