Speaking of India

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The following post will be randomly illustrated with unrelated photos taken around Delhi…since there are no photos that go with the text.

DID YOU KNOW that if you go to Amazon.com and search for books on “India Business” the list will include over 200 books. So much business has moved TO India FROM the US (and Europe), that there is an entire category of books about doing business in India. Before moving here for work, I was looking for some “cultural” guidebooks, as opposed to “tourist” type guidebooks. One of the books I got is called “Speaking of India” by Craig Storti.When I first read it, I thought “this guy is way off base, no way can it be like this”. The copyright is 2007, but I was sure the information was outdated. I can ASSURE YOU, this book is spot on. It is a MUST for anyone doing business here. The basic premise is this (please note: I have paraphrased, so the quotation marks indicated excerpts, not complete passages): One cannot lump all Indians in to a single category, nor can one describe “all westerners” accurately with broad generalizations. But history and culture do inform language, and there are general language patterns in the West that are different from in India. “Generalizations are only true in general

…but then the author goes on to state that Indians are more “group oriented (collectivist). People who are group oriented identify first and foremost with their group – their team at work, their family – and only secondarily with their ‘self'”. Because people have lived in extended family groups for millenia here, the driving force for communication is maintaining harmony in the group. “Most of what is done and NOT done in Indian society – and especially what is said and NOT said – comes down to the need to save face, one’s own, and even more importantly save face of one’s elders or those senior to you”. And a person’s place in the social hierarchy is a dominant feature that drives how one communicates.

The things that cause LOSS of face (embarrassment, shame) are many: not being prepared in circumstances where one should be; correcting what someone else has done or said, especially if they are senior; making an overtly negative comment; saying something is not possible; admitting that one did not/does not understand something; asking for help; saying “no”. The list goes on…you get the idea.

“The primary purpose of communication in the West is to convey/exchange information”, while the primary purpose in India is “to preserve harmony and avoid giving offense”.

Now, before I start getting angry posts from readers…Storti (the author of this book) has ALSO noted that Indians who have gone to school in the US ro UK, or who have worked there, do tend to communicate more like “westerners”, and many of these traits are not present, or not as obvious.

So, back to me working in India: I refused to believe that what I read was true, but within a week of my arrival, the evidence began to accumulate. First, I had to get used to all the Indian PT’s I was training referring to me as “Ma’am” ( and Charles as “Sir”). Then, there was the time I made a minor error in my diagnosis of a patient’s problem, and thought I knew the primary cause of his pain. When I realized I was wrong, I apologized to the Indian therapist whom I had mis-directed, in terms of what specific structures to treat. “Oh NO Ma’am” he said, somewhat dismayed “YOU should NEVER apologize to me, you are senior to me“. I explained that where I come from, telling the truth and being honest is more highly valued…including apologizing for your mistakes. It should also be noted that this therapist was considered more “senior” to some of the others because of age as well as more clinical experience (and had some difficulty in coming forward to admit not understanding some of the material being taught…took him 6 months to ask me for explanation/clarification of some techniques and concepts, and then, only privately, not in a group teaching setting).

Part of maintaining harmony within the group is becoming incredibly sensitive to the subtleties of this indirect communication. When I first arrived, I was surprised at the Indian therapists’ ability to “read” me and Charlie. I would walk into the clinic, perhaps mildly irritated that I was late because the driver was late to pick me up, or worried about something regarding family in the US, and say nothing more than “good morning”  (and that, with a smile on my face), and the person would say “What happened? Is everything OK?’. Charlie may have been up all night with a sick baby, or frustrated at one of the many “yes means no” management issues, but to my eyes was hiding it well…the Indian PT’s would come to me and ask “What is wrong, is he upset”?

The part about saying “NO”: Almost weekly since my arrival, there have been instances when someone has looked me in the eye and said “yes” or “OK”…but what they really meant was “maybe” or “no”. On my card it says “Clinical Director” along with my colleague Charlie, who has the same title. Both of us have been in management meetings when we requested that something be purchased, or moved, or some change be made in the schedule…”yes” has been said…but then it never happens. One person who is fairly senior in the Times actually said this to me: ” There are two ways that an Indian says ‘no’, one of them is ‘no’, the other is ‘yes, right away Sir'”.

