Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spice Girl Caravan To Humayun Tomb

Humayun Tomb in Delhi
On our drive across India, we see structures ranging from exquisite artful palaces to meager cow dung huts. Local red sandstone and white marble are used to create Delhi's graceful Humayun Tomb (built by Emperor Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame), India's largest mosque the Jama Majid, and Jaipur's Amber Fort with its beautiful Ganesh Pol gateway leading to the emperor’s private quarters. Along the back roads we pass much less impressive buildings made of straw.

Cow Dung Roof
A most unusual construction material is cow dung. We spot the patties drying in the sun everywhere in the small villages and also on the finished buildings. We never see one of these up close and personal. This leaves a lot to the imagination.

Udaipur Lake Palace

We all revel in the ancient beauty and craftsmanship of the elegant palaces we visit – the Jagmandir Island Palace sitting regally in the middle of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, the Maharajah’s City Palace with its beautiful tile mosaics in Jaipur, and the Maharajah's Sawai Man Singh Palace with its blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, plus the incomparable Taj Mahal in Agra. 

Garbage Foraging Street Animals
Throughout India, animals roam freely, blocking traffic and eating garbage in the streets. The level of sanitation can be shocking to even an experienced traveler. Our tour guides express a common viewpoint, “In India, an individual's responsibility is inside the house; outside is more the government’s responsibility. Politicians are so corrupt that nothing gets done.” Despite the garbage strewn all over the streets, we do see people actually bringing their trash bags to dumpsters, only to have it picked apart by the water buffaloes, cows, and goats that eagerly dive in. 

Our shopping excursions uncover better buys the farther we travel from Delhi. The miniature paintings of Udaipur, the textiles and jewelry of Jaipur, the marble work and leather in Agra and carpets everywhere all capture a good piece of our wallets, but what memories these treasures hold.

Intricate Hand Made Carpets
My favorite acquisition is a 125-year-old carpet from Uzbekistan. I do not usually make these kinds of purchases without my husband Roger – but he isn’t here. I am delighted when the rug arrives in Dubai and Roger opens it. At first glance, he has the same reaction I did: a short intake of breath and a soft exclamation, “This is gorgeous.” We hang it in my office for now, but it will occupy a special place in our home when we return to the US.

A Business On Every Sidewalk
India is a country of entrepreneurs. Everyone has little businesses, which are located on each and every road we take. Barbers, produce sellers, appliance stores, cell phone vendors - you name it and someone can do it, make it, provide it and get it to you.

Shanties and Tent Cities
Poverty in India hits you at every bend and turn. Shanties and tent cities are there to be seen in every town, large or small. Emaciated children wander the streets in rags and forage food from garbage piles.  Pitiful desperate beggars work the intersections. Many of these are beholden to mafias who pilfer most of their take.

Morning Bath At The Village Pump
The small villages we pass lack basic utilities. It's uncomfortable to watch this through the windows of our air-conditioned van as we glide through all the untidiness. Communal wells and baths are the norm. We spot many folks taking their morning wash at the water pump.

An Alien Invasion
A plethora of people want to have their photos taken with us as tall white rock stars or maybe like new exotic animals in the zoo. There is such joy in the children's eyes and they become so bewildered when we shake their hands. Their humility is very beguiling.

My friend Kathryn summarizes the trip, "I wonder at how I get so impatient, so miffed even with modern conveniences. I vow to change. I will bring back from India not only nice carpets but also a greater appreciation of life. Next time someone takes fifteen minutes at the ATM, I promise to just relax or offer to help.

I admire the thriftiness I see here in the streets and fields. A branch is a gate, and why not. The well is used to water a cow and take a bath. Rocks are used to mark a breakdown, instead of orange cones. Fencing is made of mud and animal shelters of sticks. This is the India I am taking back. When I am sitting in my luxurious home, stressing about serving overfed people the perfect meal, I will remember the simple life I saw in India. It will be hard listening to people complain about anything."

Katie Foster is a spicy girl who lives in Dubai and wanders around the Middle East. Unlike the famous British Spice Girls, she's not a ho and speaks comprehendible English. You can read more of her work in her blog at http://www.arabiantalesandotheramazingadventures.blogspot.com.


  1. Wow... the India, i like travel and know.

  2. that ugly is to look at people who still suffer in the world, as these children in india... hopefully and alguin day his country is better

  3. very good, the pictures is pretty and the travel is nice.


  5. very nice photos and above all the information, hope and follow up more on your web site