Thursday, December 9, 2010

India, Part Two-- Khamshet and Carla meets Karla

Okay, so the first thing that you need to know is that there is no way for me to escape eating on this trip. I'm being fed good food, in copious quantities, breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and inbetween. It would be easier if I didn't like one thing or another, but I have yet to come across a food I haven't liked... and that means that my poor tushie might not completely fit in those wide airplane seats that I was raving about in my first e-mail. Or my jeans... but I digress (you want to hear about India and not my ever-expanding bottom, I'm sure!). But India, for me, has been as much about enjoying all of the good food as well as the places we've visited. So, you've been warned!


Tuesday, we drove out to the farm in Khamshet-- we left early in the morning to avoid the traffic and it took us about two hours, fifteen minutes on the highway to get there--- and that was with switching cars on the highway with Aunt Kay's brother... and stopping at McDonalds to stretch our legs, get a coffee (and for me, a "Veg Pizza Puff" for later-- turned out to be something like a veggie hot pocket, very good). Susie, you'll get a kick out of the picture I took of the menu-- it was only breakfast, but things like the "Spinach and corn Egg McMuffin" made me smile. And then we continued on. You all know how much I love hills and mountains, and once we got out of the city and into the hills and valleys, I was plastered to the window. The landscape, if I were to compare it to anything, would probably be similar to the area around Fatima. It's odd to go from sooooo many people fit into the city and then having everything open up and, except for on the road, not seeing people for miles.

I'm going to digress here for a mibute-- I'll have to get a picture of a "Goods Carrier"-- some of the trucks are very elaborately painted, and the best part is what's written onto the back of every one: "Honk OK Please". Honking seems to be more of a preventative measure here, done lots of times just to let someone know that you're coming up on their blind spot, or from their side. It also seems to be done a lot to tell a pedestrian or biker foolish enough to get in one's way "I'm not slowing down and will run you over." Anyway...

Khamshet is so pretty-- like I told you in my mini update, Susie, the house is like something out of a Rudyard Kipling novel, all open, painted white, with a large porch for eating, and scrollwork (I don't know if scrollwork is quite the right word, I'll have to show you the pictures) railings downstairs outside of Aunt Kay's mother's room and on the upstairs landing (to reach one of the bedrooms upstairs, you actually go outside first onto this large, covered landing that overlooks the farm.) And the house is surrounded by mango trees and coconut palms, flowers everywhere, and a lovely garden with a swing chair set out for breakfast and tea. I loved seeing all of the flowers that I usually only see in a botanical garden or greenhouse-- you should see the poinsettias (oh, I give up on trying to spell that!) growing naturally, taller than me, or the bougainvillea dropping the flowers down like snow. As I walked down the main drive, droves of butterflies just swirled up around me. There, we had all of our meals outside on the porch, enjoying the cooler weather, and I napped out in the garden (not really by choice-- you know I never sit still, but I was knitting and the next thing I knew, I was too worn out to do anything but just shut my eyes and enjoy the sunshine).

In the afternoon, we went to Pune, a nearby city. It's a university city, very new and modern... but despite it's small size, it has some of the worst traffic ever, thanks to also being the city with the most two and three-wheeled vehicles in India, if not the world. Motorcyclists everywhere, completely disobeying any traffic rules, weaving in and out of traffic-- no wonder things moved so slow!

In Pune, I had mendhi done on my hand by an artist on the steps of the shopping center. In case you didn't know, mendhi is where they apply henna to skin to stain it in intricate patterns. He piped the paste on in less than ten minutes, and then I had to wait for it to dry before taking it off. For some reason, the mendhi didn't really take to the skin of my wrist, so my hand is nice and dark while my wrist looks faded. It's really pretty, and I have pictures of it in process and now in case it fades before you get a chance to really see it well.

The next morning, we had a mini-breakfast out in the garden followed by eggs at the table (I'm telling you, food is taken seriously here! What I would already consider a large breakfast was just a pre-breakfast taste!) Khamshet is much cooler than Mumbai, and it was nice to sit out on the swing and drink tea in the cool air. The cool didn't last too long though-- by mid morning, the climb up to Karla caves was hot! To get to the caves, you have to climb up the mountainside on these stairs/ inclines that take you there-- I'd say at least a fifteen minute walk that might not be tiring if not for the sun and heat. the views up there are lovely- you see the valley laid out before you in greens and golds. Since there's a Hindu temple that was placed in front of the caves, the steps closer to the temple are lined with vendors selling flowers and garlands and sweets as offerings for the temple. The sweet smell of the flowers wafts up at you and competes with the peanut vendor, lemonade seller, and cucumber vendor. After a little ticket problem at the gate, we went into the caves. Oh, you have to see this place-- at the entrance, on either side, going up about five or six stories, the walls are carved with elephants and people-- lifelike, really, and this was completed in 80 BC. Inside of the cave, a huge sun-window over the doorway illuminated the room (reminding me of the windows you see towards the back of a cathedral-- I guess when an "architectural element" works, you'll see it everywhere through history). Pillars lined the room, each carved at the top with people sitting on elephants. And at the center back, a large round structure. Oddly, though this was a buddhist cave, some hindu devotees were doing some sort of ritual in front of the round structure (?)... not sure what they were doing.

Then we climbed up into the cave rooms-- simple rooms with balconies looking out over the valley that look a lot like the native american cave dwellings that you've probably seen in pictures.

So, Carla and Karla (or Carli and Karle, if you go by one of the placards inside of the caves!) met!

That afternoon, we made our way back to Mumbai, leaving right after lunch to try and beat the traffic. We weren't entirely successful-- the last bit in the city involved a lot of sitting in traffic, but we got here early enough for dinner. (Mom, you'd really have loved the fish stuffed with chutney! And crab curry. Mmmmmmmm. Susie, I know you're not a fish person, so I know it doesn't sound as great to you!)

Yesterday morning, we squeezed in the last half of a yoga lesson-- we were there for the breathing portion, which I really needed for my poor nose and lungs. The cold is almost all gone, but I still get stuffy now and again and still have a cough at night and in the morning. I felt so much clearer afterwards. We went for a little bit of shopping afterwards (I'm going to get to see a wedding in Delhi and needed to get at least a choli (sari blouse) so that I can either buy a sari (which I'm hoping to do, it'll be a nice souvenir) or borrow a sari for the occasion).

After lunch, I was set loose in Mumbai at the Gateway to India. Cell phones are wonderful things-- I was dropped off near the Taj Hotel, and it was easy to meet up at night for dinner with just a few calls.

The Gateway to India-- this arch is beautifully carved, with arched doorways along its side. You'll have to see the pictures-- I can't really describe it better than that. People everywhere in front of the Gateway, taking pictures, hawking their wares (Dad, you'd have trouble there-- it's just like those vendors in the mall, you just have to be rude and ignore them, or not make eye contact and say "No, thanks". Otherwise, they'll keep following you! Thankfully, you all know that I have no trouble being rude to vendors!)

I'll have to finish this later... we're off shopping!

Hugs and Kisses to Everyone!

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