April 11, 2016

The Journey to Agra

We were only in Delhi a day or two before we hopped the train to Agra.  None of us had ridden a train in India before so it proved to be quite the adventure.  There is a very small window of time to buy tickets in the States online.  We are almost on opposite sides of the globe, so you have to be up in the early hours, when their offices are open, to purchase them. In our Amazon Prime delivery service culture, it definitely makes you a bit wide-eyed you can't just click the thing and be done.  Stace took a million for the team on this trip... She took the train ticket watch and had everything ready for us.  

People ask if I was ever afraid on this trip and I always say no.  I had very easy travel companions that made it very comfortable.  I was never alone.  On a trip that I have to plan myself, or if I travel back to India alone, it would definitely be terrifying. But that feeling of slight stomach turn, a bit of breathlessness, a racing pulse-- the "I am half crying and half laughing"-- is also the excitement of it! The life of it! People that understand that, LOVE traveling.  People that don't, are the ones that probably should have taken the cruise.  ;)

I saw a few women on their own, in their long skirts out and about, looking a bit lost or overwhelmed; I have such friggin respect for them!!! As much as I was soooo grateful my first international trip was comfortable, I also envied them because I know to travel on your own, is to live with a bit of fear.  Or in India, a parallel universe, potentially a lot of fear!  Clearly, this was a trip that meant something to them. And because I know that feeling, I know everything you get out of it.  I just wanted to scream, "YOU GO GIRL!!!"  

Our American culture doesn't necessarily speak to the idea.  We're very, very comfortable and like to live in fear, calling it 'responsible' and 'societal norm.'  But, the more you step out in faith, the more you get in return.  And those ladies got the world.  Don't worry, I stepped out plenty in my own way and got the world in multi-color MandiVision but I'm happy to show respect to these kindred spirits.  

We got in our cab and headed on our way... 

I just snapped pictures all over the place.  For practice, whatever drew my eye, to document my time... 

For my parents, my family and friends... This is what the side of the road looks like when you're in a cab on your way to the Delhi train station.  You don't see this in America everyday!

Below, is a whole line of tuktuks... I LOVED riding in these things.  As a person that gets car sick riding a bicycle, I was certain I was going to yack on a tuk tuk.  I wasn't looking forward to this part of the trip. The stopping, the starting, the heat?  It was going to be a barf fest.  Well, the great, wonderous, miraculous surprise was that it was NOT a barf fest and in fact, I found the experience exihilarting, fascinating and fun!   

Our first ride was on our first day in Delhi.  The three of us piled in the back of what feels and looks like a bumper car.  I have big hips and Lucas is 126 feet tall, so you can imagine...   I had no idea what to expect but I did the mental genuflect and we took off!  

Traffic in India is INSANE!!!  There are these bumper cars, there are regular cars, there are entire families on motorcycles, people on bicycles, scooters, pedestrians walking, horse drawn carriages... And they just make it work.  They don't have blinkers, they honk.  It is always LOUD.  It's-- HOOOOONK, I AM PASSING YOOOOOUUU!!! and we're done and HOOOOOOONK, I'M ON YOUR LEFT, LADY WITH THE BABY... and we're done.  It is just how it is.  It's not angry.  It's not road rage.  It's just how you communicate.

Anyway, our driver actually had a radio in his tuktuk, something we didn't experience again. Bollywood music was blasting in our ear drums, we were weaving in and out, darting between motorcycles and other tuktuks and I seriously had the time of my life.  Who knew!  

Now, I just need the bumper stickers:


I was recently asked the most fascinating thing I saw... And that's a hard question to nail down.  

However, the juxtaposition between what India is and isn't is truly fascinating.  

Businessmen, in full blown suit pants and button down shirts, like you would see here in the U.S., laying down in the middle of the sidewalk taking a nap.  Or peeing on the side of the road. Entire families, traveling shoeless... You just never know what you're going to see. 

Sometimes these fruit carts are pushed by hand, sometimes by horse.  Regardless, it looks like an arduous process.  I can't even imagine. 

The train station in Delhi was a ZOO.  There were so many people there, the driver could only go so far.  So we got out with our bags and walked. All of the signs were in Hindi and we had no idea where we were going.  If I wasn't with Stacy and Lucas, I probably would have lost my shit here, to be completely honest.  There would have been tears and crying, for sure.  Ha!  Which is okay!  Because something else about India, while they really will do anything they can to take your money or get tips, they really don't want to see someone upset.  They love their country and want you to enjoy it.  "Don't cry, Miss!  You come all this way to have good time, right?  I show you.  I show you."  

When we finally figured out where we were supposed to be (and by 'we' I mean Stacy and Lucas), we camped out in a holding room.  We got there early which was good but we were so exhausted and just ready to be on the train.  Stace and I passed the time playing teacher and student with my camera.  

