India on My Mind

“(M)ore than a religion or a social system; it is the core of Indian civilization.”  Fernand Braudel, On History, pg.226

The subject is Hinduism.


If you plan to go to India, it’s probably a good idea to learn as much as you can about the beliefs and practices of the Hindus before you leave. Otherwise, you risk feeling as clueless and confused as I was when confronted with that country’s ubiquitous and fantastic array of Hindu gods, goddesses, mythological figures, temples, shrines, mantras, processions and festivals.

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Night Bus to Udaipur

December 19, 2008

The night bus from Pushkar to Udaipur was yet another chapter in the adventure that is India. I had bought a “sleeper” compartment without knowing exactly what it was, feeling that stretching out would be better than sitting up all night. The bus stand, just a shoulder along side a highway in Ajmer, was a bit chaotic, and luckily my car driver found my bus and oversaw loading my large backpack into the luggage compartment.

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December 17


Hotel Dera Rawatsar
Hotel Dera Rawatsar

Jaipur has been a pleasant surprise. First, there is this hotel, an oasis in the desert of backpacker lodgings I’ve been staying in for the last two weeks. The staff is kind and attentive, and the surroundings with their well-chosen furnishings are a delight to the eye. Last night I had some trouble sleeping, I think because of the silence. I haven’t been in an atmosphere so quiet since I arrived in India.

The western-style breakfast in the dining room, among some Australians and a Spanish couple  was tasty: two fried eggs, toast, juice and tea.

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Letter from India

No non-Indian should register surprise at feeling overwhelmed in this country. The dirt, squalor, noise and poisonous air are extreme. Yet there are also islands of extraordinary beauty and cultural interest. Unlike some cities whose points of interest for the visitor are more or less centered and close together, Delhi’s are more broadly scattered. One needs a form of transportation to visit them.


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Mumbai to Deli

December 6, 2008

I shared the train journey with a Sikh couple, a young consultant, who is a Jain, and Jeff Mitton, a 53-year-old Canadian from Nova Scotia, who is a Buddhist and who motorcycles around India and elsewhere. We had some good conversations and I learned something about the different classes of India trains.

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Mumbai: First Impressions

December 3

Slept only an hour and a half before my breakfast came. My first meal in India: white toast with butter and orange marmalade and tea. Got dressed and went out. Any first impressions of India have to begin with the weather. Mumbai’s humidity is awful. It combined with temps in the mid 80s is really unpleasant. There is a haze everywhere that drains the distant features of color and sharpness. There is lots of traffic, especially taxis, but it is controlled, so getting across the wide boulevards is easier than in Istanbul.

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Two Days in Amritsar

December 13, 2008

In Amritsar, I insisted that the cab driver take me to the Grace Hotel near the Golden Temple even though he had another hotel in mind. The owner of the Grace was welcoming. I took a 1200-rupee room touted as super deluxe that turned out to be just another ordinary grungy hotel room on the lower end of the scale. It does however have clean sheets and good hot water. These, I’m learning, are things not to take for granted in India.

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