Trippin’

India is Grate 

UnknownBack in 1982, Lora said she’d take me anywhere in the world I wanted to go for my 40th birthday.  When I said “India” I discovered that she really meant was “I’ll take you anywhere in the world you want to go as long as it’s Paris.”  Paris on my 40th birthday was truly lovely.  But it wasn’t India.

It wasn’t until 1994 that I actually got to India.  Our son Max was wandering around the subcontinent, and his mother asked him (supposedly unbeknownst to me) to invite me to join him.  He did, and we spent a wonderful month together.  We traveled in Max’s style, with hotels that cost $1 a night and dinners that cost 75 cents, and he introduced me to the places in India he had discovered.UnknownUnknown-4

It took another 13 years for me to visit India again.  This time the occasion was our son Sam’s travels in Vietnam and Laos.  I offered to meet him in India on his way home.  He accepted quickly once I told him that Lora and I would cover all his expenses for the extra month he would be away from a salary.Sam at the Taj

Finally, in 2010, Lora expressed curiosity about India and suggested that maybe, just maybe, she would like to see what drew me back there.   I showed her the places that Max had shown to me 16 years earlier.  Even some of the restaurants that could still be found.  Like Zorba the Buddha in Agra, where Max had a semolina dessert that he still remembers fondly today.  http://zorbarestaurantagra.com/index.htm   And 8 July in Jaisalmer, where apple pie like your mother used to make still makes a strange combination with mango lassi.  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297667-d1647914-Reviews-8_July-Jaisalmer_Rajasthan.html

No surprise, Lora became as captivated by the country as I was.   Which made it the principal place we visited on our 3 month journey this past winter.  And now we’re heading back.

The seed for this visit was a comment by our son Max that he didn’t know if he would ever get back to India.  I thought, to myself, “Why not?”  I figured that each of the 3 boys might be able to break away from life’s daily demands in January so an email went out them – who wants to join me, all expenses paid?  Jonathan, Max and Sam immediately signed on, and 6 other people asked if I would adopt them.  So we’re off in a week.

Max and I fly out on the 27th and Jonathan flies in from Taiwan to meet us on the 28th.  We head to Agra and then to Lucknow, where Sam joins up with us.  Then over to Varanasi, where Lora joins us for several days.  Then Jonathan and Max have to head home, Lora goes off to Gujarat with a group of women, and Sam and I head over to Rajasthan so I can show him the places that Max showed me 20 years ago.  After Sam heads home I’ll be meeting up Lora for the rest of the trip.

Two things about the trip have me in a high state of curiosity.  One is a visit to a small pilgrimage town of Chitrakut in Uttar Pradesh, between Lucknow and Varanasi.  Max thought it would an interesting place, perhaps because of the following passage in Lonely Planet about the town’s relationship with the India railway system’s schedule.  I’m up for most anything and Jonathan and Sam both said OK.  Lonely Planet suggests only two places to stay in Chitrakut, and I picked the better of the two.  It has hot water, but only if you want to buy it by the bucket.

photoThe other place of high curiosity is our planned visit with my sister Anne, a Hare Krishna devotee for a few decades.  She lives in another pilgrimage town named Vrindavan, near the city of Mathura where Krishna was born.  Anne (she has taken the name Vicitra) is an ardent proselytizer so it should be an experience to visit her in the bosom of the Hare Krishna movement.  Vrindavan itself looks like an amazing place, and I’ll share with you how the visit goes.

 4bbf2bde86719brindavan_Mathura

 

Where We’re At and Where We’re Headed

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Sam and Mary Ann Peace Pagoda

First, the really BIG news:

Sam Brody and Mary Ann Petti became engaged last weekend.  They circled the Peace Pagoda in Leverett, MA three times in single digit degree weather (is this the custom or did it take three times for Sam to get up the nerve?) then sent this beautiful photo showing their  beaming faces and Mary Ann’s beautiful ring.  The Brody clan gains a very special addition (although we’ve considered Mary Ann one of the family ever since we met her five and a half years ago), and we look forward to updates on future plans.

Speaking of future plans, as I sit at my desk looking out over the snow and ice crusted landscape, it’s the thought that it’s 70 degrees in Delhi and that in a very short time I’ll be there that makes me happy.

It’s been fun to re-read the blog and remember our various adventures last year.   I’d like to give a huge shout out to David Brody who in his typical painstakingly careful way edited every page, catching typos, mistakes, and stuff I made up when my creative side overtook the need for facts. He also inserted lots of periods in an effort to rein in my love of run-on sentences (witness the perfect examples right here). Clearly he will have his work cut out for him when we finish the 2nd installment of the Big Trip, which for him commences on Dec 27.  He and our middle son Max will  fly from JFK to Delhi and shortly thereafter meet up with our other two sons Jonathan (coming from his home in Taipei) and Sam, coming from Northampton after seeing in the New Year with Mary Ann.

It’s been David’s dream to travel in India with all three sons. He’s made this trip individually with both Max and Sam, but never with Jonathan. He’ll fill you in on the details and itinerary. I leave on January 3 from Boston and fly to Delhi, where I will stay for several days before meeting up with David and the boys in Varanasi for five days. The parts of their trip I am most interested to hear about will be the stay in a small town where the trains run (according to our guidebook) at Stupid O’Clock, and the sister and brother (and nephew reunion) in Vrindavan. Then we each go off – Max and Jon back home, and David and Sam to Rajasthan.  I’m going to Gujarat which is the large carbuncle jutting west into the Arabian Sea directly south (but not all that close) to Pakistan.

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I will be traveling for ten days with nine amazing women who directly or indirectly shared a relationship with Mary Ann Marino, our friend who loved India so.  The genesis of this adventure began in Hyderabad last January when, shortly after Mary Ann’s death, her friend Santha decreed that there would be a celebration of Mary Ann’s life in India the following year.  My job was to organize people from the states who wanted to join us.  Four of us knew Mary Ann and the others are some of our friends who had heard us talk about her and were excited about a chance to visit India.   Our itinerary was inspired by Santha’s friend Roku, who is a costume designer for the movie industry, and thus someone who appreciates and has a deep interest in the fabrics and handcrafts for which Gujarat is famous.

“About Gujarat Handcrafts”

Unknown-2 Unknown-3 Unknown-4 Unknown-1David will meet us at Palitana at the end of our trip.  Words fail me when I try to describe this mountain covered with over 900 Jain temples.    Stay tunes for my photos after I climb the 3.800 stone steps to the top.  Here’s one from the Web:

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At the end of our time in Gujarat some of us will fly to Hyderabad to connect with Santha, along with Mary Ann’s other Indian friends. A highlight will be a visit to the Hyderabad Children’s Home where Mary Ann volunteered and was an adored presence.

Next – David and I travel to Goa – the tiny red dot on the map below.

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While some of you may think we are going there to lie on the beach and catch some rays, the truth is that for a lot of the time I’ll be in the dark (room) at Goa-Cap; Goa Center For Alternative Photography where  I have a two week residency to make art.  David is still thinking about what he’s going to do – perhaps find a place to teach English, or sit on the beach…stay tuned for updates.

Then we fly south  to Sri Lanka for two weeks,

Sri Lanka

 

where you will, in fact, find us lying on the beach –

Sriankan Tourism Catogory

– for at least part of the time.  But also touring around as we understand there is lots to see.

Meanwhile, here’s wishing all our faithful readers the happiest of holidays and a wonderful New Year filled with love, laughs, the company of friends and family and a few dreams come true.

Lora and David