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Adding to the complexity is the fact that the higher up one stands in the hierarchical structure of whatever group you are in, there are certain roles or tasks that are assigned, based on one’s position. I am fairly certain that at home (where all of the therapists live with their parents, even those that are married), they are expected to pick up their own plate and clear it from the table at the end of the meal (most of them are not of the socio-economic class that they have a live-in cook/housekeeper). Yet, at the clinic, there is a young man who washes dishes, puts cups in the dispensers at the water coolers etc. So, at work, the therapists were just getting up and walking away, leaving their plates on the lunch-room table. I have walked into the kitchen at work numerous times and found dropped/broken cups, spilled food or tea on the floor, and someone just walked away and left it…because it was not their job to clean it up, because there was someone “beneath them” to do it; and when I first told them they had to pick up their plates and take them to the kitchen, there were a few looks of consternation int he group.

In the guest house where I live, the water filter is downstairs in the kitchen. There are 2 one liter bottles of water placed in my room each day. Sometimes I use more than that (if I cook something for myself on my hot plate, I use filtered water to wash veggies, cook with and when I wash dishes, for a final rinse. So, sometimes I go down to the kitchen to fill my own bottles. Initially the kitchen staff had a minor freak out about this…the guys actually dropped what they were doing ran over and took the bottles out of my hand and filled them for me. After sometime, when I just laughed and waved them off, they let me fill them myself. Then, one day, the manger was in the kitchen when I came in, and when I began to fill the bottles, the manager gave the kitchen a stern “talking to” about letting me fill my own bottles…so they got in trouble because I like doing things myself.

The other side of the coin of the hierarchy of communication is that sometimes a question is perceived as a request.  Shortly after I arrived, I asked one of the therapists where I would go to get tweezers; I had been out shopping a bit and discovered that the there is nothing like what an American would call a “drugstore” – you got medicine from the “chemist” but I had not seen tweezers there. The following morning, the person I had asked (the previous day) gave me a new tweezers. There have been multiple occasions when I have asked where to get something, or how to do something, and if the inquiry was made to someone “junior” to me, often the response is “I’ll do that for you” or “I’ll get that for you”. In general, American culture is a “do it yourself” culture, we value self-sufficiency. This is particularly disconcerting to me, since I have been on my own since I was 17 years old. Everything I own, I bought with money I earned, including my education (loans for that, and still paying it off).

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The other side of the coin:The amusing thing is the look on people’s faces when Charlie or I say a flat, blunt “NO” to someone who has ‘asked’ something of us that is really meant as an order from a superior, not a request. Indians understand that anything other than an exuberant “yes”, means “no” according to Storti, they have learned the subtlety, that a slight hesitation or questioning look before saying “yes” means “no”. So a direct “no” results in a rather stunned-but-trying-not-to-look-stunned face, with the only feature moving being rapid eye blinks, for a split second, then a forced smile.

“NO, you can’t charge people the same amount of money to see a therapist in training – who knows half of the material of the therapists that have completed the training”. This exchange occurred during a management meeting, a week later, we come to work and find that they did it anyway.

Ryan (one of the other American teachers) ” Why are we charging patients to see the Tier 2 therapists”

“We are following orders”, one of the front desk girls nervously replied.

“WHOSE ORDERS?” (Ryan, loudly and angrily). This is met with, you guessed it, frozen-faced blank stare, rapid blinking, weak forced smile. If they answer, they will get in trouble from their superior, if they DON”T answer, they get in trouble from us. One of the girls tries a compromise tactic of offering SOME answer…”We got an email”. It doesn’t work.

Ryan is now just short of frothing-at-the-mouth. “WHO sent the email”. Downcast or averted eyes on the expressionless faces all around…”I’ll just call someone” one of the girls stammers.

I will reward anyone who has even made it this far in the post, by NOT detailing the almost daily myriad examples. The incidents are frequent; I privately refer to  it as “death by a thousand cuts”.

