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by Igor
Rated: E · Short Story · Travel · #2093420
We flew into the clouds, and India vanished
Episode 1: Arrival
The plane slowly descended from the skies, rocking on the air waves. The captain had already announced our arrival to the airport of New Delhi. It was very late at night, probably 1 а.m. and I couldn’t see anything through the porthole except scary darkness like in Hell.

Suddenly I felt the terrible smell of smoke. My thoughts like lightning began to strike me: «We are burning, we will die, I will die. Oh my God, Save me!» But then I looked at the other passengers, at the stewardesses. They all were absolutely quiet and imperturbable, like Egyptian statues. At that moment I realized, I remembered that I had read an article about natural smoke in central India in winter. It was not really natural, it stank and I couldn’t stand it. The disgusting smell was everywhere. It bothered me so much that I wanted to escape, to go back home.

My imagination began to paint a picture where I laid in a heap of trash dying of unknown diseases which I had caught from contagious beggars, stray dogs and rats. All of them surrounded me waiting for my quick death.

I wanted to scream, I asked myself why I had come to this damned part of the world? I was whispering something obsessively and semiconsciously when the plane landed.

Episode 2: First night
The smell was everywhere in the airport building, even in the bathrooms, it penetrated every hole, every slit of space and my body too. I was slowly getting used to that. It was everywhere outside in the city. I could barely see the arrival terminal under the illumination of spotlights.

Being really devastated I hardly noticed the politeness of the passport control officer. He didn’t smile, but it was not necessary for me, because I don’t trust fake Hollywood smiles, which irritate me. I always see a kind of hypocrisy and cynicism in them.

We arrived to our hotel where I discovered that there was not room for me. The receptionist suggested I spend the night in the room with two young women. It was actually a space of two rooms separated by a small hall without doors. I didn’t resisted a lot, but just one thing really bothered me – the only bathroom was on their side.

But the girls didn’t want to share their privacy with me and pushed me out together with my suitcase, the receptionist and other onlookers who were very interested in that dramatic situation. I was a little bit upset, because I couldn’t believe that they had refused me, such a sexy and handsome man. «Probably they’re lesbians», - I thought at that moment.

Finally one hour later I was brought to another hotel to a rather clean and comfortable room. It was very early in the morning and just three-four hours remained before I had to get. Falling asleep I thought: «What other troubles will this trip bring to me? »

Episode 3: Delhi
Giant chipmunks were everywhere when we entered the territory of the Temple of Lotus. I don’t know why but people called them squirrels. Chips and Dales begged from us something tasty. I noticed that these animals are kind of a symbol of Indian capital; we ran into them in every touristy place which we visited there. The Temple of Lotus actually didn’t impress me much. The only thing that I really liked was that the Temple represented Baha’ism, which is not a very popular religion in India. For me it means cosmopolitism. I like people who can accept something or someone different.

Holy cows were everywhere in the streets of Delhi, especially they preferred dumps, where they stayed and laid, carefree meditating in their dreams. The domination of motorcycles in the streets converted the city into roaring net of endless highways. The lines of the overground and underground metro braided into a huge basket. Modern and expensive cars flew across the areas full of trash and beggars. I tried to count the number of highway lines: eighteen, nineteen, twenty… then I lost count. Monstrous city without any hesitation released its whole energy onto its inhabitants.

Qutub Minar seemed to me a small island of silence in the center of crazy bustle. This amazing architectural complex of Muslim India is notable for its tall minaret. It was pretty hard to fit the whole minaret and me simultaneously into focus of my camera. An Indian man came to me who was organizing a small excursion through ancient ruins. He followed me, telling different information about Indian history and this complex. I thought he was some kind of extortionist who wanted to get money from me. But he finished our sudden excursion, wished me good luck and disappeared. Then I was surprised that nothing had disappeared from my bag. I still have no idea who he was, probably just a nice man, addicted to Indian history and this spectacular place.

Episode 4: Jaipur
Having spent 9 hours in the endless traffic jams we finally arrived to Jaipur. Watching long lines of trucks I realized that I almost couldn’t see any women in the streets. It seemed to me that there was a lack of them in India. I had read earlier that the male population exceeded the female population, but the proportion was not 9 to 1, like I saw in real life. Even most of the customers in the stores were men. I thought that probably women stayed at home watching TV and cooking dinner, although I still doubt now that many Indian families have a TV-set.

