It was Pizza Hut and it looked about as real as a Pizza Hut gets except for a couple of differences. The people were a little darker. There was no beef to be had on the menu. The prices were in rupees. Other than that it looked like a fairly upscale Pizza Hut in a mall.
It’s the rootop terrace at the hotel where I
stayed. It was very nice. My room overlooked it.
Varanasi, India is a special place. Special because, in Hindu culture, Varanasi is a major pilgrimage site. It is said that, if a person dies (or is even cremated) in Varanasi their soul will obtain instant moksha [IT], the release from the perpetual cycle of life, death and rebirth that Hindus are striving to achieve. I don’t know a whole lot about moksha, but I do know that there are a whole lot of people who believe that Varanasi is a holy place. The people that you see in this picture are just such people. They have come to the Ganges River, a body of water they consider the holiest in the world, to get a little purity. One of the great activities in Varanasi for the tourist is to take a boat trip in the morning on the Ganges to observe pilgrims and local devotees in their morning rituals along the ghats, the steps leading down to the river. They gather, they meditate, they drink chai, they socialize, they bathe, they swim and they wash themselves and their laundry. This is quintessential Varanasi.
At night, this is The-Place-To-Be in Varanasi, at least in the early evening hours. The local Hindu community does an age-old prayer ritual for the city and the tourists. The priests chant and sing with the accompaniment of musical instruments. The local Hindus join in. It is, after all, a religious ceremony that the majority of them have participated in since their conception. Everyone’s invited. It’s outdoors on stages at the Dasashwamedh Ghat, one of the major Ghats of the city. The performance/ceremony takes about an hour and draws a large crowd. Many people, like myself, watch the event from a boat on the Ganges River. There are dozens of boats filled with tourists who observe the spectacle. It’s unique and it happens early enough that folks like me can still make their bedtimes.
I don’t know about you, but I like this picture. This is my second trip to the Taj. I went once by myself. I then went on a guided tour. It was a little pricey to go both days, but what the heck, I’m a big-spender. Tickets to Taj cost foreigners about $17 a day. They cost Indians less than 50 cents. I’m not sure how the Indian government justifies this, but I guess they don’t have to, do they?
It’s a palace, a village and a good story. The white marble structure behind me is the tomb of a holy man. He helped a great king of a great dynasty perpetuate history as we know it. How, and what resulted from the relationship between the holy man that once lived in a cave and the king of a great empire, is the story of Fatehpur Sikri.
Wow! It’s a cow. In the street. You’re in India, man, get used to it.
This, I can never get used to. This picture is one that is all-too-common in India. Here, you can see a big heap of trash and some animals. Most of the time there are no Indians in the picture. I’m really not sure what this guy is doing. When I take a picture of some guy in a garbage dump, I try not to linger. Animals in garbage dumps is not uncommon in India. However, to put the whole thing in some perspective for my western friends, it is important to understand a couple of things. First, in India, the lives of animals are much the same as the lives of humans. That’s why the vast, vast majority of Hindus are vegetarians. Second, it is important to support our animal friends by giving them the refuse that we don’t want, especially cows, which are, for Hindus, sacred. It’s something like having a pet, but on a higher social order. All animals are our friends (pets) and we should help them. Best way to help them? Feed them our garbage. It’s like feeding Fido under the table when dad wasn’t watching. At this point, however, the whole thing starts getting a little murky as the results of the logic are piles and piles of garbage everywhere and loose animals feeding in them. But, if the Indians don’t have a problem with it, why should I? It’s their country, isn’t it?
This is a meter for a tuk-tuk in India. Almost all tuk-tuks have them. Almost no tuk-tuks use them. There are 4 steps to getting a good deal on a tuk-tuk ride in India. First tell the driver where you want to go and see if he even remotely appears to understand where it is you want to wind up. If he doesn’t, find another tuk-tuk or really bad things could happen. Second, ask the price. Third, offer him half of what he is asking. Stand there for a while listening to him whine, cajole and try to negotiate with you. Stand firm in your price. Do not waver. Fourth, start walking away after he gets even reasonably close to your price. If you are really feeling generous or absolutely need the ride right now, offer him 60-70% of what he asks. The trick is in walking away and starting to look for another tuk-tuk. You have to really mean it when you do it. The competition for premium-paying riders, or tourists, in India is tremendous. Even at 50% of his asking price, I’m paying a lot more than an Indian would pay. He’s getting a good deal. I’m getting a good deal. Unfortunately, he’ll wind up not liking me because I wouldn’t pay an overly-inflated price. I’ll feel bad that I haven’t allowed another local to take advantage of me, but at least he’ll respect me in the morning.
This picture is of a view of the Taj Mahal from the King’s quarters in Agra Fort. The actual view is much better than any picture can ever make it out to be. There are some things in this world that should be experienced in person, no matter how good the photograph appears to be. The Taj Mahal is one of them.