Tag Archives: India

MY TRIP TO INDIA (PART II)

Dhobi Ghat

While in Mumbai, I also had an opportunity to visit Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest outdoor laundry. It was very intriguing to watch the men as they worked in this outdoor laundry. As I scanned over the railway platform, I could see men beside concrete wash pens full of water flogging wet clothes over stones; literally beating the dirt out of each piece of clothing by hand. It reminded me so much of the times when I was young and would watch my granny outside, scrubbing clothes clean in a round tin tub using a washing board. All items that were washed in this outdoor laundry were later hung or laid on the roof tops to dry. As I continued to scan across Dhobi Ghat, I could see school uniforms and everyday clothing swinging on the lines to dry. The white shirts, towels and sheets were scrubbed white as snow as if brand new and had never been used or worn before.

I believe the most intriguing thing about Dhobi Ghat is that they service the residential homes, hotels and hospitals of Mumbai. They can come to your home or place of business and pick up your dirty laundry and delivery it to you once its complete. I was told they never mix up an order as well, how remarkable is that? As more and more people in Mumbai are purchasing washing machines and choosing to do their laundry at home, these men have seen a decrease in their business. However, it hasn’t stopped their dedication and they take pride in offering this service to the people of Mumbai. It is a family owned business and the goal is to pass this art and business on to their children. I think that’s an admirable thing.

The Taj Mahal

The second part of my trip began with a flight to Delhi and a four-hour drive to see the long-awaited Taj Mahal. First, let me say that in living abroad, I spend a considerable amount of time in airports. I can truly say that the airport in Mumbai has some of the best artwork I have seen thus far (see pics below).   As I traveled through the airport I was so excited to see a Burger King and a Pizza Hut, but the excitement quickly faded when I realized that neither served beef. Yep, you heard me right…No Beef! As 67% of the people living in Mumbai are Hindu, beef is not an option that is readily available. Therefore, I opted for chicken Tikka and garlic naan instead and on my way back a Mutton burger.  After my lunch settled, I decided on a relaxing head and foot massage while I waited for my flight to Delhi to depart.

Once I landed in Delhi, Rahil arranged for a driver to pick me up from the airport who also drove me to my hotel in Agra. The drive to Agra was beautiful. It reminded me so much of my hometown in the US. As we drove, I could see fields for miles, just open country as we rode the highway, away from the hustle and bustle. As the sun began to set, so did my eyes and before I knew it, I woke up and had made it to my hotel. The next day, my driver purchased my tickets, gave me my shoe covers and I boarded a golf cart that brought me to the Taj Mahal.

 

To help preserve the site, only battery-operated vehicles can be within close proximity to the site of the Taj Mahal. Some people walk from their hotels, some take a horse ride, and others use the battery-operated shuttles or golf carts that went back and forth. As I entered the gate to the site I was so elated that I had finally made it and was filled with anticipation. However, nothing could prepare me for what I saw as I entered through the entry way and got my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal. I was in complete awe of the beauty of it. As I put on my shoe covers to begin to explore the inside of this masterpiece, I couldn’t help but think about how long it took to build this mausoleum (approximately 20 years) and about the hands that had created such beautiful work. By the way, it is rumored that some of the architects were killed or had their hands severed off so they could never duplicate it anything like it ever again.

After taking my pictures of the Taj Mahal and with a few people who I didn’t even know LOL (this happens when I travel abroad from time to time as a Black American) I shared a bench in front of the Taj Mahal for about an hour with a young lady who was a solo traveler (Anna). As I sat in front of the Taj Mahal, I took the time to truly reflect on my trip to India and the beauty of the art that sat in front of me.

What I appreciated most about my trip to India is this: A little brown girl from John’s Island, South Carolina turned what she saw on a page in a history book into her reality. I made it to India!

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“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love them.” 1Corinthians 2:9

My Trip to India (Part I)

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Departing from Hamad International Airport

 

Recently I had an opportunity to visit India on a short holiday. I ‘ve always dreamed of seeing the Taj Mahal in person.  I can remember in school learning about the Taj Mahal and it’s architecture, wondering how deeply a man must truly love a woman to honor her in such way.  Needless to say I was very excited to see it and decided to save that part of my trip for the end. As you read my highlights from my trip to India below, let me tell you that India surprised me in many ways.  While I would recommend you visit India,  I would say 4 days was more than enough for me and satisfied my curiosity about the country.

