Books for the Travel

In a week we are starting out for a 3 week trip to India. It’s going to be hectic but awesome. A lot of things to do and a lot of responsibilities to take care of. The excitement hasn’t kicked in yet. I know, the moment I reach SFO – I would be super excited and then those 24 hours on flight. Oh my. Can’t depend on Dramamine this time, as we will have Sahana with us.

Me and Sangita usually pick a book whenever we travel. Well my obvious choice this time is – Steve Jobs biography. I think 600 pages over 20 days is good reading material. A lot has been already written about the book but somethings were interesting. Steve Jobs was influenced by Hindu philosophy and then moved to Zen buddism. He had only one book on his iPad – guess what it is? Autobiography of a Yogi! He used to read it once every year. That I didn’t expect. Who would have thunk it?

I usually carry 2nd book just in case I finish the first one. I am thinking That used to be us, but may be a little too depressing and heavy handed – especially about education in US. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether Singapore would be a good place to go back to (or wonder if I never left). They have the best education in this world (seen the TIMSS rating recently?), zero crime rate and the best of all – 4 hours away from India!

Well – if not that depressing book, I will have to find something interesting. Looking…..

Our Wonderful Vacation – Day # 5

Premise: Our friends – Sarah and Lisa are visiting us for 10 days and we are planning a tour of North India with them.

Disclaimer: I am donning a ‘Details hat’

Date: 29th Dec, 2007

Day # 1 Day # 2 Day # 3 Day # 4

10:30AM, Hotel Rajasthan Palace: We finished our ‘Porridge’ breakfast. I have had promised the driver that we will be ready by 9AM, but we have gotten to talk about KIPP (don’t ask) and all the other teachers who work(ed) at KIPP. That’s one topic on which all the girls can talk for long time. I bet I can do the same about Touchpoint (the place I worked). So, now we were excited about our day – we had camel & elephant rides planned.

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11:30AM, somewhere in Jaipur: After some haggling, we fixed the price with the guy for both Camel & Elephant rides. Camel rides cost 100Rs/person and Elephant about 125Rs/person. This is the first time I was riding a Camel. As I sat on it, I was shit scared. Here is a confession: I am really scared of anything that disturbs the stability below my feet. Flight turbulences scare and I hold the seat like a little scared baby. Rollercoasters are my nightmares. Bungee jumping would probably kill me half way through. But I know one day I need to get over this fear. I need to plan for that.

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Anyhow, we got on top of 2 Camels and the guy took us for a walk on a tar road with traffic going along for about 1000 feet. That’s it. By the time we ended our Camel trip I was feeling ok with the ‘Camel turbulence’. Now Elephant is a little tricky. We all sat on it and we had to face away from each other. Half way through our ride, the Elephant started to freak out. Not much but good enough to make me pray to my favorite ‘Elephant God’. I guess He listened to my prayers and we got back safely.

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We took some pictures with ‘Jal Mahal’ in the background and happen to eat some Indian Masala. I was not sure whether it was a good idea, but our friends had some of it too.

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1:00PM, some cloth store in Jaipur: Our smart driver took us to a very nice place where we can buy some clothes, bags etc. I bought some book marks and Sarah & Lisa bought some bangles. The guy at the store showed us how they hand block print the cloth with pretty colors. The colors are actually made of vegetables so it’s all organic.

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3:00PM, some pottery store in Jaipur: As we told our driver that we like to see some pottery store he took us to a very nice one. The owner of the store came out and gave us a demo of how they make those amazing pots. It was very cool to watch him show how glass, sand etc are mixed and how they take shape of beautiful pottery. He said, that only about 60% of the whole batch will be successful, the remaining faulty ones are either sold at cheap price or re-cycled. I do remember that at this moment I saw Sarah and she didn’t look comfortable. I thought may be the guy is wasting our time explaining the science behind the pottery, so I asked him to take us in to the store.

