A blog about New Delhi, Agra, and Uttarakhand by members of the Roanoke College course IL 277: Contemporary India in the Shadow of Gandhi. May 2011.
This morning we left Kausani at 6:30 am to head to Ramnagar for the Jim Corbett National Park. The mountains were beautiful this morning!! It rained again last night so the skies were a little clearer, but you couldn't see the full mountain range like you could yesterday. Our hotel was overlooking a valley and the fog was just settled there and it was beautiful and you could see the snow covered mountains!
Monkeys are my all-time favorite animal and we got to see bunches today! They were just on the side of the road like you would see a gofer in Virginia.
There was supposed to be this western-like toilet in this town 2 hours down the road so it was decided this would be a good place to stop for everyone to have a potty break. Of course its pouring down rain when we go to get out of the bus. Then we walk inside the restaurant, down thestairs, and under this open hall to what smelled like a bathroom. But the only thing we saw at first was an open urinal. Then this man comes out of this little door and we look and it's the bathroom. A hole in the ground and it smelled like a port-a-potty. Needless to say, that was pretty much a waste of a stop, but we did get some good bananas! 12 for $1 so it was a pretty good deal! :)
The mountain roads are pretty frightening! There are hair pin curves every couple minutes and you could not see what was coming at you from the other direction! Not to mention, the roads are only one lane!! All of a sudden we came across this one curve and the next thing we know the bus is tilted and Mahesh says, "everyone to the right side of the bus" so everyone moves to the right side and we stand there waiting to balance out the weight! The bus helper proceeds to get out of the bus, surveys the situation, and comes back in to tell everyone to get off the bus. When we got off the bus we realized we were tilted and hugging the guard rail. The bus driver was amazing and was able to get around the curve and no one was hurt so everything was ok! :)
After about 10 hours of this, we finally made it to Jim's Jungle Resort in Ramnagar where we were greeted with a cold glass of water and wet towels to wipe ourselves off. Each group had their own "cottage." This was by far my favorite hotel! We had our own porch, our own living room area, and the beds were really comfy!! It was kind of like living in India! It was really nice after our long journey! Jeep and elephant safaris tomorrow, so going to bed early tonight!
Posted by: Rebekah Self
I wanted to just post some pictures of the Himalayan sunrise that I saw in Kausani. From the previous entries, Kathleen already did some description of it, but I thought I might add a little more. We woke up around 5:15-30 am to watch the sunrise. The hotel offered a special sunrise tea, it is marseille chai, to enjoy the occassion. I walked out on my balcony around 5:30 am to see the gorgeous view. The sun was a bright yellow flare just peaking over the edge of one of the foothills of the Himalayas. It rained the night before, so there was a little more cloud cover to actually have a sunrise. The fog over the mountains also cleared that morning, so you could see the actual snow capped Himalayan mountains. That view only lasted part of the day before the fog came back.
Farther off in the distance, I could see some farmers working in their fields with their cows. They probably started around sunrise. The birds were also chirping, as if to say "good morning to the world." The sun was the indicator for the farmer and the wildlife to begin their day. I would not be surprised if either stopped working immediately after the set. The simplicity of it a sun-up/sun-down day is the essence of mountain life in India.
Posted by John Stang
Hello America, Hattie and Shannon here! Today May 28, 2011 was an exceptionally fun day in India. We began our day with a wake-up call at 4:30 a.m. We had to arise this early so we could get a head start on finding the elephants and tigers in Jim Corbett’s National Park. We rode to the park in three open air jeeps. The safari lasted for two hours and we saw many wild animals including spotted deer, exotic birds, monkeys, and most exciting of all elephants! The jeep Hattie was in had a very interesting/dangerous encounter with the elephants because as her jeep was sitting there peacefully observing a herd of elephants, the mother of a baby charged at the jeep and was about 25 feet away from running into the jeep and suddenly she stopped (thank goodness)! After the safari we returned to the hotel exhausted and hungry and soon feasted on a lovely breakfast.
After some rest and our final class of the trip, we embarked on our next journey, to ride elephants. There were four elephants all female, their names: Kalina, Chen-Chel, Laxshmi and Laadli. They were majestic creatures and we rode on their backs on makeshift benches, trekking through the forest for about two hours. When we reached the small river that we had to cross the elephants became extremely playful throwing water at each other. As we were riding the elephants back to our starting point we passed several mango trees, and some of us decided to pick some off. Unfortunately, Allie George was yelled at by an old Indian man who apparently owned the trees and demanded payment! Feeling so bad she gave him some rupees and was able to keep the mango, which she then fed to one of the elephants.
