General Murgh

Well here one is in India. We are into our second week now and have done a speed tour of Rajasthan (Filthystan) and are now heading South towards the Jungle. Everything has been a little hectic to say the least over the last few months but we managed to escape from Los Angeles having sold all our stuff and shipped the rest. After a quick dash to Manchester to find a flat that wasn’t above a launderette and covered in light layer of filth (vomitarium) we randomly flew into Dehli with no particular plan whatsoever. A quick visit to the Government travel advisor suggested that the most sensible plan would be to go ‘super posh’ and hire a car-and-driver. This we did and we have now be luxuriating in a range hotels from the spectacular, clean and totaly empty (except us) Havelli - to some slightly less exotic ageing hotels. Still - when you look out the window and see a large expanse of filth-infested trash coverered in an extra layer of filth with a dead dog on the top you can’t really complain too much.

India is certainly a land of extremes - from the rancidity of the open sewers often spring fantastic palaces and forts clearly once (or still) decorated in sumptuous marble and gems. Ridiculously ornate stonework has been everywhere so far and yet as soon as you exit the gate you are met by hordes of touts, ‘guides’, beggers, and people selling random crap. Anywhere where ‘supertourists’ (rich, old, Western, people) have been you will be asked for money or just about anything – photos of them, empty bottles of water, spare shampoo (rub hair), pens (writing motion on hand), money (rubbing of fingers and thumb), money for watching shoes, money for going to the toilet, money for carrying bags, money for not carrying bags, money for entering the museum, money for bringing a camera into a museum, money for crossing a border, etc… etc… etc… Neyhi Dandayvaad (phoenetic spelling of No thank you in Hindi).

It seems there are two ways to deal with this – one is to get very annoyed, the other is to just pay the money and forgetaboutit. The touts are best ignored - pretend not to speak English and never answer the question “What country?” as this will inevitably expose you as a weakling amoung the tourist horde and single you out for further sale of goods or extortion of ‘guiding / insert as appropriate’ fees.

Once inside the fort / palace / taj / museum however, things generally improve. We have seen some great stuff and there are certainly moments of grandieur and memory around every corner. Even a quiet corner of a seemingly uninteresting ruined fort can suddenly yield a spectacular pair of bright blue King Fishers just hanging out ready for snapping. Everything is so totally different that you can’t help be surprised / interested / curious about it all. That said - peering out of the air conditioned Ambassador Car one often wonders if one is a travelling zoo and the outside world is normality. All the cleanliness and exactitude of Los Angeles seems very distant and somewhat ridiculous. Why wait for the traffic light? Why go down the left side of the road? Why stay between the white lines on the road when you can get 6 rickshaws side by side in the same space? Why not just piss on the side of the road? Why not just drop all your trash on the floor? After all - if you don’t then you can be pretty sure that one of the other 200 people in your immediate field of view will.

Yesterday was the Taj Mahal. We are told by our driver it is actually pronounced like Mehell. Of course everyone says how great it is. Of course it is the only thing you can probably mention about India – and so far it has certainly been the highlight. We were superjammy however – got the driver to drop us at 6am at the closest traffic point – dashed to the gate and were inside 30 minutes before dawn. A misty fog layered the lawns and the Taj lumed surprisingly large at the end with only a few charasmatic clouds behind. When the sun did rise it was clear that we were charmed — a solar eclipse just as teh sun rose! For once this really did deserve the phrase ‘Dude. Totally Awesome.’ Sunset were equally lucky and headed to the other bank of the river for the rear view. Although mentioned in the LP - we and two others were the only ones there to grab slightly too many shots of the perfect symmetrical reflections in the river.

Time is up in the Internet cafe in Gwelior and the celing fan looks like is about to shake itself off the roof and decapitate Catherine anyway.

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