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Once inside, we were give some pretty gifts each for free(from the 40% discarded batch though). We started looking around and me and Sangita were planning on to buy some. Then suddenly out of no where we had a situation which later got called as “Man down in Pottery barn“. Sarah said, she is not feeling well and ‘Plonk’ – she just sat down where she was standing. She didn’t look good at all. We didn’t know what was happening to her. She said, she felt weak and her head is spinning. She might throw up etc. I was like – ‘OMG, SARAH please don’t die in India’ Of course I was saying that to myself, no one heard me. If she did, that would have set a bad record for us among our friends. I would have never been able to show my face to Josh! Yes, in that moment it was all about me.

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Ok, now coming back to the man down situation. India is a very friendly place. Everyone in the store came to us with an advice and a solution. Everyone in the store was concerned.

“Make her sleep flat on her back”

“Ask her to keep her feet on a wall” (good thing she was wearing a capri)

“She should drink some tea”

“Ah, it’s nothing. She is a white girl and hence a weak girl. In 1 hour she will be ok”

“These foreigners can’t take Indian heat”

So, we were offered a bed in the back of the store where poor Sarah relaxed. Now, it’s hard to read what Sarah is going through. After hanging out with her I realized it’s usually hard to guess what is she usually thinking. Now in this situation where she is down with something, it was very hard to guess what was actually happening. She had a scared look. Both Sangita and Lisa were sitting next to her. One thing we did totally wrong was that we just told Sarah all the stories of our friends who went through worse. This did not go well with Sarah and I think she was secretly hating on us.

So finally we decided that she need some energy drink. I rushed out to get some ‘Electrolytes water’ which is very well known in US as Gatorade. After an hour or so, she was able to get up and walk. We decided that no more shopping for us and we should go to our rooms.

5:00PM, Our hotel room: As Sarah lied in her bed, we had nothing better to do. We sat around her and talked. Somehow, the discussion went into discussions of ‘Big stores Vs. Mom & Pop stores’. Now I should admit – me and Sang had a long discussion about this 1 year back and we already know the plus and minus of this topic. And I realized that Lisa is such a sweet girl that she cannot live with disagreement and conflict. She reminds me of ‘Charlotte’ from Sex and the city. So, there was a big discussion between Sang and Lisa. This continued through out the trip and kinda grew into a mean topic towards Lisa – so we had to institute a ‘Love Lisa Day’ when we were in Delhi.

So anyhow, we rambled on and then gave Sarah some time to relax. I made some calls etc. I also thanked our driver and let him go. We promised that we will recommend him to all our friends who are traveling to Delhi

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9:00PM, Our hotel room: As we have decided not to go anywhere for the evening – we kinda relaxed in our place. After we had dinner at our hotel, I got some drinks for us and we sat down to have some discussions. As Sarah sat in the middle we all sat around her and raised our hands like kids to take turns and talk. This was the best discussion ever we had. By now, as I have realized that one of friends can just fall flat anywhere and another one can feel bad if I disagree with her I was no longer intimidated by their whiteness! :-). Seriously though, we talked a lot about religion, God, spirituality, questions, solutions, life, kipp, conversations with god, Thich Nhat Hahn, JK, Swami, Jesus, Christianity etc. We all enjoyed our talk and spent till late mid night just discussing about all these things. As for me, this was the first time ever I could actively participate in the girls’ discussion as it was a topic which was not all about KIPP and which is close to my  heart.

We all went back to sleep getting excited about our next day’s all day meditation camp. The talk about spirituality was a great precursor for the next day.

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Our Wonderful Vacation – Day # 4

Premise: Our friends – Sarah and Lisa are visiting us for 10 days and we are planning a tour of North India with them.

