Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hyderabad street life

Hyderabad is a bustling old city in the southern interior of India that is predominately Muslim. We decided to stay a few nights at this hotel before heading to Alleppy and I got in some film clips of street life from our second floor room. Not only is this a busy, noisy area, but crossing to the other side was sometimes perilous. Our room was comfortable, clean and quiet however. Ken and I finally found a restaurant to have a beer; located off the major boulevard, we climbed upstairs to a dark and smoky eating establishment. There were no women, but plenty of men drinking, smoking and carrying on. We had a wonderful shrimp dish with our Kingfishers. We found India to be very conservative in the interior and I have to admit, more interesting because we saw a side that the normal tourist wouldn't care to explore. We were virtually the only Westerners on some of our days of travel. People were wonderfully polite to us, and I found the Muslim people very intense with wicked, sharp humor. There were the fantastic tombs of the Qutb Shahi Kings - immense towering sculptures, bell shapes monuments and not only one, but the site was peppered with a least a dozen of these mausoleums. We also visited the Gaolconda Fort that wasn't as superb as Daulatabad fort in Aurangabad. I love the forts in India; works of art that carry this old age empire of the Mughal sensibility.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the groom

On our way back towards town from the Aurangabad Caves, we fell onto a wedding party. You can visibly see the groom on his horse before he goes inside to the wedding area. I wished I possessed the nerve to follow into the ceremony, but felt this really wasn't any of my business. However, I truly think I would have been welcomed to join in the celebration. You can see the dancing in the streets and everyone is very happy and elated. What I did notice throughout India, were the masses of men walking together; almost like a herd mentality. India is very patriarchal. While seeing men in groups walking around, I often wondered, where are the women and when I did see them, they were usually solitary and fleeting. Othertimes, I noticed that they were usually hidden inside the homes and most likely in the kitchen!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aurangabad Caves

This is a video of one of the Aurangabad caves. Aurangabad is located nine hours northeast of Mumbai and we traveled on a second class train - something you should do once while traveling in India and afterwards go A/C first class all the time! The town was a mess and we arrived at one in the morning; nearly fainting when the rickshaw driver dropped us off at the shabby hotel. The room had bars on the windows, a shower that dripped cold water and we were charged over thirty dollars for a run down space while questioning to ourselves why had we ever gone the distance. Even in the daylight, Aurangabad is a terribly dirty, trash strewn town. We hired a driver the next day who took us to the Ellora Caves and then the following day to the Ajanta Caves located two hours through charming rural countryside. Meanwhile, all the caves are immaculate and well maintained. This video shows one interior of the Aurangabad Caves (while these excavations are considered a lesser of the sites but what I love about this clip is the distant sounds of a Hindu wedding, which I also filmed and will post at a later date.) In retrospect, it was a wondrous journey and a trek I would do over and over again. I highly recommend seeing these first class 5th century Buddhist carvings considered as World Heritage Sites. India constantly throws you all over the place but you land standing on two feet in rapturous awe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chamundi Hill, Mysore

Mysore is known as the sandalwood capital. They boast the Majaraja's Palace which is indeed magnificent. However, one day we took a rickshaw up to Chamundi Hill, known to be a special pilgrimage site. It was indeed special; spirits ran very high with hundreds of people perusing the temple lining up to see the special icon. I stood in the fast moving queue and you are pushed or almost carried among several people on all sides; the excitement is quite clear. Once at the idol, you quickly pass by, whisper a prayer or drop flowers at the alter. It was a sunny and breezy day; clean air and the perfect temperature infested everyone it seemed. I made this video and although it is a bit fuzzy, you can catch the environment and good spirits of the people. Mysore is a sprawling city and a good mix of Hindu and Muslim cultures. One of my favorite things was waking up to the call to prayer each morning.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

indelible India - journal entry 1

Our journey was long; distances covered involved a giant loop starting at Mumbai, going east into the interior, and ending up on the southern part of Alleppy, riding up the coast to Goa and back to Mumbai. Our interior search was the most intensive - Aurangabad; visiting the Ajanta and Ellora Caves was the trek of a lifetime, down to Hyperabad, Hampi (a genius temple sight), Mysore and Alleppy. Kochi and Goa were silent retreats, relaxing and finishing our novels, resting up for another transition was often the case.
If you can get past the dirt and pollution, masses of people and poverty - abandon your "western" perceptions and comforts, you will arrive at having a fabulous trip; glorious in color and people immersed in this ancient land, India is an assault to all your senses. The immense smells of latrines, scattered trash almost everywhere you go (except for the tourist parts) and the persistent nag of asking for business or your money can be draining. Returning to your room helps. At the same time, the country is continually fascinating. You cannot help but be thrilled with their crazy ornate festivals, temple grounds, the cheap but good food and the quirkiness of the people takes you in unexpectedly.
My favorite places in India were the countryside. I loved the open and tattered fields, shed like abodes and the subtle parts gold/green places that screamed water. (During the monsoon months though, I hear the landscape takes on another appeal. It becomes rich and powerful with lushness.) Driving to the caves, we experienced the quiet jewel of the farmland; the immensity of the animal life is a constant - herds of goats, cows, large carts with an overload of hay just about to make it and everywhere the beautiful people walking modestly and carefree seem the happiest. Most of the villages were clean and humble; some amazingly beautiful estates with haystacks peppered among giant palm trees and of course the myriad of farm animals bring it altogether.
India is always full, always big of heart and it carries a multitude of complexity. You love it and at times you deplore what you see and experience, tiring of the constant shabbiness of the people and not knowing who is telling you the truth or not. It isn't the easiest place to get around but the trains, buses and drivers all take off on time. Negotiation is a constant, but when done you arrive at the set price and always, always, you get your change back. Indelible India (for starters.)