Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kathy R. Neal - Letter From India
September 17, 2007

Today I'm wiped out after the weekend in Araungabad. I knew but had forgotten what an assault on the senses India is.

Araungabad is the starting point for visits to the cave temples at Ajanta and Ellora. The caves temples range from 200 BC to about 700 AD and are Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. They are a series of monasteries and worship halls, some very simple; others incredibly elaborate. At Ajanta they overlook a the horseshoe curve of a river and have more paintings. They are much more sculptural and intricate at Ellora. After they were abandoned they were overtaken by the jungle and lost. They were "discovered" in the mid-1800's. I kept
thinking that people had been pissing in them for thousands of years until I realized that what I was smelling was bat guano. These temple caves were on the short list of the new seven wonders of the world. They were beat by Petra in Jordan but it would be a close call for me. The most magnificent was carved from top to bottom. A photo is attached.

We were stopped by Indian families on holiday who smiled, asked where we are from, took photos of us, and offered us food. You'll see a photo of me with a sweet family who was having a picnic. We made the
mistake of asking a couple of LOSER guys who were obviously American where they were from then spent the better part of both days avoiding these guys. We should have known better from the "Bass Pro Shops" t-
shirts one of the guys was wearing BOTH days that he was goofy. When you're one of a handful of foreigners in a place like this it somehow seems impolite not to acknowledge each other.

Shelly and I thought we were pretty intrepid by crossing from one temple to some others underneath the waterfall with a sheer drop off on one side. I figured this was where I would tumble down the cliff. I have been pretty sensitive to falls down sides of mountains ever since I fell halfway down the mountain at St. Catherine's in the Sinai (I was smote by God/Allah/Buddha for some bad deed, I'm sure). Knowing there would be no medical help or assistance, Shelly was ready to photograph the end. She said she wanted proof for Rob that she hadn't pushed me; I figured he would probably pay her a reward if
she had.

Abby -- I attached the photo of the woman who charcoaled some corn for us. It was wonderful and made me think of the roasted corn we've eaten at different places and how much you would have loved it. Notice the little boy in the background digging in his butt. I had forgotten how often men here are either digging in the back or are scratching something (frankly, I don't know what male part could itch that much) in the front.

At the large temple, they were shooting a Bollywood movie. We got a kick out of watching the actors sitting around with scripts rehearsing their lines. They acted as if they were very important. When we first approached the temple and were paying for our tickets, there was a stuffed life-sized dummy dressed in clothes propped up against one of the walls. It just looked like a large doll. As it turned out, they used it as a stand-in for an actor to get the lighting right.

Married women from this area wear necklaces made out of black stones (I assume onyx) and gold. You can see them in the photo of me with the family having a picnic. Some of them wear more than one. We
were riding a bus back from the Ellora caves packed full of Indians and Shelly asked a woman if her two necklaces meant she had two husbands. Oh my God, you would have thought that was the funniest thing in the world. She laughed and covered her mouth, "Two husbands? Oh no - only one." Then her husband started laughing and they quickly passed the funny joke down the line. As we were getting off the bus, I could hear people repeating, "Two husbands? She think she have two husbands?"

At Araungabad, there is a "poor man's Taj Mahal". It truly is a small copy of the Taj built by a son of Araungazeb for his mother in the 1600's. Unfortunately, it is in pretty sad shape but there is restoration work going on and it must have been glorious. They were draining the reflecting pond and it was filled with stinky algae but little boys were splashing around trying to catch fish and one was pleased to show us the snake he found.

The airport at Araungabad was crawling with police and military when were were leaving. We were searched, then re-searched 10 feet away, and re-searched again. It turned out that this was all pomp and
circumstance for some arriving government official. He was surrounded by military officers carrying long wooden sticks with silver handles. I assume this was for beating the crowds back. He was smiling and nodding to the crowd. We were supposed to be impressed, I think.

Anyway, we are back in Mumbai after an amazing weekend trip. We ordered Chinese delivery last night, and, for my friends in Buenos Aires, it was Chinese with spices -- not just that bland subgum stuff that Portenos eat. Shelly has gone to the office. I slept in a little and her driver is coming to pick me up in a bit to take me into South Mumbai where he office is. And, yes, despite having made fun of Shelly's kittens, they seem to love me. One is in my lap as I type this.

Love to all --


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