Disclaimer: I am donning a ‘Nostalgic hat’

Date: 28th Dec, 2007

Day # 1 Day # 2 Day # 3

8:00AM, Hotel Narain Niwas: We all got up and got ready. We were supposed to checkout at 10 and the guy just offered us complimentary breakfast for only 2 people. So, we sent out our white troops to go fetch some free breakfast for us. Both Sarah and Lisa were good sport. They went for the complimentary breakfast (where they had a great breakfast and also saw some slutty dressed woman) and stole us some toasts and butter! Me and Sagita had those stolen toasts in our room. Yes, we did steal those toasts because we wanted to save 500Rs for some simple breakfast.

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10:00AM, Checkout: As we checked out, our driver ‘Hansraj’ came to me and told me that he went around looking for place to stay in the morning. He found couple of them for us. He is such a nice guy. So, we tagged along with him and yes, once again Sarah’s big ass suitcase went on top of the car.

By now we discussed and sort of decided that we cannot make it to Dharamshala. I should commend both Sarah & Lisa for being so flexible in their thinking. Even though I sort of feel bad for not being able to take them to Dharamshala, the way they took everything was amazing. I was expecting them to be grumpy about it. But both of them were so nice, they just wanted to have some good time. This helped me a lot as I was already feeling so bad about missing out Dharamshala.

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10:30AM, Hotel Rajasthan Palace, Jaipur: We went to check a hotel which was kinda pricey (2400Rs/night) and also didn’t allow 4 people to be in 1 room. Yes, after 4 days of traveling we got so cozy and felt like we are in college and can stay in 1 room decently. So, it didn’t work out. But the hotel next to it was not a problem. This guy offered us a room @ 1000Rs/night, but we wanted the price to go down. Finally we got a 2 rooms right next to each other for 800Rs/night. It was a good deal as we planned to stay there for couple of days.

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11:30AM, In our car, Jaipur: We were planning to do a walking tour of the city from the Lonely Planet book. But our driver advised us that we should cover all the long distance tourist points as we have access to car for 2 days only. We agreed, and also our driver was smart enough to think of that.

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12:00PM, Jaigad Fort, jaipur: We drove to the top of the mountain arriving at Jaigad Fort. This was a backup fort for King in those old days to keep all his artillery. As usual, our American friends had to shell out more money in entrance fee than us.

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One thing to note is that – all the time, there is some topic going on under discussion. It could be life, marriage, love, US, India, travel, Oakland, Weddings, Cleveland, Indian tops, ‘Golden Star’ (I promise I will explain all about this in my next post). So, just imagine a car filled with laughter, talk and making fun of each other.

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So once we got inside the fort, we went around to some 2 temples inside. Saw some artillery, old guns etc. Then a guy volunteered himself to take us around. We warned him that we are not looking for a guide, but he insisted that he works there and he is not a guide. So we followed him. He showed us the water tank and how Elephants were used to get the water from down below the valley to the fort. The fort had a fountain back then. A frigging huge one! Those guys some 300 years back cared to have a fountain and make it work without any water pumping systems in place. So cool.

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We saw the royal kitchen, dining hall and puppet show. As we were looking down the mountain, we learned that Amber palace is down the hill and we can walk up there. We can walk to AMber palace from Jaigad fort just like the queen used to go on her Elephant. Awesome. So, we took the cobblestone path down there. We informed our driver to come and pick us up at Amber palace.

Once we got to Amber palace – it was packed. There were so many people(where are they NOT?) So we decided that it’s not worth to go inside the palace.

3:00PM, Rajasthan Tourism Dept store, Jaipur: We stopped by in a Govt. recognized store. The girls bought some stuff. But as usual it takes couple of hours. This is where both Sarah and Lisa started their hunt for perfect wall hangings. I took a break by having some tea and after 2 hours and some purchases we were ready to roll.

