First, some thoughts. What does the quote by Thoreau, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" mean to you? Personally, I believe this quote describes that look of resignation printed upon the baggers face in the grocery store, or the unfocused eyes of the person on the city bus as he heads to work. This empty gaze that is etched upon the faces of people I've seen back in the States silently testifies of the lack of meaning and purpose found in our western culture. Having conquered our hunger and our basic needs, we Americans and other highly developed countries face a serious alienation from ourselves. It makes evolutionary sense- our purpose is to survive and multiply. Once we have satisfied our requirements to survive and multiply, many of us just don't know what to do with ourselves. It seems like a good problem to have... but I think too many people, including me at times, are suffering from some form of existential crisis and trying to find meaning and purpose in life.
In India, it has been refreshing to see the vivacity of the people here. People have a quickness to their step that is often lost to our home country and affirms the meaning that the mass of Indians have here. What is my purpose of waking up today? To get food so I can feed for my family. Why do I labor in such unhygienic and dangerous conditions? So that I can get the medicine my wife needs to defeat her dehabilitating disease.
I think I need to try and keep it simpler back home. I often have so many layers of reasoning for doing this and that we can lose sight of the purpose behind doing it. I do this so I can survive. I help her because I love her. I wake up so I can thrive. I get an education because I love learning. I'll have to work on not letting that gear get stuck up in my head and letting my thoughts run rampant. I regretfully concede to the validity of the generic saying "Live, Laugh, Love". I need to keep it simple. It makes for a happy life.
Glad I got that off my chest... now onto the good stuff!
Saturday morning our group woke up at 5 a.m. to go to the Taj Mahal. As we entered the grounds and made our way to the famous north entrance, a blanket of fog settled down in our path. With monkeys making their rounds on the outer wall is if they were the Indian guards of ancient history, we pushed forward towards the Taj. It really made for an epic entry.
This the place where the stereotypical Taj Mahal picture is taken. This day however, the fog teasingly does not allow it.
Some quick facts on the Taj Mahal: It is one of the seven man made wonders of the world. It took 22,000 people, with the help of elephants, over 22 years to finish the entire complex. The King built the Taj to bury his wife and to show his love for her. The marble is the best marble in the world. It is not permeable and is known as 'mystic marble' because of the way the marble changes colors according to the lighting.
We had to take off our shoes or put on shoe covers when we ascended the steps onto the Taj. I thought it added to the effect, even if it was a little 'eh' on the safety side. A few more pictures:
Nelson looking so suave
Picture of the eastern mosque taken from inside the Taj Mahal
With our new friend Junvay
Inside the Mosque trying soooo hard to break that door down.....
Gotta get in the cousinly love photo
Parting shot of Taj
Nels and I with some new friends from Wales. I think Tiffany (girl immediately to right of me) wanted Nelson bad... :) .
Truly, words can't describe what it was like being at the Taj Mahal, one of the Wonders of the World. My eyes were not capable of handling it. The size of the thing defied and denied any attempts from my eyes to grasp the depths of it and made my eyes play tricks on me. Mystical Marble.
After the Taj we checked out this HUGE fort called... The Brick Fort. In my last post I had a video that showed how big this sucker was. All I could think about is how many men could optimally be used to defend fort and the best way to break into it....
On a side note, every bus stop we would be surrounded and assaulted by a large crowd of street sellers. It was nuts. They would try SO hard to get you buy there little trinkets. They would start off saying "1000 rubies!" and depending on how well you negotiated, you could whittle that price down to almost nothing. Through the weekend I bought a whip, a miniature chess set, a miniature rickshaw, and some jewelry. A combined 3000 (80$)rubies value brought to me for a combined total payment of 450 (11$) rubies. The secret was just to show initial interest, then scorn at their initial price. You then ignore them as they keep chasing you and lowering their prices until you are getting close to bus. You hesitate on next price, say no, and then walk onto bus. They will grab you and almost in tears, give you the trinket for pennies basically.
The wall of street vendors awaiting our arrival, as well as an extremely deformed individual which is very sad.
David negotiating with the venders at the bus doors. David was the champ at negotiating. He loved it.
We also stopped at a marble making shop and a rug making shop. We were able to observe how both were made. I don't know how the rug makers kept their fingers... they were so fast.
Finally we made our way back to the hotel and spent the night. A few others and I hit up the pool/gym/steam room on the roof of our hotel. I'm not ashamed in admitting how pampered we were.
Quick side note:
When I first arrived in India, the weather was nearly insufferable. The heat was sweltering. The humidity was suffocating. Surprisingly, after a few days, I began to adjust and really didn't notice my discomfort at all. However, after spending a couple nights in a nice hotel, the next day the weather was again unbearable. Goes to show you how quickly one can get spoiled.
The last day we began our journey back to Delhi. We had two stops. The first stop was at a random park area... that had an elephant, monkeys, camels, and stray dogs. I was so excited to ride the elephant and play with the monkeys. I had been anticipating this all trip. It's a good thing too, because I honestly felt sick to my stomach with the way the animals were basically enslaved. The monkeys had chains around their necks, and the elephant basically had to keep performing the same taxing tasks that would have driven me insane. He couldn't have been happy. But... I had to ride an elephant. And I had to chill with the monkeys. So I did. Let the record show that I found fault with it and hurt alongside those animals though.
I want a monkey.
Checking me for lice- thanks bro.
The monkey REALLY liked Nelson's hair.
This animal was an intelligent behometh. I'm of the opinion that one can tell the intelligence of a life form (whether human or another species) by looking through it's eyes. As they say, the eyes are the mirror of the soul. I'm being a bit melodramatic here... but I kept looking into that poor giants eyes and I could tell he wasn't happy. Or maybe that's me putting my own morality and my own opinions into play here :)
Regardless, the ride was sweet, but petting it and playing with it was better.
Gotta have appreciation of the balance the elephant had between it's power and gentle nature.
Mounting the elephant... definitely a little sketchy
Elephant breath is nasty
After we finished riding elephants and cuddling with monkeys, we made one last stop off before the airport at the lotus temple. We went into the visitors center and I was honestly intrigued by the message the Bahai'i had to share with us. I think everyone should culture themselves and learn a little bit more about it.
Nelson giving us the upper half of a lotus meditation position in front of the lotus temple.
After the temple, we headed to airport and flew home to continue our charity work in Chennai. I definitely feel like I've experienced a lot more variety of what India has to offer.
Sorry for the long blog... but I had to catch up. Now I'm just 1 day behind. Toon in next time for Construction Day 2!
Oh and for the record, monkeys like orange soda.