India Tour Journal
[Note: This was mostly written by Lindsay with some additions by Aaron.]
Day 1, Aug 20:
Today was the official official first day of our not so long- but much-awaited trip to India as the Corn Potato String Band. Aaron and Lindsay woke up at the henhouse (in Keezletown, VA) with just enough time to give Bill a sweaty hug and make some decaf, the new drink (for avoiding jet lag). Roy got a new fiddle case at 8:45am thanks to Bruce and Ann, the official patrons of the Corn Potatos. It came from the neighbor guy and Ann was sent out to retrieve it just in time.
Our cab driver in DC (taking us from Aaron’s aunt and uncle’s house in Takoma Park where we are leaving the van while we’re gone) was a political exile from Iran who told us about spending 300 days in solitary confinement there because he was working for human rights. He said, “I don’t like normal people… Go to work nine to five, not me!” The he went on about the superiority of his cab company over the others.
We parted ways thinking that all the hard parts (two weeks of insufferable paperwork while we’re all out at festivals in the country, FedEx-ing, emails and purchases) were finished. Aviva and Roy headed for Air France. Aaron and Lindsay hauled themselves over to United where they were bad at the automated check-in and were coached by the airline lady who said, “It’s not a problem, it’s a process.” Well, that’s what she tells her daughter, anyway. But then, much to our overwhelmment, we found that our originating flight had been delayed to the point where we wouldn’t make our connecting flight to India. It was supposed to leave in two hours from Dulles but they told us that in the meantime our plane was supposed to fly from Philly to Newark to Boston and back. So Dario Diaz, our knight in a blue shining armor put us on a new flight to Frankfurt where Aaron could drink German beer, which he is doing right now with relish, and Lindsay is eating a big beautiful apple. Also, we watched Ghostbusters on the plane, and many Gozerians were devoured in the belly of a Slor that day, I can tell you!
We played some tunes in the car on the way to DC from Keezletown. And now we’re in Frankfurt with about a five hour layover. We’ve made it this far! Fingers crossed for getting to Delhi. We are set to arrive six hours later than we would have originally, and tomorrow is our first gig, a short set at the reception at the American Center in Delhi in honor of the 50th anniversary of Martlin Luther King, Jr.‘s march on Washington. We will play songs that were a part of that time, such as “If I Had A Hammer,” and “I Shall Not Be Moved.”
Aaron and Lindsay got to the hotel finally at 2:45am, after filling out archaic-looking paper forms about lost baggage with a disorganized but very friendly young man at the airport. We got to the extremely fancy hotel and were shown the various things available by a nice young gentleman concierge. Everything is marble and chandeliers and smells like jasmine.
Day 2, Aug 22:
Then we went to the American Center in a big car. Before that there was a breakfast consisting of everything you could imagine to eat with handy helpers dressed in red coats with gold epaulets and some red fabric crowny-things. We drank lots of watermelon juice and mango-lime juice at the hotel. At the American Center we got coached on how to not eat stuff and what not to eat and drink — the water, for instance. We ate a delicious lunch of Indian curry and masala and roti and naan. We then discussed our evening performance of civil rights march songs. Lindsay, the loose-lip motor mouth, accidentally piped up and said, “Well, Joshua, we haven’t learned how to play ‘We Shall Overcome’ but I’m sure we could learn it.” So then it was decided that we should, in fact, learn it right away. So we printed out the words and Aaron graciously, with a bit of a D.G.F. attitude, said he would play it on the banjo, just like Pete Seeger. Lindsay had to sing like a “weaver” because the song was pitched a little high for her, which was serendipitiously appropriate. The performance went fine although the sound was a little iffy.
We returned to our hotel after some computer-ing and luggage tracking and some chitchatting and whatnot. Lindsay and Aaron drank a shot of Antiquity. Roy and Aviva apparently slept well. Aaron woke up at 3am and started talking about breakfast.
Day 3, Aug 23:
We went to breakfast at the crack of dawn and drank watermelon juice and coffee and tea and ate fruits and nuts, little cream-filled doughnuts, Indian pancakes, chickpea stew, mutton steaks, lox, peeled cucumbers, pain au chocolat, mango and raspberry lassi, etc. etc.
We then attempted to get our car to the American Center, but it couldn’t come right away, so we hung out with the door operators, one of whom was so immaculately dressed that Lindsay had to get a picture with him. Roy played fiddle tunes in the driveway and many Imperial Hotel dudes were cracking smiles. Then the president of the hotel, who emerged menacingly, insisted on showing us some Indian violin music on his smartphone.
At the American Center we had our instruments out and were playing some tunes when Gaurav Mazumdar came in with his tabla player, his manager, and his student. Gaurav took over the proceedings and told us he would play some tunes for us in the key of D. We sat on some pillows on some tablecloths on the floor and had our minds melted. The tabla player fine tuned with a rock hammer. They played a Raga that was D-major in the Tal of 16/16, which Aaron supposed was so that we could understand a little better, i.e., he was going easy on our brains. We then played a couple tunes and got sidetracked on a tangent about crooked tunes. Then Gaurav played an amazing closing number and then we all achieved total consciousness — Just kidding, although Aaron thinks a door was opened — We actually just thanked him profusely and then went shopping and ate kebabs.
We all bought fabulous Indian homespun cotton shirts at FabIndia and ate kati rolls, delicious fast food of meat or other filling rolled up inside a fried naan.
Then we went to the Ambassador’s house. The security there was intense, including wrought-iron barbed wire high concrete walls. They took all our electronics. We spent some time testing out the sound in the room where we would perform which was in a modernist late-60’s style, a rectangular room with an elevated walkway. They decorated it with balloons, bandannas and corn and potato arrangements. Honestly, they had bouquets with corn and potatoes. We practiced dancing and played some tunes and got all excited.
We did our show and it went great. The dignitaries were friendly, wearing bandannas. The food was hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, ice cream, etc. We went home and drank some whiskey, thank heavens. It was the diplomats’ whiskey, marked “For Diplomatic Supply.”
Day 4, Aug 24:
We got up early to eat delicious breakfast again and then got in the car to go to Aligarh. As soon as we got off the main highway there was a feast for the eyes. There were mud huts with thatched roofs, dudes laying on cots, weird concrete rectangle buildings, some painted teal, painted trucks, metal victrola cone wagons, monkeys, smokestacks and brickworks, people on bikes and rickshaws, cows, oxcarts, etc.
