Wednesday, October 1


This blog has been on a bit of a hiatus the past few weeks. A part of the reason being that I was in India for much of it, and didn't quite have it in me to go into travel-blog mode. But briefly, the stops included...


Hot, crowded, polluted. But fantastic, I thought. Vibrant and bustling are both overused adjectives when it comes to cities, but certainly apply here. Parts of it, at least are quite charming as well, particularly when old colonial buildings or the oceanfront are involved. The accompaniment of Suketu Mehta's Maximum City also enhanced the experience.

Delhi, the administrative capital. Also hot, crowded, and polluted. But not particularly charming. There does seem to have been more city planning involved - wide bureaucratic avenues, big traffic circles - but I don't know if it's better planned. Certainly not a walking-friendly city. But no shortage of McDonalds, Subways and Starbucks imitations. And big points for the sleek new, smoothly-operating subway. Fortunately I missed the mid-September bomb blasts by a week.

This thing, which probably does merit the hype:
Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. There's a fort, some old palaces, and far too many people (over 3 million), cars, rickshaws, and cows, for what is still a pretty small city, in terms of area. It was also hit by a terrorist bomb attack earlier this year, but there didn't seem to be much lingering concern.

Jodhpur, another princely state with a charming old city and sprawling new city. It's also, sadly, the site of the temple stampede that killed about 150 people this week. Here's a view from the fort which houses the temple, on a happier day:

Udaipur, a nice lakeside town, though it doesn't live up to its billing as the "Venice of India." There's a palace in the lake, where Octopussy was filmed. Unfortunately, there's not much water in the lake now, which makes things rather less impressive.

Ahmedebad, capital of Gujurat, where many of the Indians in Kenya, as well as Silicon Valley, have come from. Also the site of a bomb attack this year, as well as some of the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in recent years. Another huge city (4.5 million), but rather low on charm, to which the constant rain did not add anything.

Anyway. I've improved my Indian menu literacy. I've gotten the title tracks from "Rock On", billed as the first Bollywood rock film, and "Singh is King", the latter featuring Snoop Dogg, permanently lodged in my head. I've gained a cursory understanding of India's caste-based patronage politics. And I've replenished my bookshelf with the fruits of the Indian imprints of international publishing houses. Now back to the usual.

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