Kolkata Diary. Prayer Room at Mumbai Airport

February 25th, 2017

I was trying to think about how I’m feeling about my trip.  I know I loved India and being there.  I know  I’m ready to be going home.  But I think I’m going to have to let it all settle in a bit more before I can think about it. I feel like I’ve just been living it.

Kolkata Diary. Reflection Photos at the Mumbai Airport

February 25th, 2017

I spent a few hours at the Mumbai airport in between flights.

I knew I’d be sitting a lot, so I decided to do some walking.  And keep walking.  I made many rounds past the same stores and gates and on one of them, I notice the reflection in the museum displays that are at the airport.

Some of the walls, were filled with  giant depictions of ancient Indian art and contemporary art.

Once I saw how the reflections from the airport window looked integrated with the art, I spent about an hour taking pictures.  I accidentally caught a person walking by in one of the first pictures, and liked what they added to the photo. So then I started waiting for people to walk by and into my photos.

I used the photo program on my iphone to bring out the colors and add depth through contrasts.

I didn’t have any wifi at the airport so I couldn’t post them.  But I was able to email them to Jon, even though I knew he was sleeping.   I was so excited about how they came out, I wanted to show them to him.

I’m on the plane now on my way to Dubai.  I was feeling all cranky and bitchy (I’ve been traveling since 5am and have about 23 more hours to go) before getting on the plane, but now that I have wifi and can  post the photos and write on my blog, I’m feeling good again.

Here’s some of the photos…..

On The Pedestrian Bridge in Udiapur

February 24th, 2017

Kolkata Diary. Going Home Tomorrow

February 24th, 2017

 

The dogs of Udiapur

It’s my last day in Udaipur.  I just found out that the hotel has a coffee shop with wifi.  The internet was spotty in my room and non-existent in the past couple of days.

But I did some writing on my word program  and was able to copy it to my blog.  But now I’m having so much fun writing and posting pictures  it’s hard to stop.

I’m leaving tomorrow at 5am for a 7:00 flight to Mumbai, then to Kolkata, then home.

And as much as I’ve loved this trip, for so many reasons that I’ll continue to write about, I’m ready to go home.

I want to hold Jon and see his beautiful face when we talk.  I want to be able to share our days together and eat our meals together.  I want to be able to tell him the littlest thing when it happens.  I want to feel his body in bed, next to mine.

And I want to see what happens next in our life together.

Kolkata Diary. Walking Through The Old City Of Udiapur

February 24th, 2017

Kolkata Diary. Visiting Ekling Ji Temple

February 24th, 2017

Putting up the bamboo barrier for the Shiva Festival at Ekling Ji.  Photographs of the temple weren’t permitted.

All along the highway people were setting up colorful tents where they would serve food for the  worshipers coming to the  Ekling Ji Temple for the Shiva Festival the next day.

As we got closer to the temple  there  were temporary  barriers made from bamboo poles.  The next day people would line up for miles inside the barriers waiting to worship at the temple.

Ekling Ji  is in the middle of a small village.  Most of the people visiting it that day were Indian tourist.

I left my shoes with the others at the entrance and got in line, walking bare foot on the red AstroTurf carpet that led to the temple. Women were sitting just inside the gate handing out garlands of flowers, flower petals, leaves and what I think was shredded coconut, to make offerings.

I felt conspicuous among  the worshipers,  but not uncomfortable.

One  man asked me where I was from.  It was then I noticed that I was standing in a line of men, and to my right were all the women and children.  I looked at the older woman, the drape of her orange sari covering her head,  standing  next to me.   She seemed to read my mind and motioned for me to get in line in front of her.

Soon there was the sound of a bell and a voice came over a loud-speaker.  The people  around me responded.  They went back and forth a few times, then the  heavy wooden doors to the temple opened.

Like the Nagda Temple the area was made up not just of one building, but one large indoor sanctuary and other smaller buildings which had alters to different gods inside of them.

The AstroTurf ended and now I could feel the cool ancient marble beneath my bare feet.  It’s one of the things I immediately loved.  Being able to walk barefoot in the temples.  The bottoms of my feet touching the worn steps and walkways that so many other feet have touch over the centuries. That sensation of being in such close physical contact with the sacred ground.

The line continued single file.  A man was drumming and we circled a roped off area with the statue of a bull in the middle of it.  People ducked under the rope touching and kissing the bull’s head and leaving offerings of flowers on it.

We made our way into the ornately carved interior of the temple.  Alters to gods lined the walls and in the center of the space musicians and singers surrounded another statue of a bull.  Again people made offering of flowers and coconut shavings.  The woman in front of me turned around and said to me ” You like this?”

I grew up going to a Catholic Church.  There was a time in my life when  I was looking for religion.   But I was never able to make sense of the masses we went to.  I never felt any connection to them.

It probably has something to do with not having any knowledge of the meaning of the ceremony, not being able to understand the language and just making the connection on a visceral level that appealed to me.

I responded emotionally to the music and singing of the Aarti ceremony.   I felt  the devotion of the worshipers.  It seemed like a celebration, and yes, I was enjoying it.  So much, that it  made me want to dance.

The line broke up after that and people wandered around the grounds visiting the smaller building with alters in them.    Most of the gods were unrecognizable to me.  And the worn stone blurred their features. But on the way out I  saw two alters for Ganesha.  They both had aluminum foil molded over the sculpture of the elephant god, making him shiny,  his big belly, ears and trunk easy to distinguish.

I got my shoes and headed  back to the taxi.  My senses full and my need to see some ancient Indian art satisfied.

I was looking forward to getting back to my room and googling the Aarti Ceremony, finding out the names and meanings of the gods I saw statues of.

