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India report

For all our (Indian) friends and relatives that prefer to read the INDIA REPORT in English, I will like to translate most of what happened. Please feel invited to comment on anything you read. Find the attached photographs with the german articles („India“ in German means „Indien“).

India, April 10th.
This is our first day in India, after we started our flight from Duesseldorf via London to Delhi the day before. Early at six o’clock we arrive in Delhi and run from air-conditioning into a wall of heat and humidity. After immigration that kills us just like the ones in the USA, we change a few Euros into Rupee. It is quite some bunch of money you get for little Euro, comparable to the former Italian Lira. Our man in Delhi is not visible at first, so Geraldine and Esther-Sensei go back to take another look at the line of people waiting and holding up signs for tourists like us. Our friendly guide leads us to the car, where we store our entire luggage to come back all the way through the airport to confirm the flight back via BA. We find out the hard way, that it is not necessary with BA to confirm the flight back. The impressions we get during these first minutes in India are immense. People everywhere, a lot of them sleeping on the floor. A lot of smells and various thoughts are flashing our minds to be pushed aside almost immediately for a lack of solutions. I promise myself to continue thinking about it later. Maybe this is one of the reasons I fell into a black whole after the journey.

We are driven to a small place in Delhi in a van with air conditioning and bullet hole in the windscreen. Here we take a shower and have very good hygienic circumstances. I had feared worse for the stay in India and am relieved about this. The loo is much better than the one on the plane that was occupied by two Italians smoking pot. We were hoping they were sent back on the arrival, as they had really passed out quite badly.

After a short stay in our stopover place, we get a wonderful breakfast served by very friendly Indians. The breakfast is a bit British including bananas, orange marmalade, toast, muesli and cornflakes. We enjoy our first Indian Masala-Chai (spicy tea). Later down the journey, we buy ourselves the spices for making our own, but it doesn´t taste the same like everything you compare with having eaten in a different holiday environment.

We are driven criss cross Delhi from one monument to another. We are not really this kind of tourists that came for visiting monuments. Bernd Symons (our travel agent), you could have known this, when you read our CV. The introduction is meant extremely kind and we do not trust ourselves to deny this kind of service since our guide is very nice and does a perfect job. After having visited about four or five monuments we are truly finished. The drive through Delhi is insane. We do not fear about safety at all, but it is a very tight, sticky, lowd and slow drive. We see dogs and cows all over the street, TucTucs (rickshaws), cars, bicycles, pedestrians, camels and many more wildly running around but still working in harmony on the „wrong side“ of the road.

We use the time of driving to take snapshots through the window of our van. I will surely not cultivate this kind of photography but it is autistic for the impressions we get.
I notice the first cobra in a basket at lunch. I turn my head away from it in disgust while I pass it. The meal at the restaurant is fantastic. We are having tandori and bread, a nice combination. We are watching the seals on the water bottles and drink the plain water, which we can not stand at the end of the journey after only 10 days. The reason may be that it doesn’t taste right after three to four litres a day.
About at five o’clock that afternoon, our man and the driver take us to the station in Delhi. The driver gets a little tip and smiles all over his face. He did a wonderful job. I am still wondering where he got that bullet hole in the windshield from. He doesn’t drive that bad at all. The train has got eight beds per open compartment. We are relieved to hit our „beds“ after this long day and share the compartment with an Indian guy who enjoys his „plank“ on ground level. We can understand his point after hitting our heads at the ceiling getting up from our „planks“ above. After a few hours of ride, we have a stress situation at a station when a server comes to our compartment, offering drinks. His difficult Indian English calls the station „Jaipur“ which we misunderstand as „Jodhpur“. When we realize our mistake, we go back to bed again and sleep on and off for about another six hours. We are very happy to arrive healthy in Jodhpur the next morning.