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6:30PM, Choki Dhani, Jaipur: Choki Dhani is an amazing place. It’s a huge place which is like a planned village. It has all the stuff from Rajasthan culture, cuisine, dance, traditions etc. I loved the idea and I think every state should have something like that. For the first time we paid equal amount for tickets – 450Rs.(which includes a traditional Rajasthani dinner)

We wandered around – watching people having fun. Lisa shook a leg with a guy disguised as a woman. Sarah was always doing her dance as we walked. It was like something/someone got into her! Sangita got louder and louder. It was all fun. We were starving. So, we went to a place to eat, and I think it was not yet time to serve food – so a bunch of guys just came to us and stood in circle around us. I knew that they were NOT checking out my goatee.

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As it got too freakish there we moved to a different dinner place. It was a traditional Rajasthani food. Little did we knew about the food then. We sat down to eat our food. It was kinda dark and we got served in leaf plates. There is one thing I learned about Rajsthani food that night. They eat hell a lot of sweet. Damn. So, we got served a lot of sweets and then some maize rotis. The bread tasted like cardboard. The curries varied in taste. Added to this all we couldn’t see our food.

Sangita didn’t knew what she was chewing on to and accidentally chewed a cup made of mud which was holding butter. Sarah just amused herself by how she can’t eat anything. I think she ate a granola bar she had in stock(Good work Josh) Lisa made weird face and said that did not go well with her. One thing about Indian serving is: when you say enough, I don’t want any – they do the exact opposite. Poor Sarah, she didn’t knew this – by the end of our dinner, she had so much food in her plate, oh my.

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As we got out of that place, we knew we hate Rajasthani food now. No more traditional, local food. After food, we wandered around in Choki Dhani – I got a head massage, all the girls got Henna on their hands. They looked really good when they were dancing with Henna. 🙂

10:30PM, Rajasthan Palace Hotel, Jaipur: Tired as hell and feeling weird about the food we ate we crouched back in our beds. The rooms were cold. Rajasthan would be hot during day and get very cold during nights. We decided that we will go for our Elephant & Camel rides next day.

Read Day # 5

Our Wonderful Vacation – Day # 3

Premise: Our friends – Sarah and Lisa are visiting us for 10 days and we are planning a tour of North India with them.

Disclaimer: I am donning a ‘Loving hat’

Date: 27th Dec, 2007

Day # 1 Day # 2

7:00AM, Pahargunj, Delhi: After checked out of our hotel, we walked towards the street where we met our new driver. The travel agent said, it would be someone by name “Jai Kishan”, but it turned out to be “Hansraj”. (I should stop here and mention about our driver. He is the best driver and most amazing guy you would meet in Delhi. He speaks very good English and he drives very carefully. He is just amazing. If you happen to be in Delhi and looking for a car rental – call him on 09891539684). Since we had about 4 big bags, we decided to get one bag on top of our car. Sarah had a big suitcase and it won the contest of going on top by default. But we all could tell the strain in Sarah’s face all the way to Agra as she was worried that the suicase might just drop off!

As we drove to Agra and started our long drive, I chatted with our driver about the distance and about the fields around us. He was also telling us about how he can take us to Dharamshala too, if we wanted.

10:00AM, rest area, somewhere in Haryana: We stopped by a rest area and had our breakfast. Sarah and Lisa got eat their favorite – Porridge and we had Omelettes. As we walked out of our restaurant we saw a snake charmer and we all wanted to take a look. Sangita volunteered to put a cobra around her neck. Lisa stayed away. Sarah, as usual, was video taping the whole thing and I was taking photos. It was just a small thing and as I went up to give the old man some money – he demanded 200Rs. It was crazy to shell out 200Rs for just touching a snake. I gave him 10 bucks and I guess he cussed us out.

Sangita & Snake Charmer

12:45PM, Railways Reservation, Agra: We decided that we will get our tickets to Dharamshala before we go visit Taj Mahal. So we ended up in this stinky and old railway reservation building. After filling in the reservation form, I was standing in line and all the girls were waiting. After a long time Lisa walked next to me to check and the guy inside the counter saw a White girl walking by and he just yelled at Lisa to come to the front of the line. As he was shaking his head vigorously to convey the meaning – to which Lisa totally didn’t respond – I had to tell him that she was with me and I am in line.

