It looks like that I can get this blog every other day since so many activities and events are on our schedule. Our train from Jalgaon to Nagpur was with somewhat better equipment, although the same setup as the train from Mumbai to Jalgaon. With a departure of 12 midnight, we arrived about 6 a.m. at the end of the line for that train. We have nine pieces of luggage, so it was good that we had more than 3-4 minutes before the train departed. Nikhil’s mother greeted us on the train platform, and we got underway. Porters readily are available to handle the luggage. It’s amazing to see them hoist a large 70-pound suitcase on top of their heads – and even place another smaller one on top of that one – and proceed to our vehicles, up steep stairs or long ramps that cross the other railroad platforms and tracks, and then down on the other side. The porters can’t weigh more than 90 pounds; although small of stature, they are wiry and strong.
From the train station we travel to the Tuli Imperial Hotel, a 15-minute drive from the station and in the middle of Nagpur. The city is larger than Jalgaon, better designed, and with traffic lights that drivers do seem to obey. Still, the mass of traffic we saw in Jalgaon is the same here. Our hotel is very good, with amenities that rival the best American lodgings. We checked in, freshened up, had breakfast, and then met for a two-hour session with a group of astrologers. Inasmuch as this in India, astrology is more greatly understood and accepted as an art and a science, not the simple two-line piece available in American newspapers. Our discussion with them was interesting. They already have a baccalaureate degree program at a local Sanskrit university in Nagpur. They took our birth information – date, time, and place – and they are planning to do our individual horoscopes. Now, that should be interesting.
Next, we drove to the home of Dr. B.R. Andhare, who is a retired faculty member from one of the local universities. His house, which was small, constructed of concrete and stucco, about 8 or 10 rooms, was filled with a lifetime of Indian and Asian collectables. He is the author of several scholarly books and continues with his research and students in retirement. We saw wonderful art objects, including lamps, serving pieces, weapons, clothing, books, manuscripts, portraits, coins, furniture, sculpture, and the like, ranging over several hundred years. He was wonderfully engaging and toured us through his house. We entered through an iron gateway into a small outdoor garden surrounded by high walls, filled with plants and sculpture, seating areas, and the like. At the entrance, we removed our shoes, according to Indian custom. Nearly every wall and floor space was filled with wonderful objects.
Indian homes are not built to American standards, and the quality of the work leaves much to be desired. Lighting typically is with fluorescent bulbs or tubes, often installed just directly to the wall or ceiling without any diffuser or cover. Because this is a hot, arid climate, houses tend to be somewhat cooler than the outside, and ceiling fans are much in use. Some houses have air conditioning, but most seemingly do not. After a good hour or more with Dr. Andhare, his wife Mira, and his son, we returned to our hotel for lunch about 2 p.m.
Meals in India are different from those in America. Breakfast can be anytime from early to about mid-morning. For example, North Maharashtra University opens at 10 a.m. and concludes its day about 5:30 or 6 p.m. Lunch generally is at 2 or 3 p.m., and dinner – very late by American standards – at 9 or 10 p.m. Meals are served with a variety of items, including vegetables, meats – depending upon religious beliefs – rice, and sauces. The food is spicy, but not as strong as other Asian cultures. Flatbread is used to eat, and only the right hand is used to tear the bread. It’s a trick to do so, using the thumb and forefinger to grasp the bread and the other digits to hold it in place. Servers return many times to ensure that you have enough food. Desserts are sweets, from simple to culinary creations. Bottled water is universally available, since the local supply may not be hygienic or pure. Meal conversation is lively, with lots of laughter, exchanges of opinions, discussion of plans, and overall a pleasant, enjoyable time together.
Following lunch, we rested for a 2-3 hours, which we needed given our lack of full sleep on the train and the busy schedule we
are following. In the evening, we visited several temples, including Jains, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu. At each site, we were welcomed cordially, often given personal tours by the leader. These temples are located throughout the city, often in busy market areas. We remove our shoes at the entrance, and walk through hearing the description of the particular personage or god being represented. The Muslim holy site was where an important teacher had sat under a tree, so his grave was located there with the sacred tree directly adjacent. Men and women are separated, with different entrances and seating areas. Worshippers walk around the grave, often pouring water on the beautiful covering and its flowers to ensure that life continues. The attendant blessed me with his brush, touching it first to the top of the grave.
We then traveled 20-30 minutes to an Indian folk park, greeted at the entrance by receiving the appropriate pigment on our foreheads. A drummer was next, with a gorgeous horse costume, and a dance pulled the costume on to his shoulders and gave us appropriate welcome. We were invited to do the same, so Cheryl Anderson Lindsay gave us her version of the dance. Next, we came across a fortuneteller, with his bird, who would pull the appropriate card from the set in front of him. He then would interpret the fortune, based upon the person’s name and zodiac sign. Although skeptical, it was interesting to hear much of mine that I could validate as being accurate. He expressed concern about my travel from Saturday to Sunday, and blessed me with a ring for my middle finger to ensure protection. I’ll know in a few days.