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Agra Fort & Taj Mahal

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It is almost obligatory that I post these photos. Most everyone has heard of the Taj Mahal, and probably almost as many have seen photos of it….it is practically a requirement to see it if you come to India (I think they check at immigration before you leave…if you can’t say what city it is in, they don’t let you leave). For the record, the Taj is in Agra, SO IS (you might have guessed this on your own) Agra Fort. [although this photo looks like every other photo taken of the Taj…I did actually go there myself and take the picture, I didn’t steal from some other website.]  The guidebooks all say to go early in the morning (both to watch the effect of the changing light on the white marble, as well as to avoid crowds), which we did in mid-March…it was still chilly in the mornings, hence the wrap.

One of the most popular/common travel routes in India is the circuit through the “Golden Triangle” to visit the sights in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur…most of those in the former two cities (as noted in other posts) were built by the Mughals. Agra was, for some time, the capital of the Mughal Empire.

Aside from Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, there is not much else worth seeing in Agra proper, except to have the experience of feeling like a piece of meat that has been thrown into a tank of hungry piranhas. Agra exists because tourists come to see the Taj, and if you look like a tourist, you will be hounded and hustled EVERYWHERE, for everything, EVERY minute that you are awake. Enter at your own risk. You have been warned. Below, the main gate entrance to the Taj Mahal.

Not unlike the feudal period in western europe, the Mughal Empire period of Indian history is filled with intrigue, deception, family members imprisoning other family members, or murdering them, in the name of power and wealth.

The entrance to Agra Fort, above, wide enough to ride an elephant through, but uphill, so that large boulders could be pushed off the battlements and rolled down on invaders…likewise boiling oil, which could subsequently be ignited by flaming arrows.  This fort was a military stronghold before the Mughal Empire, but was fortified/rebuilt during their reign.

And monkeys…did I mention the monkeys?. They are everywhere. this little fellow was discovering the wonders of chewing gum.

Inside Agra Fort. This part was built by Akbar The Great for his son Jahangir. Akbar was the third Mughal emperor; he earned the appellation “The Great” due to the significant expansion of the empire under his reign. Akbar ascended to the throne at the age of 13, had 30 wives – many the result of political alliances, and ruled until his death at the age of 63 in 1605.

Akbar’s son Jahangir  had tried to revolt and claim the empire as his own in 1600, and following Akbar’s death in 1605 “forcefully ascended to the throne” (according to Wikipedia). Later, Jahangir imprisoned and blinded his eldest son for trying to overthrow him. Jahangir was married to his cousin when he was 16 years old, subsequently had 2 additional wives, and a harem reputed to have over 800 women.

The moat around the fort is where the trees are in the photo above; it was reportedly stocked with crocodiles.  Jahangir would have his enemies, or people who offended him, stand on a narrow platform projecting out from the parapet (seen in the top, far right of this photo) until they fell asleep and fell into the water below.

Above, the view of the Taj from Agra Fort.

Shah Jahan was Jahangir’s  favorite son. Best known as the guy who built the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan was 35 when he ascended to the throne. His first act as Shanshah Shah Jahan (“Ruler of the World”…the title he gave himself) was to imprison his step-mother, and execute her son, his rival for the throne.

Shah Jahan’s first wife, and his favorite, was given the title Mumtaz Mahal, “The Jewel of the Palace”. She died giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal – for those who don’t know – is her tomb.

Shah Jahan was more fond of white marble than the red sandstone used by his grandfather Akbar. He expanded Agra Fort, initially using a white plaster over red sandstone (above) then later switching to white marble, inlaid with semi precious stones, in a motif also used at the Taj.

Shah Jahan had planned an exact replica of the Taj Mahal,  made of black marble. Shown above is the location across the Yamuna River from the Taj, that would have been the site of the “black Taj” meant to be his tomb.  Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb overthrew him, and imprisoned him in this building (below) in Agra Fort, until the end of his life.

OK, well there you go…more Indian history and Mughal architecture than you probably cared for…but now you can check off the box that says “learn something new today”, and relax for the rest of the day!

Detail of the Carnelian, Malachite & Lapis inlay (and other semi-precious stones that I can’t remember at the moment).

How much for the goat’s head? (routine shopping in India)

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The thing that I love about this photo is that, every time I see it, it reminds me of the initial reaction I had when I came upon the scene. In the foreground, happy, innocent chickens, pecking at food, in the background, a man yanking the feathers off of a recently killed chicken. I felt like a little kid watching one of those old “B grade” horror movies, where the innocent people don’t see the killer  in the bushes behind them…you want to yell “LOOK BEHIND YOU, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”.  It makes me smile…probably to deflect some of the brutality of the facts at hand.