India, April 11th.
We again realize our different skin colour arriving at Jodhpur station. This is the feeling you have when you are a stranger in another country. We are watched in a friendly way but this people also forgetting to shut their mouths starring at us. Chandra himself picks us up at the station. A porter picks up our heavy suitcases for a tip of an Euro – it is a lot of money in India which nobody can pay unless he is living in a different group of earnings. We are relieved to find our hosts Bhavna & Chandra to be a very kind couple. Also the older mother „Lady Ba“, is very awake and clever. The employees and cook are extremely helpful and friendly. We check into the registration and enjoy the calmness and the pleasant way to chat in the inner court with open roof. Almost immediately we are offered to have a look into the kitchen. We have used this option quite frequently as you can tell by all the photographs we took. Here we learn how to make Masala Chai: cooking water and tea, put in the spices, let it cook and add the non pasteurised milk to also cook for a minute. For lunch we get the green „Ladyfinger“, also known as Okra. We eat vegetarian for lunch and could continue going without meat under these terrific taste and varicosity. For dinner we get some meat like liver from a goat (really nice), lamb or chicken. Always a little spicy but never too hot and you can add pickles for taste. They are three or four dishes for choice all the time and it is easy to guess that we went twice! The moon is different in India. We can see the rabbit like the Africans do.

Conclusion: we have recovered from the journey, met a wonderful host family, very nice rooms and meals. And the people over here are very close, even if you do not talk with some of them, you can feel their warmth.

India, April 12th.
Just as well we could relax the day we arrived in Jodhpur, as we will have a very busy day today. After we have a very rich and healthy breakfast of toast, orange marmalade, eggs, fresh fruits, yoghurt, muesli/cornflakes, we feel fit to accompany Raggie to the Fort Mehrangarh. We are surprised about the large size of the fort, built from red sand stone it lies over the city some 400 feet high. The impressions are terrific. After we visited the Fort and had the tour, we went to see the traditional cremation ground Jaswant Thada, built from white marble. After again a fabulous lunch with our hosts, we are visiting a park in Jodhpur and see the clock tower later the evening. It is a market place with a lot of impressions, busy people and lots of colours that are smashing for a European. Unfortunately the smells are very colourful too and the smell of the spices is the good one in between others. These tourist days with tours are very tiresome and give us an impression on the history of the country with which it is easier to understand the presence.

India, April 13th.
The day was filled with monuments again but it seems we got closer to what we are looking for with the Jain Temple in Osia today. Chandra kindly took us to Osia, to tell us a lot about the history of gods and temples. The priest at the Jain Temple at first looked like the guy collecting the entrance fee but when he got closer we had a different impression of him immediately. He takes us round, explains about the temple and shows us the restoration work that is done without any scribbles or notes. Being a teacher he got about 600 pupils from all religions (not only Jain) in the nearby temple school. The money for the restorations is spent by the religious people who are coming and money seems to be no object. Religion and believe are taking up a massive place in the Indian society. We are often surprised about the public and private temples in a home, that seem kitschy and lets one assume a certain naivety of the people. It seems the Indians want to buy their ticket after death by donating money to temples and gods. I am still wondering about the connection of gold, silver, saffron and religion. The same appeals for the western world excluding the saffron of course.
After lunch with a wonderful Indian meal, we visit a big store that is fully air conditioned. The colours of clothes, turbans, sari and other things are breathtaking. We try a few shirts and almost automatically get one on the head. Everybody is having fun with Bruno-Sensei and me wearing a turban.

India, April 14th.
Today we travel from Jodhpur to Chandelao into the desert. We are situated in a little jeep, where we have to bend down not to hit our heads on the railings. The village safari is interesting, as one of the highlights is a visit of a pottery. The place looks different to European potteriers and one would not expect the work to be a good one. But in fact it is excellent. We are watching the potter working the wheel with a loaf, giving it some speed that keeps it´s rotation for about eight minutes. That is enough for three pots and the potter works so precise, that the pot and the lid fit absolutely exactly. You can also buy some of his funny work standing about to be sold (photographs).

The second stop is a kind of drug store in the middle of the desert. The medicine you get here is serious stuff and good for your stomach among other things. The family is very hospitable and shows us around the whole house that seems simple to our regards, but got all the important contents and is extremely lean. Regarding the sand and the dust in the Indian desert of Rajasthan, one wonders about all the clean clothes people wear – most of all the sari that the woman is wearing. Life surely is minimalistic, but not uncultivated and the smile the woman of the house shows that people can be happy. What should not keep us in Europe from helping.

