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Award Winning Yoga

Monday, October 9th, 2017

At the end of class today Prashant announced that we would not meet for class next Tuesday because he will be in Delhi to accept the award for outstanding contribution to the promotion of yoga. The room spontaneously erupted in applause.

Here’s the link to the Times of India story:

Delhi to Pune

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

The flight form Delhi to Pune was easy. I’m impressed by the airline Indigo. The plane was newer and felt solid on takeoff and landing. Plus the marketing department has a sense of humor. The flight was full and I think we were the only non-Indians on the airplane.

The taxi took us to our flat and since we are a day early we met two guys staying here studying at the Institute for the month of September. One is a local and the other from Brazil. After a few hours there was a knock on the door and we met our third roommate, a woman from the U.K., Lally, pronounced like Sally.

Lorene and I walked around the neighborhood, stopping across the street to take a photo in front of the Institute. We found the grocery and restaurant the Brazilian recommended, had something to eat and picked up a few items at the grocery store.

The flat is 1,300 square feet with three bedrooms and a large living room with enough space to practice. Other yogis who have stayed here have left yoga stuff, three mats, a pile of blankets, one strap, three blocks. So, it will be easy to have a personal practice, which I did in the afternoon. There is no a/c and other creature comforts are non existent. The heat and hard surfaces will be challenging.

Humayum’s Tomb

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Humayum was the last mohgul leader and his wife built this tomb in red sandstone and marble. It has the same architectural elements of the Taj Mahal and other tombs. I think there are about 100 people buried here.

This is our day on the tour and, as it goes, I get pretty saturated. The history is long and the names are unfamiliar and it gets hard to keep track of all the details. And then there’s the heat, which by 2 or 3 in the afternoon is quite hot. The humidity seems to be a little less or maybe I am acclimating?

Our last few stops weren’t stops but drive bys. We saw India Gate, a war memorial dedicated to all those in wars from 1914-1921, the Presidential home and the house of parliament along with a couple of other governmental buildings.

Delhi is huge. In New Delhi the streets are wide and it has a modern feel. Old Delhi has narrow streets and a more old world feel. Both have masses of people, honking traffic, homelessness, beggars and hawkers.

Gate 1 Travel trips always end with a farewell dinner. The buffet in this hotel was exceptionally tasty with lots of choices and some variety. The desserts were also quite delicious. We said our last goodbyes to our tour manager and fellow travelers, all departing throughout the night for flights back to their homes.

Jama Majid – Friday Mosque

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Our Delhi siteseeing started with a trip to a mosque. A part of Delhi has a high percentage of Muslims and the mosque can accommodate 25,000 people at a time. There are a number of sets (35 or so) up to the entrance where all of the women in a our group had to don robes. Any men wearing shorts are also required to wrap robes around their bottom halves.

Photos inside are allowed only if you pay a $5 fee to do so (which I did not do). It is not ornate, has a feel and architecture of mosques I saw in Morocco.

The Indian Head Shake

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

In every culture there are all sorts of non-verbal communications that happen. In Indian culture one non-verbal communication technique is the head shake. It is done by just slightly moving one side of your head towards your shoulder. It is a form of agreement.

Catching the train

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The second part of our journey to Agra was by train. Upon hearing that the train was delayed, Mansi our tour manager, arranged for some drinks and a place to land for a few minutes instead of going directly to the station, which she described as loud, crowded and with not clean bathrooms.

There is a ban on the sale of alcohol in some of the hotels. Sometimes the explanation is that they are close to the road and other times it is a permit issue. Like so many things here, the explanation is fluid. So the driver stopped and bought beer for those who wanted and we stopped at a hotel that Mansi knows to get something to eat and wait for the delayed train. She arranged for some snacks and we sat in the restaurant to eat. And before we were finished, it was “Hurry up. Time to go”.

I have to say Mansi is good natured and even tempered and cool in all sorts of situations. But standing at the end of the table, we could see she was stressed about catching the train. I am not really sure how the checked luggage got on the train. At some point the bus went to the station and the bags were unloaded, ready to be put on the train. We hopped in the bus and just before arriving to the station Mansi advised us to put all phones and cameras away and to stay together. Time was tight and we needed to be focused on getting to the train.

The station was extremely crowded. A Gate 1 Travel helper (they seem to be in every city stealthily helping us on our journey) led the way through the crowd. I don’t know how far we were strung out. I was close to the front, maybe second or third behind him. His hand was in the air so we could see him. The person in front of me put her hand up, I put mine up, and others in our group followed so we could stick together. We had to go up a set of stairs and over the track, down on the other side to the platform. The train was there, passengers has already gotten off and on. We were running. When we came to the right car, our helper stopped and helped us in the train car. Mansi had given us our seat numbers and after finding our seats, there were four of our party not there, including Mansi. In just a few moments, they came through the other end of the train car. Time was so tight they got on the train and walked through the cars instead of taking a chance on the platform.