It was New Year’s. I got to my room just one hour before midnight. Everyone from our group had been invited to the large hall in the basement to have dinner, for which we actually had paid before. Our celebration consisted of watching Indian people from upper-middle class, who were dancing enthusiastically and rhythmically. The music was a mixture of modern pop and rock with Indian folk songs. It reminded me of the naïve, ridiculous, but adorable Bollywood movie «Dance! Dance!» with Mithun Chakraborty.

Early the next morning we left the hotel to explore the city. It was rather cold outside, just 6 degrees (C). I was really cold and couldn’t wait to slip into the bus when it arrived. I didn’t expect such low temperatures in India even in the middle of the winter. The list of landmarks in Jaipur was so long that many of them I can now hardly remember since several years have passed from my trip to India. All of them were really beautiful, amazing, spectacular and unique. First of all we went to Palace City in the center of Jaipur, which used to be the residence of Raj who was actually the prince of Rajasthan, an Indian state. Jaipur is the capital of this state. I think it’s very difficult for me to describe the beauty of this place. It was really impressive and charming; the architecture and the interiors of the palaces competed against each other in luxury and splendor.

Then we had a little break on the benches in the shade of the trees, which were unknown and exotic to me, as the whole place was. There was a young Indian couple with a small curly-haired girl, probably two-years old, very nice and adorable with big dark eyes. She looked like a small goddess from Indian mythology. The women from my group tried to play with her and she vigorously allowed them to involve her into exciting games. One of them offered her a chocolate bar, but she wouldn’t take it. The women tried to do it again, temptingly shaking the sweet miracle. The little princess still didn’t understand what this person wanted from her. I thought at that moment that she was not so small as to not to understand what was happening. Any child of her age from western society would pick it up immediately without any hesitation. Some children say «Give me» as the first words they learn in their life instead of «mama». The parents of the petite elven hadn’t taught her to take anything.

I was so immersed in my thoughts about the little girl that I’d forgotten to see the snake charmers with cobras next to the main gates of the Palace City. Then in the bus I was really envious looking at photos of them on my neighbor’s camera. Although I have seen so many snakes in my life, they’ve never danced to the sound of a magic pipe. When we got to the bus a band of beggars surrounded us, which was an absolutely typical situation in India. One of them didn’t walk, he crawled, his legs and arms were twisted and interwined and he looked like a spider. I couldn’t look at him anymore and I thought that Spiderman from American movies and cartoons was fake and this Indian disabled creature was the real one from real life.

Later in the afternoon we went on trishaws. All people were spread out amongst the vehicles in pairs. Just I was alone. The poor driver looked so desperate, staring at me. He probably had never seen such a big, tall and fat man before. I was bigger than many couples put together. We started from Palace City, where my trishaw was at the front of the line. Several minutes later we drove into the shouting crazy chaos of the city street. It was one of the main arteries of Jaipur, full of cars, motorcycles, buses, trishaws, camels, buffalo carts and even elephants. All of them were screaming, screeching, buzzing, humming, roaring, moaning and shitting on the road. The movement of all the participants of the traffic looked absolutely chaotic, although then I noticed that it was not the truth, as people did respect each other a little bit. Some women began to shriek with closed eyes. It was really scary to plunge defenseless into the bustle of a big city (3 million habitants) and be eye to eye to the reality show called India. When you are in the bus you’re protected from the entire world by the thickness of the glass. The other trishaws went ahead of us one after another. A couple of my new friends, seizing the moment, took my picture on the maddening intersection. A little bit later they conscientiously sent me the picture.

The locals whistled and shouted something to my driver, laughing at us. In the center of the frenzied movement I suddenly felt so lonely and desperate, like nobody else existed in this world, just me. We came back in last place to the Palace Gates.
In the evening we visited a fascinating Hindu temple. It was located next to the high rocks, but in the same time inside the city, which gave it a specific enchantment. The radiance of white marble was in harmony with the upcoming twilight. It had the shape of a corncob, like many Hindu temples in India. Actually it a was penis and vagina, which symbolized fertility. I took a seat on the stairs next to the Temple, watching the sunset. Then I saw another Indian couple with a 5-6-year curly-haired boy, who was also very handsome and adorable with big dark eyes, another Indian little god, like Krishna at the holly pictures. I couldn’t look away from him, but he didn’t notice me and other tourists. He was so quiet for a small boy. It seemed to me, that he knew something that I didn’t.

