Grant Muller

JTTE: Day One in Delhi

7:45 AM

I awakened feeling surprisingly well-rested at 6:00 am after a grueling 20 hour day of traveling. I still find it amazing that you can shave almost a day off of your life simply sitting on a plane and chasing the sun. I arrived in Delhi late last evening, crashed, and have spent most of the morning getting back in contact with the world at large.

I took some of the extra time I had this morning to roam around the hotel. It’s quite nice, with a rooftop restaurant and pool, small fitness center, and spa. Relatively similar to any upscale hotel you would encounter in any major city. Stepping out onto the rooftop lounge I surveyed the land.

Truth be told, there isn’t much to see. Where I’m staying in Noida looks much like the urban sprawl of Athens, complete with the ever-present smog haze. There are hundreds of squat two story buildings as far as the eye can see; which isn’t far due to the aforementioned smog. I’m always bewildered when people from America complain about how polluted our air is; that is how I know I’m speaking with someone who has never been outside the United States. Indeed, Athens, Delhi and cities of similar size in the old world make Los Angeles look like the poster child for the EPA.

It’s off to the office here shortly, which I’m sure will make the rest of my day feel a lot like home.

5:25 PM

Work wrapped up slightly early today as the jetlag caught up. Under the advice of a resident co-worker, I elected not to take a nap but rather walk around the neighborhood of the hotel, and see what there was to see.

India-8

     Noida is a residential suburb of Delhi. Most of the buildings surround the hotel I was staying at were single of multi family homes. These are build right on top of each other, in the way that inner city homes tend to be constructed in America. That is where the similarity ends. In India they are almost all brightly painted, bearing religious symbols, intricate designs, and shiny gates. Later I would ask the hotel attendant what the relative age of the homes was, and was shocked to find that most have only been constructed in the past five to ten years.

India-7

     I ambled through a nearby park, treading the same brick paths the locals were. Old men smoked marijuana cigarettes and played cards in the grass, while women strolled in pairs, but still for some reason on their cellphones. The dichotomy in gold-trimmed saris and pink cellphones does not elude me. Children, who seem to outnumber adults 100 to 1, played cricket in the fields. By the time I headed back to the hotel I spotted at least 8 separate games being played.

India-21

     In my wanderings I noticed that there were dozens of people walking with aluminum canisters. I wasn’t really sure what they were for until I came upon the Mother’s Dairy stand. Apparently the way to get milk in India is to walk to your local dispenser. I wonder if it’s pasteurized?

India-13

     There are dogs everywhere. I’ve seen herds of cattle wandering the streets, and the occasional mottled white brahman cow munching on some grass by the side of the road, but there are more dogs than anything. Most of them are pregnant. None of them seem to belong to anyone. The dogs in the picture are all very much alive, but I was later treated to my first unpleasant experience in the East when I wandered past a young mutt who had obviously died very recently, as a pack mate was trying in vain to nudge him to his feet. It was terrible.

India-22

     I rolled back through the park to watch a few cricket matches, then headed back to the hotel. I am probably not going to make it long this evening, but will try to stay up so that tomorrow won’t be unpleasant.

8:38 PM

Dinner was at the Great Kebab Factory. It was a lot of food. I got to try Kulfi, which was fantastic, as well as a killer pistachio ice cream. The kebabs were excellent as well. Highly recommended. The food has been amazing so far, and I assume I will gain at least 5 pounds. Today.

JTTE: Bleary-eyed and Hungry Over the Old Evil Empire

Bleary eyed and hungry I write this somewhere over the old Evil Empire. I had thought my mind better capable of dealing with the stresses of multi-day travel, and pictured in my head hours of reading and writing. I have spent much of this second leg fast asleep, roused only twice so far by the "bursar" (as they’re evidently called on Dutch flights), to be given a headset which I will not use, and to pick at a small meal.

Amsterdam was a blur. I was reminded of the change in pace I should expect to see when coming to any non-American country, as it took me nearly 30 minutes to order an omelet. Watching the chef cook one at a time when she had grill space to cook as many as four was infuriating, but I relaxed. I had a few hours to kill. After this surprisingly long breakfast we roamed around the duty free shops hawking everything from porn frozen herring. One can truly experience it all in Amsterdam. I will have more to say of the place on the return visit, when Cary and I will have time to exit the airport and roam around the city.

India-1

What’s it gonna be traveling DVD buyer? Two copies of Black Snake Moan, or Adult DVD?

I’ll struggle to stay awake as long as possible in order to crash once I reach Delhi, and hopefully wake in the morning (their morning) fresh as a daisy as though I’ve been there for weeks.

JTTE: Aloft over the Atlantic

11:00 PM? – Aloft over the Atlantic, I’m en route to Delhi via Amsterdam. A 20 hour flight doesn’t make a good story, so I’ll spare you the details. There are crying babies. There is fitful and infrequent sleep. There is excessively dry air. It is exactly what a 20 hour flight should be. I occupy myself with books, games, and the aforementioned fitful and infrequent sleep. I hope that a long bout of drowsiness will set in and I will catch some shuteye before landing in Amsterdam.

Journey to the East: A Travelogue of India

290-977289038 (1)Tall tales of India are not in short supply. Herodotus tells a unrolls a fantastic yarn about ants bigger than foxes who dig up gold as a by product of their burrowing. Skilled camel riders, calculating the appropriate time to do so, storm into the desert when the heat is the highest and the ants are in their burrows to snatch this gold up. They must time this precisely, or the ants, who in addition to their absurd size can run faster than a camel, will give chase.

In a tall tale from the even further east, Journey to the West was a 16th century travel adventure in which a monk is sent Westward from his home in China to the far off and exotic land of India to retrieve the sutras. Under the protection of several monsters (the most notable of which is a Monkey named “Aware of Vacuity”),  The monk encounters a series of strange impediments, including avery angry personification of a river, but reaches his destination of Vulture Peak, and brings back the sutras to his homeland.

Even modern folks have tall tales to tell. The Indian culture center is one of the oldest in the world, and there are some (who many call crazy) that think that India may have already experienced a modern age, complete with manned flight, journeys into space, and submarines. The proof they say, is in India’s own Ancient literature, the Vimanas, and that the knowledge of these things was lost to men for tens of thousands of years. There is an old crack that everything ultimately comes from either Greece or China, but this claim certainly has them beat.

In my own journey to the Indian Subcontinent (why do they call it that anyway), I find myself at once prepared for the peculiarities of the place and apprehensive; will the reality, along with the influence of the West in the last few centuries diminish the other-worldly-ness of the experience?  We’ll see, but I’m still going to keep my head on a swivel for giant ants, raging rivers, and ancient rocket ships, just in case.

This is the beginning of a travelogue of India. Posts tagged with JTTE (Short for Journey to the East), are entries in this log. Feel free to follow along.