We got to Aligarh Muslim University for sound check, went into the auditorium and there was the university band playing what sounded like Pink Floyd-esque psychedelic rock. It was like a sauna in there and the water they gave us in these tiny weird bottles tasted a bit like creosote.
We met all the university officials on stage after the performance and they presented us with certificates of appreciation and mementos (leather belts and wallets for the gentlemen, leather pocketbooks for the ladies). Hospitality there was incredible, so many people looking after us, asking if we need anything. Our first day without A/C…
The show was great — a response like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Wild cheering at the start and end of each song and much in the middle as well. We were quite worried about appearing adequately modest in our dress and respectful of customs at the Muslim University but the vibe was a lot more relaxed than we’d expected. There was also a lot of protocol, e.g. standing up when an official appears, which we were not prepared for. I think you also had to stand up for the ladies to enter the room. There were not very many women around. We heard that this one time an acrobatics troupe was set to perform there but couldn’t in the end because there were women in the troupe. Apparently ladies aren’t allowed on stage in the world of Muslims very much, especially not for dancing. We were warned to avoid touching each other on stage and to do no dancing whatsoever. The last time a lday danced on their stage there was a riot. We were having awkward moments with men and women in general, unsure if we were supposed to sit on the same side of the table or be in the same room together or what. Lindsay put pants on under her skirt so as not to scandalize everyone. Aaron convinced her that the way to combat the heat was to put an icy bandanna around her neck. Then the ice melted and soaked the front of her shirt, leaving the entire front of her shirt wet for the whole show. How she didn’t notice this happening and put a stop to it, no one knows, but it was sort of embarrassing.
At the end of the show the Vice Chancellor got onstage with a sizeable entourage and made a speech. He said something like, “I hope the music of the Corn Potatos has got you ready to study!” And he said “We are so thankful to have these Corn Potatos,” or something like that. Then we got certificates and gifts and many hands were shaken and photos were taken. Unfortunately we were told we had to get out of there right away after the show, due to a rule about not traveling after dark, so we had to run away from all the students and teachers that we wanted to talk to and who wanted to talk to us.
We drove to our hotel in Agra and it was another fancy place. This time they put paint on our foreheads when we came in. We went to the pool and there was a Rajasthani-style puppet show. It was there for tourists to buy stuff, but it was honestly pretty entertaining. There was belly-dancing and a sword fight between Tom Cruise and Sean Penn. (Sean Penn won with his flip-moves.) We went swimming and drank brown medicine.
Day 5, Aug 25:
At 6 in the buttcrack of dawn we made our way with fearless and passionate guide, Anu, to the Taj Mahal. We were instructed to ignore the beggars, the photographers and tour guides on the way in. Our guide told us all about the Moghul dynasty and the emperor Shah Jahan (meaning “Ruler of the World”), the 8000 concubines he had in his harem, and he kept presenting us with puzzling questions, such as “Why would the grounds be laid out in this pattern?” 8000 concubines aside, Shah Jahan also had 642 temporary wives and three real wives, and died of an opium overdose in the arms of two concubines while under house arrest in his opulent surroundings.
It was very hot and the white marble was like a mirror for reflecting the pounding sun. Aaron’s shoe fell apart and we all got a little hungry and worn out. We were all very relieved when we made it back to the hotel for breakfast. The breakfast was a delightful smorgasbord with cucumber juice, sweet lime juice, dal and flatbreads and pastries, etc. But we had been so spoiled at the Imperial that we weren’t really that impressed.
After breakfast we visited some shops where they had hand-crafted stuff. We started with carpets. This well-dressed guy showed us first the dudes tying the wool onto the rug looms. After each row they start again and sing the colors they are putting on, which sounds cool. We saw the trimming of the rugs and were invited to burn them ourselves, and we saw a designer at work, too. We were then shown a bunch of finished rugs for a long time. We felt a little awkward having to say “No, thanks” to all the things they tried to sell us.
It was the same story at the embroiderers. The embroidery with gold thread was amazing. The gold thread looked like wound guitar strings. There was this one sort of carpet thing embroidered with flowers and gaudy gemstone beads that included WILDCATS. Well, yes there were embroidered wildcats CHASING IBEX. Mmhmm. But this one thing had brownish tan, tannish gold, sea foam, leaf green, pink, lavender, and brick red all embroidered and outlined with gold thread. There were great masterpieces by the great Sham. The workshop of the great Sham was subsidized by the government.
The art form started with the Moghuls having lavish robes and things made for them. Then, when there stopped being Moghul emperors with unlimited wealth, thousands of concubines and the desire to show off their incredible wealth no one could afford it anymore and now no one can really afford it except wealthy tourists. For something like a two-foot-diameter table doily it was around $500. Yikes. So we had to politely decline a lot of great offers.
After the embroiderers we had to admit that we were ready to collapse. [I think that truck said “Liver Boy” on the back! Yes, I think you’re right except it said LIVER BOX! Great. That’s kind of just as bad except kind of worse. Eew.] So they let us go back to the hotel for a moment. We got Anu to come have a beer with us and tell us about Indian culture. Aaron asked him a lot of questions. Anu explained that a good son will get married and move in with his parents, and you get reincarnation points for doing that. You also get points for feeding cows and monkeys. We also talked about man caves and Coke Studio.
Then we went back to Delhi where Lindsay and Aaron went out with Joshua (the guy who brought us to India in the first place) and his wife, Googoo (sp?), to a restaurant called Gunpowder, which was in an old sort of maze-like complex of muddyish back alleys, some unlit, with hip little shops and restaurants hidden within. The restaurant was on the fifth floor of a weird crackhouse-like building. We ate delicious fried black pepper buffalo, sweet and sour pumpkin, some sort of lovely chicken and a vegetable korma. There was an appetizer of roasted semi-sprouted chickpeas that was the house specialty, completely delicious. We also had sweet lime soda, which you mix yourself, not to be confused with Limca, a lime soda we drank at the Agra rug factory which is also wonderful, or “Thums Up,” a brown soda that tastes like old R.C. Cola and has a big red thumb on the front, or big read “Thum,” I should say, which we had at Aligarh. We also had really nice bread at the Gunpowder. The power went out at the restaurant and a nice waiter ushered us down the stairs with a flashlight. We had to give some kid a dollar for butting into our parking situation as a busking parking attendant.
