Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Small Group Tour? I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

When I signed up for my "small group tour," one of the reasons I chose the company I did is that they guarantee their departures.  I work for a church and the amount of planning involved in making it possible for me to take extended time off makes flexibility in scheduling a bit of an issue.  Turns out, it was a good thing that I went with the provider that I did.  My small group tour is more of a micro-group tour, as I am the only person on it.  Most companies would cancel the departure with only one person signed up.

Aside from a fairly high guilt factor, in that I'm traveling around India with both a driver and a tour guide, and there's only one of me, this does have certain advantages.  Those who have traveled with me know of my penchant for just sort of wandering off on my own, and that I don't travel well in a herd.  My guide's name is Hitesh, and he's doing a lovely job of giving me the history and important information about the sights I am seeing, then letting me go explore at my own pace.  So, if I want to spend time hanging out with a really cool tree, that's totally okay!  Because the schedules are built around a larger group, it means that I have plenty of time to fully immerse myself in what I'm seeing.

It seems that I'm a bit more well-versed in the history and culture of India than many of the folks who visit, so we're able to spend some time on other things as well.  Since I shared that I've been working on learning Hindi, Hitesh is making sure to introduce me to new vocabulary.  I'm not sure how much of it I'll remember, but one of the new things that I'm seeing everywhere are kites--the raptor variety, not the on-a-string kind--and I now know to call them cheel.

Today, I visited Humayun's Tomb, the Sikh Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, and the National Museum.

Humayun was the second of the Mughal emperors, and he apparently died by falling down the stairs while reading.  His tomb is a stunning building--it was a major inspiration for the Taj Mahal.  The walls are of red sandstone with white marble decorations.  I learned that what looks a bit like Stars of David are in fact a Hindu design, with two triangles representing the trinities of Bramha, Vishu, and Shiva, and their consorts Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati, and in the center there is a lotus flower.

For such a beautiful location (the gardens and grounds, as well as the tomb itself) there were surprisingly few people.  I think I saw more pigeons (kabootar--though I already knew that one).  This was a highlight of the day.

Among my many bad habits is the one where I bring a camera with me and then promptly forget to use it.  Hitesh is doing a good job of reminding me to do so, so I do have photos, although I can't get them off the camera onto my Kindle, so it will have to wait until I am home to share.

The Bangla Sahib Gurudwara was a lovely experience.  It is a requirement that everyone cover their heads when they enter, as well as take off shoes and socks.  To get inside you walk through a small pool to clean your feet.  Inside the Gurudwara, there are people venerating the book that lives there--it is treated as a god and has its own room it retires to at night.  Men are singing and playing music.  Even in such an old building, I discovered that technology is alive and well.  There was a video screen showing the text of what was being sung (I believe), in both Hindi and English.

The National Museum holds a large collection of artifacts from as far back as the Harappan culture, through the Mauryas, Guptas, Mughals, and on through the present day.  As a musician, I very much appreciated the collection of musical instruments.  So many sitars!  So much artistry in their making!  Other highlights included the arms and armor display and the woodworking room.  It was also interesting to observe the museum's under-construction avatar.  Rooms were closed off, but there were also piles of wood in the open hallways, dust everywhere, and the constant pounding of hammers.  I did not find that this dulled my enjoyment of the museum. Indeed, it was fascination to see, and it's good that care is being taken with the building and the displays.

On the way home, I got to observe more of the parked cars vendors.  While traffic was at a standstill there was a virtual market full of people knocking on windows, selling everything from flowers, to bubble guns (no, that's not a typo), to lumbar supports (I think), to books (including Fifty Shades of Grey!).

I'm still healthy, and appear to have managed to survive the jet lag.  Feeling excited for tomorrow, and ready to learn more things.

All the learning!  So grateful to have this opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. A personalized tour. That is very cool. Will that last for your entire trip? If it does, whatever you spent on this, it's a bargain. You should post your itinerary so I'll know where all you plan to be.