Gregg and Vicky Johnson, founders of The Institute of Physical Art, and developers of Functional Manual Therapy (the reason I am in India) were here for another training session with the Indian PT’s, which always means long days for me. They have just returned to US after being here for 3 weeks. Soon their oldest son Ryan (also a PT) will join us in India.. I was writing to him to give him ideas on what to expect when he gets here, as well as what to bring/not bring, and it occurred to me that for the average American, the very act of taking care of one’s weekly shopping/errand running is one of the most culturally trying things about India.

First of all, many things have no price posted, and if you ask, the truth is, the price you are quoted OFTEN depends on where you are, the color of your skin, and the language you speak. When I am bargaining for the cost of a ride in an auto rickshaw, the price drops more quickly if I switch to using the little bit of Hindi I know…thereby signifying that I am not a ‘fresh off the plane” tourist. Recently, at I.N.A. Market (more on that later) I was quoted 85 rupees for a can of tuna in one shop, 100 rupees for the identical item in a nearby shop, and 120 rupees in a third shop. This is a daunting thing to Americans, because there are very few places/times in daily life in the US where you have to figure out whether or not you are being taken for a fool and cheated. To be fair, many packaged goods in India do have a label stating tha maximum retail price (MRP), but as the tuna example illustrates, not always.

As “modernized” as Delhi is…it is still pretty ‘old world’ in some ways: Big “western style” shopping malls exist only in the far-flung suburbs. In the city what you will find are multiple little stores jammed together in neighborhood markets that are arranged around a central square, or the amassed together on a large block. The photo below is Khan Market, to most Americans it will look like an average (if not a bit run-down) “strip mall”, but it is considered one of the nicer markets. Khan Market is the closest market to the Diplomatic Quarter, and also near Aurangzeb Road and Prithviraj Road … where many of the wealthy and powerful in Delhi live.

I like Khan Market because all the merchants speak fairly good English, almost everything has a price on it, and there isn’t much bargaining…don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind sometimes haggling for a deal, but it gets exhausting to do it all the time.

This is Preet’s, my favorite Chemist shop (located in Khan Market), . The “chemist” is the local ‘drug store’, you can get most anything there including buying antibiotics without a prescription. I like Preet’s because the people are always friendly (surprisingly, some shopkeepers are rather surly), they speak English, and the prices are fair. As you can see, the place is about 8 ft x 10 ft, and everything is behind the counter and you have to ask for it….sometimes someone has to go up the ladder through a small opening in the ceiling to fetch your request. The majority of chemist shops are like this.

Khan Market is mostly clothing, shoes, jewelry, housewares, cosmetics, bookstores and cafes. There are few “grocery stores” per se, but grocery stores, in the American sense of the word, are virtually  non-existent in Delhi in general. At Khan Market there are a few tiny stores, like this one…it was so narrow I had to stand outside the door to take the photo (need a wider angle lens)… some have produce in addition to packaged foods, some cheese and yogurt; and there are a few, like this, that have only packaged goods crammed, literally floor to ceiling.

Another famous shopping district in Delhi is in the neighborhood of South Extension. “South Ex”, as everyone calls it, is living proof that the younger generation of rising middle class in India have adopted western styles of clothing, as well as the habit of shopping as a recreation. I have not actually been there, but I drive past it every day, and can tell you that in addition to the multi-level Lacoste,  there is an equally large Marks & Spencer (UK clothier), Levi’s, Benetton and Tommy Hilfiger.

The photo below is yet another shopping area, just up the Ring Road from South Ex,  in the affluent neighborhood of Lajpat Nagar, very near where the clinic I work in is located.

The central market at Lajpat Nagar doesn’t have all the big international brands, but is about 3 city blocks of densely packed local retail stores – 2 blocks are pedestrian only – that makes it one of the largest and busiest shopping areas in the city. This was taken mid-day on a Tuesday, which is why you can actually see the street, normally on weekends, it is wall-to-wall people. BTW, that big red facade of the building on the left is a KFC. Below is more from Lajpat Nagar.