Day 6, Aug 26:
This is the day that we did the Music Basti thing in the industrial slum next to the Gap factory, with 60 or 80 4-15 year old slum children, performing tunes and Lindsay’s Rattlesnake Mountain crankie (with the kids singing along with the “Come-a-roo-dye-roo-dye-rooo”) and Lindsay was magnificent at organizing a circle and a line dance with everyone, Aviva assisting splendidly and Roy and Aaron providing the tunes at a good reasonable tempo. The eight or so staff there were incredible and they led the kids in a Bollywood song for us, a song about not wanting to be a doctor or lawyer… We were also treated to a solo vocal performance by one of the kids, about 14 years old, another Bollywood song, this one a love song. Then we each got interviewed by a camera crew for the US State Department website.
After it was all over we went to lunch, a short walk from the hotel but our first time out together, the four of us with no escort. In the five or so minutes of walking we were approached by many beggars, a shoe repair man, and Aaron gave some rupees to an old busker playing the wooden flute. The restaurant was South Indian, we had amazing dosas with paneer or potatos and Aaron got mixed thali which was about ten different sauces and pastes and chutneys from sweet to salty to hot, kind of indescribable. Then we flew to Kolkata and checked in to very fancy hotel number three (The Park Hotel).
Day 7, Aug 27:
First activity of the day is drive to the village of the scroll painters. We’re in the car now, it’s a three-hour drive from the hotel. We’re supposed to find a song to teach them and learn one of theirs and then perform all together. Apparently this is the plan for the next few days: workshop with high school kids, Bauls, local folk fusion musicians, etc. and then perform with all of them at the end of the tour.
The driver of our bus honked the horn about ten times per minute. On the bus the four of us are outnumbered by handlers and press people. One of the press people was an hour late which we had to wait for. Oh, well, the roads were a bit flooded by heavy rains.
Pingla is the name of the village. We arrived in this beautiful rural village inhabited by some 200 scroll painters, all ages, lots of short houses with paintings on the outsides, ponds, rice paddies, a mosque, and plants growing all around from which the painters make their paints and dyes. Saffron, blue flowers, turmeric, green leaves…
We went to the main building and took off our shoes and sat down on mats with all the scroll painters. Sohini (from the Kolkata American Center) translated for us except when she was on the phone. They performed a scroll for us about a snake and everyone joined in on the chorus. The whole village apparently knew all the responses for the songs. There were lots of kids rolling around. Also there were different singers for different parts. Later this older lady started singing a random song that was some kind of love tale about a dude that was going away from his lady and it was making her upset.
We ate a gigantic lunch of chicken stuff, vegetable stuff, rice and Indian-style french fries. These two guys kept bringing out more stuff from the take-out. It cost 300 rupees for two of us, about five dollars. Then we walked around the village and they showed us some of the plants that have colors. People were in their concrete huts painting and watching TV. They have a big festival there in November. All the houses are numbered so that the festivalgoers can find certain artists. Lots of good murals. Swarma’s house was the most beautiful. It was teal with read and blue flowers. It took us about four hours to get home and we were all ready to keel over after the drive.
Day 8, Aug 28:
Today we woke up at the hotel and the car was a little late again. We had to plan out our workshop with an unspecified but large group of high school students that may or may not have instruments.
They were already sitting there, well-behaved, when we got there. We were told that the “music school” kids couldn’t make it because of the rain. I guess some roads get really bad in the rain, like 1-3 feet of water. We played a few songs for them and then we tried to get thme to do a square dance. There was one square of all boys in white uniforms (white pants, white shirts) and one square of all girls in blue uniforms and one mixed up hodge podge square. We did a circle dance first and taught them a Grand Right & Left which worked great one time and then got worse and worse for some reason. Then we did the Texas Star and it was fine except the mixed square boys and girls didn’t want to touch each other.
After boxed lunch we divided up into two groups and did singing and dancing. The kids learned Red River Valley. Apparently Aviva told them that “You don’t need to have a sweet voice for this kind of music” which got recorded in the papers as “Aviva told the students ‘You need to have a sweet voice for this kind of music.’” One boy showed Lindsay how the double-chug is like a Dhalava (or something) dance. It entertained the kids to see us do it.
The kids left and there were like fourteen press interviews. We were having trouble not being a bit sarcastic if not assholeish as they asked us things like How do you like Kolkata? We were like, It’s great! even though we had really only seen one hotel and the American Center and the highway. Back at the hotel we tried to go in the hot tub, which was actually a cold tub.
Day 9, Aug 29:
We woke up and went to the American Center to meet the Bauls. There were three guys, Saurav Moni the Riverboat-Man Song Singer, Golam the Fakir, and Shyam Khypa the Baul. They had instruments including Ektara and Dotara, meaning One String and Two Strings. We worked out some songs with them. We basically would try to work up some trading off of verses of songs. We played Down The River I Go and Darlin Corey and Poor Ellen Smith along with these ecstatic ancient and complicated (to us), improvised Baul songs. Our own songs were so tame in comparison.
Then we went to the radio station where we had to have more interviews and say “Adda. Gaan. Total Fun.” and they recorded us doing some songs which was really fun. Shyam Khyapa (sp?) kept playing along with us, even when we were supposed to be playing a string band tune by ourselves but we didn’t care. We drew a fan club who were appreciative that we didn’t play jazz. Aaron had a mystical experience playing with Shyam and it put him in a good mood, which he was not in earlier. We were all suffering from sleepiness, grumpiness, strange circumstances, but the day with the Bauls was fun. Also it was Lindsay’s birthday and we had a party at the hotel bar and danced like idiots for twenty minutes.
Day 10: Aug 30
We had to meet with a band of people from around Kolkata. When we walked in to the American Center the first thing we noticed was all the amplifiers. We had to work up some songs with these guys, who were an all-star band made up of members of different Kolkata folk bands. It was hard because their music was slightly confusing and Lindsay thought some of it was sort of corny. Their singing was beautiful but there was all this electric bass and keyboards. We figured out a couple of songs and we kept trying to extract ourselves from having to learn more than one song, but we didn’t want to disappoint them or Suman, our point-man, who was really excited about us doing three songs with these dudes. They asked us to play a song for them and we played Black Bottom Strut, in an attempt to play something lighthearted and stupid and they ended up attaching two Bollywood songs to the tune. [For the record, Aaron was interested in learning more than one song and did, in the end. Why not give it a try, while we’re here? he said. It’s not every day you get to do something like this.] Let’s just say that it was slightly stressful making a program between the three fiddlers of the Corn Potatos and the other musicians who were friendly but much different than us in many respects.