Later in the evening I met a group of our tourists who had just returned from Agra. I asked them about Taj Mahal, whether it was heavenly beautiful. They said it was.

Episode 5: Elephants and jeeps
The next morning we went to Fort Amber, which was 1 hour by bus from Jaipur. We were going to ride elephants there. As usual I was the only person without a partner, and our guide tried to find the biggest elephant in the long row. Finally I was put on the elephant’s back in a special seat behind the mahout or elephant’s driver. The animal was named Jamma, actually it was a she. The whole way the mahout tried to extort money from me for «food for Jamma» like he said. Of course, everyone needs to eat, including animals.

We were going slowlydown the road in a long line of elephants with ttourists on their backs. It was typical foggy morning, and I could hardly see the fortress up in the sky. The monotonous and mechanical steps of animal made me count in German: « Eins, zwei, drei….», because the whole procession seemed to be something very organized and technological. I imagined myself as a guest of the sultan, arriving at his wedding, coronation or some other celebration. We began to rise above the white smoke, which covered the whole low valley and a small lake. The amber walls and gates appeared in front of us. They really had the color of amber, but the fort actually took the name from the goddess-mother Amba.

After coming in the big square I said Goodbye to the elephant and her driver and dissolved into the endless catacombs of the fortress. It was another example of splendid Islamic architecture in India. The Great Moguls used to control the country for 300 years. Fort Amber was one of their favorite places where they spent their time in governmental concerns and also in relaxation. An endless amount of sultans’ wives demanded a huge number of rooms for them, which needn’t had been connected to each other. This problem was solved in the fort by converting it into a complicated labyrinth of rooms, halls, patios, corridors, stairs etc.
Closer to afternoon the fog disappeared as always and we could see amazing brown-yellow hills surrounding the fort. Finally we were brought back to the valley in the jeeps that rushed down into the dust on the winding road.

After coming back to Jaipur we stayed for a while next to a beautiful lake to take pictures. There was an incredibly beautiful palace in the center of it. The white walls and domes were shining in the sun, converting it into a gleaming cake-meringue.

Late in the evening I decided to go to the fruit market which our guide had pointed out to us. It wouldn’t located very close to our hotel, approximately half an hour by foot. There were no sidewalks like everywhere else in India and I was walking along the road in the darkness. Suddenly a motor rickshaw stopped ahead of me and 7 or 8 or may be more men, including the driver, left the vehicle, peed on the roadside, went back to the rickshaw and drove away. They didn’t even look at me, who had been staring at them the whole time. I noticed that in India it’s normal to urinate in public like animals usually do.

Continuing my way, I crossed a camp of bums. Some of them laid on the ground sleeping, some sat unmovable around the bonfire. It reminded me of fires of Neanderthals in Europe from the Ice Age. Nobody moved, although I was absolutely sure that they had seen me. They didn’t care sitting there in meditation. When I entered the market the young seller, to whom I had come to see, was so scared looking at a very big white man. I was like an alien for him. It cheered me up, because somebody finally noticed me.

Episode 6: Holy shit
We were leaving Jaipur, slowly crossing one street after another, when I felt regret first time in India. I still don’t know exactly why I was upset. I’d seen many really beautiful places before and after my trip to this inimitable country. But those countries were not so dramatic, so contrasting, so dirty and yet shining at the same time. I understood at that moment that I would never see Jaipur again.
We were going to a Hindu monastery somewhere in the mountains. They were not actually mountains like the Himalayas, and looked like hills and rocks, surrounded by forest, which was very rare in this part of the country. Usually yellow fields of mustard followed us during the whole trip along the Golden Triangle. This was the official name of our tour, which included visit to the three golden cities – Delhi, Jaipur and, of course, Agra with the incredible Taj Mahal. This monastery, where we were going, was famous for holy animals that inhabited there. Actually monkeys and cows are everywhere in India, but the number of them in this place was unbelievably huge.
Upon arriving, at first we ran into holy cows who were staying in meditating, not paying any attention to us. However, as soon as someone brought a banana closer to the cow, it opened its eyes, turned on its ignition and moved very fast to the donator until its competitors intercepted a tidbit. Most cows were zebu, rather skinny and small. They were everywhere and the whole place was covered by them.

