Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Glimpse of India

Last month I got to go with David on a work trip to India. I've been wanting to visit for ages, particularly since David was born there and I've heard stories about it for as long as we've been together. 

I'm going to try to avoid making this a travelogue - others have done that much better and more comprehensively than I ever could. I just want to give an overview of what we did, and highlight some of the things that caught my fancy while we were there.

We spent the first couple of days in Mumbai (Bombay) where David spoke to a meeting of Mumbai Metro church workers. 
Some of the church workers David spoke to in Mumbai
He was very pleased to be able to speak from the same pulpit his Dad would have preached in more than forty years ago.
David speaking at the Mumbai Central English Church
 We also had our first experience of Indian hospitality, with the first in a series of flower garlands and bouquets we were presented with during our visit.
The first, and my favourite, of the flower garlands we were presented with.
We were scheduled pretty tightly while we were there, but we did get an afternoon to do a little sightseeing before we left Mumbai.

First stop was the Breach Candy hospital, where David was born. It looks a little dilapidated from the outside but inside was very clean and modern - unfortunately they wouldn't let me take pictures inside.
Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai
We then drove by the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station (formerly Victoria Terminus), an amazing Victorian neo-Gothic extravaganza, but unfortunately we didn't stop so I couldn't get a picture.

We did get to get out and walk around the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Someday I want to spend a night at that hotel - it's gorgeous.
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - Mumbai
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel - close up
While we were admiring the architecture, a group of Muslim girls, and one young man, decided they needed a picture with me. There were a few other Westerners about so I'm not sure why I was the lucky one - maybe it was the sunglasses. David managed to catch the moment on his phone.
It was a bit of a whirlwind afternoon but I managed to capture a few images that caught my fancy.
Construction workers clambering around bamboo scaffolding - about four floors up.
A man selling some of the most gorgeous strawberries I've ever seen.
Ferries in the harbour by the Gate of India
A Hindu shrine, near where we had lunch
An example of India's somewhat idiosyncratic English
We left Bombay the next day and drove to Pune (previously Poona), about ninety miles south-east of Mumbai, where the church has offices and a college (Spicer).

Maharashtra, the state Mumbai and Pune are in, reminded me of Central California, with dry hills and scrubby trees, punctuated with the verdant green of irrigated agricultural land.
One of the things David wanted to do while we were in India was to visit some of the small churches, not just the bigger, institutional ones. We visited several church plants in the outskirts of Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad, where little groups of 20-30 members came out of an evening to hear David speak. They spoke little English, but smiled and greeted us with "namaste" or "salaam," and gifts of flowers presented by little girls in their best dresses. One group fed us dinner of homemade curries and iddly. The sightseeing was fabulous, but my favourite moments were these.

We also got to briefly visit the school in Pune, which has more than a thousand students. They were very well behaved when we were there, and despite the size of the school, the class sizes seemed to remain small. We popped our heads into a classroom of nine- or ten-year-olds, and there were about twenty children, with a teacher and one or two assistants.
Getting small boys to line up in order is apparently hard whereever you are.
We left Pune and drove to Aurangabad, 150 miles north-east. Our van got a flat about two hours into the trip, so we got out and waited on the side of a very busy, dry, dusty road for about half an hour. It was a warm day, in the 80s, and there was very little shade. There were trees along the side, but since it was still technically winter, there were few leaves. David caught a picture of me while we were waiting - the scarf was not intended to make me blend in, it was just to offer a little shade.
Me, not blending in at all.
We did visit a church in Aurangabad, but the real reason for going was to visit the the Daulatabad Fortress and the Ellora caves.

Ellora was amazing. It's a series of 34 "caves" carved right into the rock of a ridge north of Aurangabad, over several hundred years. The older caves are Buddhist, and are more cave-like; caverns carved back into the rock with columns and a few statues. They were dark and a bit of a relief from the heat and glare of the outside. 
The Buddhist caves at Ellora
Although Buddhism was all but extinguished in India long ago, this site is clearly still a draw for Buddhists from other parts of the world.

My favourite part of Ellora was the Hindu temple closer to the entrance. The craftsmanship was incredible.

We stopped by the fortress at Daulatabad, but it was getting late, we were tired, and we had a plane to catch, so we didn't climb all the way to the top, but we did wander around the bottom of the hill.
Daulatabad Fortress
 The tower used to be open, but too many lovers were jumping off.

There were monkeys.
Before we left Aurangabad, we also briefly visited Bibi Ka Maqbara, known as the Mini Taj Mahal. It was built by Azam Shah, son of Aurangazeb (after whom Aurangabad is named) on the same model as the Taj Mahal, his grandmother's mausoleum. It is a charming building, of white marble, with exquisite carvings of flowers and latticework.

Finally, I'd like to share a few random pictures of things I just found interesting or charming.

Indian babies are the most adorable things in the world. I asked this mother if I could take a picture and she graciously agreed. 
 When I had done the little girl indicated that I needed to take another one, so I did.
Indian lorries (trucks) are movable works of art.

 And they want you to honk your horn at them - almost every truck had "Horn OK Please" emblazoned on the back. Many of them seem to lack wing mirrors so I think it's to let them know that something is coming up behind them.
Cows. So many cows. David managed to get a picture for me on our last day. 
Saris - so many beautiful saris. It was interesting - most of the men I saw wore Western dress, but most of the women were in traditional dress - either saris or some form of a salwar kameez.
A woman with an angle grinder on the side of the road on the way out of Mumbai - sharpening knives
Women, in saris, on scooters - everywhere

We packed so much into our week in India, and yet saw so little of the country. It turns out it was just an appetizer, to whet our appetite for more. David has been invited back next year, so hopefully we can extend our visit and see some of the south and north as well.


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