January 28, 1976Dear Family,
Am now in Rameswaram – am staying in a lodge run by the Ramanathaswamy Temple people – 6 Rupees a night – plain but clean – Laid down to take a nap as I took the 5:00 AM train out of Madurai – since I had no alarm I slept (?) w/ my light on all night – as it would have been trouble jumping in and out of the mosquito net to see what time it is! 1st time for me to ride "passenger train" – and what a riot. To give you a hint of how it was – only 100 miles between Madurai and here but it took almost 7 hours! Every ten minutes we made a stop – some short, some not so short! It's HOT here – if air conditioned travel was within my budget I would sure use it. But you can fly for the same price as you travel Air-Cond. on the trains!
Madurai I really liked – as I wrote the Temple is out of this world. Also went to the palace there – built in the 17th century– it was OK. But not all that much after seeing the temple!
K.R. Baby gave me alot of handicrafts (birds carved from coconut tree bark, wine glasses from coconut shell, woven mats, etc. also some jewelry I'm not wild about. I hate a heavy suitcase so I went to a tailor & got them wrapped up and sent on their way. Also sent some clothes w/ them. When I get home remind me to tell you all the hassels [sic] of sending a package out of this country! But to "appreciate" it you must go through it yourself!
Back to Madurai – there is a Gandhi Memorial Museum there – it is full of pictures & quotations of his – told his life history also in story & pictures. He was a great man – kind of like Abe Lincoln or Martin Luther King. He was for the common man & the problems he faced. I wrote down lots of his quotes – here is one I thought exceptionally good – "A civilization is to be judged by its treatment of minorities." Also just 2 days before he was shot to death he said "Death is a true friend. It is only our ignorance that causes us grief."
The museum also had alot of stuff that belonged to him – clothes, furniture, etc. He was – I repeat – a great man!
The South in some ways is cleaner than the North – of course I say that w/out being an expert on the North – since my stay there was limited. If I had the time & money I'd like to stay another couple of months. I'm just getting good now at checking out hotel: I look for 1) bugs, 2) bathrooms, 3) Bed. Also I'm getting good at washing clothes out by hand & at asking questions & getting action. Maybe I should try to write tour guide books for a living. Fodor I find to be expensive – and India on $5 & $10 book is ok but some of the places he mentions – I swear not even an Indian would stay – rooms too small, poorly equipped, undesirable locations, slightly deteriorated condition – to make a long story short.
Next letter from Ceylon – Hello to all – hope everyone is A-ok ––