Our next stop is a carpet place that seems to employ all the women in the near distance to have a good life himself. Three little solar stations and a telephone in the middle of the desert seem to be quite paradox, but you can see them here. I did not take any photographs, since the sales habits remind me of the western ones and not only am I relatively uninterested but also the wealthiness of the carpet sales person puts me off. But the main aim of the journey is Chandelao, a little village with 1,700 residents. We check in with Praduman Singh, a really nice guy and host of Chandelao Garh, who restores the fort and therefore directly supports the village and gives a lot of people work.

In the afternoon we meet children who are also visiting and staying at Chandelao Garh. We start some rolling on the gras and have our first Aikido-seminar in India. Rolling forward, backward, on the ground and standing. The children all join and obviously have fun. After a relatively short time in the heat of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) my skin gets a little damp and I sweat all the water I drink almost immediately. Geraldine and Esther-Sensei are helping out and later when the children have to leave, every one of us gets a big bouquets of flowers from them. That is a very nice gesture and today we have communicated a lot with those children without a lot of talking.

This village is closer to our hearts than anything else we have seen so far. Bigger towns like Delhi, Jodhpur or others have a character of money and harsh contrasts of colours and finances.

This is different since the residents are very open for us, smile at us and give the impression to enjoy our visit. We go into the village, meet a lot of children, some with their parents, are invited into one of the homes where the owner offers us water which we kindly reject in respect to our European stomaches. Geraldine and Esther-Sensei are getting their finger nails varnished by a young lady who has the urgent wish to give something. We meet people around the village who give us beans to try, go to the village water place where women and girls get water from. It is a very warm tour with a lot of kind gestures; with a lot of children who all want to get photographed. There are colours, contrasts and a lot humanity. We are quite tired from all the impressions and nice meetings.

India, April 15th
After a few shots of the fort Chandelao Garh, we take a camel safari through the desert. Well oiled and with a hat on my head, I did not take the camera because of the enormous dust. At lunch we arrive at a water hole for animals and people and have lunch on a blanket while the camels lie down and rest. We find it very decadent the way we are served.

The hightlight of the day is not the safari though, but a cooking lesseon with Sajjan, the mother of Praduman. She got a special Aura and we not only learn cooking but also some things about life. Sajjan got thick gray hair, which look through the sari from time to time. Her eyes and expression are most warm and you can say the same thing about what she says. She cooks for us on a little stove in the garden. It is Indian beans and some other local vegetable. Interesting to put the cloves in first and browns. If I do it, it goes all bitter but maybe because I never leave it in cloves but cut it into finer peaces. Later the garlic-ingwer-paste goes in for the taste but you do not really taste it since maybe there are spices like Garam-Masala, Tumeric etc. which are intense and taste wonderful. Sajjan and us talk about the dishes, culture and we recognize the wisdom of that young staying lady. We are allowed in the kitchen and meet the cook and helping hands preparing our dinner. Also the lovely bread Chapati is prepared and in the evening we sit on the terasse, look at the stars, see the rabbit again and think about India. A brilliant country full of contrasts, which produces strong emotions like Geraldine exactly describes it.

It becomes a special evening when Sajjan joins our meal and company. We sit together for a long time, talk little when the power is cut again and we take candles instead. There they are those pauses that seem like minutes when nobody speaks. Sajjan looks at us individually and I get a very warm feeling around my heart. She knows everything about us, in very little time, without having asked us. I am positive about this. It is hard to describe what happens this evening. But surely it is communication without words. I have to also call it love. And it is a very special experience.