There were two types of monkeys: big grey city monkeys with big eyebrows, like Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev used to have, and macaques, which were considered to be country monkeys. The first ones were rather quiet and indifferent to us, but macaques all the time showed us the drama of their bustling life. They screeched, jumped, fought each other, demonstrated their aggressive grins. I was talking to my friends, forgetting about the bunch of bananas in my hand that I kept behind my back, when suddenly someone snatched it with a wild scream.

- Holy shit, - I exclaimed, jumping aside and causing laughter of other people. I didn’t expect such impudent behavior from an animal which was many times smaller than me. A short and expressive fight for the fruit ended very quickly. The winner took all the bananas.

Digressing from the holy animals, I’d like to talk a little about the monastery itself. It was a rather quiet and amazing place between the rocks. The statue of Ganesh, one the most beloved Hindu gods, met us up on the porch of the temple. His elephant head silently invited us inside to see the mystery of greatness and infinity. Monkeys’ silhouettes between the pillars strengthened the melancholic picture, pointed to the gates of eternity.

Later I bought a small statue of the god Ganesh. Indians thinks that he fulfills all your wishes. I am not sure about it. I probably always forget to make a wish in front of his statuette.

One of the macaques was running on the railing very close to me. I was trying to take her picture. She realized it and stopped, posing for my camera. I was sure that it was a she, because she was really gracious, coquettish and her butt was not so big and red like the male ones’. I made her photo the album cover of my Indian trip.

Episode 7: Dead city
We continued our tour along northern India, scooting by the same yellow fields of mustard. From time to time we crossed small villages, where local peasants were picking something in the fields, transporting something in the tracks or animal-drawn vehicles, loading something in the barns. Every person worked there and very seldom I saw someone, sitting on the porch of his house, doing nothing. Usually they were the assistants of the small stores. There were markets in the central parts of the villages, where people sold and bought food and flowers which they grew in their gardens. Especially flowers, which were so bright and woven into huge garlands. Indians bring these enormous wreaths into the temples for their gods. Its forbidden even to smell the flowers so as not to spoil the purity of the fragrant plants.

We passed a nearby group of children, sitting on the grass next to a ramshackle shed. It was a school, where peasants’ children tried to learn something. I know that Indians don’t want to live in poverty, they try to work harder and to study more to become richer and more significant in society, despite the caste system, as it’s very difficult to overcome traditional prejudice. There are people in the Indian Government from the cast of untouchables. It means that the country is changing, although it is happening very slowly. In case someone doesn’t know, I want to point its out here, that India is the biggest democracy in the world and not any other country.
We arrived to Fatehpur Sikri, which is usually called «Dead city». It was the capital of the Great Moguls Empire for just 14 years. Later it was abandoned because the capital was relocated to Agra.

It looked like it was frozen in the time, that someone had waved his magic wand and the people had disappeared and just stony giants were still alive. I mean there were beautiful buildings made of red bricks with carved pillars and roofs. The whole city was covered in giant red flowers. I don’t know their names, but they harmonized with the crimson color of the walls and squares. A very high gate towered over the splendor of the city.

There was a building with a «magical» pillar inside. If someone can embrace it completely and clasp his or her fingers, the wish he (or her) has made, will be certainly fulfilled. Of course everyone tried to do it, but nobody could embrace it a completely. Just I, without any difficulties, could clasp my fingers while hugging the pillar. People intensively started to take my pictures and I forgot to make a wish.
The city was located on a hill and there was a deep artificial ditch down in the forest. It was not a defensive moat, but a kind of rainy water reservoir. It seemed very dirty and deep like an abyss. There was a man who was ready to jump in the water if someone paid another man, staying next to us. Nobody gave him a penny and we didn’t see the show. The whole scene looked rather scary, because the edge of the pit rose by 5-6 meters over the water.

It was slowly becoming the evening and the sun was going down between the minarets of the dead city. A rustling forest nearby reminded me that there was life even in such an abandoned place. Flying butterflies were drinking nectar from the huge red flowers. We needed to leave the city and to continue our trip.

