Hi! Here I am back at the YMCA – same room as in November except 2 flights closer to the ground – which is fine because there is no elevator in the "bargain section." Somehow I've changed since November – the bugs here don't bother me – mainly because (1) I've seen RATS in some hotels and (2) they aren't mosquitoes, they don't bite. Also this morning as I had my breakfast I really enjoyed the corn flakes – in November I turned them down. They do have excellent breakfast here – Tea, toast, cereal, eggs & banana.
Yesterday was one of the biggest (in more ways than one!) days for me since I left home. I took the tour to Agra – leaving at 6:00 AM. Asked the Reception people to wake me up at 5:00 AM & when the bell-man did he had tea, toast & banana for me. Got to tourist office about 5 minutes till 6:00 – bus left by 6:30. What a day – but the Taj was beautiful! Read the history about it – how the Shah Jahan's hair turned grey right after his wife died – and how it took 20,000 laborers to build it – he brought in experts from Persia, Turkey, France, Italy, etc. This man vowed to build a memorial to his wife that would surpass ANYTHING – Today they say it would cost $70,000,000 !
But just as you enter the grounds I saw some of the worst & saddest looking beggars. If you let them they can get to you – I saw 1 man – he looked about half dead – half alive. He had saliva all over him & then flies on top of that. After awhile in India you harden yourself to such things – but this man did look AWFUL!
We also saw some palaces – etc. It was funny to hear of the games the King played – one being "HIDE & SEEK." Another game – played in a huge court yard – but the players were people – something like chess. Visited tombs too – the $ that went into such things – beautiful designs done w/ precious stones ––
Afternoon we went to Fatehpur Sikri – about 1 hours away from Agra. It is a deserted city now (except for the tourists) but once it was as big as London. I think yesterday I saw more tourists than I saw all together between Bombay – and further South to Colombo.
Yesterday we made 4 meal stops & 3 shopping stops – getting us back to Delhi at just before 1:00 AM ! I was tired & some. As I've said before – luxury buses here are only in name – also they are not made for people w/ long legs & wide hips!
I arrived in Delhi – afternoon of 24th – after checking in here I decided to take a walk. Was standing on a corner & hear "HEY ROBERTA" – I turned around & there were people everywhere – I couldn't figure out who I had heard – but I heard "Roberta from OHIO" so I just stood there. About 2 minutes later 3 Americans – who are in the Peace Corps in Kabul, Afghanistan – where Mike was –came up. I met them in Hikkaduwa [Ceylon] – had lunch w/ them one day while we were there. Anyway, they were in Delhi just for the day leaving for Amritsar by train that night. They tried to talk me into going w/ them but I had just bought ticket for Agra (30 Rupees) plus I would need an Afg visa (2 days).
We had supper together later that day & they outlined trip to Kabul (Train, bus, train, bus) so today I went to the Afg embassy – forgot photos – so had to come back to the YMCA – I paid 55 Rupees to get visa – which I'll get tomorrow. So it look like I'm going to make a FAST trip to Kabul at least I'll get to see the countryside –
I'm leaving tomorrow night for Amritsar – depending on how long it takes at the border I should be there in 3 days – I've heard some awful stories but I'm hoping for the best.
I Had a most interesting time in Nagpur – but did not get to see much. I have had a cold – but it got very bad there – along w/ upset stomach. When I got up 23rd – Monday they said they had called a Doctor. He came & wrote me out 7 prescriptions – I thought I'd get over it w/ out all this – but medicine has really helped. Nose drops, cold tablets, etc., etc. –– The Dr. wouldn't take any $. He is friend of the family we stayed w/ – also knew Banerjee – the medicine – for everything was just over $2.00 – so at least not a costly illness.
I had made reservations to leave Nagpur to Delhi for evening of 23rd which I decided best not to cancel. Everyone was very concerned about my travelling but I made the trip OK. My stomach was better before I left & my cold almost over now – I never did feel so bad w/ it that I had to go to bed (during day time–)
As I had said Banerjee friends own card board factory – he said minimum wage per DAY – now 7 Rupees – and that is for 10 hour day. And as efficient as I've seen Indian workers it is good that labor is cheap! The factory has about 50 employees – they have a giant house – even have running HOT water.