Primarily known for clothing, it has a fair amount of electronics and household goods…and not a single grocery store (at least not that I have found).

The next few photos are all from the I.N. A. Market (Indian National Army) is one of the few places I have found that sells meat; it is also known for having all sorts of imported food items…most websites state that one “can find anything you are looking for, and if you do not see it, ask…they will get it for you”.

I.N.A. Market, is quite large, and while it has clothing, housewares, etc…it is primarily a food market .

Lots of “western brand” items are available, but often are extremely expensive. Other things, considered common in the US, are rarely seen here, for example,  plastic bags like “ziploc” bags are virtually unknown here, though plastic food wrap and aluminum foil are common. When I moved here, I packed all my supplements (multi-vitamin, fish oil) in ziploc bags, and have been studiously washing/re-using them for carrying snacks in my purse (dried fruit and nuts), or for my lunch. Sometimes, you see a brand name you recognize, on a product you do NOT recognize.

Within most markets, the merchants are generally grouped together…the majority of the housewares merchants are likely to be in one area, whereas the clothing merchants will be in another, and the produce in yet another area.

Apparently goat’s heads are a hot item…there were several stalls with them. Good thing I have had mild sinusitis since moving here and have diminished sense of smell.

There are also once or twice a week open air markets that happen in some neighborhoods…these are from Charlie’s neighborhood, National Park, this is a saturday market (re-runs for folks who saw my FB postings before I had the blog).

spice vendors (above), and bulk pasta (below); the pasta surprised me…just didn’t think of pasta as an Indian staple food

metal housewares, foreground, plastic, adjacent stall in background

Yes, You May Feel My Breasts, or “The Ladies Line”

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First, for people who are regularly subscribing/following this blog, thank you for reading and sharing it with others…and an APOLOGY for the last post. Have been having trouble getting photos to load, things sometimes go smoothly, other times the photos load, then disappear…I was working late, and really tired, and hit “publish” rather than “preview”.

If you checked it out right after it was posted, go back, and check it out again…it took me about 5 hours to finish loading the photos after I inadvertently published…so there is much more there.

Now, on to the subject of this post:

Air travel in India differs from air travel in the US or Europe in one specific way: the security line. Now, in truth, “the Ladies Line” exists almost as a routine part of life for Indian women in urban areas.

Terrorist attacks in India, in the form of bombings in public areas, have occurred, regularly over the past 10 to 12 years…totalling more than 40 bombings or attacks since 2001 – sometimes as a series of coordinated, multiple bombings in multiple locations. The most notable of these – in the sense that it made headlines in news around the world – were the attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that involved the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the Oberoi Trident Hotel, where in hostages were taken.

While not as dramatic as having airplanes fly into prominent sky-scrapers in NYC, the attacks have resulted in many people being injured and killed….and concomittantly, resulted in a public acceptance of the need for security screenings when one enters a 4 or 5 star hotel (the better restaurants in town are at these hotels), as well as large shopping areas, or any public gathering such as a cricket game.

Everyone walks through the “doorway” type metal detector, then the ladies go into a curtained cubicle, assume what a friend of mine refers to as “the Jesus-on-the-cross position”, and have a woman in a police of military uniform “wand” you… “beep, beep,beep”…underwire bra…expect to have your breasts fondled. Due to having my hip replaced, I have had my left hip patted and petted more times than I can recall. In some cases, the girls speak so little English, that they don’t understand when I try to inform them…after the second “wanding” and patting”, if they look uncertain, I just drop my pants and point to my (rather large) scar.

In some places, they don’t have the money for the “wand” technology, apparently, and just go straight to the “pat-down”. My colleague Charlie and his wife Erin have an adorable, blond-haired, blue-eyed little 16 month old boy, and a 2 month old baby girl. When we all went to Surajkund Arts & Craft Mela (see separate post), Erin went trough security just ahead of me…the girl was so busy looking at the baby in the carrier on Erin’s chest, that she forgot her hands were on MY chest…I got a thorough “screening” for about 30 seconds! If I could speak enough Hindi, I would have asked her for money when she finished.