We practiced with people up until the show. Meanwhile there was loud soundchecking going on. The went fine once it got going. The dignitaries made little speeches and mispronounced things a lot. The monitors were quite loud so it was hard to listen from near the stage without wanting to cover at least one ear, which would have probably been a bit rude-looking. There was a lot of dithering with microphones, but all in all it was fine. We didn’t do anything major in the Big Mistakes category. It was fun watching Shyam dance around in an ecstatic manner. After the show we were mobbed by people wanting to ask for our contact info and give us things. There were photos and interviews as well, which by this time were getting a bit old. We were still talking to Saurav when Sohini dragged us away to the car. We made it back and went right to sleep for our last night of the official tour.
Day 11, Aug 31:
This day we woke up late and had to pack up and say goodbye to our bandmates and to the good life. Roy and Aviva flew back to Delhi around 1pm. Lindsay and Aaron went to Kumartuli, the neighborhood where the Durga Puja sculptures are made. It was really amazing to see the back alleys and small warehouses filled with very fancy straw-and-clay statues. We then went to our cheap-ass, nasty hotel which got the taxi driver all confused. We had to stop about eight different times and ask different people directions, showing them the hotel address and even calling the hotel from someone’s cell phone. When we finally got there the room was really small but cool and comfy.
We went to a Hindi movie that night. It was sort of a pop music, star-studded, high drama story of revolution based on the Gandhi story. It was called Satyagraha. The love scene three quarters of the way through involved necking but no kissing with long-sleeved shirts on. A song came on and they were suddenly in a moonlit courtyard and they changed clothes three times. Then came intermission. We got popcorn and Limca and it was fun.
Day 12, Sep 1:
On this day we woke up and tried to get coffee but it was Sunday so everything was closed, or just not open yet. We took pictures of the hazardous-looking jumble of power lines and returned to the hotel for room service breakfast which cost a whopping 240 rupees (about four dollars) and consisted of one coffee, one tea, some fruit, parantha (flatbread), yogurt [or stew, as we found out the next day] and some weird other stuff which Aaron tasted. It was a salty pile of vegetable guts.
Then Diptanshu Roy came to pick us up at our hotel. Diptanshu is a friend of Aaron’s banjo-playing friend Ben Krakauer, who spent a year in India and is currently writing a dissertation on the Bauls. We went to his beautiful 300-year-old home where he and his wife live with his parents and his uncle, and where he grew up. It was a beautiful and complex weather-beaten maze of courtyards and balconies and hallways and breezeways. His wife served us coffee and tea, and brightened up the room with her sunny demeanour. We talked about music and played some tunes in the living room and on the roof. He played some Baul songs for us on mandolin. His wife filmed us playing Big Eyed Rabbit and I guess it’s on youtube now. He was very fun to talk to and seemed to have a very chilled-out attitude about everything. He did not honk his horn a lot, unlike everyone else in the city. His house was next to a giant Puja house, where huge crowds would come for Durga Puja. We watched a dude thatching the roof of the shrine. He was putting on the round rope of thatch on the ridge line. Diptanshu’s wife was really excited about Durga Puja. Diptanshu was like, I never go out for it, there’s too many people. They also served us delicious chicken stew and poppy seed potato curry, and a dessert of homemade cheese balls in a milky custard sauce.
Day 13, Sep 2:
This day we woke up and took a cab to the airport, no problem. We had to wait a while for the plane. Everything went fine until in Delhi our cab driver dumped us out on the Main Bazaar in Paharganj (hustly bustly cheap backpacker type tourist area) and we had to carry all our stuff to Hotel Namaskar, which we didn’t know the exact location of, through the crazy street market with old beggars and salesmen hustlers and cows and dudes trying to get us to stay at their hotel and the beating sun and little kids making pitiful gestures and the everpresent street dogs. Aaron almost gave up when we were about forty feet from the hotel.
When we got there the concierge/owner very nicely explained that he had no A/C for us, which we had asked for in advance. Unfortunately we had gotten a little dependent on this bourgeouis comfort for a break from the insane, everpresent muggy heat. Nevertheless we picked a room, went to the internet cafe and then to the hotel-recommended restaurant, which was delicious but not air-conditioned, even though they advertised “Fully Air-Conditioned”. There was a delicious dal covered in butter and cream. Lindsay kept seeing black cloudy clouds in her line of vision and feeling faint. But food helped. It was hot and we took like three quick showers each in the bathroom, which was one of those amazing toilet-shower combos, which are interesting but not so bad once you get into it. It was a not-so-restful night.
Day 14, Sep 3:
We hatched a plan to drop off a bag at Cottage Yes Please and then we went to the coffee shop for Lindsay and Aaron reserved a room at Cottage Yes Please. Then we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to Gaurav’s house which was in a neighborhood called CR Park. Apparently it was a welfare-projects-type of place filled with Bengali refugees after Partition in 1947 and has blossomed into a lively community. We found it no problem, in fact we were early and we didn’t have any sweets.
When we arrived at Gaurav’s he concocted an email for us full of information and contacts, for instance Kuldeep. We were fed coffee and cookies. His wife was very nice and we discussed our favorite places in the US. Gaurav’s daughters kept coming in and getting ushered out. They were supposed to be studying. Gaurav said, The system in India is that when kids have an exam, parents have an exam.
Then we went into the music room with Gaurav and his student whose name we forgot, and soon after a man showed up with books full of poetry he had written. Aaron got his fiddle out and Lindsay recorded. There was some talk about ragas, technique, and Hindustani vs. Karnatic styles but the part we remember most was a prolonged call-and-response where Gaurav seemed to be testing Aaron. Aaron definitely hit the ceiling after a while but Gaurav said he’d done well and should continue studying Indian music.
After this lesson, we got picked up by a car from Shiv Nadar University. It was so fancy to get picked up. It was a fancy car, too. We rode through Delhi and after about an hour we were on some potholed roads in the middle of some rice paddies with pampas grass and a few cows and (at least Lindsay) was thinking where the hell are we going. Eventually, in the middle of nowhere, some big Soviet-block-looking apartment buildings, unfinished, loomed out of the fields. They said ANSEL, which is some billion dollar corporation in India.
The college was kind of in the middle of a big dusty field, but when we got there Ram Sharma, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, gave us some tea and coffee and cookies or nuts or something. There were some very enthusiastic college students, respectful I would add, from the Music Club that came to talk to us. We told them we played fiddle and banjo and stuff. Later we went up to a lecture room room and played about ten tunes for the students, including One More Hill, Rattlesnake Mountain, and Peor Es Nada, and then we had a little break followed by a flatfooting session. At the end of the evening we made a plan to have an open jam the next day to be followed by square dancing. The students, plus Ram and Sanjeev the maths professor, were all very appreciative. Sanjeev said of the Mexican Polka, That sounds like music from a Charlie Chaplin movie! There was a kid that looked like Todd from NOLA who kept asking for more 3/4 tunes and ‘jazz’. Lindsay tried to get Aaron to play jazz and it was slightly difficult to play ‘jazz’ solo, but he gave it a shot.