But there was something pure about experiencing the temple with very little knowledge it.   To experience them bodily and emotionally.  And find a connection on a guttural level.

I found I entered the space more with my heart and body than with my mind.  I wasn’t applying information onto what I was seeing.  I was gathering information with my senses.

As I walked back to the taxi there was a medium-sized, white cow on the road.  When I passed her, she turned her head and pressed  the top of it gently  into my belly.  I stepped away from her, touching her head with my hand, putting space between us.

I don’t know if she was trying to butt me or nudging me like our donkeys do to get attention.   It was unexpected, but it didn’t feel aggressive.  Some of the people around me smiled and pointed.

I smiled back, wondering what to make of it all.

I was ready to get back to the hotel, but trip didn’t end there.  James had a couple of other ideas about places to visit.

Details on the ceiling of Nagda Temple. Ekling Ji was similar in the kind of detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kolkata Diary. Hannah Trying On Shoes or Empowered Cinderella

February 24th, 2017

Hannah buying shoes in Udiapur

Walking around Udiapur is like being inside Jeannie’s bottle.  Remember her pink circular couch and fabric wall.  It’s like a fairy tale of small spaces, little shuttered windows that open on small alleys, shallow balconies, decorative doorways and Escher-like stairways.

So when I took this picture of Hannah trying on shoes, I couldn’t help but think of  Cinderella.  A modern day Cinderella, who gets to choose her own shoes and buys them with the money she earned.

An empowered woman.  Which is what this trip to India is all about.  Empowering women.

Kolkata Diary. Visiting Nagda Temple

February 24th, 2017

 

Carving at the Nagda Temple

None of the women I was traveling with wanted to see the temples.

The hotel had three pages of suggestions of places to tour in and around  Udiapur.  The 8th and 10th century temples, Ekling Ji and Nagda were just the kind of thing I was looking for.  I wanted to see some of those carvings that I’ve seen so many photos of.  I wanted to see some of India’s ancient art.

The hotel made arrangements for a taxi to pick me up in the lobby at 9am.  Leaving then would insure that I’d get to  Ekling Ji in time for the Aarti ceremony.

I had no idea what the Aarti ceremony was.  I hadn’t been able to get on-line to find out more about it,    but I knew I wanted to see it.

I had a little apprehension of going alone.   I haven’t traveled a lot and this is just the kind of thing, a woman alone in a foreign country, that I was taught to be afraid of.

But I had spent the past 7 days with women who regularly travel around the world, often alone.  Being with them for over a week inspired me.  I want to be the woman who isn’t afraid to do what she wants, not the one who lets irrational fear dictate her actions.

I got into the front seat of the small white car, and the driver, a tall thin man, introduced himself as James.  I wondered if it was his real name or one he used for English speaking tourists.

I wouldn’t want to drive a car in India, but I quickly got used to seeing buses, motorcycles and cars, coming at us, head on, only for them, or the car I’m in, to swerve out of the way at the last moment.  I’m still in wonder at how a car will come within an inch of a cow on a small road or highway without hitting it.  And at how the cow takes her time getting out of the way.

I haven’t seen any car accidents, but James said there are many.

The Nagda Temple is a historical site.  It’s outside the city on a lake surrounded by mountains.   I gave James 50 rupees to park the car, (the only admission to the temple)  and walked through the gate.  On either side girls stood in traditional dress carrying pots on their heads asking if I wanted to take their picture.

In the short time I’ve been in India, I’m  figuring out  how to say no when offered something I don’t want.  Like dealing with a telemarketer, giving the smallest indication that you might be interested in something someone is trying to sell, is all they need to pursue you.

For me, saying no thanks and walking quickly away works, or even to just keep walking ignoring the person. This still feel rude to me but, I’m even less willing to be taken advantage of than to feel like I’m being rude.

The ruins of the temple rose up in front of me.

The intricate carvings were a feast for my eyes.  Much of the marble was worn smooth with age,  the detail obliterated.  There was no one there to tell me I couldn’t touch the ancient carvings.  I pressed my hand to the cold blocks of marble inside the small temple.  I ran my fingers over the details on the dancing figures on the outside of the temple.

I tried to see a story in the bas relief that ran around the bottom of the building. I looked for symbolism in the gods sitting in the lotus position surrounded by flowers, snakes and skulls.

I took lots of pictures and visited each of the smaller shrines surrounding the main building. I spent about an hour absorbing it all.

Having no information about the temple I only knew what I could see.  But I would learn more about it when I visited Ekling Ji  and witness the ceremony there.  The two temples were similar in their design.

But while Nagda still emanated some  palpable energy,  it held the hush of being abandoned.  As if it were sleeping.  Ekling Ji was just the opposite.  When we got there fifteen minutes later, it was alive and throbbing with the energy  of the village it was surrounded by and the worshipers visiting it.

Nagda Temple

Bas relief on the outside of the temple

 

The Monkeys Outside My Hotel Room In Udiapur

February 23rd, 2017

I was  in my room and saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  I hadn’t seen any monkeys the first day we were here.  I didn’t even know there were monkeys in Udaipur.  They eventually ran across the railing of my balcony.  I loved watching them.

Kolkata Diary. Jagdish Temple in Udiapur

February 23rd, 2017

I couldn’t get on line yesterday but had a full day walking through the streets of Udiapur.  Dahn and Hannah and I visited the Jagdish Temple, The City Palace and shopped.  I got some wonderful fabric and already have ideas (vague though they are) for quilts.

There was a ceremony going on at the Jagdish Temple, which is in the middle of the city.  That’s the singing you can hear in the video.  These are some of the carvings on the outside of the Temple.