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Monday, November 14, 2016

Taj Mahal

Last day in India, and we saved the best for last! Unfortunately the weather didn't fully cooperate - morning smog necessitated use of these lovely masks.

The Taj Mahal mausoleum itself is actually part of a complex with a number of impressive buildings including this mosque. 

Many folks say the Taj Mahal is a tribute to love, but Bhivou says it is also a lesson that too much of anything will kill you. Too much alcohol, too much tobacco or in this case,  too much sex since the wife died giving birth to kid #14 in 17 years. 😜  Regardless, it is a spectacular building and certainly worthy of all its fame.  The marble inlay work is gorgeous. While we didn't get the celebrity solo tour that Kate and Will got, here's the Cmas card photo! 

After the Taj, we went to the fort at Agra where the Moghul emperors, including the one who built the Taj lived. In the case of the Taj builder, it was also his prison when his son overthrew him and he got to gaze out the window at the Taj. The sandstone fort and palaces inside were quite impressive. 

There were an incredible number of tourists from India as well as other countries, many of whom asked to take photos with us. I'm sure I will feature in this family's holiday card. 

I continue to enjoy taking pics of the women in their colorful saris\sarees.

The afternoon was spent on the bus back to Delhi.  Incredibly, I managed to sit on the side where the sun was AGAIN despite having thought I'd finally figured the Southern Hemisphere sun pattern out. Nope. Astronomy is clearly not my gift! We had late lunch on the road - Bhivou provided bananas and Lays potato chips for everyone. Good thing I had my slim jims!  Mid-way we stopped at a public roadside restroom and had an unfortunate bathroom experience. We were politely queued up behind some Indian women waiting for the toilets. Then another group of Indians came up behind us, pushed through on the right and jumped in front of our ladies who were stunned silent. So then a couple of us had to perform another bootie block to keep the line single file and keep it from happening again.  It is an annoying cultural difference. Indians push through that way in other lines as well, at the monuments for example and certainly at the bank, which is really frustrating. It reminds me of China, and I guess in a country of more than 1 billion people, you have to push to get anywhere. But it is hard to reconcile this behavior with the individuals who are just so lovely, polite and peaceful in individual interactions.

The other interesting cultural experience was driving by two cremations happening along the riverside. Bhivou said one of them was likely a child based on the size of the bonfire. Bodies are supposed to be cremated on the same day as a death. 

We got back to Delhi around 6, dropped some folks off at the airport and then went to a nearby hotel for a farewell dinner. Unfortunately we only ate two non-hotel dinners this trip, and that made a big difference in the enjoyment of the Indian food since it was typical hotel food - not great but not awful. The good news is with buffets you get to sample lots of items, so I expanded my palate of items I know I like a little bit beyond chicken tikka! 

After dinner, we hung out in the hotel bar for a while before coming to the airport for our flights. Unfortunately mine isn't until 3:20am and it is only a little after midnight now. So waiting up this long is a killer. 

For the final wrap-up, I'll say that I'm really glad to have come to India. I think it is a fascinating culture - roughly 1/7 of the worlds population lives here, and the civilization has been around for thousands of  years. There is a depth of culture that we just don't have in the USA. At the same time, while India is a emerging global power, this is definitely a third world country which makes life here difficult. The poverty level is deep and omnipresent.  The infrastructure around sanitation is horrendous - there are piles of garbage thrown everywhere, and men regularly urinate publicly such that a walk down any city street smells like Bourbon St on Sunday morning. Women's public toilets aren't much better.  In both the Hindu and Islamic communities, women are second class citizens. There are even gender-segregated X-ray machines at the airport. There is no way I could live here, but I'm still glad to have seen it and happy to be on my way home. 

Oh,  here's how the henna tattoo turned out along with those from some who had a technician with a little lighter touch.  Wonder how long it will last... 


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