When Lindsay asked Sanjeev what he teaches he said, “I don’t teach, I profess.” And when she asked what do you profess he said, “Everything except for what I’m supposed to.” The kids cheered when we demonstrated the double-chug with traditional Indian dance move. They also asked about Mumford and Sons…
[Listening to dumb Indian pop music on the radio and how much more skilled the vocalists are, how much control they have and the same with violin and other instruments, I think wouldn’t it be interesting/worthwhile for someone from the West (like me) to learn this approach and technique and then apply it to my own music how I see fit? Similar to how an engineering student, for example, might travel to some place known for its engineering to learn and then return home to apply it to his own landscape and people, or any developed craft or skill for that matter.]
[They changed the microclimate of the Desert Museum land by placing sand barriers every 5 feet or so to catch the water from running off (based on the fact that the speed of the water doubles every five feet). Very soon the puddles formed soil and the grass spread everywhere. Now with the flora spreading and diversifying the fauna is doing the same.]
[Also at the Desert Museum, it’s amazing that we are in a country where one of the wealthiest groups of people, the Jains, build homes for aging/disabled donkeys, cows and goats. Looking at the goats standing on the wall of the home for disabled goats, which is also covered with monkeys.]
We were then escorted in a car to our guesthouse, which was fancy.
Day 15, Sep 4:
We got three meals a day. They would ask us what time we wanted our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They served delicious stew and rice and breads. For breakfast they always gave us ‘chocos’ and chunky yogurt and piranha. We wandered around the gross, silly market but it was really hot so we mostly rested in the fancy room til we went back to the college for dancing/jamming.
Shiv Nadar is a billionaire entrepeneur like Bill Gates, so it was like “Bill Gates University.” Ram showed us Indian music you tubes, which included the Jaipur guy who made up his own instrument, the Mohan Veena, like a slide guitar.
Our second class at the college started with a jam that turned into playing Country Roads with the lead dude (forgot name) singing in a pop singer voice. We reviewed the dancing.
Day 16, Sep 5:
Lots of laying around at the guesthouse and languishing. Then we got in a car in to Delhi to a somewhat obscure, not so big train station. We wishful-thinkingly thought we could leave all our bags and visit something or other in Delhi in the eight hours we’d have before getting on the train to Jodhpur. No one at the station spoke English and no one knew what we were talking about when we tried asking about a locker for our bags. This one guy mentioned a cloak room. The ‘cloak room’ was way in the boondocks, past all the dudes and stray dogs, kind of a dingy tiny hut and the dude was like NO you cannot put your bags here, only if they have padlocks on them.
So we decided to just sit there for eight hours. We played some tunes and then we played 20 questions for like three hours. When the train came in we went to our car and when it finally opened we went in and realized it was like little henhouses. The beds were little shelves stacked three-high. There were dudes talking and eating dinner. You had to crawl up to your shelf and lay there and nothing else.
Day 17, Sep 6:
We got to Jodhpur and got off the train in such a fog that Lindsay left her nice fancy belt that she really liked. She was mad about it for like half an hour. Aaron was understanding. Our hotel, the Omni Plaza was nothing grandiose but not too bad. It was full of a rotating cast of friendly guys, only one or two out of 15 or so spoke English much. We had some lunch there and it was hard to communicate but the food was pretty good. I think we met Kuldeep that day and made plans to visit the Langas in their compound the following day.
Day 18, Sep 7:
We got some weird breakfast and rode with Kuldeep in his car to the Langa compound, about five kilometers from his house, which was across the corner from our hotel. We met the extended family of Asin, Musa and Hyat who had a red moustache. We heard lots of sarangi tunes and a song from the mother/wife of a dude in a grey pajamas suit. When the lady sang they shut the door because ladies aren’t supposed to sing in public. She sange a tune in seven about missing your long lost husband. There were kids singing, too. We had tea and these Indian fried wads with a tail coming out which we later discovered was a chili-relleno-corn-dog situation. Also samosas.
Then we considered going to the zip line run by British people by the fort, but Lindsay chickened out a bit, partly because she was wearing a skirt and partly because she pictured some blond white teenagers showing her how to use a rappelling harness and a bunch of white tourists with 11- and 14-year-olds being like How do you like India! I’m farting from the curry! We went to the circus instead.
The circus was hilarious. There were Chinese or Thai dudes dressed like chickens in leiderhosen. There was some Vietnamese cowgirl sharpshooters. There was a great trapeze dude and some contortionists. And Africans climbing poles sideways. There was a cricket-playing elephant. A dude swung back and forth on the trapeze on his head (no hands). There were macaws pulling each other around the ring in a little wagon. No one was clapping so we clapped and cheered a lot with sort of a mysterious feeling of wondering why no one else was so enthusiastic. Every five minutes these dudes brought out a different refreshment item for sale: ice cream cones, Italian ice, pop in cans and juice boxes, chips, popcorn, slurpy round things, etc. Lots of Celine Dion for the acts’ music. They also had a live band with keyboard, electric guitar and drums.
Later we went to Kuldeep’s to meet a ravanhatta player named Sugna or Sugana. He had the Rajasthani uniform on. His turban was rainbow-colored and bigger on one side. He played some lovely tunes on his amazing weird instrument with lots of sympathetic strings, 15, I think. He put metal bands and extra sympathetic strings on his instrument, which was different from the ones we saw at the museum later on. It was souped up. He played a common folk song and Kuldeep said, Stick to the traditional Pabuji stuff! These Americans came a long way and they don’t want to hear Old Joe Clark. Well, maybe that’s what he said. Hindi was Sugna’s second language. He was fun and had a high-pitched giggle. He told us he was going to the Edinburgh Festival and that he had seven children. [In India you can try and get what you want, e.g. at a restaurant or hotel, and feel like a jerk when no one understands your request (e.g. Does lemon soda come with lemon? Or plain soda only?) or you can just shut up and smile and enjoy what you’re given (or not given). Although it’s also amazing that you can go to some country and not speak the language and expect to get anything at all.] Aaron was like, You don’t look 47! He smoked long bidis so he wouldn’t burn his long mustache. He stayed in Kuldeep’s office that night.