Episode 8: Plunging into the darkness
We arrived to Agra late in the evening. Before coming to the hotel we were brought to a big store with different types of trash for tourists. There was jewelry, silk, cotton and wool from Kashmir and many souvenirs, but I decided to go shopping later and alone without the maddening crowd of tourists.

My hotel room was quite decent and clean with a normal toilet and shower with hot water. There had been similar rooms in Jaipur and Delhi, although I had stayed just in 3 star hotels.

I left the hotel in the darkness and moved towards the street, where, as I thought, there were a lot of interesting shops. The crowd of trishaws almost attacked me, offering an incredible and cheap trip to any place which I wanted to visit, even to the Moon. I ran around all of them, dramatically gesticulating, that I didn’t need their service. There were not sidewalks and streetlights like everywhere else in India and I was moving on the side of the road in the darkness. Fortunately there were some stores for tourists with a variety of different staff. I came in one of them, and the shop assistant suddenly asked me:
- Are you Russian?
- Yes, I am Russian. But how did you guess? Do I have a red star on my forehead? – I tried to joke, thinking that I don’t look Russian, because I am very tall and look more German or Scandinavian.
- No, you don’t have a red star, - a young man responded seriously, - but just Russians roam the streets in the dark. Other white people usually stay in the hotel after sunset or, in a pinch, they use a trishaw.

Episode 9: Lost in the fog
Sikandra met up us with the strong fog. We actually couldn’t see the whole place, just some outlines of the walls. It was early in the morning, and the usual smoke covered Agra and its suburbs. The Tomb of Akbar the Great was located in a spectacular memorial fortress not far from the city. But we couldn’t admire the magnificence of the holy place. Passing through the big gates of a brickish color we scattered in the milky air. Finally I was lost.

Suddenly something ghostly with long horns appeared through the illusive clouds. It frightened me a little, but then I realized that it was a wild goat. We had been warned before that Sikandra was full of them. Fortunately I had brought a piece of bread for her. I was sure it was female goat. I noticed again the grace and coquetry of woman in the animal. She got rather close to me and started to extort from me something delicious. I gave her bread, which she took without any hesitation. I had never seen before such a brave brave and impudent wild goat or deer. They are usually so timid.

Nobody else was there, nothing else was there, just she and I, lost in the fog. The entire world didn’t exist at that moment; it had dissolved into the white infinity surrounding us. There was absolute silence, which then brought upon a feeling of loneliness. I didn’t want to move, so as not to destroy the perfection that had come to me unexpectedly. I realized that even in such un overpopulated country like India there are places where you can be alone for some time. Then the goat went back into her magic world somewhere inside the smoke.

It was the foggiest morning during my trip to India and I began to worry that I wouldn’t see the Taj Mahal in all its excellence. The smoke cleared a little bit, and the outlines of Sikandra grew slowly above the milky clouds. We visited the Tomb of Akbar the Great somewhere in the darkness of the memorial’s interiors. The whole place looked so mystical, scary and attractive in the same time.
Then we went to another mausoleum called Itimad-ud-Daulah. The feature of this place was that it had been built before the Taj Mahal, but in the same architectural style and from the same white marble. It was a rehearsal before the great performance. I was really astonished by its harmony and refinement. There was a white memorial in the center of the big square place surrounded by red-brown buildings. It looked like a light beige pearl framed by corals. The clouds of fog added mystery and illusory to the whole complex. The first rays of the sun began to stream across the smoke and carved columns of the mausoleum started to shine. It was forbidden to enter into the tomb wearing shoes. We took our boots off and walked on the warm and smooth marble.

After lunch we visited the big marble store. Some people from the group were so impressed by the radiance of the memorials which we had visited in the morning that they really wanted to buy something made of marble. At that moment I imagined white polished tombs inside their small soviet flats. Every morning they would wake up and see their shining room, which would remind them of their future death. A middle age couple couldn’t stop haggling with the seller of a small coffee table, which cost almost as much as their apartment in Russia. I was really irritated by the situation because I couldn’t wait to visit the symbol of India. My soul was already there. The mist had not been yet fully disappeared and that still disappointed me.