What is interesting about this, is that India is still a fairly conservative country.This is a country where (as noted in “On the Road Again”) women still cover themselves almost completely in rural areas.  You will see a few younger women in urban centers wearing short skirts, and tank tops in warm weather…but VERY, VERY few, and rarely will you see “spaghetti straps”, or short shorts…if you see shorts at all – also VERY RARE -, the are knee-length usually…unless they are tourists. All of our young therapists have spoken frankly about the fact that they can not, WILL NOT, have pre-marital sex, and most, if not all, will marry someone who has been chosen by their parents (the young couple do get to meet, go on a few chaperoned dates, if the parents are more liberal, unchaperoned).

It is an interesting contrast, to me, that in the US, where nudity and sexuality are EVERYWHERE, that people get upset about walking through a damn X-Ray machine where no one is even touching them, and the person looking at the image can’t see their face…yet here, where it is so conservative, nobody even blinks at the frequent “pat-downs”.

As an aside to this: Airport security is handled by Indian Army officers. You cannot even ENTER the airport unless you have proof of a ticket, and a photo ID (there are ticket windows outside the main terminal entrance, for those last-minute purchases). Army officers are posted at the terminal entrances, as well as handling the security screening before boarding the plane. And, they have machine guns.

Air travel within India can be a little chaotic if you are travelling to multiple locations, because the rules seem constantly to change. There does not seem to be a national rule about carrying liquids. I have boarded a plane to Mumbai carrying a liter of water in my hand, no problem. Did the same when I went to Assam. But flying home from Jodhpur recently, nope, no liquids over 100 ml. Some places, “empty everything from your pockets”, other places, “Nah, don’t worry about it”.

In Guwahati, Assam, there are signs telling you to put your mobile phone in your bag, and put your bag directly on the belt (no tray), after going through the ladies line, I stood on the other side of security for quite some time, looking at my bag on a counter next to the screening machine…I finally got the guards attention and asked for my bag.

“Do you have any electronics in it?”

Yes, my mobile.

“show me please”…then “anything else?”

yes, a flash drive and a data card.

At this point, the guy just grabs my bag and starts dumping the entire contents of my large travel bag, into a tray…personal hygeine items, cosmetics, snacks, wallet….then runs the whole tray, and the bag through again…this after self-same bag had gone through Delhi security just hours earlier without a hitch. OH, and that is another thing, if you are changing planes in India, expect to have to go through security AGAIN, wherever you are changing planes…even if you just got off of a plane from within the country. Furthermore, some airlines conduct THEIR OWN screening, so after being totally hassled by Guwahati security, then we got frisked AGAIN by the airline employees before boarding the plane. Apparently, nobody trusts anybody else’s security.

And finally, there are no photos associated with this post because, it is against the law to take pictures of  the security lines, the Army officers, and the airport from the plane during take off or landing. It is also against the law to take pictures of all government buildings, or anything NEAR a government building. I recently took a photo of two young girls walking down a sidewalk, carrying old fashioned milk cans…I thought it was so quaint to see here in Delhi. I was immediately accosted by a man with a machine gun who demanded my camera. you could see nothing but 2 girls on a sidewalk, and couldn’t tell where the sidewalk was, but I was near the president’s residence. I refused to give him my camera, but deleted the picture. I continued my walk (just out for a troll in my neighborhood), and about 2 blocks later, was approached by ANOTHER security guard who demanded my camera – which was IN MY POCKET, and not visible. I pulled it out, showed him that there were no photos of interest on it –  and STILL the guy tried to get me to delete a photo of the dairy bar seen in previous post…then told them to “fuck off”…and kept walking. with in a half of a block a large SUV with blacked out windows passed by me on the road and slowed down…real slow.

Nope, not taking pictures of ANYTHING related to security.

On The Road Again….

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There is no “OSHA” in India, and apparently, either no “road safety” rules, or no enforcement of said rules.

[Ed. Note: as mentioned in “Let the Dog Drive” many of these photos lack sharpness/clarity due to dust in the air, or being taken through the car window, which I started leaving up, due to dust in the air. Rajasthan is quite dry to begin with, but it is also dry season, no rain for past 5 months]

What is amusing about the trucks on the road, is they are all brightly painted, hand painted by the owners/drivers with different designs…but they all say “Horn Please” on the back…as if no one would use their horn otherwise. As noted in the post “Driving Miss Summers”, people here honk their horns CONSTANTLY!

