Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kerala Express

The temperature had dropped into the 40s when we rolled into Delhi early Friday morning. Locals wrapped in blankets and wearing wool hats with ear hats huddled together beside the tracks, shivering and sipping sweet chai from tiny plastic cups. Nizamuddin station-named after a Sufi mystic-seemed quiet for a city of 15 million, and rumor had it that many people were staying home because of the cold. But to us the sudden arrival of the Indian winter came as a great relief. We wouldn't be missing out on fall in America after all.

First thing after settling into our centrally located but rather unpleasant hostel where, despite the weather, we were forced to pay extra for air conditioned rooms, we arranged to meet up with Gitsy, our friend from Wesleyan. It is a tremendous luxury to have a friend in an unwalkable, booming metropolis like Delhi, especially one who decides to dedicate three days to playing with you. For the first time in nearly two months, we did not have to plan all our activities for ourselves, we did homely things such as hang out with a group of (Gitsy's) friends at a grungy bar and spend time at a real house. We were surprised how grounding it was to see a familiar face, to sit in a garden talking with friends, or hang out in the living room while Gitsy chatted with her aunties and her mother offered us chocolates and apple slices.

We started by visiting several of Delhi's important sights, which were made all the more enjoyable because we had been learning about them in William Dalrymple's "City of Djinns"- the Jama Masjid mosque and Chandri Chowk in the old city, as well as Lodhi Gardens and Humayun's tomb, and, of course Parliament row. Especially visiting the last sight we were reminded strongly of D.C. On Saturday, we ventured over to the club where Gitsy's parents, who serve in the foreign and civil service, are members (yes, the British legacy still remains). Despite being ejected from the club's restaurant as a result of our sneakers and general dirtiness, we ate with her mother and sister at a tasty, meat-heavy Chinese buffet across the way. The next night, after drinking Tiger beer at a 1 + 1 happy hour in Khan Market, a run-down looking place in the city's diplomatic enclave that is actually quite lively and full of fancy shops and restaurants, we purchased, at the recommendation of Gitsy's friends, a special treat: mutton (lamb or goat) wrapped in sweet parathas (flaky buttery tortilla-like breads). And, to Ali's great pleasure, we attended Bollywood movies in a huge modern cinema on two consecutive nights.

On Monday, we boarded a train heading south to Kerala. It was quite shocking to wake up to palm trees, 100 degree weather, and men wearing sarongs (Indian-style skirts) instead of pants. After 50 plus hours on the train, we were excited to stretch our legs, stop eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and engage in some activities other than reading competitions and rummy 500 marathons.

We are staying in Trivandrum, the transit hub of the South, for a couple of nights, then heading to Kollam, a sleepy, old port town, and from there taking a ferry to the "Hugging Mother" ashram where we are not sure what will happen...

Love you all!

Jeremy and Ali

P.s. For those interested poll voters, three of you are lucky winners. The following items were confiscated from us (but later returned) upon entering the Taj Mahal: A) Ali's scarf, playing cards, Ali's journal, Jeremy's loaf of bread, two novels, hand sanitizer.

1 comment:

Cindy Pincus said...

HALOOOOO!

I think I am still getting used to the epicness of this adventure you are on. It's not like a little travel visit to some country that we are all familiar with. This is INDIA! And you two are STILL GOING!

It was nice to hear that you got to meet up with a college friend and just be with people you know and people they know. That must have been a blessing indeed.

All ma love is still with you and I live vicariously through you every time I read this little blog. So much vigor and vim do I perceive as you two having for to undertake such a bally-hoo adventure as this!

Eat well, get just enough sleep and pray to everything and everyone filled with love.

Most wishes in the land,
Cindy