Category: India, 2019

Reflections. India 2019

We’re delayed taking off from London for reasons I can’t determine because I don’t hear shit, the pilot has a British accent and the sound system sucks. While I don’t love delays, I accept them as inevitable. What I don’t accept as inevitable is the pilot thanking us for our patience. That pisses me off. It’s a little like a guy socking you in the nose, bloodying it and thanking your nose for being there. Keep your thanks, Captain Gracious, and just get us to Chicago.

First, reflecting on the problems. Two difficulties, which probably could not have been prevented.

After our itineraries were set, the airlines canceled some fights, which necessitated stops we had not anticipated and lengthened the amount of time we spent in transit, I’m sure that our travel agents explored all options and came up with the best they could, but less transit time would have enhanced the trip experience.

The transit portions done by car were less stressful. We had very comfortable SUVs, air conditioned, with wifi and drinks and snacks, and we could stop when we wanted to. Flying just sucks everywhere. Flying Business Class certainly helps, but it doesn’t eliminate the crowded airports, long lines and flight delays. The BA planes were not comfortable.

Second, we were both sick, with nasty coughs and periodic sore throats. Carol’s cough is still pretty bad, but mine has improved quite a bit. Of course these coughs sap energy and just make getting around less pleasant. Yet, I’d say we soldiered through pretty damn well for an elderly couple who have noted that distances are longer than they used to be, the heat is hotter than in the past, tiredness sets in earlier in the day and steps are higher than usual and subtle obstacles meant to trip you up are hidden at random places along the way.

I made several good moves on this trip. Taking my iPhone 11 and leaving my Sony and lenses was a brilliant move. I almost never wished I had the Sony. The iPhone photos at first blush look quite fine to me, certainly completely adequate for the blog and, I think, enough good shots to merit working on them when I get home.

Packing lighter and doing laundry more frequently was wise. I could have packed even lighter. Shorts and short sleeve shirts were the ticket, and I could have bent more heavily in that direction..

Taking walking sticks was helpful at times. I’ll take them on our next trip and probably use them more. Complementing use of the sticks was simply being a lot more consciously careful of where I stepped. Falls, I think, are most often occasioned by hitting a single stone or by a slight, subtle change in level. Walking down stairs or a slope where there is no hand rail or other support is dangerous; I took it slowly. In general, I was simply more cautious of all of these dangers, and it paid off.

Well, enough old folks talk. What about the trip, overall, and it’s highlights? Overall, I’d say the trip was a solid A-. Shonali did a terrific job of planning a very diverse trip. We stayed in spectacular places, definitely the best overall accommodations we’ve ever had. And we had guides, all of whom were excellent to outstanding. Trip details were handled efficiently and seamlessly, without glitches.

People often ask us about the food. We are not foodies and don’t travel for that reason. I’d say the food was good, just fine, but not exceptional. Had we been interested in great food, we probably would have sought it out and found it more often than we did. Frankly, at the end of a long day, a good meal at our hotel always seemed like the best option, rather than schlepping out to a restaurant.

As always, it was little personal, unexpected or truly different experiences that are the most interesting and memorable for us. Celebrating Diwali with a family in Jodhpur, an unscheduled stop at a cocoon market, visiting Bullet Baba’s temple, watching the shoemaker in Jodhpur, walking with the shepherd in Jawai and going to a village there, stopping by for opium tea, watching the master craftsman making inlaid wood pieces that you’d swear were paintings, running into the daughter of a couple who hosted us for lunch at a small guest house and finding that she’d studied law in England, too, and had lived in Japan, where we’re traveling next April, learning and seeing the intricacies of silk making by walking round the factory, being dazzled by the miniature painting at the Jodhpur fort museum and then seeing, hearing about and purchasing one of those pieces from Rohit in Delhi. The purchase seemed not like a random impulse purchase, but a follow through on something that had attracted our interest in Jodhpur. Carol enjoyed shopping for vegetables and then seeing lunch prepared.

Walking through villages, seeing people work at and explain their crafts (especially when they are not trying to sell them to you) and just seeing life and observing how different it is from what we experience; these are things we love. Of course, palaces and forts, and some temples, are must-sees. We enjoy those, but, at the end of the day, I hardly remember which is which and rarely who built them and when they were built. That said, seeing the Mysore Palace lit at night is something that certainly will remain in memory, (On the other hand, we feel we’ve pretty much done markets around the world. But, as soon as you say that, you come up with the terrific flower market, seen from above in Bangalore, or the unusual and interesting cocoon market.)

I’ve raved about the hotels we stayed at, which is a bit embarrassing. But not really. Certainly the luxury is noteworthy (and, okay, appealing). But really it’s more than that. These were actually the places that kings and maharajas lived, and a good deal of what they lived with surrounds you. Haven’t you ever sorta wanted to be a maharaja? I have.

I’ve also raved about our guides. Any traveler knows how important your guide is to your overall experience. Shonali knows that we are quite fussy about our guides, and makes sure that the guides she sets us up with are top drawer in their English, in their knowledge and in their ability to “get” what their clients are really after.

I’d have to say that two of the places we visited were extraordinary. First, Hampi for its wonderful archeological significance and striking beauty. And, second, Jawai, for its combination of leopards, shepherds, village people and magnificent, rugged landscape and beautiful sunset. And, if you can’t live in a palace, a luxury tent is a pretty good fallback.

I typically slip a photo or two into my last post, so that you won’t feel cheated. I had quite a number of candidates for this trip, but settled on two, both of Carol and me, first in our carriage pulling up to our palace in Hyderabad and second in the landscape of Jawai.These symbolize two of the wonderfully diverse experiences we had. They also show what a pleasure and privilege it is to still be able to share these adventures together, more than fifty-four years after our first major trip together, our honeymoon. I sincerely hope that some of you reading this can share those kinds of experiences with somebody who means so much to you.

9 comments to Reflections. India 2019


    Lovely recap Arnie
    Welcome home!

  • arnie

    Thanks, Jean, just waiting for our gate at ORD. Happy to talk about the trip, if you want. Definitely some things you’d like.

  • Bob Heywood

    Hey Arnie! It is always a pleasure to follow your adventures, and this trip is no exception. India fascinates me, and I hope to visit there someday. Thanks for sharing your experiences! The iPhone photos always amaze me… just too easy!

  • Paul Woo

    Thanks for your wonderful narratives through these terrific and amazing journeys you and Carol have had. Safe travel home….


  • Phoebe Snell

    This is great! I enjoyed following the trip. It is so special that you and Gee-Gee are still traveling together 54 years later!

  • Barbara Sandler

    As nana would say, “Ach, vee hibbish!”

    Und velcome home! Un gansa mahiah
    du bist. Vecklish, mein bruder.

    Luf frum dine shvester!

  • Lauri Pollack


  • kay osborne

    Love it all, every last bit of it, welcome home.

  • arnie

    Thanks so much for following, Kay.

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