It was exciting and exhilarating and we all laughed and celebrated together. This is a good group of eleven travelers. Because we are a small group we are getting some extra things; drinks, snacks, more sites, better services.

Vendors at every stop

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

At every tourist stop there are street vendors selling everything from playing cards and purses, to bells and statues of Ghandi. They are relentless and do not take no for an answer. Mansi our tour manager has encouraged us to refuse their insistence until she can negotiate for us. Once back in the bus she will ask us what we want to buy and pass the money to the bus driver who will exchange it for the item.

Thursday, September 21 – Varanasi

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

We met our tour manager, Mansi, in the lobby of the hotel. She is in her late 20’s and unmarried, which is unusual for an Indian woman of her age. She is engaged to be married to a man she has met for 22 minutes. But we learned this much later in the day. I digress. More later as she tells us more of her story.

After breakfast (loved every bite!) we boarded a coach and headed to the airport where we caught a flight to Varinasi. Here’s what the guidebook says about Varanasi.

“Brace yourself. You’re about to enter one of the most blindingly colorful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth. Varanasi takes no prisoners”.

The difference from inside the airport (or hotel room, for that matter) is striking. The squalor, the traffic, the bikes, dogs, people and cattle in the streets is indeed chaos. Mansi said that there are two million people who live in Varanasi and one million of them are out on the street at a time. I came to India expecting a lot of traffic but for some reason I didn’t expect many cattle roaming free. I expected that would be a thing of the past. That there would be a few. I can tell you for certain that is still a thing of the present. They stand on the edge of the street or lounge in the middle of the road and the people on foot, bike, rickshaws, cars, and buses all accommodate them. And there are a lot of them.

The drivers use their horns as a means of communication, to both say “make way for me” and “just letting you know I am here” to people, bikers, drivers. The shops are tiny, closet sized places of all sorts. Peeking in as we drove by today I saw at least four separate businesses with those old, boat anchor heavy, black sewing machines. There were tiny stores, clothing shops and many, many, many fruit vendors with carts along the edge of the street. The sidewalks are nearly non-existent, and where there is one, it is full of bikes, or carts, or motorcycles. People walk in the streets next to the cars and busses and bikes and rickshaws all in an un-choreographed chaotic movement that somehow works. There are no lines painted on the streets and the idea of “lanes” is a completely foreign one.

We drove through the chaos to Sarnath, a sacred city where Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. There is an archeology museum there with many statues of Buddha (the slim, strong Buddha, not the happy big belly Buddha), and a few other artifacts. Then we walked the grounds of the ruins. This is one of the sacred places for Buddhists. According to Mansi, the four sacred Buddhist places in the world are where Buddha was born, where he found enlightenment, where he gave his first sermon after enlightenment and where he died.

Shortly after we arrived to the hotel we had dinner in the restaurant with all of the people on the tour. There are just eleven travelers which is great. It allows us to move a little bit faster and smoother, have a little bit more personal space on the bus, and gives us the chance to meet and get to know one another. There are two people from Mexico, three from Miami, one from Australia, one from New York and another from Colorado. At least four or five of us have been on tours with Gate 1 Travel previous to this trip.

Up tomorrow before dawn to catch the sunrise on the Ganges!

Forty-two pounds, 7,700 miles and almost 14 hours

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

After lots of preparation I got my suitcase packed with about half clothes and half “stuff” (lots of health stuff -anti malaria, anti diarrhea, antibiotics, soap, shampoo and a decent size jar of peanut butter to name a few) and it was under the 50 pound weight limit United has and under the 44 pound weight limit the Indian airlines have.

Although my flight was late leaving there was still time to make my connection in Newark. The Newark airport is not the Newark airport I remember from the 1980’s. Today it is glitzy and modern and has a metropolitan feel to it. I met Lorene, fellow yoga teacher and travel companion, at the gate, first part of the trip complete.

Looking at the flight time between Newark and New Delhi I had a hard time wrapping my brain around almost fourteen hours in an airplane. I watched a movie, ate the dinner and then swallowed two Advil PM caplet. Donning my neck brace scarf, eye mask, ear plugs and United provided blanket, I got about six fitful hours of sleep.

The Delhi Airport is modern and ornate. Immigration was smooth, baggage claim took some time, and on our way out we exchanged some American dollars for rupees. Our Gate 1 Travel representative was waiting for us and escorted us to a taxi. Upon arrival the pilot announced it was 86 degrees and the heat and humidity hit us as we exited the building at the stroke of midnight.

The Holiday In is also very modern and fancy. It feels like a combo of an American hotel and a European hotel. Sleek, clean, wood floors, glass top desk, mini frig and complimentary bottled water.

Tomorrow we fly to Varinasi, city on the Ganges.

Preparing to travel

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Goofing around in Washington DC

Three years since my last blog post!? Facebook, email and other ways of communicating have taken the place of my blog. I am preparing (mostly mentally at this point) to go to India in the fall and am considering resurrecting the blog. This is a test to see if I can manage to post from my iPad.