Saturday, August 26, 2006

India Day One

It's 1 am after our first full day in India. We had a fantastic breakfast buffet at the hotel, followed by a trip to a beautiful, modern government cultural center, lunch at one of the finest Indian restaurants in town. From there, we went sightseeing around town, driving through diverse areas, from the governemnt center (with the imposing colonial-era architecture), to the desperate poverty we've heard about - numerous people, seeing our caucasion faces, have come knocking on our car windows, or followed us arouind marketplaces - children, women with babies in their arms. A filthy little boy banged a drum and his sister did cartwheels outside our car as were stuck in traffic, then came knocking. It's very awkward, of course - we really don't know how to react other then to ignore them - the Indian people must practice a real mental disconnect from the world around them.

The sights we see as we drive around really enforce the description we've heard that India is a nation of contrast. We've seen gleaming new corporate skyscrapers contrasted with numerous bulls and goats and such roaming free on the steets, pedal and the occasion horse-drawn pedicabs sharing the road with all kinds of vehicles in a constantly mad, chaotic race.

Our final sightseeing stop was at an ancient Islamic shrine (I don't recall the name at the moment), which lies in ruins, except for a huge tower (I've seen pictures of this before). The ruins were spectacular - the mosque had to have been huge. The ruins have all the scale and majesty of Roman ruins - there's so much of the world that we, as Westerners, are ignorant.

From the ruins we went to visit "Spice World," an entertainment and shopping center that opened in the last few years (and may be opening a branch in Los Angeles soon). The multiplex there includes a 35 seat theatre that features fully operational reclining chairs, and food service direct to your chair. Finally, we had dinner at a brand new restaurant that's opening soon in that complex. We had a special preview, and all seven of us were attended to by the entire staff. The food never stopped coming. The English, incidentally, is a bit difficult to understand - most of us pick up only about 50-70% of what even our hosts are saying. We're doing a lot of nodding knowingly - though we're sometimes clueless!

Now, we're back "home." We're going to take it easy tomorrow morning, and then continue our adventure in the afternoon.

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