Preparation

The preparation for my trip to India was very simple. I used a travel agency referred to me by a friend (“World of Bollywood Tours and Travel”) and the owner Rahil Kahn planned my trip to include booking my hotel accomadations and all of my internal flights. Next,  I quiered all my friends who had visited the country before on ways I could  prevent the infamous  “Dheli Belly.”  Now,  I will tell you that I have yet to meet many people who have visited India and did not get sick while there.  So, in knowing that I have the weakest digestive system ever, I started taking probiotics a week prior to my trip.  On the referrals from my friends, I packed medications for diarrhea and vomititing as well as insect pray, plenty of hand sanitizer and alohol based wipes. All packed, I was ready for my 3hr flight Mumbai.  Oh, I escaped the Dheli Belly Thank God!

 Mumbai

My trip to India began with Mumbai.   To say Mumbai is a busy city is an understatement.  Once I landed in Mumbai and began to navigate the city in my taxi, I was amazed at how much traffic there was. I am told that 25 million people live in Mumbai and out of that 25million, 5 million of them own cars.   Needless to say, I believe I met all 5 million of those people on the streets of Mumbai.  Taking in the sites on the way to my first hotel, I noticed instantly the streets of Mumbai was totally saturated with people and cars.   I would equate this to the 405 in LA, but I believe the traffic in Mumbai moves much faster than LA traffic; if you can imagine that.  The people of Mumabi are friendly and very sociable.  They work during the day, but I promise you they make up for it at night when the sun goes down.  Even after 12am I saw many people and little children walking about and enjoying the night life.

Dharavi Slums

The Dharavi Slums was definitley one of the highlights of my trip to India.  Yes…you heard me right lol, I said visiting the slums was one of the hightlights of this trip. This was a last minute addition to my itenary that was recommedned by a friend and I’m so glad I added Dharavi to this trip . The tour was 2 hours in total.  I was greeted by a young graduate student by the name of Oves who was my tour guide.  Oves began by laying out the do’s and dont’s for me. Where I could and could not take picutres, not to make faces at various smells (so I wouldn’t offend people) and most of all not to forget his name, LOL!

Pictured above: Oves and I at the entrance into the Dharavi Slums

At first sight the Dharavi slums looks like a trash dump site…and in actuality it is in a sense; but if you keep moving, you’ll see something much deeper than that. I say a dump site because most of the cities trash is brought to the Dharavi slums.   In the Dharavi slums alone it is estimated that at least 1 billion USD is generated every year. 1 billion you say…How?  Through recylcing.  The Dharavi slums is an industrial work hourse.  Just about everything and I mean “everything” is recyled there.  Plastic, paint cans, car bumpers, alluminum, leather….in the words of Shirley Ceasar, “you name it.”  I had the privilige to walk through the slums and see the men and women at work recyling all of the above.  I also was able to see men preparing leather to make purses and wallets, making suitcases, and sewing various garments. I even bought a couple of leather bags that were made in the Dharvi slums.

Pictured above:  Leather bag made in the slums, View of the Dharavi slums, washing of plastic pieces, recycling of leather pieces, melting pit for aluminum and aluminum molds.

For about 1 million people, the Dharavi slums is home. Honestly, after my tour,  I was both amazed and ashamed.  Why? because I  had let the images of “Slum Dog Millionaire” and the media define the slums for me as poverty, uneducated, poor and a place of suffering.  However, looks can truly be deceiving.  The Dharavi slums is a community, its a home.  No, its not my neighborhood and it maybe not be yours, but it is theirs, and it is something the people should be proud of.   The people of the Dharavi slums are not begging for money and they don’t considered themselves to be suffering . Their hard workers who work and earn paychecks like the rest of us.  As you navigate  through the slums it feels like an industrial plant: one person cuts the plastics, another separates it by color, another then washes it and another person puts it out to dry.  As you move toward the residential side, it feels more like a community.  The streets are filled with men, women and children just like any other community.  You can see the familiar routine of the husbands at work, the children at school and the wives tending to their homes.  There are markets, movie houses, temples of worship and schools for the children, all there in their community.

If you still dont believe anything good can come out of the slums, then take Oves as an example.  Oves is a graduate student working on his masters and works to pay for school. He is a very smart and intelligent youngn man.  Sounds much like an average person right?  Well Oves was born, raised and currently lives in the slums. This reminds me of Nathanael’s question in John 1:46…”Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” I say Absolutely!

More pics from India: Victorious Terminus railway station (3 million people use this per day), Gateway of India, Haji Ali Dargah (Mosque on the water), Antilia (most expensive house in the world), Rajabai Clock Tower (Big Ben), In front of the Taj Hotel with my friend and guide, Rahil.

If you enjoyed this post, stay tune for part II of my trip to India where I will share the highlights from my visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the outdoor Laundry Mat in Mumbai.