Once we returned to the hotel we freshened up and had our farewell dinner together. There was much laughter as we reminisced about our time in India; Dr. Kuchar even prepared a song to us, and it was very well done! Dr. Heller gave a very touching speech about what he has taken away from the trip. There were also awards given out to all of the students for all of the different positive attributes that people displayed on the trip. Brendle had some very kind and sweet final words to leave us with as the oldest student of our trip. Before turning in for the night some of us watched part of a very funny Bollywood movie that Mahesh provided, called Three Idiots. But unfortunately we were so tired from our fun day we all turned in early.
Posted by: Hattie Figgers and Shannon McCarthy
When I look back on the entire experience in India I think of how amazing our trip was and how different life is in India from our life here in the United States. One of the first things that came to my mind when thinking about our time in the city of New Delhi was traveling through the streets and markets of India by auto-rickshaw. Not only was this an exciting way to travel, but it was fascinating to see everyday life in India. India's people seem fearless as women ride side-saddle on motorcycles, drivers weave in and out of both sides of the road, children pile on motorcycles with their families, and drivers tail-gate almost gleefully as if they have a dire emergency. There are stray dogs everywhere, people napping along the street on a hot day, and people living tents lining the roads. There is litter everywhere and some men just pee in the middle of the streets. This is a way of life in the crowded, over-populated cities of India. When our bus had a minor collision, we expected police to come, insurance information to be exchanged, maybe threats of lawsuits, and long delays. Instead, we resumed our journey after is was determined that no one was badly injured and continued our four hour drive with a completely crack windshield. This is one very small aspect of India that I thought was very interesting and often very entertaining.
Posted By: Laura DePalma
Today we had quite an interesting day filled with meaningful service work and spiritual experiences. We began our day with one of the most beautiful sights we’ve seen so far: the completely clear Himalayan Mountains. Some of the students woke up at 5:30 this morning to see the sunrise over the mountains and got some incredible pictures. It was beautiful and we got to see the highest peak in India, the flatter mountain, despite looking like it was much smaller, is actually significantly higher than the larger peak next to it.
After the sunrise, we trekked in Jeeps to the valley down below our hotel and observed a meeting of a group of women in a local village. They were discussing better farming techniques and a new, more economical seed variety. It was really interesting to be able to join in the farming and help to learn how much agriculture and women are tied together. The lecture, along with being an agricultural information session, also served the purpose to empower the women to be more than farmers and to take control of their home life.
After the village, we ate lunch and then went to a 12th-13th century temple, the group of temples known as the Bainjath temples. We saw the most incredible temples and enjoyed looking at the beauty that was created so long ago. We were allowed to go inside and were blessed and we all made wishes, getting red bracelets to help remember them. It was a very significant day and I really felt that, especially within the village, we saw what India truly was.
On Wednesday we took a trek up what seemed to be Mount Everest to Laxmi Ashram (an orphanage/boarding school for girls without a fatherly figure). We were driven from the hotel to the town and then walked up this tiny side street up to the orphanage. After every step the trail seemed to get steeper and steeper. We finally reached the top and were introduced to David, one of the directors at the orphanage. He introduced us to this girl who took all of us to this field where they were raking pine needles. There were two reasons for this, one, because it provides bedding for the cows and the second reason was so the grass would grow so they could use it for hey come winter. There were about 20 girls, and right when we got there they all passed off their rakes as if they were sick of doing it. After they saw how poorly and slowly we raked they took them back pretty much immediately. After about an hour in the field we made our way back to the orphanage and sat in this gigantic room where David spoke to us about Laxmi Ashram and about himself. David was originally from England and in the 70’s gave up everything to come to Kausani to work at Laxmi Ashram. He was so passionate when he spoke about his work at the orphanage. After his speech we headed downstairs to their dining room. It was a long dark room with 3 long red mats on the floor and plates in front of them. Approximately 70 people (girls from the orphanage, workers, and all 18 of us), sat down to eat one of the best meals we’ve had so far. We had lentil soup, naan, cucumbers, and some potato dish. All of it was extremely delicious. As people finished they took their plate and washed it at this outdoor water fountain and then gave it to a few girls who put them back in their place.
It was really interesting going to the Laxmi Ashram because it was nothing like Jamghat in Dehi. These girls have such a gorgeous facility, they are very lucky to go to school and live where they are. It was different because we really got to interact with the boys and girls at Jamghat, but not so much here at Laxmi Ashram because they had a very strict schedule. Experiencing both was a treat because it really makes us think how fortunate we are.
