MUMBAI, Maharashtra —After our tour group’s arrival to Mumbai, our new guide, who is from northeast India which has deep Southeast Asian roots, picked us up. While driving through Mumbai, we immediately witnessed unique aspects previously unseen during our trip: sizable skyscrapers, a strikingly young demographic, and ubiquitous Western clothing. With twenty-eight billionaires, Mumbai has the sixth largest number of billionaires in the world and is one of the world’s wealthiest cities.
KOCHI, Kerala — After leaving the beautiful Kerala backwaters, our bus began the short journey to the “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” Kochi. Soon, our tour group saw small groups protesting the entrance of two women into a prominent Hindu temple that previously forbade women between 10–50 years old. The protestors stopped our bus one time but waved us through after they saw that we were tourists.
ALLEPPEY, Kerala—Flying into Kochi, a coastal town in the south Indian state of Kerala, the lushness of India’s Shangri-la revealed itself: dense forest amongst a web of canals stretched far and ride with only the Arabian Sea hindering the forest’s path. Also, clean skies, not “hazardous” air, welcomed our tour group for the first in three weeks.
Prior to arriving in Kerala, I was expecting Kochi and the state of Kerala to still be reeling from devastating monsoon floods in August that had killed nearly 500 people and displaced more than 200,000 people. Upon landing at the airport, Kerala’s reputation…
“Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together” — Mark Twain
VARANASI, Uttar Pradesh — Landing 45 minutes late due to a no-fly zone caused by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coinciding arrival, our plane touched down in one of the world’s oldest cities, Varanasi, also known as Benares. The smell and visibility of smoke cloaked over the city added to the 3,000 year old mystic.
KHAJURAHO, Madhya Pradesh — Arriving at the Agra train station for our train ride to Jhansi, our tour group witnessed a bustling crowd: families, commuters, tourists, vendors, monkeys, and dogs. The station had all the amenities of a Western train or subway station as well as some unique features. For those that are on long journeys, open wash stations are available on the platforms. Despite the overarching walkways, most people simply walked across the tracks to get to different platforms.
AGRA, Uttar Pradesh — After a three-hour, road construction-laden drive, we arrived in Agra in the late afternoon. Our guide Som offered us a sneak peek of the Taj before our tour the next day, and everyone in our tour group eagerly agreed. After embarking on a complex journey on electric — not gas — tuk tuks through Agra and arriving in the middle of a residential area, we followed Som and scaled several flights of stairs that exited onto a rooftop restaurant. There, we laid our eyes upon the Taj Mahal. The rooftops of Agra in the foreground and…
ABHANERI, India — After visiting the jungles of Ranthambore National Park early in the morning, we continued our journey through rural Rajasthan. Passing through a small village, our guide Som noticed several roadside milk sellers. We exited the bus, and Som detailed milk’s religious and delectable importance in India.
SAWAI MADHOPUR, Rajasthan— During our five hour bus ride from Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park, our eyes were opened to a new side of India: rural India.
JAIPUR, Rajasthan— After a short 45 minute flight, our bus driver and his assistant from Delhi met us at the Jaipur airport. The desert landscape — short shrubs, rocky terrain, dry and dusty soil — became visible as we ventured to Sanganer, a village close to Jaipur.
Sanganer is known for its handmade paper industry and pottery, and first on our touring list was a handmade paper manufacturer. …
DELHI, India — “Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our descent…” After back-to-back eight hour flights with the final leg in the dreaded middle seat, my legs were ready to be freed from their spatial constraints. I peered out the airplane’s window and into the winter Indian night. A bright moon rose high above hazy specks of light dotting the ground. Soon, the bright lights of Delhi appeared, and we landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport. My four months in India had begun.