Indian women are TOUGH

Indian women are tough.  Meanwhile, men do a lot of sitting around.  This is, of course, a GROSS generalization.  But during my time in India, I saw dozens of women doing strenuous manual labor, such as carrying a headful of bricks, working in the tea plantations, sweeping leaves on steep mountain sides (still unsure why they were doing this), carrying children, sweating over a huge pot of curry or rice, etc.  At the same time, I saw probably hundreds of men sitting around on benches, publicly napping, sipping chai, or gambling in the street with their friends.

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Leaving India

I spent my last 24 hours in India with Elizabeth, totally conquering Delhi.  We took public transportation everywhere, saw some of Delhi’s most famous sites (The Baha’i House of Worship/Lotus Temple & the Mughal Gardens at the President’s Estate), ate our final authentically delicious Indian meals, enjoyed some cold Kingfisher beers, toured the world’s largest Hindu temple (Akshardham), and loved every second of it.

Delhi’s Main Bazaar Road by night:

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The Indian Selfie

The Indian Selfie

*Disclaimer #1: Technically not all of the photos below are selfies, by definition.
*Disclaimer #2: Not all of these photos are mine. My Aussie friends, Tim Starkey and Pedro Dyson, have graciously contributed some of their “classic Indian selfie” pics to this post.
Indian people love being in photos, whether it’s a selfie or someone else taking their picture, they just can’t get enough of it. They also LOVE to have their picture taken with western people.  In the past two months I have had countless Indians ask me 1. If I will take a selfie with them or 2. To take a photo of them. Just them. With my camera. Like these…

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Varanasi, Where Bodies Burn

Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is the spiritual capital of India.  Thousands of Hindus make a pilgrimage here to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges River and perform funeral pujas (ceremonies).  It is believed that bathing in the Ganges (the 2nd most polluted river in the world) will wash away all of one’s sins.  It is also believed that placing someone’s cremated ashes or body in the river will release them from the cycle of reincarnation (called ‘moksha’), thus avoiding returning to Earth in the next life as an Indian street dog.  Rituals surrounding the cremation take place along the ghats all day, every day with up to 300 bodies being burned daily at the main ‘burning ghats’.  If you stop and watch for a while, you’ll see body after body go into the pyres.  You can observe people burn from as close as 30 feet away in some ghats.  Bodies wrapped in orange and gold shrouds are carried down to the riverbed, dipped into the river, clothing is removed minus a white gauzy wrap, and then set onto the fire.

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Getting good at India

The longer you stay in India, the better you get at India. What am I talking about, you might ask? Well, I found myself thinking today, after being extremely insistent on a tuk tuk fare, “I’m getting pretty good at this whole India thing.” There are a lot of things that just get easier the longer you’re here.  Here are the ones I feel like I’ve gotten better at.

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New Delhi: Not What I Expected

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Technically I’ve been in New Delhi for 9 days, but it really feels like only three because I was cooped up in the hospital and then recuperating at my friend Ben’s place for so long.  On Saturday (it’s Monday today), papa Ben gave me the okay to get out and see the city with my two Australian friends who were also in Delhi for the weekend.  It was the first time in a week that I had spent more than 10 minutes outside and it felt GREAT.

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The Super Specialty, super Indian “American” hospital

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I’ve now been in Delhi’s Max Super Specialty Hospital for 39 hours for treatment of pneumonia, although they’re also trying to rule out tuberculosis. It’s been an interesting experience to say the least.  (I ended up getting a same-day flight here from Udaipur when I was told that I would need to be admitted to the hospital.  A guy I used to teach with in Denver, Ben Slavic, lives and works here now, so I contacted him and he said he’d find me a great hospital and take care of me.  So far, he has kept his promises!)
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For the most part, it seems like a modern, clean “American” hospital. The doctors and nurses appear well-trained and competent, although not very attentive. The medicine, equipment, food, and beds are all standard hospital quality. But if you look below the surface, and stick around a while, you’ll start to notice the little nuances that make it very typically Indian.

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Udaipur, City of Lakes and Failing Health

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Udaipur, Rajasthan is nicked named the “City of Lakes” or “Venice of the East.”  City of Lakes is fair, but Venice of the East??? Yeah, not so much.  It’s also called the White City because, well, there are a lot of white buildings.  Rajasthan also has a Blue City, a Pink City, and a Gold City (all of which I missed because I ended up in the hospital; more on that in the next post).

My first few days in Udaipur were weird.  I immediately got a strange vibe from the men there, all of whom were really aggressive in starting conversations.  Every touristy area in India is full of vendors or touts that can be aggressive in trying to get you to buy something or come into their store or whatever.  But this was different.

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