Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thankful in India :: My Shiva

While traveling through India with my husband and his mother we visited a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas called Mussoorie. The train ride was a life altering experience: see my previous post Thankful In India: Mother-In-Law. Seriously, thank God for my Mother-In-Law on this trip.  Without her I might have turned around after the first night. 

We flew into Delhi landing at nearly midnight. Note to self: arrive during the daylight --India is a different world at night. After finding our luggage we head out to grab a cab.  My husband and I (consider ourselves New Yorkers) pride ourselves on our street smarts.  NY street smarts are child's play and only mildly useful in India. 

When we walk out from customs we are solicited, no strike that, accosted from all sides with taxi drivers. Once in the cab it is like we're in an old film noir driving at night. The cab looks to be circa 1940, diesel, clutch and very jumpy. Driving along the Grand Trunk Road the oldest road in South Asia ... 'nough said.  

Our destination was a hotel in the middle of Connaught Place. When looking at a map from a Western perspective, it would appear to be 'downtown' New Delhi.  Note to self: when a country is as old as India there is not likely to be a 'downtown' in the American, or Western European understanding. 

Our Taxi driver runs up (yes up, there is no main floor lobby) several flights of stairs to check our booking.  "Sorry sir but there is no reservation for you here" he reports. Now that's strange.  I personally called at least 3x before our arrival to check our reservation and was told "don't worry, there is plenty of room." Ok, now what?  Our cabby sets off like an Indy driver through the back streets. 

We arrive at a second location, and are once again told there is no room, specifically "there is a convention in town with an extra 10 million" he says.  This is starting to sound very fishy as nothing appears to be quite that over run, and the hotel we are now outside of had a guy waiting at the front gate to tell our cab driver this news.  We set off for a third location where they miraculously have a room for us, but it will be nearly 3x what we had originally budgeted for with our reservation. 
    We know we are being hustled but we're just too tired to negotiate at this point.  Welcome to India!  They appear to have blown their budget on the lobby since the room was Times-Square skeevy.  However at this point we'd been traveling for more than 15 hours and had been driving the back roads of Delhi for more than an hour. Like I said; too tired to care.  The sheets did not look clean.  I pulled out a shirt from my luggage and put it over my pillow and grabbed my coat to lay on top of the bed.  

The next morning I am woken up at sunrise (that's about a total of 4 hours of sleep at this point). The sun is just starting to filter in through a window screen and I can hear the call to prayer from the street.

The procession uses bells, and they sing rhythmically in a 5-note chant. All this seems to excite the local dogs who yip and run around below. An 'other world' experience. 

We explore Delhi for the day, which includes a stop by a massive statue of Shiva. Lord Shiva is the Supreme Being in Hinduism and is known as the creator and the destroyer. Shiva continuously dissolves and recreates in a cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. Shiva is the original sati victim. Sati is the Hindu practice of a widow throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre, which is now abolished by law.  

A few days later we were up in the Himalayas (Mussoorie) and drifting through the market bizarre where my husband spots my bronze statue of Shiva. I knew immediately that this Shiva was coming home with me. My husband began the negotiation dance that is 'to shop in India.' Truly an art, and he has it in spades. It was still early in our trip and was one of the first things we bought.  I threw it into my backpack and quickly realized that I was not going to be able to buy a lot of bronze -- it's really heavy and rough to carrying around India for 5 weeks.  Note to self.

My Shiva is a version called Nataraja, Lord of Dancers (nata in Sanskrit means dance and raja means Lord). The link notes: "To understand the concept of Nataraja we have to understand the idea of dance itself.  Like Yoga, dance induces trance, ecstasy and the experience of the divine."  I don't know what yoga this guy does? While I like it as much as the next guy and certainly can become quite relaxed ... my state is not normally one of a trance nor ecstasy ... but one of sleeping.  More than once I have fallen asleep in a final released locust pose (lying on your stomach with your arms tucked under you). Perhaps there is a theme here ... I need more sleep in my life!   For more stories on our lack of sleep in India read about our overnight train to Mussoorie: Thankful In India: Mother-In-Law. My Shiva still sits on my shelf, and is used liberally in photographing my jewelry. More on Shiva try: Shiva or Gods

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