Episode 10: Taj Mahal
- Boom, boom, boom, - drummer pounded, welcoming and informing us that we will soon see the miracle.
- Yes, drummer, strike harder. Do you hear how fast my heart beats? Strike the drum in the same rhythm, let them beat in unison.

There are three gates in the memorial complex: the southern, the western and the eastern. The first ones used to be for the royal family, the second ones were for aristocracy and the last ones were for other retainers. We entered through the eastern gates like all people do nowadays. At that moment every person could realize who he or she was in comparison to what they would see soon. The Taj Mahal itself is just a part of the great complex of buildings, gates, walls and etc. When we passed through the first gates we didn’t see the tomb. We had to be prepared for the miracle before seeing it. There was a big territory with beautiful flowers and bushes. Then we came to the main gates with amazing carvings on the red stones.

Inside the gates I saw a small white ball of ice cream. As I was getting closer to the gates the ball was increasing, bloating in the space. Then I passed through the gates and saw it all. Fortunately the fog had disappeared and the Taj Mahal was shining in the afternoon sun. It really looked like саке-meringue. I have already made a similar comparison in my story, when I described my travels to Jaipur. But this cake was much bigger and pure without any additional ingredients. We started to take pictures of it and to take pictures of us against it. We pretended to hold it for the crown or to put it on our palms. All these pictures that we took were so typical, but for us and for anyone, who had come there for the first time, it was absolutely new experience. First of all it was really hard to believe that I was already there, that I was standing in front of it, admiring it with all my soul.

I went closer and noticed that the color had changed from pure white to beige, a little bit orange or white-orange. When I approached it, the Taj Mahal was light blue, a much more tender blue than the sky above it. Later in the evening I looked at it from the Red Fort; it was tender pink like a glittered pearl. Exactly in the same shape and color Shah Jahan used to see it. He built this tomb for his wife Mumtaz, who had passed away. Later he was imprisoned in the Red Fort and spent there 7 years. From that place he could see and enjoy the miracle which he had built in memory of his beloved woman.

The river Yamuna ran behind the pantheon. Small clouds of fog were still floating above it, reminding me of my morning worries. We were given just 2 hours to explore the whole place. It was not enough. Time didn’t exist there, it was floating away with the mist, dissolving in the rays of the midday sun. The reflection of the Taj Mahal in the river was gently rocking on the waves. I imagined that there were two kingdoms – the surface and the underwater. The surface kingdom was visible for everyone at that moment. But the underwater kingdom appeared just before midnight in the moonlight. The shadows of Shah Jahan and his Mumtaz walked among the ponds in absolute silence and love. «How beautiful it should be at night!» - I exclaimed to myself in my thoughts.

I noticed a line of people who wanted to take their pictures where they were lined up. Then someone told me that at that very place princess Diana’s famous picture was taken. I stood in the line, obediently waiting for my turn. I observed the queue, in which people wereof different races and ages, from small children to ancient men. I heard talking in so many different languages, some of which I could hardly recognize. All these people wanted to be Lady Di. And they really were. I was her too, just for several seconds, but it was enough to feel like someone significant in this world. At first I felt several moments of eagerness, staying in line, then several instants of excitement while taking the picture in front of hundreds of people, and after that I could feel a satisfaction with my entire life.

I was slowly going back to the main gates, watching how the Taj Mahal was changing its color again, from light blue to orange-beige, then to pure white. The groups of young Indians who were always in the memorial asked me to take my picture with them. Some of them took my pictures secretly, thinking that I didn’t notice. For them I was like an alien who had arrived to their planet. They bothered me a little bit.

I had to leave the place. I took a seat for some minutes, admiring the brilliant piece of art. I understood that I would probably never come back to the Taj Mahal. There are so many other interesting places in the world. I need to visit them all, not really all, but as many as possible before my death. I passed through the main gates and turned around. It became a small white ball of ice cream again. I made several steps aside, and the Taj Mahal disappeared.

Episode 11: The evening ran into the night
In the evening we visited the Red Fort, which used to be the Residence of the Great Moguls in India. I found there some similarity with the Dead City, which had the same red walls and buildings, the same red flowers, the same carving on the red stones. But there was something distinguishable between them. Monkeys were everywhere in the Red Fort. They followed us all throughout our excursion, expecting some food, although the majority of them were meditating on the wall in absolute indifference to the entire world. I still remember this place in the rays of the sunset and silhouettes of macaques on the walls inside the scarlet circle of the sun. I have already written about the amazing view from the Red Fort to the Taj Mahal. The pink pearl far in the fields was shining in the evening sun. Actually the sun had already set and twilight was bit by bit covering the area around us. The evening ran into the night.