So, finally when my turn came, we came to know that there are no tickets available either to go to Dharamshala or to come back on the dates we wanted. The waiting list was 19 in 2nd class AC. This caused a lot of mental trouble to me, as I started to get worried about it. Finally we decided that we should just go see Taj first and later worry about our trip to Dharamshala.

1:30PM, Front gate, Taj Mahal: The foreigner discrimination showed it ugly face again. We paid 20Rs for our tickets to Taj Mahal and our friends paid 750Rs each! That’s crazy. So, after we got harassed by various people who wanted to take us inside from the other entrance (God know where that is) and guys who wanted to be our friends and guides – we finally managed to stand in a line that took forever. After about 1 1/2 hour we managed to get in.

3:00PM Taj Mahal: It’s impossible to explain when you first see Taj Mahal first time. It’s just so huge. I was overwhelmed by it. It was just beautiful. Wow. What a way of showing love? Even though it’s a silly tomb – the whole conceptualization and someone dared to think like that just overtook me with immense feeling. Everyone in our group was in amazement. We took lot’s of pictures, videos – especially Sarah posing and Lisa dancing. A lot of people approached our friends and asked them whether they can take a picture of them. It was fun for them to be celebrities and they kinda ran away from people who asked them for pictures.

Taj Mahal

4:30PM Taj Mahal: Note to self – next time I go to Taj Mahal make sure I have my lunch before I go in. We all were starving. We spent good amount of time devouring Taj and then decided to go out and have a actual meal.

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5:00PM, some hotel, Agra: We all had the worst Indian food ever. The curries were bland and sort of raw. I think seeing white people they just decided not use any chilly powder and salt. Instead they gave us pickle to add flavor to our curries.

After late lunch, we decided that we will try our luck with tickets again. So, we ended up at the reservation counter again. No luck. All the trains were full and we had no clue what to do. We called our hotel room which booked in Jaipur to tell them about our late arrival. The hotel we booked our stay for 2 nights was “Umaid Bhavan” but they told us that there were no rooms available. Even after we paid for the rooms! This was crazy. That stupid site said the rooms are available and now we come to know that there are no rooms. Me and Sangita were pretty depressed.

5:30PM, Railway station, Agra: This was amazing. Sarah sprang into action. Suddenly she became the super hero. She charged us all up with action. As we drove from Agra to Jaipur, she helped Sangita to make calls to all other hotels in Jaipur so that we can get a stay for that night. We knew that we will get to Jaipur late in the night and we need to make sure we have a place to stay. So after making about 20 calls frantically – we finally found a place which had a room and accommodate all 4 of us in 1 room. It was kinda pricey but we were relaxed a bit to know that we have something when we arrive in Jaipur.

11:00PM, Hotel Narain Niwas, Jaipur: As we walked in the hotel manager (Sunny) was kinda surprised to know that we were 4. He assumed that there were only 2 people. So we hit another road block. He said we have to pay 8000Rs for 1 night for all 4 of us. It was ridiculous, we were all tired and this guy was loud and hyper. Finally Sangita talked him into giving us a room for 2 people and charge us extra 1000Rs for 2 beds. It finally came down to 6000Rs – the most expensive hotel we stayed in all our trip.

11:30PM, Our hotel room: This hotel was a heritage hotel. It was a beautiful place. The room was just amazing. I had to bribe the guy to get us 2 space heaters. We all had showers – actual showers with hot water after such a long time. Our driver got to sleep in some driver’s quarters.

Finally the crazy day where we witnessed the amazing Taj Mahal and frantic phone calls to find a place came to an end. As we went to sleep it was kinda dawning upon us that may be we won’t make it to Dharamshala.

Hotel Narain Niwas
Read Day # 4

Our Wonderful Vacation – Day # 2

Premise: Our friends – Sarah and Lisa are visiting us for 10 days and we are planning a tour of North India with them.

