On February 17, I departed for a 2 week visit to India to meet my son, Todd, who is there for several months traveling. What a different culture it is. And what a wonderful experience.
I want to thank the Pattabiramans, Kulkarnis, Callens, Sonia Clark, Uri Glattstein, Lee Benovitz, Mary Batt and Jason Fluckey for helping Todd and me plan our trip. It was quite an adventure.
I met Todd in New Delhi. We toured the gardens, forts and tombs for a couple of days before flying to the sacred city of Varanasi on the Ganges River. The sunset and sunrise ceremonies were very moving and colorful. Our schedule had to be adjusted somewhat as the Indian Prime Minister Modi was visiting the same day. It is very commonplace to see cows everywhere in India, roaming wherever they please. In Varanasi, goats, dogs & cats also roamed freely. In other towns it might be hogs or camels. It was not uncommon in some parts of town to see groups of monkeys as well. It was like living in a petting zoo. Watch where you step!
Upon leaving Varanasi, we stopped in Sarnath, an ancient city where in the 6th century B.C.E. Buddha gave his 1st sermon following his enlightenment.
We visited Khajuraho, another ancient city and to exquisite temples from the 10th and 11th centuries. Our next stop was Agra, of the Taj Mahal. Despite all the photos we’ve seen of this tomb, it still took our breaths away.
We visited the cities of Jaipur and Udaipur—centers of government in the middle ages and afterwards. The palaces, forts and tombs were glamorous with incredible histories of battles and lavished with art. Paintings, statues and intricately carved reliefs were plentiful. We also visited a wildlife reserve, Rhanthambor and on safari saw Bengal tigers, crocodiles and other wildlife roaming the reserve.
The traffic in India is a real attack on the senses. The roads are frequently narrow, especially in the older sections of the town. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, motorized rick-shaws (Tuk-Tuks) and cars are all vying for the same spaces. No stop signs or signal lights are evident in most areas and everyone is honking to let you know they are there! No one stops, everyone is getting cut off and no one gets angry. Vehicles just slow down as other vehicles turn on and off of streets or pass other vehicles or swerve to avoid cows or pedestrians. It’s an amazing chaos that somehow works.
The people we met were extremely friendly and apparently it is a kick for them to have their pictures taken with white people, as we were asked on numerous occasions to pose with locals. My son, Todd is writing a book and is spending several months in India—it was such a treat traveling with him. He’s become very “street savvy.” The poverty was visible and heart wrenching, but most people we met were very optimistic and upbeat. And very aggressive when trying to sell goods to the tourists. The national hero is Gandhi, and his face adorns all paper money there. India is an amazing country with an amazing culture, a phenomenal history and wonderful people. It is an experience I will always cherish.
-Dr. Mark Perelmuter