[I think, wouldn’t it be cool to play Indian music on my fretless resonator banjo? And then I think, that’s not a new thought. It’s so old that they improved the design of the instrument and called it the sarod.]
After visiting with Sugna, we had a dinner with Kuldeep in his home, cooked by his wife. We had yellow squash, or some kind of cooked gourd (Aaron doesn’t think it was yellow squash, it was more like green pepper or okra.) There were also green beans, not-too-spicy green chills, rice and dal and the most delicious homemade rice pudding. Aaron says it was the best meal we had in India. [Speaking of food, I want to make sure we remember the cheap snack foods we got at the grocery store near the Shiv Nadar guesthouse for our train ride to Jodhpur from Delhi. We got 1) Funyun-type snacks that were so delicious they were the first to go. 2) Dried mini-samosas. Kind of delicious but kind of dry. We’re halfway through the bag. 3) Dried mashed roasted chickpeas, kind of like spicy peanuts. A solid and healthful snack, but not so crazy delicious that they’re all gone. Only almost. 4) Kashmiri Mix: puffed green lentils, puffed wheat, tiny near-miniscule shredded wheat-like noodles, slightly bigger noodles like Chow Mein noodles but smaller, and precious few cashews. Salty, spicy and delicious, but too salty for us to finish it in a hurry. It’s about halfway gone now.]
Day 19, Sep 8:
We met with Basant Kabra, the sarod guy, at his house in a big haveli in Jodhpur and we went to the Desert Museum. [Let’s not forget to mention that the whole time we’ve been here we’ve had vivid, memorable dreams every night, at least one of them including wonderful music.] We took a tuk-tuk to the Merti Gate and Basant’s house was nearby. We were greeted by his daughter. His wife and mother were also there. His house was in a big haveli, where he lived with other extended family members. He played us some sarod music. The instrument had two dozen or so sympathetic strings, four main strings for playing on (we think) and 2-4 drone strings, like a banjo’s fifth string. It had a big metal-plated fingerboard and a sarangi-ish body, i.e. hollowed out solid piece of wood with skin stretched across — In this case, the skin of a goat that was sacrificed to Kali in an official ceremony.
Aaron was impressed by the sustain. He could play note and slide around to get a dozen more. There was call and response time, similar to the lesson with Gaurav, our sitar guy, and some of the time we spent with Asin and Musa, the sarangi guys. He picked the thing with a flat pick he carved himself from a thick coconut shell, and he fingered the notes with the fingernails of his left-hand. Great sustain.
His daughter was studying sitar. His mother was snoozing on the bed the whole time. He was very nice. His wife and daughter also helped with translating and explaining things to us. This instrument more than any other was Aaron’s longtime musical fantasy come true. Lemonade was served. We drank it. [By the way, we never got sick and we didn’t only drink bottled water. We drank water in people’s homes when they assured us it was safe, and we mostly drank water from normal taps that we filtered ourself through water filters we brought. We had some iffy moments, probably from being in a totally different climate, physically and culturally, and from having a different diet than we’re used to, but from what we asked people about how you’ll know when you’re sick, we never got really sick, just a little uncomfortable from time to time.]
Basant tried to explain the music to us a little bit, especially rhythm, e.g. playing 5 over 2, or 3 over 7, etc. and the concept of raga is not so difficult for us although many of them are foreign to us. I don’t know how many there are, but sometimes a raga will have 8 notes ascending and 20 notes descending. The use of quarter-tones is also pretty foreign to us, though not impossible as any old time musician is familiar with different perceptions of intonation. [We’re at a classical sarangi recital right now at IIITD in Delhi. It hasn’t started yet but we are intrigued and perplexed by this symbol hanging on a banner behind the stage. It looks like a sideways eye with little U’s kissing the pupil.]
In the afternoon we went with Kuldeep to the Desert Museum. We had lunch in a “Love Room” at a haveli guesthouse in an out-of-the-way neighborhood in the old city of Jodhpur (where the houses are painted blue, mostly). The paintings at the haveli were beautiful but it was really hot.
The Desert Museum was also really hot when we got there and quite interesting. It had thatched huts containing exhibits. There were travel agents visiting there as well as Kuldeep’s volunteer retired like post-office assistant guy. There were a couple of buildings dedicated to brooms, a la Museum of Everyday Life. There was a room with musical instruments of folk people and a PAR, which was cool to see. There was a building full of puppets with a puppet stage. We watched some documentaries. One had lots of explanation about how sarangi players know what notes they are playing. One was some dudes singing with cuts to horse-dancing sort of sexy-style. We also watched some videos of folk dance/music performances. One included an elephant made out of a sheet performed by dudes from Udaipur. We also saw tightrope-walking and circus-like stunts with music and dance.
The Desert Museum is on 10 acres of desert-y land 10km outside Jodhpur. It was Kuldeep’s father, Komal’s longtime dream place. They changed the microclimate with sand barriers and planted lots of trees. The buildings were all COB structures, very beautifully made. Komal Kothari insisted that red lime clay building was superior to concrete in every way for this landscape.
We had tea and snacks (ruffles with ridges which Lindsay devoured with glee). We watched goats on a wall and the home for cows, puppies running around and the sunset which Kuldeeps retired postal worker friend (whose name we unfortunately forgot but his kindness will not be forgotten) kept pointing out by saying At sunset the climate becomes much more better and beautiful. And he was quite right.
Later we went downtown and had drinks at the 18th Century Bar at this fancy hotel. It was on the rooftop, very nice. We were discussing future plans and drinking gin rickeys. The bar guys and waiters were snickering about us but they had nice orange turbans and period outfits.
Day 20, Sep 9:
We got invited over to Kuldeep’s house/office for a religious post-fast holiday breakfast. Kuldeep’s mother, wife, brother, brother’s wife, brother’s son and his wife, cousins, and a guy who used to work with Kuldeep’s father were all there. They are Jains and broke the fast with spicy tea, very sweet and called Ukali (or something), and three special foods including a desert plant that was dried and rehydrated, then cooked with spice and reminded me a bit of mild capers. There was also something like beans or peas and something like rice made into a yellow stew-paste, and a sweet brown paste that was like flour and sugar pressed into a bowl with almond slivers.
Asin and Musa showed up and we had a sarangi/violin lesson in the sweltering upstairs. We made attempts to learn some beautiful and simple tunes. We tried to play along. The ornamentation was complicated yet integral to the tunes.
