Monday, October 03, 2005

Our Personal Passage to India

We're going to India. Amazing how those four simple words can evoke a universe of reactions. Everything from: "Wow...Brilliant - I wanna come too..." (Our 29-year-old daughter Camilla, who spent five months there) to "Are you bloody mad???!!!" (the expected response from certain acquaintances who shall be nameless!) Other responses from friends and family run the gamut of open jaws (no sound emitting), to "Huh, where?" to "Start taking Immodium-NOW!"
Well, we still have four months to go - October 15 is launch date - and we haven't started packing just yet (altho' our Australian cousins who are meeting us there claim they've they don't miss the plane).
How on earth do we have the audacity to go to India? We're not that young anymore (well, we're not OLD), we're - you know, not just out of the army heading east like every young Israeli who finishes serving the nation and heads for the wilds of Borneo, or Thailand or India or other such exotic climes. And NO, we are not going to do "India Luxus" staying in 5-star hotels swanning around in airconditioned Ambassadors with turbaned chauffeurs. We don't have the money for that, and even if we did, we wouldn't...know what I mean?
It all came about when our cousins (Nate and Helen) in Melbourne, who we haven't seen for three years, arranged to meet Gill and Hylton, our cousins from Tel Aviv in Delhi and they said why the hell don't we come along too - get all the bloody (sorry, blood-) relations together in one bloody place at one bloody time???
The lure of spicy, good, genuine, hot Indian curry every day for a month was just too much! Hylton and I have been threatening to get a curry evening together for months now, so I guess this is the only way we're going to do it sometime soon.
Now the plans and ideas, suggestions and comments are flying back and forth across the email and internet waves between Israel and Oz with alarming speed (the joys of being able to speak to Melbourne FREE via the Internet - yes this IS a plug for Skype!). Indian Internet sites are being visited more than ever in their entire existence; we are finding hotels and guest houses at ridiculously low prices (medium range, + private bathroom, +"beautiful view and sumptuous breakfast served overlooking the Ganges") for less than NIS50.00 a night DOUBLE (that's about $11); we have finally (I think...) figured out the strange and labyrinthine routes through an India Railways timetable - jeez, I negotiated my way through an Italian railway timetable and booking office - how bad can India be? (He he - chuckles Camilla, the one who spent five months there - just you wait and see....!) We do know that Helen, who was born in Calcutta, will be a wonderful guide and we've already started learning Hindi.
Here, courtesy of Helen, is Lesson 1:

  • namaste = hello (said with both hands together in a prayer-like formation: one is actually praying that they understand one) (pronounced: namaste)
  • ap kaisa hai = how are you (pronounced how arr yuu)
  • kitna paisa hai = how much is it (pronounced: emmachizit)
  • hum nai pasand karata hai = I don't like it (said to helpful coolies who try to feel one up at the same time as trying to snatch one's parcel in an effort to carry it for one and thus get some business so they don't starve to death)
  • hum usko nai mungta = I don't want it (to be said over and over again to over zealous shopkeepers, rickshaw wallahs, cholera ridden food vendors, public toilet paper dispenser ladies)
Here endeth the first lesson for the time being...
OK - so we're going to find out that the Internet is the biggest spin-doctor in the history of the universe; that the hotel rooms looked the way they do on my screen only once ever (the day the pictures were taken) and that breakfast on the Ganges may not be quite as romantic as it's made out to be...but that's what we're going to discover. Our sense of adventure has not been dimmed in our respective fifth (or is that sixth?) decades and we will take a one last deep breath of clean, airconditioned, aircraft air and savor it before setting foot on Delhi's tarmac.
We have been promised it will be an eye-opener; we have been promised that we will never be the same again; we have been promised the experience of a lifetime - and we can't wait!
We'll keep you posted on our personal passage to India.
Oh, and if anybody has any suggestions, ideas or tips, please email them or post comments on this site.

Sometime later (3 1/2 months later to be precise):
Since last editing this posting, I've learnt some new Hindi, which has become something of a personal favorite: "agar magar mudt kedjeaye = no if's and buts, please!" which I learnt not from Helen, but from that wonderful handbook on India, "Holy Cow" by Sarah Macdonald (Broadway) - absolutely required reading for anybody with even a remote interest in India. I practice this phrase daily (not sure about the pronunciation yet) but I'm sure I'll get it right eventually. After all, as somebody remarked to me at a party the other day, when I was mimicking a Durban-sourced Indian accent: "You'll have no trouble - you already speak the language..."

It is now early October and our odyssey looms large on the Eastern horizon. Just a week-and-a-half to go and then we'll be gone, flying Turkish Airlines magic carpet to who knows what adventures and experiences. Hotels are booked: - ha! let's see if the Prince Polonia Hotel in Delhi (Mr. Brij, Director) actually does meet us at Delhi airport in the wee wee hours (2:30 am ETA in their "own big car (tata sumo) for Rs700 - (NIS70.00)". Gill did a wonderful job sorting out the hotel bookings - emails, telephone calls, sending copious amounts of rupee as deposits...

We had our shots three weeks ago - our "Pun-jabs" as a friend remarked. Marlyn had four, I had five - and we are now suitably inoculated and immune for decades to all manner of dreadful little bugs and diseases which still stalk our lonely planet, particularly in those remote and undeveloped areas known as "The Third World". Still on our shopping list are hugely expensive malaria tabs (I thought a nightly slug of Gin & Tonic would do the trick - it worked for the Raj didn't it?) and a cartload of Immodium and one more hepatitis shot each.

Our inventory of clothes and accessories has been checked and set aside: camera - extra batteries - check; additional memory chip - check; battery and cell-phone charger - check; torch - check; locks for luggage - check; Visas - passport and plastic - check; minimal clothing (three pairs of shorts, three longs/jeans, T-shirts, something warm for the mountains; walking shoes - that's it...).

We've sort of decided to take only backpacks and a small wheeled carry-on suitcase (at least I have - I'm using Camilla's amazing backpack she had in India - well balanced, easy to lug, huge capacity; Marlyn has decided to take our standard traveling suitcase - mainly to make sure she has enough room to bring back the loads of cotton fabric she intends buying in Calcutta.

So now all that remains is for me to advise another few clients that I'll be away for half of October and a few days into November... (with some trepidation, Marlyn told her new boss...he was thrilled at the idea...); to get through the Chagim - Rosh Hashana tonight and tomorrow (too much to eat, I'm sure) next week Yom Kippur - nothing to eat - and then we fly...

I'll be keeping this up to date as much as I can during the trip - so log in from time to time (or I'll advise by email): Shana Tova to all - INDJAH - HEAH WE COME!


benita said...

Hey Larry (and Marl) this sounds amazing, am sure you are going to have a great adventure. possibly a good way to lose weight over the few weeks, not sure about that curry (deli belly!!!) but can't be worse that Armenia!!! love, Benny.x

Leon Struck said...

Leon said.Hi Guys, love hearing your adventures! We are preparing for hurricane Wilma said to arrive sometime on Monday evening!Have a wonderful time and becareful! Certainly the best place for curry. Love to Hylton and Gill