India, April 16th
Praduman takes us to Pipar with his jeep. The town is famous for its block printing, a special technique for having beautiful designs on textiles. First we visit the colourful and inviting market. It is comfortable not to be agitated by sales people in Pipar. The town seems to be untouched from tourism like Chandelao. In bigger towns you get picked and bothered because of your skin colour all the time. We notice a lot of beautiful colours with the people, the vegetables and fruits, as well as the spices. I can not find out what is produced in that mill with the heavy machine. Maybe somebody can tell me?
The streets are the most colourful ones we have seen in India. What you can not see on the photographs is the smell that is not so nice altogether. It is the drain in the streets comparable to Europe in the mid century. The goldsmith got the same technical standard like his European college. They are nice people in Pipar.
A little later we visit the block printing and buy a few shirts and a table cloth. The design and colours of the material are beautiful and we help the craft and people by buying a few things. It was a good tour we had.
Back in Chandelao riding some bumpy roads that are hardly called roads to our standards, we have the next Aikido-lesson. Even Praduman takes part in it. On the photographs you can tell how much joy and participation everybody had. Our host shares dinner with us and tells us about the help some Norwegian people (Basecamp Spitsbergen) initiate for the village. We had the idea to help the village economically but we did not know how much politics are hindering help from abroad. They will not accept foreign money for any projects in India. But you can help the helping themselves (which is better anyway) and the Norwegians are starting a project for the art of craftsmanship on the basis of FAIRTRADE. 75% of the earnings will go back to the people producing the goods. How necessary a project is we can only assume when Geraldine and I are shortly visiting the only private school in Chandelao next day.

India, April 17th.
Harmelessly on of the men at the fort asks Geraldine and me before the end of our stay at Chandelao, if we would be interested in visiting a school. The only teacher at this private school (the other one left weeks ago) seems to be a friend of the guy taking us. The teacher is welcoming us and asks us a lot of things in broken and terrible English. It comes to us that he asks for a working permission in Germany and that he also wants to leave his pupils behind. It is a bad feeling we get as he doesn´t seem to care too much for the children he is responsible for. We take care about the children showing us their work and reading the English they wrote. They are doing a great job and it can not be the work of the present teacher.
In India private schools are supposed to be much better than government ones. We would have liked to also take a look at a public school – it could not have been much worse anyway. But already we spent 20 minutes and get a last smile from the children for the camera. The idea of the Norwegians to help the village to help itself seems a very good one. It would be good for everybody, also for the pupils when the teachers got more money.

India, April 18th
We are back at Jodhpur and are being spoiled by Bhavna and Chandra. Today Eshter-Sensei and Geraldine can´t resist any longer and get a „Henna“. The hands are colored by a tiny and young lady coming to the residence. She paints free with a little colour-bag in her hand. It is wonderful to watch it. The brown dow is being applied thickly, later gets dipped with a mixture of lemmon and sugar and has to dry about two hours before both Eshter-Sensei and Geraldine wash it off and are left with a brown design on their hands. It looks beautiful and is traditionally applied on weddings to the hands and feet of the ladies. India is full of traditions and social rules. Colours are restricted for every age of a woman. For example being a widow you are not allowed to wear pink anymore or eat any meat. There are special colours for single or married women for every occasion. To wear the wrong colours would cause trouble and talking at least in Rajasthan. Good to know that society has it´s rules all over the world. I will be grateful to the Beatles all my life.

India, April 19th
I am not having a lot of fun today. I emptied out the night before. Maybe because I did not testify a drop of water that I drank or maybe the last bottle of beer did not suit me well? I do not know the reason. But nobody was as bad as I was and anyway: I suffer very badly being a guy. Bruno-Sensei was being brave but also needed pampers on our last day when we travelled back. The first photo of the day was done after the very good doctor, working at the university had stayed with me for about 45 minutes and gave me two infusions (bound to the Curtain rail with a string). I was better almost immediately, also because Bhavna and Chandra helped very well. I eat toast and drink an enormous amount of Pepsi. It took me only half a day to be back on my feet and behind the camera. Eshter-Sensei and Bruno-Sensei bought themselves a „trumpet“ with a lot of strings. The local cash dispencer was broken for this. The stupid machine had to be fed the code within a few seconds and that needed a strong and extroverted remembering the code (what were the numbers?). Anyway, it worked and we learned that our host Bhavna had been playing a cithar in her school days too. Bruno-Sensei is posing professionally with the instrument and what you can not recognize in the photograph is that the trumpet is not even tuned. Well it doesn´t seem to be all important with Indian music anyway…