[Everything is crusted with elephants and peacocks.] [Also, while Lindsay was buying scarves at the clock tower gate, Aaron was getting a soda called Feel Bear. It tasted like ginger ale with melted gummi bears added. They also had flavors like Pine Apple, Mango, Litchi, Mint, and others like Feel Bear that made no sense and I can’t remember anymore.] [And let’s not forget to remember what the two documentaries we saw at the Crafts Museum were about: one was about wooden bowls carved from a lathe and lacquered. The other was about silk weaving.]
After sarangi lesson we tried to find a special craft shop or boutique, but it was a wild goose chase through little back alleys with motorcycles zooming down them in the old city to get there. We got postcards on the way. The craft boutique was underwhelming but we believe they do good work. Apparently Asin and Musa were having a big party in their compound and we missed it through miscommunication. We thought they said come over tomorrow morning, but they were saying come over tonight…
We ate fried things at the lassi stand for dinner. We had a samosa-thing filled with dal and a fried chili-relleno thing and a fried donut in sugar syrup and some lassis (lemon coriander saffron, I think). When we got back to the hotel we drank beers and had our pictures taken with Baptist, the hotel proprietor, and about a dozen of his family members.
Day 21, Sep 10:
We went to Asin’s house — we didn’t get his brother’s name but that’s who met us at the entrance to the compound and led us up the narrow alleys to the little house which is Asin’s and we sat in a tiny bedroom with two cots and asked them to teach us to sing something after we’d reviewed a bit of our tunes from the day before. [Our hotel in Delhi at the end of our trip is called Cottage Yes Please, or as Aaron likes to call it, Cottage Cheese Please or Cottage Cream Cheese or Cottage Dream Cheese. Lindsay prefers Cottage No, Thank You.] We tried to learn a song and it was hard. Asin is 23 years old and a bit of a virtuoso. We tried our best. Then we recorded it so we don’t have to learn it.
After we were done singing/playing/feeling bad at Indian music, we walked back down the maze of downhill ramps and these kids appeared and were all like How are you How are you How are you! We took their picture to make them happy. That was it. They photobombed, Aaron wanted a picture of the GOAT. [At the restaurant of the tuk-tuk driver’s friend we got Kingfisher Extra Strongs wrapped in tinfoil for triple the normal price.] [Aaron feels like 800 rupees today.]
We went back to our neighborhood and Kuldeep wasn’t there so we left a note. We checked out of our hotel — a major production — and went to Kalinga restaurant, just outside the train station. We had stuffed potato starters and two mutton dishes with naan. [We just ate a lot at another restaurant because we were hungry. It was rardar mutton and rogan josh with vegetable rice and garlic naan. And Aaron tried to say bahut mazedar huah, which according to the guide book means That was delicious, but no one ever understood him saying it.]
We waited for five hours for the train which came at 11pm from some other town instead of 8:25pm like we’d been told by the people who booked it for us. We read dumb comics for kids, like Indian Archies. A big family was sitting and singing together and clanging cymbals around 7. We got good advice from a friendly official in a turban in the train yard who assured us we would have plenty of time to get on the train. (Sometimes the trains barely stop and everyone rushes to jump on.) Also when we were trying to find our platform, 30 tuk-tuk drivers and bystanders goaded Aaron into playing the fiddle. He played Greenback Dollar.
We got lower berths on the train this time but some dude came and put all his bags of food on Lindsay’s berth and there was a loud snorer by Aaron. No problem. When we got to Delhi it was
Day 22, Sep 11:
We went to our hotel, Cottage Yes Please and Aaron consulted some guy on the phone about the N. Rajam (Hindustani classical violinist) concert. It was cancelled but there was a sarangi concert instead. So we went to it. It was in industrial college IIITD campus. It was in some weird part of town and had a security gate. There was a coffee shop there and a bunch of college dudes. The performance was in a lecture hall. When it started the lights kept flickering for a while during the expository slow part of the first tune which was an evening raga in 7 and then it got going in 16. The first song was a 40-minute SPACE JAM.
The guy, Kamal Sabri, had long wavy hair and would smile/grimace at the tabla player which was pretty much the most exciting thing for Lindsay. There was an electric drone from an iphone. Then there was an incomprehensible folk melody. Then he took two questions from the audience and left.
We went home on the metro and had a hell of a time figuring out which side of the train station our hotel was on. Oh well. Then we made it and got a beer at this one place and some fried tempura-like things and some peanutty things. Yum. Then we drunkenly walked home through a maze of alleyways. We finally made it, good gravy. We got real confused when we were like one block from our hotel.
Day 23, Sep 12:
Today we decided to go shopping. Lindsay got some apples first thing and soaked them in iodine water. It was so good to finally eat something normal, and crispy.
We went to the khadi (homespun fabric) shop, got shirts and fabric and got a little lost in the alleys, found FabIndia where we did some more shopping, went to the cottage industry emporium which was a bit of a touristy hoax and very pricey and weird, but air-conditioned. Then we found the old man coffee parlor, which was fun. We drank hot coffee and hot spicy soup and ate a dosa and it actually made the heat more bearable and that’s what all the old guys were doing, too. We got stuff, stuff and more stuff. That night we ate dal with rice and drank beer and both our guts felt good.
Day 24, Sep 13:
We woke up late and went to get spices at Kharibaoli, the biggest spice market in Asia. Because we woke up so late we missed our only chance to see the International Toilet Museum, featuring 22,000 toilets and toilet implements from around the world.
There was a very loud traffic jam on the way to the spice market and our driver looked like he wanted to kill himself, although that’s actually quite rare in Indian society. Aaron recorded some of the noise because it was magnificent, even if it was awful.
At the market we decided to focus on one spice because it was a wholesale market and we had to buy a lot to get any kind of deal, so we bought half a kilo of cardamom to give away to our friends and family back home. We shopped til we found the best dealer. But man they had a lot of good stuff, some of which I’d never seen before.
From the spice market we decided to walk to our next destination, Chowri Bazaar in the Old City. It was a pretty long walk and a pretty hot day and it was VERY CROWDED. We walked through the decorative paper district and Lindsay drooled and later bought some things. We also looked in a music shop but it was very small with very few things and the proprietor wasn’t too friendly, but it had A/C. Our walk lasted more than an hour before we saw the biggest mosque in India, big enough to hold 25,000 worshippers, I think, and then we knew we were close to our lunch destination, Karim’s. This place is not typical Indian cuisine, it is Mughal cuisine, i.e. the main chef/owner’s great-grandparents were cooking for the last Mughal emperor and their family went into exile when the British came to power, returning to India after Independence in 1947. And his great-grandparents’ great-grandparents were cooks for the emperors, too. So it’s an unbroken line going back hundreds of years, and we ate the best mutton of our lives. The restaurant was no-frills and it wasn’t overpriced, but it was crowded.
