Last week was the trip of a lifetime to India! It was a work trip for my husband with a bit of time off to do some exploring with me. It took a long time to get there (20 hours with a stop in Dubai) and feels foreign. But we have so much in common with the Indian people. Here are seven things that I experienced in India along with recommendations.
Flowers are for Celebration and Worship
This was in the lobby of the Leela Palace where we stayed in New Delhi. Upon arrival, a garland of freesia was placed around our necks. Throughout our stay in India, especially near temples, all sorts of flowers are sold for worship.
Also, the lotus (a motif seen everywhere–even in my yoga studio in SF) is a symbol of purity since the flower rises above the muck that it’s rooted in.
See the Taj Mahal at Daybreak as the Sun Illuminates the Mausoleum
We spent the night before in Agra so that we could leave for the Taj Mahal before daybreak. This is a spectacular ivory-white marble mausoleum built by the Moslem/Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632. He built it as a tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to his fourteenth child (can you even imagine?). It’s definitely a site to see!
The Red Fort, Agra is Rich with History
This monument is also in Agra and is basically a walled city made from sandstone. Just look at the carvings! Shah Jahan’s soldier son, Aurangzeb killed his older and younger brothers to become emperor. He put his father under house arrest (in fact, Shah Jahan stayed in the lower left room–with a view of the Taj Mahal–until he died). There are varying accounts of Aurangzeb. In a book I read on the trip, Beneath A Marble Sky (well researched historical fiction), the son was a really horrible person…but some of the Indians I spoke to thought Aurangzeb was a great warrior and was right to keep control of the vast empire. Aurangzeb disdained what he thought was his father’s wasteful spending (like on the Taj Mahal). Family problems :/
Dress Like A Local
Before I left on the trip, some bloggers advised to just bring a couple of outfits from home and then buy things there. So, I did! There are plenty of colorful saris to find (an outfit that consists of five to nine yards wrapped around the waist with one end draped over the shoulder, baring the midriff).
But I felt the tunics (or kurtas as they call them) were less complicated. Basically, the modest, mature female Indians don’t show their shoulders or knees. Since the kurtas have deep slits, you wear leggings or loose pants underneath.
Top left: silk hand-embroidered kurta (that I bought at the hotel–more expensive but it’s beautifully made) with loose linen pants Top right: Light-weight inexpensive cotton kurta from Fab India in New Delhi (nice and cool for this climate). Bottom Left: Beautiful clothes at Good Earth in New Delhi. They have housewares, too. Bottom Right: Another kurta from Fab India. This one costs a little more as it’s embroidered in a style known as chiku. I’m getting good karma here by feeding the sacred cows.
Shop For Textiles
Top left: beautiful silk pillows at the Leela Palace Hotel in New Delhi. Top right: Here I am shopping for fine cashmere pashminas in New Delhi (Kashmir is in northern India) with my interesting guide, Zareen Kahai (she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested). Bottom Left and Right: Lots of gorgeous fabrics at the huge textile market in Mumbai called Mangaldas Market. My expert guide, Parvine Misstry (email@example.com) took me there among other places.
Enjoy the Food
The food can be spicy and there are lots of vegetarian options. To avoid “Delhi Belly” we were told not to eat dishes that may have been washed in fresh water (like salads).
Top left: this local Chenin Blanc, Sula is dry with a slight pear finish that goes well with spicy food. We had this at Peshawri…a great rustic Indian restaurant in our hotel in Agra. Top right: Howard is enjoying a savory crispy pancake filled with roasted potatoes called a dosa (I started ordering them, too!). Try one. Bottom Left: This is an excellent restaurant in Mumbai called The Table (the owners used to live in San Francisco and have a farm to table amazing menu). I actually did have a salad here. They were voted best restaurant in India. Bottom Right: This was our first meal in India… lunch at the New Delhi Crafts Museum (also a great shop for pashminas) restaurant called Cafe Lota. Get that dish with the fried spinach leaves.
Take in the Exhuberant Colors
I am so glad for cellphone cameras that can help you record the sites around you…like all the saturated colors in Mumbai. What you can’t record are all the amazing scents from the flower stalls, cooking spices and incense burning.
The colors seem to express the friendly/happy nature of the Indian people. There is poverty, of course, but they have a rising middle class. 80% of the population is Hindu and they believe in having good karma to give them a leg up in the next life! Ha! But that vegetable salesman on the bottom right doesn’t look too happy!
It’s been fun reliving last week through this post. If you get the chance to go to India, I hope you will take it.
Namaste (“I bow to the divine in you”).
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