I don't think I've written to you how I was tried to convince NOT to come up North, Banerjee got out beautiful picture of the Taj Mahal – and had me read the history of it in my books, etc. Then he described the marble, oh and said – "Why is it necessary for you to see it in person? when you can sit in Bombay and know the history & exactly how it looks." Each time is is harder for me to leave Bombay – I'm looking forward to coming home on the 13th but I don't look forward to leaving Bombay. Sometimes I think it might be better for me to have flown out of Delhi as originally planned – but I'm enjoying a light weight suitcase – etc.
Thanks so much for your letter here – I had 7 letters when I got here – I'll call you all from New York – as the plane might be late – etc. –
When did you meet Panna's boyfriend? Must have been in a letter I did not receive. Did they tell you that her parents are VERY UPSET over the whole thing? And that the whole time I was at her parents house I was asked questions of how much $ does Dan's parents have? See – for Dan to get a working permit in India would be very hard if not impossible – because the Indian Govt says there are too many Indians out of work – As the husband of an Indian he would have no problem staying in the country but to get a job here will not be easy. There are alot of details to this that I'll go into when I get home.
I had a BAD EXPERIENCE at the Mehta house. 1st I knew we would be going shopping so I had gone to Amer. Express & cashed in $100.00 – because I also wanted to have $ to buy ticket North (before I knew I was going to Nagpur) & I had decided to buy Banerjee a briefcase we had been looking at – Anyway my 1st night there I counted my $ before going to bed – and the next day at the 1st shop we were in I found myself short 450 Rupees (just over $50) . It made me sick – I hated to say anything but that night I told them partly because I thought should they find that much they would wonder about me & also because I was concerned over losing that much! (I told them that I had lost 250 Rupees). Well – it wasn't found. The only thing I can figure out is that one of the servants took it while I was taking my bath, or eating breakfast. That is the 1st paisa (100 paisa makes 1 Rupee) that I have lost in India – so that is pretty good – but still so much $. $50 American money is worth a fortune here – Banerjee & the Jhangianas were really upset. The Mehtas did not want to even ASK their servants because they said they would quit on the spot. They (the Mehtas) said how sorry they were – but that did not bring back my money.
Anyway – I did go & get the briefcase for Banerjee – it cost me alot more than I planned. But it is a NICE one & I figure why buy something cheap if it is something you want to last! What made it so expensive was the TAX. India has the craziest tax system – up to 50 Rupees – 5%. Up to 200 Rupees – 15%. More than 200 Rupees – 20%. Well – I paid 20% tax – but I figure the gov't here has alot of good uses for their tax money. Today I went past the American Embassy & to see the luxury of the building & big cars around & then to see the slums nearby the gov't could be doing better w/ their $.
You asked about the drug problem in Ceylon – as compared to India it's about the same – but the problem is not w/ the local youth – but w/ the Americans & Europeans. 99% of young Americans I've met here are on drugs – it is a shame the name they give our country –
I was surprised to hear of the Zakhanis moving – I've had the foods described many times – the sweet "gulah jambo" is really good when they are warm. I've had too many good sweets in India – it will be a nice switch to go back to salads!
This afternoon I hopped on 3 different city buses & made the complete rounds – 30 paisa each time. Pretty cheap entertainment. Delhi is a nice city – but I'll take Bombay any day in comparison!
My plans for when I get home & well – after a "holiday" one needs to REST up – also DIET––
Now Friday morning – I'm going to lie in bed and write letters as I'll be the next 2 or maybe 3 nights on the road.
I've alot of film left – just don't seem to enjoy being the typical tourist shooting pictures. I should have taken it to the Taj Mahal & sold it at 300% profit. The prices of film there were unbelievable – but people w/out film were buying it.
Hope your trip to NYC & on was a good one. Bet NY is cold now. Be sure & order some hot (at least warm) weather for me.
Today plan to send telegram – hope it arrives in time – Mary V. – my day tomorrow as your birthday will be spent crossing the border into Pakistan. On Catherine's birthday I went into Ceylong. On the day after Serena's birthday I took the boat ride from Alleppey to Quilas. None of it really planned to go along w/ the birthdays.
It's almost 7:00 now – and I want to get a bath – HA – bucket bath – before the hot water is all gone.
Thanks for all the letters recently.