Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Trains, Planes, Automobiles and Camels and Elephants and Hijras

I've done a lot of traveling since my last post. I met up with some fellow Michigan RAs, Eun Mi, Nithya J and Allison in Bangalore and we took a 24 hour train ride (without A/C) to Mumbai. While on the train a very peppy, loud Gujurati couple (Ashwin) with their two children came on a little after midnight when everyone was asleep. They proceeded to be really loud, yelling and trying to break open walnuts on a metal windowsill.
After 24 hours on the train we reached Mumbai where Allison and Eun Mi stayed with another RA named Priyanka and Nithya and I stayed with NIthya's friend Puneet. Mumbai reminds me a lot of New York City with a strong financial district, expensive real estate and celebrity sightings. We saw this guy named Kailash Kher whom I had never heard of but is apparently slightly famous. See his video here. We also saw the Taj Hotel, the trainstation from Slumdog Millionaire and many museums and other attractions. We met up with my friend, Pranav, and went to several different night clubs and lounges. We went to this really cool place called the Blue Frog that the New York Times recommended. It was really fun and with a live band and reasonal cover charge.
One of the most interesting experiences was on the train into downtown (Puneet and Priyanka live in Juhu). We were sitting in the car of the train and a Hijra got on the train. As soon as I saw her I looked down because I knew that she would come to me to beg since I was the only white guy on the train. Sure enough, she came directly over to me despite Priyanka's pleadings in Hindi. Repeatedly touching my shoulders, head and thighs the Hijra demanded money. Frozen in shock I sat there for seconds that felt like hours, waitingfor the sense of relief that came when she moved on to the next person.
After Mumbai we flew to Delhi by way of Ahmedabad (Ashwin). In Delhi we stayed with my friend Shitij. We took a day trip to Agra where we saw the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. We also spent a day looking at the historical sights in Old Delhi. After Eun Mi and Allison went back to the United States, Shitij and I went to Jaipur in Rajistan (5 Hour Bus). He took me around to see some old forts and we went to visit his cousins jewelry store and house, both of which were really nice. At night they took me to a fancy restaraunt in a hotel owned by the Taj which was also fun.
I have a lot more to update and will do so soon hopefully. I am currently in Dharamsala (I'll update the rest when I have more time!) and am flying to Calcutta on the 7th. Hope all is well!

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