Back on the street we bought cold drinks a few times from various venders. We also stopped at a sweets vendor and got some silver-coated marzipan and a mysterious coconutty white syrupy thing that was too sweet. Aaron bought a bunch of Indian classical CDs from a nice guy in a shop at Connaught Place. We went back to the khadi shop and got some more fabric and traded in some shirts for bigger ones because they will shrink and we’re not getting any skinnier, right? We got back to the old guys’ coffee parlor and met a professor-type guy who looked like Albert Einstein, who was very friendly and talked to us about the state of the world for a while, also Indian history and culture, and how Muslims are recent invaders in India which is a Hindu country. He said India used to be the shining light of the world, more advanced than any other civilization. Then the Muslims took over — the same thing happened in Europe until the Crusades — he had names and dates. He said that Muslims believe that they are the only ones who deserve to be living on this earth and it will get you sent to heaven if you kill infidels.
Nevertheless, we went on to this shrine to a Muslim saint, where we hoped to hear some Sufi singing. We took a bike rickshaw from the metro and got dropped off at the entrance to this strange maze-like neighborhood and we figured we’ll bump into the shrine if we walk around a bit. We first had to run the gauntlet of beggars of all ages and states of decrepitude, featuring two old men with limbs missing and dressed in rag diapers on either side of the alley, croaking/chanting “Al-LAH, Al-LAH” and reaching out for money. We walked past what we thought was the entrance to the shrine, and Aaron thought for sure it was because there were shoes piled up outside, but it wasn’t time for the singing to start yet, or so we thought. So we kept walking and found many vendors of delicious-looking fried chicken. Appetites were at the ready and we settled down at a picnic table and each had a chicken quarter. It was prepared by two kids aged ten and fourteen, maybe, and it was amazing. The people we dealt with were friendly enough but there was a weird vibe in the neighborhood.
Finally we went into the shrine building and left our shoes outside. It was also a maze in there, full of beggars, and we were apprehensive, not wanting to be disrespectful at all. We made our way into the inner sanctum where the shrine was and some people were laying around and some were having (presumably) learned conversations, and some guys were counting a huge pile of money. We walked around a little in there and one guy asked Aaron a lot of questions in another language, then he asked Where from? and he said America. He said a bunch more in his language and finished with Country of the devil, and walked away. We sat down and heard the call to prayer but didn’t go into the adjoining mosque. We were relieved that we weren’t the only ones not going in. A dozen or so children came up to shake our hands and say Hello Hello! and after sitting there uncomfortably for about two hours with no singing we decided to go. We got our shoes back and the shopkeeper nearby said Money so we gave him a tip. Then we spent a long time trying to get back out to the street and after some false starts eventually made it and got a tuk-tuk back to the metro. During the ride some guys on a motorcycle yelled at our driver and actually came over and hit him in the face! He must have cut them off or something, but our driver didn’t retaliate or even react, really. He gave us a fair price and we gave him a big tip, feeling really bad that he probably has to put up with that every now and then. This was one of our most eventful days ever.
Day 25, Sep 14:
We went to the National Museum, which contained many miniature paintings, especially of Krishan and Radha doing cute things with each other, peeping at each other in the bath and eating 58 different delicacies. There were weird outfits and a big Mughal mace. For smashing people to bits. More stuff in there than we could see in a day.
Then we went to the Modern Art Gallery where we drank instant coffee and basically ran through the somewhat underwhelming art collection. It was like a college dorm show, Lindsay thought. There was one nice watercolor of like a hobo painter bungalow, very detailed and feral-looking realism.
Then we got a ride to the India Habitat Centre, which included us having to go to this tourist shop and look around for ten minutes so the tuk-tuk driver could get free gas. I think we agreed to it because we got sick of turning everyone down. And he had beaten cancer. Then he took us to his friend’s restaurant which had good mutton but was way overpriced. The beers had to be covered in tinfoil. Then we walked to the Habitat Centre, which was a huge complex. There were dumb art shows, including one with ceramic dragons that had putty filling in the cracks. We made our way to the Sufi music show.
There were lots of grey-hairs there, having a reception. We got all excited and sat in the front row. They were soundchecking and we started to notice that there was lots of reverb and there was a guy playing an electronic percussion pad, and that it was really loud. We lasted one song and snuck out. We had to walk in front of everyone, but it wasn’t anything we wanted to stay at so we went home and went to sleep. It was a shame they couldn’t mix the sound in a more bearable way, and Sufi music-listening attempt number two was a failure. We should also note that the singer looked a little bit like Liberace with lots of gaudy jewelry and a hairdo.
Day 26, Sep 15:
We wanted to see a classical dance recital but neither of us could sleep the night before so we couldn’t wake up to spend hours on the metro going to Noida Sector 16 to see it. Instead we slept til noon. We had breakfast at the restaurant across the street from Cottage Yes Please, where we usually ate breakfast because they had good coffee and cheap Indian-style breakfast with stuffed parantha and yogurt and masala tea. Also, fresh lime sodas there were about 50 cents. We went to a bookstore cafe for cake and then to the dumbest movie ever made. The popcorn was good but the movie was like, SO BAD. It was called Grand Masti and it was like three hours of people getting hit/stabbed/bitten in the crotch and doing love dances in the rain. Yikes.
Then we went over to Joshua and Gugu’s for our last two hours in India. They made us some food and we had some Teacher’s whiskey. And then we got a tuk-tuk back to the hotel where we got our bags and got in a taxi to the airport. End of India trip.
Things we learnt:
– You can use a water filter and not get sick.
– Not all that is watery and explosive is giardia and dysentery.
– We learned how to get around a bunch of cities and bargain with the tuk-tuk drivers.
– We learned where the best mutton in the world is to be found.
– Never let the driver take you to his friend’s place.
– We learned zero Hindi.
– Traffic in India is like nothing else we’ve ever seen. No one observes lane divisions and the traffic is made up of some cars, tuk-tuks, bicycles with and without cargo platforms attached, oxcarts, random cows and dogs, pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws, trucks both little and cute and big and cute and always beautifully decorated and honking, everyone is always honking, and lots of motorcycles and scooters, usually with at least two people, often more, riding along.
– Indians don’t know about letting people get off the subway before trying to get on, nor do they form lines very much.
– Laying on the ground just about anywhere is totally acceptable.
– Chairs are not used very often.