We woke up this morning in the 3rd largest city on earth, after Tokyo and Sao Paulo. 35 Million people. Can’t beat the sunrise view from our hotel room, looking out over the Arabian Sea toward all those troublesome places, the places who got India rich and enriched themselves trading in everything from pepper to cardamom.
The part we’re in is decidedly European. We saw some of the famous slums coming in, but got no pictures. From world-class hotels (Pictured, the Taj Mahal, one of the two the terrorists famously took over a few years back.) to a monster 19th Century train station (Victoria, what else?) to chic shops there’s no 3rd world feel even though huge square miles of utter squalor lie minutes away. The food is much more like that you’ll find in our stateside Indian restaurants than the southern variety, which is so much more subtle and vegetarian and, frankly, unfamiliar. You see us here under the big clock at that train station, where the Bollywood finale of Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. We didn’t dance. Once again, we were accosted by photo hounds, this one a group promoting some travel company. Spontaneous fun. Been like that.
Tomorrow, we leave. I’ve begun to think of this trip as a bit of a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are a way of life here, after all, as they are in many other parts of the world. If you see a group of women in red sari’s you know they’re off to pay homage to some goddess or another. (Obvious reason for the color.) A group of men in black tells you you’re looking at devotees of Ayapa (Have a picture of myself with these nice guys, but can’t find it.)
As for us, we’ve gone from Chennai to Mumbai, which is east coast to west coast, from sea to shining sea–Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. And by starting in Dehli, we went from north to far south. While We traced our way along the southern map, all the way to tip of the country, we got a chance to wave at the Indian Ocean. A pilgrimage should have a homage at its end. We learned a lot, owing to our loquacious and learned guides, Carol and Martin Noval, whom we totally and completely recommend. And we thank India itself for insights into ourselves and our lives that will enlighten us in ways we will understand only when the journey is done.
I’ve been quite positive about India all the way along, and I meant every word, but it would be wrong to think this is an untroubled land. The country has about one third the land mass of the lower-forty-eight, and four times the population of the entire USA. How are 1.3 billion people going to fit here and prosper here in the worlds biggest democracy? Beats me, but there’s plenty of evidence they’re way short of keeping pace with the need and population growth. Infrastructure, housing, water (lots of places have running water only a couple of times a week if at all.) and energy are enormous problems.
Still, they’ve got the oldest and one of the richest cultures on earth, and they are spiritually devoted to their country and its soul. Plus, they’ve got the bomb.
We’re old, so we may not be back, but we feel enormously fortunate we came. Despite all the long-winded spiels and number of pictures, I didn’t tell or show the half of what we experienced and learned. Now, it’s time to pack. Signing off.