Monday, February 11, 2013

January 2, Dubai to Delhi 

Flew over some of the most rugged terrain I’ve ever seen.  Southern Iran and Western Pakistan.  Brown, grey ridges of what must be huge mountain ranges separated by dry valleys with not a sign of vegetation or settlement.  How dare anyone try to  live there … it can’t be easy for humans.  The people who live there must know there is more and better land to be cared for; some land somewhere that will care for them.

January 3, Delhi

Easy pick up at the airport at 7pm local time, and a short drive to the hotel, which was part of the Sakyadhita Conference Tour package.  Jet lag or excitement, I’m very tired, but I don’t fall asleep until midnight …then, slept until 6 am.  I'm at the Ashok Country Resort.  It seems to be out in the country, though it’s only 15 minute drive from the airport … no sidewalks, plenty of open land, large, old buildings nearby that look like colonial houses.  Ashok is also an old estate with several buildings and gardens (though it’s too cold to take advantage of them today).  I find out that these estates are now mostly horse ranches. 

As I’m alone in my more than adequate room for two, I take a good, long, hot shower.

In the breakfast room I start to look at the buffet when an employee comes to me and says ‘Please sit down.’  in no uncertain terms.  Once I am seated, he comes and invites me to serve myself at the buffet.  Lovely fruit, sausage, 2 kinds of beans, a rice porridge w/ peas & sesame seeds.  I stop at the coffee pot and cups, but again am told to sit down and will be served.

Note to self:  remember to let Indians keep face and keep their jobs by following procedures.  They are so polite it isn’t hard.

January 4

Women from USA, Australia, England, France, Germany, Sweden, Taiwan have converged at the Ashok.  The excitement of meeting people of like gender and spiritual interest is wonderful.

I connect with a woman near my age from Melbourne, JM, and we head out to the National Museum of Delhi.  As she has an errand to do first about fixing her phone, so our trip becomes an adventure of finding and then fixing.  The hotel's driver (after much discussion with the concierge) takes us to Connaught Place and dropped us near a Nokia store.  There we meet a young man outside the store who very kindly helps J understand that she has to wait until 7 pm that night before the phone will work.  We chat for quite a while with this pleasant person, and when J asks how and why he would stop to help strangers, he simply answers “Karma is good”. 

First impressions:  Delhi looks like it’s been under construction forever and still is in disrepair.  Connaught Place is a series of rings that are connected by streets radiating from the center. I had no desire to go to the center, as all looked chaotic, dusty and pointless.  Colonnades overhang shops of all sorts in no particular organization.  Phone shops, tailors, travel shops, etc all have equally unattractive storefronts.  Even our driver did not know how to find the phone shop, except that international Nokia has a large, blue sign.  So far, Delhi seems as chaotic and dirty as Dubai was orderly and clean. 

We continue on with our driver into a nicer part of town.  Diplomatic and government offices show off spacious green lawns and well-kept, clean streets and buildings.  We spend two hours in the wonderful National Museum and are able to see artifacts from Harappa (5000 years ago) to the Gupta reign (300 years ago).  Well arranged and well lit, there is another floor to the museum that we do not get to because of  our hunger for food over culture. We take a tuk-tuk (aka auto rickshaw, a motorized golf cart that are ubiquitous, used as taxis in Delhi and other Asian countries) to the Pandara shopping center, a small, horseshoe shaped strip mall full of restaurants.  Our driver steers us to the Pinda restaurant which is full of Indians; it's pleasant and quite good.  Expensive though, and as tourists we spend $10 each for lunch.

 
We take off after lunch on our own, and walk to Kahn Market, a labyrinth of stores, some upscale, some local and full of variety.  J bought a little plastic box that she needed, and we both find our first pashmina scarves … me a purple one (I think I spent $30 which was too much, but it’s quite lovely) and J less for one of wool print.   I learn that the more expensive pashminas (from the wool of Kashmir goats) are made of under-the-chin wool, while the less expensive come from wool on the back of the neck.  Looking forward to buying more shawls!!

January 3, Delhi to Patna

We leave Delhi hotel at 9 am in 4 buses, lots of misinformation and confusion, but no chaos (that’s Buddhists for you.  Trained in equanimity, we remain calm).  Some (the Swedish women come to mind), look perturbed, but they just stand aside, waiting.
Bags packed, people seated, we finally set out for the airport, where we will fly to Patna.  Eventually things became clear as we finally received boarding passes and check-in at the airport went smoothly.

A nice young man sitting next to me on the plane told me his name was Afroz, which means ‘success’.  He wants to know what my name means and I tell him that 'laurel' means reward or honor.  So I guess my name means 'little reward or honor.'  He is the 7th and youngest son and is majoring in business.  He will go into his father’s business, he says, after school.  He taught me 'thannaada' for ‘thank you’.

We land in Patna where the weather was blissfully warmer than Delhi and wait at the bus for instructions.  First, however, lunch at the airport held us up… we wait, and wait and finally take off at rush hour in Patna, a busy transport town, and on to Vaishali, the site of the 7 day conference. 

 
Evening poverty along the way, staring at the bus, eyes perhaps as stunned by me as I am by them.  Roads in poor condition, the bus wove from side to side.  There are sometimes fires along the side of the road and I see people huddled around, keeping warm. electricity is limited.
 


 
We arrive at Vaishali at around 7:30 (3 hours) to the hotel staff at the Residency lined up outside to greet us at the door with soda and smiles …Check in somehow moved to successful resolution.  I have a clean, bright room with comfortable bed and lots of hot water at the shower.  I’m rooming with two women from California … one a high maintenance, but very sweet woman from San Diego, the other a Zen priest from SF Zen Center who knows Mary Mocine.  This could be fun.

A good night’s sleep.  Dream I’m in a foreign land. In the dream there is a small local girl who comes to me in pain because her earring has infected her ear lobe.  She asks me to remove the earing, but when I look, I see it’s serrated and will be very painful to remove.  There is a group of entertainers in the dream who for some reason I think can help.  I ask a man who seems like a doctor and he, while sympathetic, says it can and must be removed in spite of the pain.  The child understands and wants me to try but I am hesitant.  I go in search of someone who can give me topical Novocain at least to dull the pain a bit. (I wake with the word Faluja--a site in Iran which saw fierce fighting in the US war there).

Note:  I’m at a conference with 500 hundred Buddhists.  The pain/suffering of life is the first noble truth.

2 comments:

indu said...

We take off after lunch on our own, and walk to Kahn Market, a labyrinth of stores, some upscale, some local and full of variety. J bought a little plastic box that she needed, and we both find our first pashmina scarves … me a purple one (I think I spent $30 which was too much, but it’s quite lovely) and J less for one of wool print. I learn that the more expensive pashminas (from the wool of Kashmir goats) are made of under-the-chin wool, while the less expensive come from wool on the back of the neck. Looking forward to buying more shawls!!
....on a lighter note..it is Khan Market....and it is ..
shahtoosh (plural shahtoosh or shahtooshes)
(countable) A light but warm Kashmiri shawl made with hair from the chiru, or Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii), an endangered species.....not pashmina...

your Blog makes for good reading Laurie..

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