Disclaimer: I am donning a ‘Details hat’

Date: 26th Dec, 2007

Day # 1

9:30AM, our home: We all enjoyed tasty dosas with coconut chutney. Lisa love coconuts and she loved the Chutney. We got busy packing and I was spazzing for a while as my mom thought I was left out last in packing my bag.

12:00PM, Hyderabad Airport: Sarah is surprised about the lax of security at the Airport. No one asked her any ID or anything. She could totally have been someone else and still fly to Delhi. Some lady try to cut us in our line and Sangita yelled at her.

4:00PM, Delhi Airport: Hustling to find a taxi to rent for the rest of the day. Hertz says – 2500Rs, some other guy – 2000Rs. Finally we settle down to Delhi Tourism dept or something who rented the car for 1200Rs. We were meeting our friends – Jacob & Vinitika for dinner later at night. So after calling them, we figured that we should head towards Haus Khaz.

We meet our first good driver – Umesh from Karnataka. He explains a lot of things to us about Delhi and understands and speaks good English. On our way we stop by to get some Dollars exchanged – 1$ == 38.40Rs. So as we were travelling to Haus Khaz – there was this biker who was driving ahead of us and suddenly out of nowhere he drives on a stone/something on the road and flips over, make s somersault and hits the lamp post. The most brutal accident I ever witnessed. Sarah being seated in the middle watched it too and we were all horrified. We talked to the driver about informing police, and he said we can do so if we plan to stay in the Police station that night. We were just speechless for next 30 mins till we reached Hauz Khas.

6:00PM, Hauz Khas: We are all shocked to see how fancy that place was. Pretty boutiques, nice apartments, restaurants and some really really beautiful people. For a moment we were thinking that we are in the village area of NYC. Delhi is damn good. We were all in love with it. Hyderabad has no where near to Delhi.

We walked around and waited for our friends. Finally Jacon and Vinitika arrived and we decided to go out for some drinks and dinner.

With Jacob and Vinitika

7:00PM, Gola bar: We had good time over drinks. Sarah was tired and Lisa was fading away. Me and Jacob had some good discussions about how our working patterns are changing. After our drinks we head out to a ‘Chettinad’ Restaurant and have some Appam and Chicken Gassi. Everyone loved the food.

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10:00PM, Goodbyes: We had some nice paan and then bid goodbye to Jacob and Vinitika. Vinitika got us a room to stay for 1 night in Delhi. Since we thought we will be in only for couple of hours, we should go with a cheap hotel.

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10:30PM, Pahargunj, Delhi: As our driver took through the narrow and dirty streets of Pahargunj to find our hotel. This was a totally sketchy place. Sarah, Lisa and Sangita were already scared to be there. As we stopped to ask for directions at a place. One weird guy just pounded on our car – to which everyone shrieked. His name was “Pappu Pager”. He was promising us a place to stay and would never shut up. She tried to grab my phone from me as I was talking to the hotel people. He was high and drunk and just yap away. It was kinda fun to watch him move, shake and twitch. Our friends refused to get out of the car till we see someone from Hotel to come pick us up.

Finally someone turns up and takes us to the hotel room.

11:30PM, Hotel Star Paradise, Pahargunj, Delhi: We check into a room. Since we were planning to stay there for just 4 hours we all stayed in 1 room. The rent for the room was 400Rs + 200Rs for extra bed. Once we are in, this guy brings in a extra cot and some really really dirty mattress. I was so ‘excited’ to sleep on it. Our American friends refuse to even use the blankets from the hotel.

12:30AM, our hotel room, Delhi: We figured that we won’t get tickets to ‘Shatabdi Express’ next day heading out to Agra. So, I call Umesh to get a price quote from Delhi -> Agra -> Jaipur. Finally after a little bit of haggling, we decide on a price: 7200Rs for taking us from Delhi to Agra and then to Jaipur and then staying with us in Jaipur for 2 days till we board the train for Dharmashala.

