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13 January 2013 @ 06:13 pm
Indian Adventures - Part II - The North  
Indian Adventures Phase II - Temples, Mountains, Weaving, and Thinky Thoughts

Early on the morning of November 5th, I flew from Kochi to Amritsar. Other than a nearly impossibly short connection time, the trip was unremarkable. The experience in the city, on the other hand, was amazing. My original plan was to go to the Golden Temple around noon, see the other two temples in town in the afternoon, and then return to the Golden Temple in the evening. However, once I had sat down by the side of the pool and spent some time staring at the Golden Temple and listening to the chanting, I started to have some serious Thinking Time and ended up spending almost all of the following 12 hours there, just staring at the Temple and getting my head sorted out.


The content of the Thinky Thoughts was somewhat convoluted and obtusely interrelated, so it is somewhat difficult to write about. The summary is that I have the strong feeling that I want my life to be a force for Good and that I would like it if my job reflected those values. (The ohrase that came to mind was "a servant's heart" - I really am happiest when I am helping or teaching others.) While my current job is nominally in service to an elderly/disabled population there are some problems with it - namely that the environment is stressful, my involvement with the members is indirect, and more and more I feel like we are being enablers rather than empowering our members, which leads to a lack of motivation and job satisfaction. I do a fair amount of teaching/service in the SCA, but that does not really serve the world as a whole and also has some issues in that I think a more even distribution of work would improve the sustainability of the organization, rather than relying on a core group to Get Shit Done. I'd like to have more satisfaction in my personal life as well - a home and family have long been in my life goals, but while I have a very nice house and roommates who are reasonably prompt with paying the bills, the social and romantic aspects are just not there. I'd like a partner, a co-conspirator, a fellow traveler, someone with whom to discuss thinky thoughts, politics, the horrible thing that happened at work, and the hilarious plan I hatched. I also realized that I had not had a quality amount of Thinky Time in a long time and that I really do need to spend more time making conscious decisions and doing more introspection. More "me" time, more thinking time, and probably more journaling time, either here or offline in in order. In short, I need to fix parts of my life, but I'm not entirely certain how. I did take a break to go have dinner in the free dining hall and I wandered through the amazingly gruesome museum, but otherwise just spent some time Thinking. It was good.


That evening I boarded a bus for Delhi, intending on hopping off in Ambala and getting a bus for Chandigarh, then a bus for
Kalka. Well, the bus dropped me off at the Ambala "station" at 3 AM and the "station" consisted of a wide place in the road under an unfinished underpass, populated by about 45 Indian men and two barrels of burning shit (literally). O.o No stationmaster, no schedules posted, no signs in English... or Hindi. Hokay... I stood there trying to look like I knew what I was doing while I worked out a plan. Happy, a friendly young man came up to me to practice his English (he is studying English lit) and eventually he asked when my bus was arriving. When I admitted I had no idea, he was kind enough to find out the information for me and get me
on the right bus - it was over-full and somehow he still managed to get me a seat! Miracles! The conductor on that bus was also very kind and chatted with me for a bit and when we got to Chandigarh, took me by the hand to the correct bus to Kalka. :) Indians were very, very kind throughout my trip, but these fellows deserve my special thanks!

From Kalka, I took the Victorian-era toy train to Shimla - the tracks are only two feet wide and the train snakes its way through more than a hundred tunnels. It was really nifty-cool, even with the horrid little Indian children on the train. (Honestly, I was shamefully disappointed when one tried to fall out a window but was caught by its father in the nick of time. *sigh*) Shimla, however, did not agree with me, so rather than spending the night as planned, I dashed north to the Kullu valley, which is renown for its beauty and weaving.


The next few days were spent hiking in the mountains, going to an art museum, visiting weaving cooperatives and weavers in their homes (see the photos of the Kumlas), and having some more Important Thinky Time. Talking with the weavers was very neat. They all had very little, but seemed content and happy to share a pot of tea, a cushion on the floor, whatever they had. Most of them seemed very pleased to have an outsider so interested in their craft. Most of them spoke at least a little English and I spoke a very little Hindi, but we both spoke string, so that sufficed to fill in many of the gaps. In most of the stores in the cities, I would do a pretty good job of haggling, but I just could not bring myself to do it out here. If they wanted 1000 rupees ($20) for a shawl that took them a week to weave, I was not going to argue with the nice old ladies.

I got to spend one night at Naggar Castle, a 15th century castle converted into a guest house, which was amazing, but expensive, so I ended up staying at a cozy little hotel called Rogini for the rest of my time in Naggar.

All too soon it was time to go to Manali to catch the bus to Delhi. If I ever return to India, we will be spending much more time up in the Kullu Valley!

Phase II photos at:
Erinkaige_of_ct on January 14th, 2013 02:05 am (UTC)
That's a great picture. The smile is very Mona Lisa.
eithni: greeneithni on January 14th, 2013 02:16 am (UTC)
Oddly enough, last week my sister's son kept insisting he'd seen my picture at Costco - when he showed her, it was posters of the Mona Lisa. :)
Erinkaige_of_ct on January 14th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
Ha! Excellent. What a clever boy.