7.18.2009

Varanasi, New Dehli, Trains, Harry Potter

Whew. What a crazy four days it has been! We took an economy class sleeper train from Calcutta to Varanasi on Tuesday night. It was our first experience on the trains in India and they definitely live up to the stories I have heard and films I have seen. The train system in India is something to behold, particularly if you choose to ride in economy class. The smells are as diverse as the country (very!) and you must become very comfortable sharing your seat for any given amount of time... especially if you are on the bottom seat, as I was for the first ride. People cram on and rush off at nearly every stop...and many of them are just traveling for a short distance. Beggars and peddlers are constantly in the hallways (Sidenote: The film Slumdog Millionaire's portrayals of the trains in India are 100% accurate!!). Surprisingly I slept fairly well, though I had to share my seat for the first couple of hours. When I laid down to sleep on my bed I woke up at different intervals to find various people sitting on the edge. I found that I was too tired to care about it one way or the other. :) I must say that the overnight train ride from Varanasi to New Dehli (our current location) was a bit more intense for me, however, as there were two babies in our little area. Both families were of humble means and so neither had diapers for the babies. Both babies pooped on the floor (one two year old literally just squatted and pooped on the floor of the train and the mom casually wiped it up with a scrap of an old scarf and the remains of our tissues). The other small baby peed all over my foot. They were incredibly cute though, when they weren't screaming their heads off. :)

Our experience in Varanasi was brief and AMAZING!! Varanasi is known as the "spiritual city" in India. People come from all over India to cremate their dead and send them off in the River Ganges, which Hindus worship as a god. Every morning hundreds of people can be seen bathing, praying and washing in the Ganges. Every night at 7pm one can hear the bells of the hundreds of Hindu temples throughout the city, and at 7:30pm the hour-long puja begins on the banks of the river (a puja is basically a Hindu worship service/prayer time). We had the opportunity to take a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges and watch the morning unfold. We were also able to attend the puja, which was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen (I will upload a short video I took of it sometime soon).

We arrived in New Dehli yesterday at around 5pm, 5 hours later than we were supposed to arrive. So we decided to just find a place to stay and find a theater showing Harry Potter. It was opening day for Harry Potter in India and I thought there was no way we were going to get tickets...especially trying to see it in New Dehli, which is arguably the most modernized/Western city in India. However, the show wasn't even close to sold out. I found that amusing. I was slightly dissapointed in the movie too I've gotta say. I found it to be a little anti climatic. For those of you who have seen it, any thoughts?

Tomorrow we will go to see one of the seven wonders of the world: the Taj Mahal. I am very much looking forward to this. I can't believe we will be back in the States by Friday. I feel like our time has just flown by and that we have barely scratched the surface of all that is India. I already can't wait to visit again.

If you're still reading, thanks! :)

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