Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 Reflections while in India

1) A be Kelan, यह एक ही है, It is the Same

I arrived in Delhi and immediately missed Mali. So many things are the same; the shops, the smoky haze of outside fires, the moto taxis, the feral dogs. I breathe in the smoky air and picture my host mom fanning hot coals preparing for dinner. I see a puppy scrounging for food and slightly feel Legend's nose nudging my thigh reminding me that he is first in line for leftovers. I hear the hotel attendant say they have no change and instead of becoming frustrated, I laugh to myself, remembering my favorite merchants in the Dioro market giving me looks for trying to hand them any bill instead of coins. 

However, this trip was much different from any of my travels in Africa. I'm with a group of students and our teacher is our advocate for fair treatment and ensures our stay is as cushy as possible. We arrive at the airport and see two people standing with a Marquette sign. We are escorted to a nice bus with a flower wreath welcome, bottled water, and my new favorite Indian snack, Masala Munch. The bus is passed by several mottos weaving in and out of traffic and there are moto taxis everywhere. It's a huge change being above the chaos instead of in the middle of it. We arrive at the hotel and our room is stunning. Beautiful Indian decorations with a huge shower and a delicious meal waiting for us. 

This experience sounds very normal to most but I'm used to landing in an unfamiliar place, negotiating a ride on one of those moto taxis and arriving at a hostel where the comfort level is guaranteed to be subpar. Don't mistake that for complaining. It was a very exciting way to travel and I appreciated it for all that I learned. I was still able to learn a lot while in India with Marquette, it was just very different. Everything was planned out for me but the convenience and safety of that was well worth it.

We didn't get to see much of Delhi until the last leg of our trip.  I learned a lot about the various Hindu gods at the Akshardam Temple and felt a hint of tranquility when looking from afar at the beautiful Lotus Temple.

                            The Lotus Temple~
 ~The Akshardam Temple

*These are not my pics because I couldn't get these kinds of shots and wanted to show you exactly how amazing these two are*

2) A Man's Best Friend or Competition? 

It was very hard for me to see dogs being treated badly. I had a hard time in Mali and had an even harder time in India now that I have a loving dog at home. I saw an adorable black puppy get stepped on by a local and witnessed a kid throw a stick at dog getting too close to him. It is very easy for me to cast harsh judgment. What kind of person could treat such a loving animal so terribly?! It is easy for me to condone this awful behavior because I have enough money to feed myself and my dog with no worries. I choose to let Jax sit on my lap, snuggle, and reward him treats for good behavior. He is not threatening me or the health of my family. It is not a "him or me" situation. The little boy throwing the stick was more than likely protecting his small meal or his little brothers. There is no emotional connection to the dog but an intense one to the food the boy needs to get through the day.  I'm not saying this treatment is right but forcing myself to see it through a local's perspective made witnessing it a little more bearable.

3) Jaipur

As I mentioned above, I was surprised by how many things were similar to my experience in West Africa. The Jaipur market was full of a lot of the same things in Mali. The blankets, pots, nescafe, and powdered milk were all the SAME and thats just to name a few. The style of the outdoor food markets and a lot of the food was the same. I saw several people drinking tea out of the small pots as a social activity just like in Mali. The architecture is what reminded me of where I was. Jaipur is known as the pink city because it was mostly built with pink and red sandstone. The picture below is Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds. It was designed to resemble the crown of Krishna, the Hindu God. You can see there are several windows with the lattice style. This was so the royal ladies could see the outside world while still observing the tradition of purdah, keeping their faces covered.

4) Taj Mahal-The Palace of Love

I knew what the Taj Mahal was before visiting, but had never heard the story of why it was built. Our guide for the day did a great job of romancing us with the lovely story. The Taj was built by Prince Khurram, Shah Jahan, after the death of his third wife, Arjumand Banu Begum. It was normal for men to have several wives but he was completely in love with her. It is said that he was in love at first site and referred to her as Mumtaz Mahal, the jewel of the palace. She lost her life at age 40 while delivering their fourteenth child. Shah Jahan was devastated and spent the rest of his life and a ton of cash building the Taj Mahal for Arjumand to be buried in. They are buried there together but their actual tombs cannot be seen as they are three levels directly below the one that I and the rest of the world are able to see. The Taj Mahal really was breathtaking. I got goosebumps as I touched the perfectly white marble. The stone carvings and jewels designed as flowers made the Taj Mahal the most beautiful building I have ever seen.  I've been Egypt and have seen Giza, another World Wonder, and was impressed but the Taj Mahal stole my heart truly making it the Palace of Love for me.

5) How Auspicious-The Tale of the Baby Elephant

Auspicious-showing or suggesting that success is likely. Hindi is the official language of India but over 250 million people also speak English. While traveling in India, I heard the word auspicious easily over 100 times. I had never heard the word used before but could tell what it meant in context. A lot of great stories were told about several of the Maharajas and their auspicious adventures. It was auspicious for me to see an elephant while in India. We had been told that we were going to ride an elephant while traveling and I was thrilled! I had wanted to ride an elephant while in Africa, top on my bucket list, but never got the chance.  I had been on several safaris and have been close enough to know how long their eyelashes are but never got to touch one. A visit to the Amber Fort was my chance to cross this off my list. As we were pulling up to the Fort, the bus driver stopped so we could take pictures from a distance. We got off the bus just as a baby elephant was walking by! She was adorable and about 5 years old. The gentleman walking her was more than happy to make a few rupees as we stopped and took pictures. It was amazing to pet her ears and giggle as she put her trunk on the tops of my feet. Surely they were a little smelly after a long morning of walking... Actually riding the adult elephant up to the fort paled in comparison to meeting this little calf. I learned a lot while on this trip but one of my favorites parts was meeting her.

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