India Trip, Day Two: Agra
Below is Day 2 from my India Trip, as part of my one post a day diary from the 2wks spent in India.
See Day 1 for an introduction to the trip and as always, the entry below was written during the trip so I haven't edited the text except where absolutely necessary, it's my thoughts and observations as they happened during the trip.
Tuesday, July 8th
Checking in from the 2nd day of India. We stayed at an Islam cultural center Monday night after landing in Delhi. The flight through Helsinki was smooth and mostly non-eventful.
[ Sat next to an Indian gentleman and his university-aged daughter on the Heathrow to Helsinki flight. An extremely nice guy who asked me about my India trip and explained exactly why he was going back-- it's a heartfelt story.
Having moved to the UK about thirty years ago and putting all of his children through school and dental university (yes, I think it was two sons who were already dentists and the daughter who was traveling with him was currently in dental school) as an accountant, he was now using the money that he typically put aside for his own children to start a primary and secondary school in his hometown...]
After three hours of sleep we woke up at 4:30 (was supposed to be 5:39-- not sure how that happened but it meant having a headache and my contacts in for an extra hour or so that I didn't need) for a 6am departure to Agra, where the Taj Mahal and Fort Agra are located.
Now that it was light out, the abject poverty was depressingly obvious. It reminded me of the summer that I spent in Guadalajara, Mexico, when I was in college.
The same amount of squalor but probably on an even grander scale.
Three quick cultural observations from the trip so far:
- Driving here is nuts, plain crazy, make your own way or get the hell out of the way. But more than anything, as I've noticed in other places, you honk your horn before you brake. And in India, you honk the horn at everything, no matter how far ahead of you that thing is (car, truck/lorry, bike, rickshaw, cow, goat, dog, etc.) just make sure it knows you're coming like a bat out of hell.
- Women were very scarce; there were some here and there but in public it was 85% men.
- I saw men holding hands, which isn't an uncommon site for large cities, but to see this in Agra was quite surprising.