When the camera came out, so did these faces! This father was grateful to have pictures taken of his children.  I keep using the word fascinating but it is!  Because he has a cellphone with a camera on it... 

So why does he or anyone care that their picture is being taken?  Is it because we're American and we get to take back this memory?  Is it because to have your picture taken is a privilege in India?  I really don't know but I really want the answer.  Ha!  

At first they pretended they were shy... 

But then their goofy little spirits came out and it was all pictures, all the time.  :)

I used to roll my eyes that Angeline Jolie feels the need to adopt every child she comes across overseas... But now? I get it.  I getchoo, Angie.  I would take any of these little ones home in a heartbeat.  

As I said before, I took pictures for a variety of reasons on this trip.  Some I'm really proud of, some are just for the memory or documentation of it.  Photographers talk about killing your babies, not getting sentimental when an image just isn't strong enough, etc. This one below, however, is one I really hoped would come out.  When I first downloaded it at the time, I was heartbroken. I was so bummed it was grainy and blurry.    For major contests or world glory- ha!, it is a throwaway picture.  

But for me, revisiting it a few days ago?  Holy floodgates, Batman!  This is the picture I had forgotten all about that got me the other day... These are my babies that I'm NOT going to throw away.  These are babies I didn't realize I took for ME.  :)  :)  :)  :)  :)  :)

I can't tell you what it is... but the children here and their little spirits are SO vibrant, SO full of life, they just fill you.  Your cup runneth over.  And they're soooo goofy and brave. 


This sweet girl really wanted her picture taken but she was way too shy or well mannered to ask.  I could just tell.  She kept playing with her hair and standing in a nonchalant casual-model pose.  Like every young girl at that age would want... Such a sweet family.  This all only lasted a few minutes, so I quick snapped what I could.  Then they were off!  This is the gift of photography.  It's a selfless muse.  It just gives, gives, gives... 

And then a train station worker came in to our standing room, pointed at the sign saying women and made all the men get out.  Apparently, we are supposed to be separated.  Poor Lucas, the total champ, went and sat... somewhere... else.  Ha!  I was grateful to be young and able.  There was an elderly couple that had been together in the room. She was laying on the ground and didn't look well. Certainly, didn't move about well.  He kept sneaking back to check on her.  So sweet.  

With everyone gone, Stace and I kept playing... 

"If that's what you're going for, you want to shoot for the light in the window, not the people..."

Learning, learning, learning...

From the inside of our holding room windows looking out to the platform entry... 

When they got separated, many chose to just sit out in the entry together.  Soooo many people, soooo much color.  People aren't afraid to sit, sleep or pee anywhere in India!  I wasn't thrilled to have my bag on the floor let alone sit on it.  But... that's India!  You just do it and realize how manicured we are in the U.S.  We're 'The Capitol' of the world in Hunger Games speak, we really are. 

One of the trains came and left and everyone cleared out.
It got quiet. 
The crazy was over.

When we got on the train, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting smells and chickens.  Pretty much all of New York City in the space of one train car.  Stace, however, had purchased some air conditioned seats and you could lay down if you wanted.

"First time on a train in India picture!"

The train took a bit to leave soooo... I took out my camera again.  Ha!  I am so glad I did because I really love the following two pictures. This is out the window of our train to the platform.

And this is one of my favorites from the entire trip.  I love the intense look of the guy on the platform, looking right at me, the yellow of the glass against the blue of the train car.  With our fellow traveler asleep inside the train, it almost looks like an abstract painting.  I have no idea what it 'says' but I'm proud of this one!

And noooooooooow, we're back in Mazamaland... Ahhh... The quiet, the newness of Spring and fresh basil.  I'm lucky.  I love our little home.  In Jaipur we took a cooking class and I'll be spending the day prepping my first attempt at Indian greatness for friends coming over tomorrow.  Wheee!!! Which, cause we be reeeeeal in this blog, WON'T be serenity or fresh basil. Ha! It'll be piles of dishes, pop station pandora to keep me moving and the 'in and out' of the squirrel chasing small dog. Beautiful in its own way.  :)

Stay tuned!  Next up is the TAJ MAHAL!!!  I've been trying so hard to get us there but SOMEBODY took 12 million pictures and has such difficulty not sharing ALL OF THEM.  Because!  Because! But!  Cause! I just... I just... Better luck next year.  :)

(No need to peel by the way!)
(I know! Dare I say, an eye opener!!!)
(For a whole other blog...)  :)

Till next time,


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farheen s said...

There are numerous lovely and worth seeing verifiable places in India. Be that as it may, the Taj Mahal of Agra is the most excellent of all.
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