India, April 20th
When we say goodbye to our hosts Bhavna and Chandra, we know we were being spoiled by them. Early in the morning of our last day, we take the train to Jaipur. The pink town received the colour that stand for hospitality in India. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state, India and has a population of about 2.5 Mio. People. We arrive and wait a few minutes on the station before we meet our man in Jaipur called Dushyant. He is a very friendly and educated person, telling us in the car, that four monuments are waiting for our today’s visit. We persuade him that it will only be the Palace of the Winds and the closeby City Palace. That will be enough after five hours of train ride and yesterdays infusions. Geraldine also has digestion problems while Bruno-Sensei is just developing the phenomenon. Eshter-Sensei is hit at home about two days after the journey. That is much better than the situation of Bruno-Sensei who hates public loos as much as I do.
Dushyant leads us to the „Palace of the Winds“, where sales people try hard to annoy us while we get out of the car, to cross the street using a lot of Aikido to survive the traffic. On the other side we get into some sales again, take a shot of the building and try the way back across the street again. In my situation the „Palace of the Winds“ reminds me to my back most of all and I am thinking that Jaipur is not the top of my dreams for India. We survived the way back to the car, to meet some faces we seem to know who try hard to sell things again. For a short period we suggest some other style to get rid of them because friendly denial seems to make it even worse.
The „City Palace“ is not very photogenic from the inside. Dushyant explains about the „beautiful wepons“ and talks about stiletos, german pistols and the alleged worldbest Indian swords. He tells us who are preferring the Japanese „Shin-ken“! I will never understand how weapons can be beautiful anyway.
The City Palace is huge but did not kick us. They are too many tourists running around half naked and being stupid. Maybe some are Germans? Most of all the Americans run around in hordes and we feel ashamed about all those who try deliberately not to respect the culture and show no etiquette.
Our next stop is a restaurant. We eat well and try to get rid of the loss we have the other end. Geraldine has lost about three kilos, not because she did not enjoy the food (quite the opposite) but maybe because of the different climate, the awareness and the digestion.
We are stopping at a park and all rest in the shadow of a tree to be inspected by enormous giant-ants. We meet our first fat Indian mouse digging her holes like crazy. Be carefull little mouse about those majestic birds using the thermals to rise into the sky!
Our driver and Dushyant are also enjoying a small rest but Dushyant is very helpful and explains a lot about indian culture. He explains that arranged marriage is a good institution since he and his wife are happy and they have a cute son. Dushyant wants to send him to a private school which costs about 2.000 Dollars per year in India. That is a sum not everybody can fullfill but we assume that our man who does ISO-Certificates beneath the tourist job, will be able to earn it. But what happens if you have more than one child you want to be well educated? And are private schools really good? We learn that love marriage is nearly never working in India. We are wondering how many marriages really work over here since the social proscription is enormous. Maybe people over here are not happier but are better in compromises?
In the evening we are riding to Delhi, arrive in the middle of the night to be picked up by our kind man in Delhi and to have about an hour ride in the small van with the big trumpet around our necks. At our stay we sleep for three hours before we are taking the 747 to London. On the flight from London to Düsseldorf, we are served silly little gin bottles producing little taste mixed with orange juice. We laugh and communicate so loud that the steward is asking us to calm down, as others can not properly watch the wonderful little video clips showing what to do in an emergency landing. I keep wondering how many people think about death when they watch it just to push the subject aside almost immediately afterwards. We continue to have fun and let others participate. Eshter-Sensei, I will not forget what you did to the Gin… it seems a wonder that you did not light one up at the plane.
What bothers us when we return are the Germans (we belong to that group on paper but our hearts beat with the Indians for a long time after returning back). It takes us about 10 to 14 days, to be back to normality and to get out of that small depressive hole. With all the financial problems of India, we were impressed about the extreme contrasts, feelings, smells, impressions, hospitality, humanity and the smiles of the people. We also met some human beings carrying a little more „Aura“.
Bernd Symons (Kerala Discovery) did some pleasant planning on our journey, which unfortunately was a little too touristic. We would have loved to see a little more spiritual monuments like a public school, a school for meditation or others. But it was a fine journey. We loved it. I would do it again, maybe see some other places in India which is huge. But Chandelao, the village, the people, our hosts was an impression and we would like to return to get busy somehow. India is worth a journey, some deeper thoughts about culture, religion, social aspects and values.

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