That pink blob on the top of the oxcart is someone’s turban. These carts were ALL over the place in Rajasthan, never did find out what they were carrying

Look, No Hands!

The thing that I love about these photos is that I took them randomly as we drove by, going fairly fast. Some of them ended up being “meh”, but some are filled with interesting little details that offer insight into daily life in this part of the world.

Not sure WHERE that arrow is pointing, everything in that direction looked prett much like this building, or the photos above and below this one.

Of note, I always saw signs for “beer bar” not just “bar”, because the majority of the population is a) vegetarian and b) gets their milk from a “dairy bar”…see  more below

Yes, those are good old fashioned milk cans on that motorcycle, and they most likely contain milk…a common sight here in India

A “milk bar” or “dairy bar” in Delhi…couldn’t get a decent picture on the road trip

This is out of “sequence” for the trip, but suited here: the “milk bar” in old city part of Jaipur…gives a whole new meaning to “the guys hanging out at the bar”

The view out the window between villages…farms, and, in some places, brick making “factories”. To the left in this picture, and in the one below, stacks of hay

brick kiln

Not that there will be a quiz on this at the end, but for anyone keeping track over the last 2 posts, the live animal count on the road (or in the road, as in, wandering aimlessly): camels, cows, oxen, pigs, goats, sheep…and dogs driving motorcycles.

The “auto-rickshaw” or “three-wheeler”, like a giant tricycle style motorcycle with a back seat that should fit about 2 or 3 people, which is mostly what I see in Delhi…though sometime 4 or 5. On the road outside the urban centers, travel options are fewer, whenever I saw one of these it was  usually holding 6 to 8 people….usually all women, or all men, or a whole family

I love this photo because it is so iconic of rural India…a picture worth a thousand words, trite, but true. You will notice in both the photo above and the one below that the women have their head covered, and often use the head covering to pull across their face. They are NOT Muslim, they are Hindu, but the practice of “purdah” or veiling of women took hold in North India during the time north India was ruled by the Mughals (Muslims of various ethniciies/backgrounds from Turkey and Persia ruled from late 15th through mid 18th century). This is mostly seen only in rural areas now, not in cities.

The Road to Agra and Jaipur (or “Let the Dog Drive”)

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I recently returned from a road trip from Delhi to Agra, then to Jaipur. This commonly taken route (by tourists), is referred to as the Golden Triangle in India, because the cities are (ostensibly) about 3 1/2 hour drive apart (at least that is what people will tell you…more on that later), the three cities form a triangle…as one might guess.

At first I was carefully downloading photos from my camera into folders with very specific descriptions of where the photos were taken…I can be a little too detail oriented and concrete sometimes….then I realized, it’s not like you – the reader – are going to use these and landmarks to find your way from Delhi to Agra, then Agra to Jaipur. The point here is to impart a general sense of how different the experience is from being in Delhi, and even more so, the US and Europe.

I didn’t bother to take pictures of road construction, because that looks about the same everywhere, except here they still use quite a bit of manual labor to do things done by machines in Europe and the US, men with pick-axes breaking up old cement. Have yet to see a jack-hammer.

But, I digress ( as usual). The drive to Jaipur was a bit longer due to multiple diversions off the road due to road construction, and lots of heavy truck traffic. Many of the photos look a little fuzzy, that is due to the dust in the air (it is dry season now, has not rained for MONTHS). I got tired of keeping the window down to take pictures, some are shot thru the car window, also making them distorted.

If you are a “map geek” like I am (love looking things up on Google Maps, used to have a map of the US on my bathroom wall, and a “map of the world” shower curtain)…you may think that this is a short, easy trip (in fact Google maps will tell you it is 2 hours and 26 minutes)…many toll booths, and heavy trucks, mixed with every other form of  transportation imaginable, and a variety of animal life wandering aimlessly in the road made it closer to 4 1/2 hours. At one of the toll booths…this car was travelling at about  35 mph before stopping at the toll.

EVERYTHING shown below was shot out the window of the car as we drove by. Sometimes there were great shots that I missed because I couldn’t get the camera up in time.

