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Delhi Doldrums - Delhi & Agra, India

Hello out there! Well, we have been three now for awhile, adding another voyager, T Augustus aka T. We met him at the Delhi Airport and there we had another Indian first. You have to buy a ticket for the waiting area. But, we picked him out the crowd, fresh off the plane. Of all the places to land on your first day out...

The tangle of wires seemed a disaster waiting to happen.

Delhi is not a very pleasant city. It is the second most polluted city in the world and these days its 95 degrees with 100% humidity. You know its bad when your sweat turns black. You can practically cut the haze with a knife. Delhi, much like Mumbai has become a magnet for rural people hoping for a better life. They crowd into urban slums and live hand to mouth. They ever increasingly presence taxes the city infrastructure to its very limit. Just looking overhead, gives you an idea.

The rickshaws are insane here. We finally braved a new form of transportation in the Indian street mess- the cycle rickshaw! Think the front half of a bike with a seat and then a large cushioned seat with a parasol over it. It is just big enough for two if you overlap legs. It definately is hard manual labor and at first we balked at taking one. It just didn't feel right to have a guy biking our two butts around. But then we realized a cold hard fact about India. If they don't have customers, they don't eat, literally. These guys are sadly enough just above the lowest rung on the ladder. They live on the streets, sleeping in their rickshaws, then they pedal for food during the day. And in India, thats pretty good, compared to the multitudes of beggars on the streets.

With this new addition, now the streets are an absolute mess of Auto-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, big tata trucks, run-down cabs, pedestrians, moto-scooters, bicyclists and livestock. There has got to be a video game here. You pick your mode, then off you go on the death-defying obstacle course. If we are harping on this, it is because every ride is an out-of body experience. Just the other day, our rickshaw sent a moto-scooter off skidding down the road on his side. See- you get ten points for that!

Ever since getting to India, everyone has an idea what ethnicity Ann is. They continually stop and ask me "Konichi Waa?" or get right to the point and walk up and say "Korean, Chinese, Japanese?" In Delhi, we got into a rickshaw and told the driver to take us to the Tibet House, a small museum. Well after the usual banter about taking us to a government emporium or his friends store, he pulled up to the Japanese Information Center with a pleased look on his face. When we asked why we were here and not at Tibet House, he looked directly at Ann and said, "You Japanese, you go Japanese Information Center."

The lone bright spot in Delhi was the great dive we ate at regularly. It's called the Light Restaurant but it's pronounced it Ligget. The place serves incredibly tasty and spicy vegis in big pots by the side of the street. Each day, you come in and have them lift the lids off and look inside and point at what looks good. And you cant beat the price. A full meal for 20 cents. You just slop up the tasty grub with mounds of chapatis, fresh off the grill. And they do a mean kheer/rice pudding. 

Even our trip to Agra was both a highlight and a lowlight in our visit to the area. Never more so than in Agra, when you look to one side, you see the most beautiful thing you could have imagined, then you look to the other side and you see the darkest thing, more tragic than you could have ever imagined. 

The Taj Mahal was one of those iconic monuments of modern civilization that refuses to fit in a postcard, a few trifling words, and everyone's expectations. It has been reproduced so many times as to render it insignificant, until one confronts it in person. It was, indeed, far better than I could have imagined it. And nothing could have diminished the experience of it. Even the realization that the interior was nothing to see, merely an empty marble box, was hardly disappointing, as the surface of the box was so intricately detailed as to render it infinately fascinating. But the most spectacular thing about the Taj, was the tricks it played with your eyes, how it seemed to hover just above you sightline. It appeared a mirage, shimmery in its brilliance. It is not to be missed.

Well, we are glad to leave this city. From here we traveled to Agra to catch a glimpse of the eighth wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal up close and personal, but that's another email.

Over and out

ann and doug

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