Tuesday, September 16, 2008

purnam adah purnam idam

We left Delhi first thing in the morning. We were headed to Agra, which houses the Taj Mahal.

Driving on India's roads in a bus is quite an experience. Drivers honk their horns like mad, and pass each other as if on a racetrack. But there is no road rage. Rickshaws and pedestrians seem to have to make the most compromises; the bigger the vehicle, the more entitled the driver. We learned that the speed limit is 60 kph ... that's roughly 36 miles per hour. Not fast. So the distance between locations isn't necessarily that great, but access is quite limited. The view through the windows displayed many workers walking along the road balancing huge parcels on their heads. Cows and water buffalo meander as they like, with stray dogs also adorning the landscape. We saw camels and what looked to be a genuine caravan ... 8 or 9 huge ballooning parcels on carts being drawn by camels parading along the road. Monkeys are a common sight, and the urge to pet them is always overruled by a fear of rabies.

The trip to Agra is said to be five hours. In truth, it's maybe 7. We make a few stops for snacks and to pee. Ah, yes, the bathrooms. Often there are western toilets, sometimes just porcelin treadmarks leading to a hole in the ground, complete with a handle to flush. Always carry t.p. with you! Sometimes a person stands outside the bathroom 'selling' a swatch of paper for 5 or 10 ruppees. We've even encountered signs that say, "Toilets are free; please do not pay."

En route to Agra, we stopped at Akbar's tomb. It's called Sikundra, I think, and it was really lovely. Beautiful grounds ... more monkeys, some deer and what looked like gazelles grazing on the lawn. We were told there were some peacocks, but I didn't see them.

India really is about peak experiences threaded together with hours of bumpy, hot and even uncomfortable travel. It's as if she is saying, "You want to see what I have to offer? How much do you want it?" And she only drops her veil if you are willing to endure much discomfort.

The group yoga practice has necessarily shifted during this portion of the journey. At many of the hotels we've been granted open space for group self-practice, which has sustained many. Others express a yearning for that shared group experience which works as an adhesive keeping the group glued together.

This trip is definitely the maiden voyage. We're all learning together. And yet, amidst the challenges and the things that might be better executed differently, it is still perfect in its own idiosyncratic way.

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