Later at dinnertime in the hotel’s restaurant I took the wrong seat, and the waiter asked me politely to change tables to another one, where my compatriots were having a meal. Then I realized why. Several groups of young Indians had arrived for the dinner. All of them were well dressed. The men were wearing suits and the women were mostly in business dresses with blouses and trousers. But there was something that distinguished them from us, they ate just by their hands, not using cutlery. It was a little bit strange and disgusting for me.

Very close to midnight we visited a spectacular folk dance show. It really impressed me. We were watching it with headsets with a translation into Russian, when I noticed that many Indians were also using the headsets. I asked our guide about it, and he answered that many Indians didn’t speak Hindi. Later I saw statistics and realized that just 41% of Indians speak Hindi. «What an incredible country! What makes them live together?» - I asked myself.

Episode 12: Hare Krishna! Hare Rama!
We had to bid farewell with a part of our group next morning. They went to Varanasi, which was the city of dead. Indians, who can afford it, bring the corpses of their relatives and friends there to cremate them and then to spread the ashes over the river Ganges. At that very moment I was really sorry that I hadn’t bought the tour, including the visit to Varanasi. Actually I had seen so many terrible pictures of this place with dead bodies floating in the water, and I was afraid of being infected by contagious diseases. Some people don’t have the money to burn bodies in accordance with all rituals. They just throw the cadavers in the river. Saying goodbye to my new friends, I envied them and thought that I would miss another incredible experience. Nothing is more dangerous to us than ourselves. I hope I will come back to India and see Varanasi.

We were coming back to Delhi. Our bus was running across the grey fields of something, bouncing over the potholes. The scary silhouette of the goddess Kurga was floating above the white clouds of the fog next to the horizon. Her ten arms spread out to the sides in the form of a bud. All of them were armed with cold steel weapon. She warned every passer, that it was her land, which she was ready to defend. Riding a lion, she looked so brave and dangerous. Our guide explained us that it was a temple in her honor. Getting closer, we noticed that her monument on the top was several times bigger than the temple itself. We didn’t go there, as our target was another place.

We arrived to the city where Krishna was born. He is one of the most popular gods in Hinduism, the eighth reincarnation of the superior god Vishnu in the Indian mythology. Our bus couldn’t get any closer to the temple, and we had to go through slums full of mud. The temple was on the hill in the shade of trees. We needed to pass through security, because this town was considered one of the most dangerous places in the country. Part of population there are Muslims and another part are Hindu people. They hate each other. From time to time brutal massacres take place there.

When the Great Moguls occupied India they destroyed 6 thousand Hindu temples, including this one. Instead of Hindu temple Muslims built the mosque on this very place. It was still there. It looked like a gloomy black box, huge and sad, between the trees. When India became independent this temple was rebuilt. Hindu people wanted to destroy the mosque, but Muslims didn’t allow them to do that. The temple was built next to a mosque. They stay together in the small wood, like two eternal enemies.

For the first time in my trip I saw hundreds of Indian women together. They were standing in the line to security control. It was a group of peasants who wanted to visit the holy place of their beloved Krishna. Inside the temple a band of musicians played different instruments, including various numbers of drums. Rhythm and music followed us all throughout the time that we spent there. Many locals danced and sang in sweet ecstasy. There was the bell, which brought good luck to everyone, who rang it. Of course, we all did it, making our dearest wishes.

We continued our tour. I noticed that our bus driver had an earring with a diamond. It was amazingly sparkly for the whole trip. Many Indian men also had this earring and many didn’t, including our guide. I asked him, and he told me that only Rajasthan people wear it, because their Raj has the same one. It means bravery.

We arrived in a small town, almost a village, covered by mud which stank terribly. Our bus stopped next to a big puddle which looked like a big dirty yellow swamp. But I think that all frogs had died there many centuries ago. Our target was a temple, where Krishna has spent his childhood, where he found the incredible chica Rama who would become later his wife. All the time they were happily and joyfully hanging over together with their hole cow. Krishna played the flute and the cow cheerfully mooed or not mooed, but just waved its tail.

