He was in his accustomed place every morning: sitting on a stool just inside the kitchen door, cutting up onions or boiled potatoes and dropping them into a huge steel bowl.
Though we usually arrived early at Kirpal Singh’s, it was already hot in this pre-monsoon season, the air in the restaurant thick and close with humidity. As soon as we entered, sweat would begin to bead up on my face. The kitchen must have been even hotter.
Most cities we’ve visited in India have street art. Sometimes it’s informal – people just grab some space and paint it – while other times it’s clear that an artist, or group of artists, has been hired to beautify a wall.
The wall paintings are not just decorative – they have a practical function, too. Continue reading →
We first discovered the pull of the Narmada during our two weeks in Maheshwar last December. It was during our time there that we first met parikramavasis: the devotees of the holy river who make a 2,600-kilometer pilgrimage to circle her entire length. Some start at the river’s mouth on the Indian Ocean, walk along her northern bank, circle her source at Amarkantak and return to the mouth. Others start at Amarkantak and complete their journey there. Wherever they start, all the parikramavasis perform their journey in a clockwise direction, keeping the Narmada on their right.
They’re building a Jain temple on the higher land above the little town of Amarkantak. Saying “a temple” is really a little misleading – it’s a huge, impressive structure, with an even taller tower close by. And these buildings are just part of a larger planned complex.
It was time for Alan’s quarterly haircut. We’ve both had very good haircuts since we first started traveling almost 18 months ago, so we expected to find competent barber. What we didn’t expect was that we’d provide an evening’s entertainment for 10 of the barber’s closest friends.
The goddess Kali is everywhere in Puri, portrayed in some of the fiercest, wildest, most bloodthirsty forms I have seen in our travels around India. A string of human skulls around the neck is nothing – Odishan Kalis have blood dripping from their mouths, they plunge lances into the chests of the humans below their feet, their eyes are crazed with lust for yet more blood.
Kali is the goddess of the graveyard. She rules the burning ground, the ultimate place of transformation where the body of this earthly life is promptly dispatched, the soul freed for the next stage of its journey.
Today in Puri I saw, right up close – and for the first time in all my travels through India – the details of a body being burned.
Queen, warrior, social reformer and saint: I had never heard of Ahilyabai Holkar until we saw a statue of her in a park in Indore. I looked her up on Wikipedia then and there.
Glancing up from my phone to tell Alan what I’d learned, I saw a man standing before the statue of Ahilyabai, his hands folded in prayer. I watched as he prostrated, then sat in meditation at her feet. That’s when I understood Ahilyabai is much more than a historical figure, or even a heroine: She is a goddess.
I didn’t expect much from Indore. The city doesn’t seem to get a lot of love from the Rough Guide authors, nor from reviewers on TripAdvisor. So I just thought of Indore as a large Indian city marred by traffic, noise and pollution.
Yes, Indore is large, and yes, there’s plenty of traffic, along with the attendant horn honking and bad air. But the streets of inner Indore are highly rewarding for anyone who loves to walk and look, a fascinating mix of colorful clothing and jewelry shops, small vegetable markets, temples and mosques, and traditional buildings in varying states of decay.
Every long-term India traveler hits the wall eventually: the expiration date on your current visa. Some travelers simply choose to travel in other countries. Neighboring Sri Lanka and Nepal are interesting places in themselves, and of course Southeast Asia is another popular region. But for people who want to stay in India continuously to work on yoga, study meditation, volunteer or simply hang out in a place that’s meaningful to them – the visa run is a natural solution.
It’s been years since we had a pet of our own. But since we’ve been traveling, we’ve had a surprising amount of affectionate interaction with animals. I spent a fair amount of time holding puppies at an animal shelter last year, and since then, we’ve had quite a few random encounters with animals of one kind or another.