4:30AM, our hotel room, Delhi: Sarah didn’t sleep at all. We were awake and getting ready. There was no hot water – so we all took cold showers. Imagine – Delhi, early morning and it was freezing like hell. We all took ice chilled cold water baths. Damn. I was quite pissed off but as Sarah, Lisa and Sangita started to make jokes about the hotel and how we are all scared to be there, I became ok about it. They were all very sportive about it we checked out of the nasty shit hole.

Shit Hole
Read Day # 3

Our Wonderful Vacation – Day # 1

Premise: Our friends – Sarah and Lisa are visiting us for 10 days and we are planning a tour of North India with them.

Disclaimer: I am donning a ‘Cynical hat’

Date: 25th Dec, 2007

1:30AM, Hyderabad Airport: There is nothing like waiting for someone or for your flight in an Indian airport. You have a lot of people as usual, in addition to that everyone in the town and their mom would be there. And added to that everyone would be standing. Yes, I do sound very cynical but believe me when I say, that I face these things with utmost patience.

So me and Sang were waiting for our friends to come out. It took about 2 1/2 hours for them to get out. In the mean time to pass our time we played a game of who is the most beautiful and who is the most ugly person. There was one moment where I mistook a Airhostess to be our friends but it didn’t take much time to recognize them once they were out! Finally Sarah and Lisa arrive. Yay.

9:30AM, Our home: I woke up to the giggles and laughs of our friends who were trying to use our bathrooms. Sangita was giving them ad-hoc classes as to how to do a “bucket bath”. I had to rush to Trinetra market to get some good old ‘toilet paper’.

11:00AM, Charminar: It was fun to go to Charminar as our first ‘tourist visit’. Both Lisa and Sarah were surprised to see the sea of people. We stood like good Samaritans in the line to get the tickets. Someone saw that some white people are standing in a colored line and got us ahead and front of the line. This did not go well with the lady who was next in the line and she kinda yelled at me for cutting the line using ‘white people’ as pretext. For a moment I felt bad (remember I am a good samaritan too) for the lady but then when I realized that our friends were charged Rs.100 and we(people of color) were charged Rs.5 I felt no pity towards anyone who is standing in line. Call it my ‘secret justification of the world’ process.

So we climbed the steps and got on top of Charminar. It has a very good view of the city around. I was trying to be careful with Sarah’s left shoulder (as she has a history of dislocating it after her ‘daily Karate class’ and ‘regular ass kicking of Josh’ practice) and also stop a whole lot of guys from just falling on top of white people. I think it’s tough life for people who are both white and girls – to be visiting India. Every Indian Romeo (or Ranjha) wants to touch them or fall in love with them. Desi Babu, Angrezi Baby!

On top of Charminar

Once we were on top of Charminar, both Sarah and Lisa were asked by random guys to have their pictures taken with them. Being the good Samaritans they are, they politely refused. But this didn’t deter some people and they just simply took pictures of our friends. It’s a weird feeling to see a Hyderabadi hero (A typical teenager with long hair and fancy pants) scramble and pull out his phone camera to take a picture of our friends before they walk away.

So, now we all realized how the rest of the India trip is going to be. It would all be stares and random flashes (the camera ones) all the way. We would get ‘Hullo’ once a while but we knew that it was meant for the whities not us.

We did a little bit of shopping. Sarah bought some bangles, Sang and Lisa bought some ‘Attar’ (scent). Again, looking at our friends the prices would automatically go up. It’s just not the Indian government who has jacked up all the ticket prices for foreigners – it also includes all the stores. Good thing we had the ‘Ninja Price Negotiater’ (hereon to be referred as NPN) – Sang who basically cut so close to the bones of the sellers that it hurts watching her haggle.

1:30PM, Our home: We got back from our Charminar trip and our friends (who are amazingly adventurous and very sporty) donned the ‘Standard Indian Aunty’ (TM) look – by wearing Indian nighties. My grand mother, mom and sisters were pretty amused to see them in that attire. They thought that both Lisa and Sarah looked like live dolls in the Indian nighties.