Many people refused even to leave the bus. Another part of tourists, who had dared to visit the temple, decided not to go there, because we had to take off our shoes in front of the temple’s gates and make several steps through the mud. I didn’t understand those people and I still don’t understand them. They had passed thousands kilometers to come there to stay next to a stinky puddle and see nothing. Even if I had to swim across the mud I would do it. My curiosity is much stronger than all those small obstacles.
The street sellers ardently waved garlands of beautiful flowers. Some of the most persistent tourists, including me, entered the temple. It was actually the complex of temples, something like a monastery. There was absolutely clean inside. By the way the previous temple, which we had visited in the Krishna’s home-town, also was a kind of monastery with rather big territory. In the first temple complex we saw a group of white women, absolutely bold, who were wearing long dresses, which looked like sari. There were also local Indian women with normal hairstyles.

Then we came to another temple, which had a patio inside, and all men there were sitting in the open air. It was 11:30 a.m. Our guide told us, that at midday the curtains would open and the statues of Krishna and Rama would appear. We would see the culmination of the show. At that moment I noticed three curtains on the wall. There were a lot white bold men in long strange dresses. All local Indian men wore jackets and jeans with normal hairstyles. They were also krishnaits, but they didn’t look so scary, like Europeans or Northern Americans (whoever they were).

The drums began to clatter and chorus of voices fanatically repeated: «Hare Krishna! Hare Rama!» It cheered me up a little and I wanted to dance. Every second, every moment the voices and the drums were becoming louder and louder. «Hare Krishna! Hare Rama!» I started tapping on the marble floor with my foot. «Hare Krishna! Hare Rama!» - joyfully clinked in my ears. I wanted to unite with them, to be part of their incredible performance. «Hare Krishna! Hare Rama!» - shouted the impetuous rhythm, immersing me deep into my subconscious. The curtains opened, and three pairs of Krishna and Rama appeared. People raised their hands up, pronouncing the last time: «Hare Krishna! Hare Rama». I don’t remember exactly what they did after that, but it looked like the bubble of excitation burst, and everybody became quiet and satisfied.

The tourists in the bus, who hadn’t gone to the temple, asked me what I had seen there. I told them that it had been very interesting, but I didn’t tell them any details. I know they envied me.

Episode 13: Before you leave
Delhi met us with its enormous and endless energy and by slums, beggars and dumps. The fog converted into stinky smog. The long lines of wide highways rang in my ears. It was the last day of my trip to India.

- Before you leave India I’d like to show you something really amazing. It’s not included into your tour’s program, - our guide announced.
- What is it, - we asked.
- It’s a temple, a new temple, just 6-year old. It’s a gift for you from our travel agency.

We had to stay in a long line to security control, before we could entered the temple. It was not permitted to take pictures or video inside, and we had to leave all our cameras in special cells. The name of the temple was Akshadharm. First of all the huge territory impressed us. Before we saw the main temple, we had come in a special building, where a short film about the temple was shown to us. Then we saw it.

The evening was slowly approaching, bringing a twilight, when the temple’s illumination was switched on. It looked like a Christmas present under the tree or like a gingerbread house from the fairy tales of my childhood. There was countless number of buildings, galleries, squares, pavilions, small bridges, amphitheaters, ponds, fountains and etc. All constructions were made of a red-brown marble. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the light and music of fountains show. We actually saw it a little bit from outside, but we didn’t have tickets to go inside and see it in all its splendor.

It was a real present by the end of our trip. Watching all this magnificence, I became sad. Everything ends one day or at one moment.

Episode 14: Departure
It was very late after midnight. Waiting to board the plane in Delhi airport, I thought about Indians. They look so different from us, in most cases they are more nice and polite. They really love money, they want to be rich, but not at any cost. They believe that they will destroy their karma if they do something really bad. They really care about their karma. If it’s clean and pure, the person can be happy.

Boarding was announced almost on time, just with an hour delay. It was nothing in comparison to the eternity in which our spirits live. The plane accelerated, took off and started to rise into the sky. The pale lights of the airport sadly gleamed below us. We flew into the clouds, and India vanished.
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