John Means Heart

India 1 Comment »

Look at this picture. When I first saw this view from the roof of my hotel in Jodhpur; I was searching for a fort above the line of blue houses, but couldn’t find it. If you don’t see it right away, then look a little less closely. After a few minutes of scanning the horizon of homes, I realized the entire mountain before me was actually the fort. Its size was an exciting surprise. I had been mostly interested to see the blue of the city in Jodhpur, but now I couldn’t wait to see the fort.

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Not in Delhi Yet

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In case anyone was watching the news, I’m not in Delhi yet. They’re not targeting tourists in India; it seems to be a Hindu vs Muslim thing. I’m pretty templed-out, so I probably won’t be hanging around too many religous sites anyway.

I’m in Puskar now. It’s a pretty nice small town with lake, a hill and lots of colorful shops in between. Many travelers get stuck here for weeks and months, since it’s so quaint and cheap. However, I’m leaving in two days on a train through Delhi up to the meditation retreat in the Himalayans.

The Line of Fire

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Last night after brushing my teeth, I spit a stream of foam out my 4th floor window, onto the roof of a single story building next door. There are no sinks here at my hotel in Mumbai, so it was either that or a walk up stairs to spit in a toilet. Upon leaving the window I heard some noises I thought sounded human. I came back to look. The streets were empty. Nobody was there.

This morning while brushing my teeth at the window, I looked down below and saw on the roof a row of three messy beddings. I spit out the other window and wondered about last night, but didn’t remember the noises.

Tonight while brushing my teeth I leaned out the window and looked down below. I let my eyes adjust from the bright streets to the dark rooftop and saw three men sleeping in a neat row on their backs. They were right in the line of fire. I remembered the noises.

Friends in Mumbai

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Being the financial center of the country, I expected Mumbai to be clean and modern, but the parts I saw were still very much like the rest of cities in India. Relative to Kolkata, Mumbai seemed neat and new, but up against most western cities, it’s still pretty run down and dirty. It’s very feasible I just missed the parts I imagined existed, but in any case as usual in India the people and culture make up for it. I quickly made some great friends and had an awesome two days there.

After fending off some desperate taxi drivers, I took the local train from the main station to the area I wanted to stay in. All the cars were packed, but in one I spotted an open seat. Quickly, I jumped on and grabbed it. My bag was heavy from all the books I’d read recently, so it was a struggle removing it. After placing it on the floor, I looked up to find everyone watching me. Actually, I found they were staring at me. I looked behind me and everyone there was staring too.

“What’s everybody looking at?” I wondered.

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Varkala by Chance

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When Andre and I got off the boat at the end our trip through the backwaters, the sun had just set. It was getting dark, but it we weren’t far from our destination. Or so we thought.

The German had mistakenly assumed the backwaters went east and we’d be minutes from Periyar Wildlife Preserve. Upon looking at the map, I realized the backwaters actually went south and simple geometry had actually taken us almost twice as far as we’d thought we were. The only train back north was leaving in thirty minutes. We buckled under the pressure and decided to stay the night in that town, then head north the morrow. We’d waste a day for not looking at the map, but no worries.

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That Guy

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Yesterday I was at the train station making my reservation for the trip from Varkala to Mumbai. I was filling out my reservation form and noticing to the tenseness inside me. It had just arisen while not being able to communicate with the train attendant about where I wanted to go. I’ve been trying to pay close attention to when stress arises from an observer’s point of view.

I let a woman pass ahead of me in line while I was writing and she thanked me politely. I listened to her request the ticket calmly and from her accent I could tell she was an American. She got a straight answer from the attendant. Standing to my right, she then turned my way and over my shoulder softly reported the information to a man sitting in a chair.

“Is that the cheapest?” he snapped, startling me.

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At a Café on a Cliff

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At a café on a cliff, a high and eroding cliff, I sit slouched in a bamboo chair. My legs stretch under a yellow cloth covered table meant for two. An empty coke bottle sits between me and the ocean, refracting light from a golden setting sun. There’s a fishing boat bobbing far from shore; so far that its colors are dulled and dark except for a white shirt the captain wears. There’s a steady breeze here and it keeps the palm trees in sway.

I watch my waiter walk slowly with a cup of Chai and sit on a log right on the cliffs edge. He sips and watches the ocean. When finished he walks past my table and accidentally bumps my umbrella. He looks to me and smiles and I can see the ocean in him. Maybe it’s the way his bright teeth stand out against his dark skin. Maybe it’s the way his smile jumps quickly across his face.

I’m glad he never tires of the beauty here.

Being Rich in a Poor Place

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In the lowest class section of a sleeper train in India, the windows are wide open and barred. Only some of the fans work against a high burning sun. The entire steel car shakes violently from side to side as it heaves and drags ahead. I’m using my laptop and this makes it difficult to type. Unlatched doors swing freely, opening up to ground speeding by. The engine’s horn screams at cows and people to clear the tracks. Passing trains blast theirs as well. The sound comes quick and high through the window, then falls and fades while my heart pumps from the shock of it.

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Allepey & Backwaters

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This is the beach I stayed on an Allepey. I spent 3 night in this hut for $10. Local kids would come around each day yelling for us to come outside and take their picture. .

RTW 2006, <br />Captured March 30, 2006.” border=”2″/> <img src=Read the rest of this entry »

Puri

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On my last day in Konark, Andre and I rented a motorbike. Our first stop was a mile away at the shore. We found a small fishing village and stopped to take pictures. A few kids came running up to us begging and smiling for the camera, so we played with them for a bit. Andre decided it would make for good video if he gave them some coins, so I held his camera and he got their attention. That was a mistake. As soon as he held the coins up in the air, the kids started yelling and jumping over each other. Everyone in the village must have known the sound, because within seconds Andre was surrounded with twenty something hands in his face. It was like seagulls at the beach. You feed one, they start that “Kawww Kawww” thing and then all of a sudden the whole place is swarming with birds. There were too many to help and we felt bad about it pretty quickly. They didn’t understand that we had no more, so the only thing we could do was get on the bike and ride away. We rode deeper into the village and got many curious looks. It was obvious this wasn’t a normal tourist stop. We bought some candy and handed that out as we made our way back.

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