Thursday, February 25, 2010

India Day 2

My international experiences thus far have been in Latin America and Europe, so I was curious how different India might be. So far, after a whopping two days, my shallow, superficial reading is that it is an interesting mix of the two. The British influence is still very apparent, with English as the official language, cricket matches on TV, parliamentary government and a thin layer of administrative courtesy on top of the chaos.

On the other hand, the poverty and the disparity is not an order of magnitude different from what exists in Latin America. It is acute here, as elsewhere, but the main difference I’ve noticed so far is the bright colors of the saris and other clothes that even the very poor wear.

And of course, the number or quantity of people. With over a billion people crammed into an area 1/3 the size of the US, there appears to be nowhere in India were there are not lots and lots of people. I was prepared intellectually for this by people who have come here, but it’s a different thing to actually experience it. We drove from New Delhi to Agra yesterday, which is about 120 miles, and it was choked with traffic the whole way. There were very few times that fields were even visible.

It was quite a fun trip. We got to see just about every form of transportation available to humanity, except for Elephant and Segway. I've decided to now describe Indian driving as “efficient.” Where else could you put cars, bikes, semis, camels, motorcycles, motorized rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, ox carts, tractors, cows and pedestrians all on the same road without there being sensational accidents every half mile? And Segways would fit right in, if anyone had one. If someone is in “your” lane, you simply honk and drive around them, onto the side of the street or into oncoming traffic, if necessary. But really, I think the concept of “your” lane is probably seen as quant here.

But the thing is, it works really well. I think it was Thom who described it as “the rhythm” of traffic that everyone seems to know, and allows pedestrians to cross and rickshaws to weave and cars to squeeze through. Americans would largely either die of heart attacks or create 10 accidents per mile if they tried it, but Indians drivers don’t seem to sweat it. I guess when there aren’t rules, no one gets upset since you can’t break them. That’s a very western way to look at it though – I’m certain that there are rules to it, I just can’t figure out what they are. But it doesn’t stress me out – I figure our driver knows what he’s doing, and I’m just enjoying the spectacle.

Sorry to spend so much time on the driving. Although we’ve done a lot of sightseeing, a lot of our time has also been spent in traffic and the show from the car does leave an impression. Usha laughs whenever someone complains about traffic in the states, and I can see why.

Oh yes, we also saw the Taj Mahal yesterday.

The Taj is one of the Wonders of the World, and it delivers as one. The pictures don’t do it justice -- it was magnificent. It was built to honor one of the Mughal king's wives. I had always thought it was a palace, but it is a mausoleum. Jill, just in case you are getting any ideas, you will be honored with much less marble if you go before I do.

Here's the group on the same bench that Bill Clinton sat on to get his picture taken, along with about a billion other people:

The sad story of the Taj is that the king's youngest son killed all the other brothers for the crown, then imprisoned his father under house arrest a few miles away, where he could look at the Taj everyday, but not go there. This underscores to me what a good decision it was to have only one son.

Here is roughly where the king was imprisoned, and what Clark and Cindy's view would be if Hilary assassinated Lara for the crown.

The transcendent Usha:
(Usha questioned why she was “elusive” in yesterday’s post. But she said I could call her anything I want, so I’ve decided that today she is transcendent, especially after shooing away everyone from the Bill Clinton bench so we could get pictures)

The queens of FMC (on the dais where the King granted his audience):

The clowns of FMC:

And, in case there is any lingering doubt that this is all just a photoshop hoax, here is a picture of me being the jolly green giant and lifting the Taj Mahal from it's top, the concept of which I believe has been around since the invention of the camera:


David Wright said...

that picture can't be you, Dan, because your eyes are open.

Hilary said...

Dan, you are my new favorite blogger. And not just because I'm mentioned as an assassin. :)

Ruth said...

so what have you eaten so far? any recipes to bring back?

Dannie said...

Yes, I want to hear about food. Complete accounting every day from the time you get up until you sleep.

PG said...

I am really enjoying reading this, Dan.

Dan S said...

Thanks everyone. It's been a great trip so far.

The internet is a wonderful thing.

janet said...

Hey Dan - I'm having a great time on your vacation!