Early morning we all woke up and enjoyed breakfast at our hotel in Almora in the mountain tops of the Himilayas. Shortly after, all 18 of us piled into our coach bus to endure on a treacherous journey. The roads on these mountain top ranges are anything but roads. They are if you can imagine the size of a small alley way that winds and twists in ways you could never imagine! -certainly they were not intended for coach buses. So off we went, destination: Kausani. Sitting by the window I saw the valleys and peaks of the surrounding areas aswell as towns and people working in the fields. Several hours into our trip we pulled over on the side of the road. At first we all thought that there was not much to offer and this stopping point but we quickly learned otherwise. Several of us followed our guide Maneesh along with Martha and Mike down to a temple. It was very small in size compared to other temples that we had been visiting. After slipping off our shoes we started exploring! We were greeted by a very cheerful and welcoming man speaking Hindi. He directed us as to what to do and invited us to sit with him. We learned that he infact lives at the temple and helps maintain it. He showed us around and blessed us all. The temple was there to worship Sita, Rhama, and Lakshmi. This was an experience that I think I will remember forever. The man there made the experience so personal. The environment around the temple was very peaceful and serene. After that adventure we boarded the bus to continue our journey. In what seemed liked days of bumping and winding we arrived in the beautiful town called Kausani. We all could not have been happier to be here! Our hotel looks out over the Himilayas and the staff are as nice as can be! Myself and several others got a jeep and rode into to town to see what else this town had to offer! Upon getting out of the car it of course became very eveident that we did not belong here! We all felt as if we were in a zoo and we were the animals- everyone was staring and watching our every move! We didn't let it bother us as we continued to explore. We walked through the street and hiked up a little ways to visit shops and street restaurants. Overall it was a great day and we all look forward to visit the Ashram tomorrow!
We woke up extremely early and left Saket Hotel for the last time it was 4 a.m. and still dark outside. I was saddened as the hotel began smaller in the rearview mirror but excited for what laid ahead a train ride. As we made our way through the streets of Delhi there was relatively little traffic and the streets were lit up by blinking red lights. We finally arrive at the train station on the other side of Delhi. It was still dark outside yet there were people, cabs, auto-rickshaws, and buses everywhere. It seemed everyone in Delhi was leaving the city! Mr. Jose assisted us and motioned for us to go through security and push our baggage through the screeners. As I tried to go through security there was a rush of people pushed their way through and I got pushed behind the crowd. As we made our way up to the platform I noticed there was people laying and sitting everywhere with various bags, cargo. From the looks of it the people had been there for a significant amount of time probably overnight awaiting the morning trains. Our train arrived and we made our way onto 2nd class cabins I sat down in a small but nice seat with a perfect view out the window. The train also had curtains to create privacy between the aisle and the seats. We also had the option of using blankets, buying chi, paynee (water), soda and other snacks. Our train left the station at 6 a.m. and we began our 6 hour journey from Delhi to Katgodam. As we made our way I realized passing the other trains that we had really nice train compared to the other trains that passed. There were people everywhere on the trains it seemed to be busting at the seams, there were men hanging out the train off the sides and back. Women and children were closely seated and many people looked to be in misery from the heat. As we sped through the countryside I was amazed by the differences in the city and countryside. If you didn’t know it the countryside looked similar to being out west in the U.S, until the train passed the small rural villages that dotted the countryside and were right against the tracks. For the first time since the beginning of this journey in India I was witnessing the level of poverty and daily lives of the majority of Indians. Children herding goats and cattle, women were on small roofs laying out laundry, a couple sat at a platform awaiting the next train, women were in the fields harvesting some sort of crop, and people sat along the tracks observing the train possibly the most interesting thing to pass through in a while. There are two specific moments that I witnessed that will forever be engrained in my mind. Deeply into our ride we were passing the countryside and came upon a few dwellings that were made of whatever could be found. We were miles away from anything and then out in a field on a small mount I saw a young girl with a cell phone to her ear talking. The area seemed so improvised yet she had a cell phone and service and could have been talking to a relative on the other side of the world. Amazed I still cannot grasp how a country so rich in natural resources and manpower is struggling to provide basic water sanitation and public services yet has advanced technologies such as cell phone service in the most remote areas. The other site that will forever be with me is I had the opportunity to stand between the cars and hang out the door. Holding onto the railing as the wind blew through my hair. I took in the nature beauty of the countryside and all the villages that we passed by. I was on such a high and then we came to a stop at a station for a short break and I stepped out. That’s when it happened as I stood on the platform a dog walked up to me and was completely missing its foot and nothing but a leg bone was hanging. He looked up into my eyes and I could see the pain in his face it was a miracle he was still alive. I knew I was going to lost it so I quickly board the train. I was hoping someone would help it or put it out of its misery it was the most horrific thing I’ve seen and I have seen a lot since I have been here. I can’t understand way the Hindu religion places a high importance on Mother Nature and animals yet seems to let them suffer and live in bad conditions. I suppose it is the result of having larger issues at hand. We finally arrived at Kathogdam and after a long ride and an interesting bathroom experience I unloaded from the cabin and we awaited Jeeps to transport us to Nannital where we would be staying. After a breathtaking drive up the foothills of the Himalayas we arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon. I finished off the night with a nice candle lit dinner in the hotel overlooking a beautiful lake town that glittered with the night lights.