Monday, March 27, 2006

went to rural india and all i got was ... sick?

yesterday dad, mom and i went to sitapur, and stopped in all kinds of little towns and villages between lucknow and sitapur. there was a familiar story at each place: get out of jeep into scorching weather, be surrounded by people i don't know and can't effectively communicate with, sit down with such people, and be somewhat forced to eat food. this procedure was amusing the first time, but it was a chore after that

when we were little, my brother and sister and i never learned urdu. my mom didn't speak it, and my dad didn't make much effort to teach us, and we didn't make much effort to learn. anyway, here's where it would've paid off. without urdu, i was essentially a prize being paraded around that people could smile over and talk about.

my dad was pretty busy talking with everyone, and he says that my mom and i didn't make enough of an effort to get him to be our translator. anyway, i did try a bit, but it was difficult, given that there were so many people talking to him. my cousin ayan tried to help, and did quite a good job, but it was actually his first visit in a long time too, and he was also overwhelmed! we should've hired a translator!

by the second last place we visited, i felt full of food, and a bit weak. the next morning i was sick. sigh.

here's a picture that shows how many people there were.. it's cool and all, but so overwhelming. this pic is taken from my sister's overwhelming time, as i forgot my camera

Thursday, March 23, 2006

largest sundial in the world

indian guides seem quick to boast, but supposedly this sundial in jaipur is the largest sundial in the world. and who would want a larger one?

built a few hundred years ago, supposedly it can measure time to within 2 seconds. the sundial was in an outdoor observatory. at first, we thought we were entering some modern art sculpture garden, because all the tools had the useless look of modern art. but they actually are used to take observations and perform calculations! you'd think those things were modern art too, check it out:

in this next image, i'm walking down the sundial. my quads were throbbing after going up and coming down. it was tougher than any stairmaster! not that i know, but it was tough.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

agra and the taj mahal

in agra, the road to the taj mahal is lined with tiny stores and restaurants, and a million touts who are just dying to sell you nick-nacks that look worthless. these touts are often younger than 10, and we all feel so sad that these kids aren't at school, or otherwise living a life that doesn't demand their begging in order to get by.

you're forced to deal with all this because the indian government has denied cars access to the lead-up to the taj mahal, because all the pollution generated by the cars has caused the white marble building to tint slightly yellow. disgusting!

anyway, when we finally make it to the entrance, this guard does a major search of my person and my bag and declares that neither my laptop nor my cell phone are allowed near the taj, and i must check them. so i hand them over to a nice old man who puts them in a locker and gives me a flimsy key. i worry about my laptop.

but then we turn around a corner and their it is, the taj mahal. neha said it is the most beautiful man-made building she has ever seen, and i agree. the symemtry and attention to fine details, namely the jeweling and the embedded arabic writings, are fantastic.

symmetry: shah jahan, who built the taj for his dead wife, went a little nuts with the symmetry. he actually built a mosque to the west of the taj, facing mecca. but since that put the whole look of the area out of balance, he built a fake mosque, that looked exactly like the first and was a mirror image in every way, to the east of the taj. this mosque cannot be used to pray because it doesn't face mecca, so this giagantic building was put there merely to satisfy his symmetry fancy.

the shah was also a bit crazy about the uniqueness of his building. the story goes that he cut off the thumbs or hands of many of the major artisans involved in the building of the taj, so they could never do something similar again.

anyway, the best way to appreciate the taj is to see it, so if i get a good connection, i'll throw up some photos.

on the way to agra

yesterday we spent the first half of our day driving to agra along india's hiway system. what a fascinating place. it's under extreme development, and so people are everywhere on the hiway laying bricks, putting up metal barriers, and generally just leaping out in front of cars.

we saw many bulls, cows, horses, donkies and camels, all helping people build the hiway and transport goods.

then we stopped at either sikander's tomb or akbar's tomb... either way it was a tomb. when we got out of the car, we learned that our driver had arranged a guide.

this drove jeff crazy: he said that our driver should just be our driver, and not try to make random side deals that benefit him and are of questionable benefit to us. anyway, jeff would have none of the guide, and said that he'd walk alone if the guide came along. so we dropped the guide.

i don't remember much of this tomb. what i do remember are the giant wasp hives attached to the ceiling of the tomb. these things were massive! and the wasps were this beautiful golden color. i will remember to update these blog posts with pictures when i have a faster connection.

seema and jeff approach me in sikander's tomb

Sunday, March 19, 2006

day 2 in delhi

so we went to qatar manar (sp) where there was this really old
tower, and an even older, like thousands of years old, 7m iron pole. it was less
than climactic, though supposedly scientists are quite impressed with the purity of the iron ore.

when trying to get into this cultural attraction, there are two prices you can pay: the foreinger price and resident price. the foreigner price is like 25 times local price.

dad tried to pass some of us off as non-foreigners (250Rs vs 10Rs if you're indian), and as we're going in they stop us and the guard asks me: "what country are you from?" i feign like i don't understand him then when he persists i say "canada" and he's like "the jig is up!" and so we pay full price for 4 of us.. though we should've paid for 5 because my dad no longer counts as indian.

personally, i think dad just likes trying to get away with breaking the rules, it's his little thrill.

so next we went to the jama masjid and the red fort. the jama masjid was quite pretty -- a huge large open area and dome where people come to pray. it seems like many, many people just hang our there for the day, letting their children run around and be wild. since you can't charge entry to a mosque, they came up with this crazy idea to charge our cameras an entrance fee. if your camera wants to "see" the mosque, it needs to pay 150rs!

at the red fort we saw this stupid light show covering the history of india from the mughal time through 1950, all in one hour! dumbest thing we did so far. we did the hindi light show cause we figured we didn't want to wait an extra hour for the english version.. mistake!

it was awful. the lights were these pathetic shining lights, and the words, well, we couldn't understand. i listened to my ipod and got stung by a bazillion mosquitos. none of us brought mosquito repellant!

today we head to agra and the taj mahal, which neha says is the most beautiful man-made structure she has ever seen. that's high praise!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

arrived in delhi!

arrived in delhi last night... my first indian experience at the airport was this large flashing sign saying "DO NOT BRIBE." felt very indian, knowing my dad.

dad and jeff picked me up from the airport, which was quite nice because there were so many people and it was very confusing. as soon as i stepped outside into the delhi night, i could hardly breathe! the air was so bad!

we found our driver, raja. dad had hired raja to drive for us while in delhi... he seemed like a reasonable driver, he almost hit three separte bikers, which seemed the norm.

the hotel we're staying in is half built. i've attached some pictures below. the room itself is fine; probably just as nice as our decent hotel in paris. however, everything else is under construction! see the hole in the floor... that's for an elevator, we think.

i'm really jet-lagged.. slept only a few hours last night. hopefully i adjust soon!

i'll post more as i do stuff. today we're going to the red fort and the jama mosque, and something else.

NOTE: i couldn't post the photos, uploading was taking too long.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


i find feet dirty. what do i mean? so suppose you've had socks on all day, and then you run your socked feet over some carpet. then you take your feet out of those socks and put them near my face. i will recoil in horror. if you ran your hand over that same floor, and put your hand near my face, i would not recoil.

feet just sort of repulse me when they invade my space without my consent.

especially around food. i can't stand feet near food.

how do you feel about feet?