Thursday, December 27, 2012

Arriving in India

I've just returned from sixteen amazing days in India.  India overloads your senses, and opens your heart to ways of seeing and being that you didn't know you were capable of.  There are no words or images that can fully describe the experience of India.  Life feels different - that may be because the drivers have you wondering whether you will make it back home, or it may be because there is color and beauty in the most unexpected places, or it could be that you don't usually life at the heightened state that life in India demands.

What really made my trip remarkable was the wonderful itinerary planned by Namaste India Tours and our wonderful driver and guide, Sanjay Kumar.  From fetching me at the airport at 2 a.m. (after waiting for two hours because my flight was late arriving), to giving wise advice for staying safe in the large cities, to educating us with the history of the places we visited and the customs of the people, to stopping the car every time he sighted a new bird or animal (I had told him my husband was a keen birder and loved wildlife), to checking that we were happy with our hotel rooms, and to furnishing a place of refuge from the crowds and the hawkers in the backseat of the wonderful old Ambassador car that was our transport, Sanjay was an amazing  host and friend to us.  I would highly recommend Namaste India Tours for their professionalism (they gave us a cellphone to use should we get lost or be uncomfortable at any time), the hotels they chose were just great (and all had flush toilets!)  In addition, the owner of the company, Jawahar Lal Rana, checked in with us four times during the trip to make sure everything was going well.

Because of the sense of overwhelm when you arrive in India, I believe having a reliable tour operator is essential.

We traveled approximately 4,800 miles during our trip which started in New Delhi, and took us to Jhunjhunu, Bikaner, Khuri, Jaisalmer, Jodphur, Udaipur, Pushkar, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikiri,  Agra and back to Delhi to fly home.  We experienced only a small part of India, the part known as Rajasthan or the land of the Maharajas, which is situate in the North Western part of the country (circled in white on the map below).  The ancient architecture and history of the area is rich and well worth seeing and experiencing.  Enormous forts can be found in most of the centers, and one has to marvel at how they were built so many hundreds of years ago and survive to this day.

How does one share the richness of character that is India?  It certainly can't be shared in one blog post - this is the first of many to share my trip so I can experience it again in memory.   Keith Bellows of National Geographic describes India so well in these words: "There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go.  For me, India is such a place.  When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds ... I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."