There are MANY, MANY temples along the roads in every corner of India it seems, some are quite small (little shrines the size of a small closet), others are massive. This is Hanuman, the monkey God. I love that there is a motorcycle in the foreground to give perspective. The thing I always think about when I see the massive, clearly modern temples, is what a waste of money it seems to be, in a country where so many people are so desperately poor…how many people could have been fed, clothed, or taught job skills, with the money that went into building these places?

Shiva, there are a few gods who appear “blue”, but you can tell this is Shiva because he has a trident, a snake necklace, and a crescent moon on his head…

Rudolph The Red Nosed Camel!

typical views as we drove through a village.

The road is a major 4 lane road (in most places), we went through village after village; by “village” I mean mostly a row of shops on either side of the road, no shoulder, no sidewalk (in most, but not all cases…larger villages had sidewalks), with a smattering of houses behind the shops. Notable in the left of the photo below, you can see part of a balance scale, these are seen in all sizes, depending on the goods purchased, small for spices, medium for fruits and veggies in the street markets…not sure about this one.

Many people live on subsistence farms, a kilometer or two away, and walk into town to get what they need, returning with their provisions balanced on their head.

the local “Home Depot”…except for ladders…they were down the street a bit

I love this last image, because it says so much about India: an ox cart, a public water pump (most people’s only source for water in rural villages), and a “cyber cafe”.

I have many more photos, but have been having trouble with uploading them to Worpress…have been trying to publish this for 3 days, but it has been taking hours to get a few photos up…check back again soon for more fun on the road!

Kaziranga

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Words fail to capture the experience of being in this amazing place, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kaziranga has 170 sq miles of tropical forest, grasslands, and marshland. It also has the world’s largest population on Indian One Horned Rhinocerous; which was at one point near extinction due to being hunted for their horns, which are sold in China because they are believed to improve male sexual prowess. The Indian government has instituted rigorous anti-poaching measures and the Rhinoes have come bck so well in Kaziranga that they are now being “exported” to other national parks in India.

Private vehicles are not allowed on the park, you can go in on elephant or jeep (called “gypsye” by the Indians). There are 3 ranges that are open to the public, Eastern, Western and Central. On most trips we would see 3 or 4 other vehicles only in passing, and when we stopped ours, and the engine was off, the only sound was the wind in the grass, or the sound of birds.

Skip the African safari. Save your money, come to India…put this place on your bucket list. “stunning” “beautiful” and “wonderful” do not come close to describing it.

This man made our entire trip worthwhile. He had eyes like a hawk, and would tell the driver to stop, then have him back up to just the right position to see a small bird in a tree…amazed that he could see them as we drove by. We met another American coule at the resort that were avid bird watchers, they like their guide, but he didn’t know his birds as well as our guide. I am not an avid bird watcher, but I love to see new things and learn baout them. You can go into the park without a guide, but I do not recommend it. Having someone who knows the terrain, the birds and the wildlife made it a much richer experience.

This picture was taken the morning of Holi, the Indian holiday that is celbrated by throwing colored powder, or paint, at other people, hence the purple on his face, and yellow in his hair.

Indian one horned Rhinocerous.

Bambi!

Mother and baby. Initially when we approached, she stood between us and the baby, so I could only get a picture as they turned to escape into the high grass.

The park is also home to the largest – and one of the last – surviving populations of Eastern Swamp Deer, also known as Barasingha, which means ’12 horned’ in Hindi (there is apparently a small population in one other place in India. A native species, it once roamed over about half the country.

Kaziranga has over 1,100 wild Asian elephants, this one was muching grass, then when we stopped to watch, we were “upwind”, so this is him smelling us.

this fellow was about 30 feet away from the road, but the forest was so dense that our guide didn’t even see him, I told the driver to stop and back up, this was the best shot I could get.

According to the Indian National Park service, Kazirang has the world’s larget population of wild Asian Buffalo (what I have always called ‘water buffalo’ since that is what they were called when we lived in the Phillipines when I was 5 years old)

And the Eastern range is the Brahmaputra river delta, known as one of the better bird watching areas in India, over 500 species of birds, including 25 globally threatened species (though that is the year-round total, many are migratory).

our guide knew the names of all the birds we saw, and told me, but sadly, I don’t remember….?Stork? Heron? beautiful though

This is an Indian Roller

Chestnut Headed Bee Eater