Then we sat down to have our scrumptious dinner. My mom is a genius. She knew before hand that some white people are coming to visit us. She knew that she couldn’t talk to them. So, she used one of her best weapons from her arsenal – food. They say, the best way to reach a (Wo)man’s heart by the stomach route. If that is true then, my mom friggin owns the route, the canal next to it, the whole neighborhood! She meticulously planned the lunch to be the best one. So, we all enjoyed our ‘Coconut gravy based fresh shrimp’. That was awesome. Period.

3:30PM, our home: As I suck totally at haggling (there are many, but this one shows up very often), the girls have decided to take my sister – Asha along with them for further shopping. Asha is also a ‘NPN’ and equals Sangita at haggling.

3:45PM, our home: Since we decided to take Asha (and Bannu comes with her by default) with us and now we were 5 in number it was tricky to get all of us in the car. Me and Sang sat in the front and I had to straddle around the gear stick. This is the beginning of the trip long harassment I would undergo with the car, auto, rickshaw drivers. The groping ended after 45 minutes as we reached our destination. Man those were some ‘jerky’ switching of gears.

4:30PM, Sultan Bazaar: Both Lisa and Sarah got some pretty bags and clothes. Asha and Sang made sure that the price was low. And the crowds kept staring at us.

6:30PM, Auto: This was the first ride in an auto for our friends. As usual we were more in number to fit in an auto, so I snuggled next to the smelly driver. At first I was kinda surprised to see that guy being so jovial and friendly and later I realized that he was drunk. Phew. So, I had to keep him sober by talking to him about random things till we got to our destination. Oh man, the things we discussed for the next 30 minutes.

7:30PM, Birla Mandir: I think that we Indians have it in our genes that we always go to places at the same time. It was so friggin crowded at Birla Mandir. I think that we ar programmed in such a way that if one Indian just thinks to visit a place – the rest of the India wants to visit the same place to. It’s magical how 50,000 other people can read your thoughts.

We stood in a line and finally had a Darshan of God. It was fun so sit and relax after the darshan. We had a good time.

As the jet lag settled on our friends, we reached home with dreams of yummy coconut curry.

Read Day # 2

Wonderful Goa trip

I have never been able to take a decent vacation in my life. When I was in Singapore, US the only vacation was to visit India which was more frantic than anything in my life. Other time we have been to Chicago, Louisville but all those were still with family and hence more busy than usual time.

After our wedding we got so busy that we never got any chance to go anywhere. We still have plans to visit Peru but last week we got a wonderful opportunity to go visit Goa. We have been wanting to go there for long time and this was our first visit. God, it felt so good. We stayed in the Candolim area and hung out in Candolim, Baga, Anjuna beaches. It was so nice to just hangout at beach for whole day. Our routine was to get ready by 10am, get done with complimentary breakfast and rush to beach. Lie there reading our books, writing in journal and talking about stuff. Watching sunset was the most amazing thing!

We also travelled south to Palolem beach. It was the best beach ever I have been to. Coconut trees along the beach and not much of a crazy crowd to encounter. It was all the worth traveling 3 hours south for this beach. We milked the time we had there and spent almost all the time at beach. It was just exhilarating. I was ok with never going back home!

So, after 4 days in such environment we have decided that we would live somewhere close to water in our future. There’s just not much happening in mainland.

The most surprising thing though was, when we got back we kinda tanned a lot and my mom, sister and friends were shocked at it. In a country where we have “Fairness Cream for Men” and “Emami” is a verb, it was very shocking that we dared to behave like “gores’/firangi” and went ahead and got ourselves a tan(which was totally not intentional). I was shocked to see everyone’s response towards this “voluntary kalankit hona” event.

But who cares, if only they could see what I saw in Goa and hear the hum of the beach!