What Is Your Fine Name?
Trip Start Feb 09, 2012
11Trip End Feb 26, 2012
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Last night, I said farewell to Sam and most of the group. Some were traveling on elsewhere - southern India or Nepal, while others were heading straight home.
Tiffany and I met up with our driver around noon, and the arrangement worked out quite nicely. There was a moment when he tried to take us to his friend's shop for "10 minutes looking only", but when we politely, yet firmly refused, he towed the line for the rest of the day. Twice, we received calls from Sam via the driver's cell phone to check that all was well, even though he was officially off duty as of the night before. If Sam's level of hospitality and thoughtfulness are common in India, what a gracious nation it is.
The Qutb Minar was my favorite sight of the day. It's a grouping of Islamic structures from the 12th to 14th centuries, with the main attraction being a red sandstone and marble tower that was erected to commemorate Muslim victory over the Hindu kingdoms. There are also ruins of a mosque, arched sandstone gateways, and an iron pillar bearing Sanskrit verses that has miraculously not rusted in its 2000 year lifetime.
Our visit was made very lively by the large number of school groups who were also there. Tiffany and I felt like celebrities as they all crowded around us, wanting to shake our hands and talk to us. One little boy with chubby cheeks extended a hand and said ever so politely in his most proper British-influenced accent: "Hello Madame. What is your fine name?". It's going to be an adjustment to go back to being just another ordinary face in the crowd back home!
And the time to go home is now here. There was so much packed into the last 2 weeks that it may take me some time to properly process and make sense of everything. I know that in many ways, my exposure to the region has been a sheltered and somewhat sanitized one. As hard as it was to see the living conditions in Varanasi, I know there are slums in the bigger cities that are far worse. However, I can still say with conviction that India has it all - poverty, pain, sadness, spirituality, warmth, colour, grandeur and beauty. It's a place I won't ever forget.