People say “there are no words” all too often. Myself included. But I really think India deserves the phrase. There’s no way to know what a day here will bring. David and I have had five days, and each one was more ineffable than the other. Yet, I still managed to put together the following words, which don’t even begin to capture one of the best trips of my life. (It would have been the best trip ever if Allan had been able to come, but he was attending a very special event in Singapore.)
We spent last evening touring the Agra Fort, and shopping in the small town. I wasn’t going to buy a rug from India — espcially since Allan bought one in Delhi in October — but when I saw the labor that goes into one square inch and learned that a percentage of each sale goes the family who made it, I couldn’t stop myself. They also offer free shipping to the USA, so our glorious rug will actually arrive in Burlington before we do!
We also popped in to a small emporium to get a few souvenirs for friends and family back home. The shop owner showed us some bed coverings and our eyes lit up. I hadn’t intended to buy one, but wound up with three. Once we had selected our purchases, we were ready to go. But the shopkeeper asked that we just enjoy the experience of looking at his fabrics. In other words, STOP RUSHING. Enjoy a thing of beauty. And we did.
David and I enjoyed a good sleep in our Agra hotel, a Doubletree, before heading back to Delhi at 8:30 a.m. Our driver and our guide (Veer) were a few minutes late but we didn’t care. We just sipped coffee and ate Dosa. When they arrived, Veer told us our superhero driver, at 6:30 a.m., discovered that the van had a punctured tyre. He borrowed a bike and rode to the tyre shop and bought a new tire, then rode back to the van and changed the tyre. AMAZING! He looked no worse for wear, and was ready for the three-hour drive.
Back in Delhi, around noon, we visited the National Gallery of Modern Art, which features the best of 20th century Indian artists. We were most impressed with “TRANSFIGURATIONS The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee.” Her work can only be described as Nature Ex Machina, and we LOVED the origniality and complexity of each piece.
Our 3-day tour ended with our drop off at the Imperial Hotel. I had selected this hotel, purposely, as our final destination. We started at a back-packers’ hotel, went on to an American chain, and concluded with an elegant holdover from the British Empire. We hugged our incredible tour team goodbye, and I felt tearful.
David and I headed to the swimming pool where a giant falcon was sipping water from a fountain. Lounging on the deck chair, David pronounced the Imperial as the Best Hotel in the World, and he may be right.
I pronouce India the most inexplicable place in the world. You can love it and hate it at the same time. You can cry with agony and ecstasy in the same breathe. You can take it or leave it, but you can’t pin it down.
You can come and you can go, but you’ll never ever get it out of your head.
Thank you, India.