Our India Adventure from A to Z

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Eighth GradersOverwhelmed and overstimulated. There’s no way to effectively present our travel to India. Too much to process.  Too many photos to show. Too many questions to answer.  My solution – highlights of our India Adventure from A to Z. Elsewhere you can read about classic India experiences, but here are mine…

IMG_3002A – Ashok. My purpose for telling this tale is the fact that this was a galvanizing day for our group. Not every tour group bonds, but an accident or injury takes a village. Ashok was our bus boy, the one who ran errands, kept us with bottled water, made sure the bus was clean. So… we ran over him. The bus rolled over both his feet. A freak accident, a split second, he turned this way when the bus turned that way. The good news: our fellow travelers included two MDs and two RNs. We pooled first aid stuff; after two hours on India’s worst roads with Ashok bleeding, bandaged and prone, Dr. E and levelheaded tour leader Bindu scored a ferocious painkiller at a tiny village pharmacy. Another hour’s ride to hospital, Bindu excellent phone-work. Dislocated toe on one foot, broken toe on the other, puncture wound. He stayed in hospital, his brother-in-law retrieved him two days later. Ashok is probably still high from all the stuff we shoved into him. Lesson learned (per one of our docs): “you can now plan for THIS accident and never experience it again.”

B – Bollywood. Bindu delivered the ultimate Indian experience – a Bollywood movie.  She bought us a round of tickets and off we went.  The theater was stunning. The audience was loud. The story, corny and dancing and singing great. Loved it.

C – Colors, Cows and Camels. In India, pink is the new black. Women and things are hyper-colorful.  Cows (you know this) are sacred and walk and park anywhere, such as inside a store or middle of the road. Stay your distance, Larry’s butt narrowly escaped tremendous harm when a pissy cow gave my hub’s ass the what-for and only succeeded in tearing his pants. Regarding camels… pack animals as well as “ride a camel” adventure for our group.

Colors collage

D – Delhi Belly. Just about everyone asks when you tell them you went to India, “Did you get sick from the food?” No.

E – Eating and Eyebrows. Food was bullet-sweating spicy to mild. More vegetarian than not. We skipped raw produce and stayed with hot cooked foods, a tad tiring toward the end but I never went hungry.  And eyebrows, you ask? Bollywood actors EMOTE with their brows. This is a country of phenomenal female eyebrows, crisp and black, precisely plucked.

F – Forts: Amber, Agra, just look up on hillsides here and there… forts everywhere!

G – Gandhi and the Ganges, two huge driving forces to the India of today. Your own visit to India will fill you in. And now I will watch the Gandhi movie again and “get it” this time.

H – Hot Air Ballooning. Larry knows that if a trip offers ballooning, Patti wants in. Floating over Jaipur, locals waved from the ground. We were our own Rose Parade! By the time we landed in a remote field, hundreds had followed us to that spot, climbing over walls and thru meadows. The crowd was quiet, gentle and mind-blowing. I shook one child’s hand and suddenly, 200 wanted a handshake. I was Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.


I – India “Day in the Life” started with a stroll through a rural village. Ended with dinners in homes chatting with the family about anything and everything. We had two such dinners and at one, shared our table with the family’s 12-year-old.  She gave us her very strong opinion of Miley Cirus – Indian tweens are agog over her but our gal thinks she’s a train wreck. She said Miley’s parents are not disciplining her properly. Whoa, this was one adult 12-year-old. We also visited a grammar school. Following a crisp assembly, we were allowed to wander the classrooms to chat with kids. My main photo above of the two eight graders in orange is my favorite shot. This day also included a co-op where women craft. Very empowering for them, and good shopping for us.

J – Jaipur and Jewels. Apparently 95% of the world’s gems are cut in Jaipur. Whether that is accurate or not, I need to forgive myself for not buying the “pillow cut” Lemon Topaz drop earrings in 18K gold I was negotiating. Dammit, Cheapskate Me walked away. DAMMMM-IT.

IMG_3459K – Kitchens. Travelers to developing countries see a lot of cooking — on the streets, in storefronts, down alleys, on farms. Kitchens are where you light a fire and go from there. Our last day, following a dawn boat ride on the Ganges, a man stirred a humongous pot of soup on a fire in front of a shrine. Homeless people in Varanasi can have something free to eat daily from such a spot.

Princess DianaL – Love. The Taj Mahal is the world’s biggest valentine, a tomb built for an empress by her heartsick emperor. Our day was bitterly cold and quite foggy, so here (right) is a stock pix of Princess Diana at the Taj. MY PHOTO, below, is a tiny detail, the intricacies of marble carving.  See the largest arch behind Diana? This flower is on the wall to the right of the door.  I ran my fingers over it’s silky smoothness. Visualize this level of artistic talent a million times over that giant property.


M – Masala, the “proper gravy.” Bindu performed an enlightening cooking demo, and proclaimed that practically every Indian knows how to prepare it.  Now I do, too.  And once I cook it (it may be a while before Larry is game for Indian food), I will post it.

N – Naan and Roti.  Gorgeous fresh flatbreads with every meal. Hot from the griddle.  Addictive.  I said “yes” to practically ever offer.


O – Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) was our tour company. Bindu Lall Nair was our guide. A thousand thumbs-up for both. This was the company we used for last summer’s Southern African Safari trip, too.

P – Palace of Winds. India is dotted with palaces, but this one was intriguing in that it was simply a façade built for women to invisibly watch the world.  Windows with intricate carved screens allowed royal women to party like animals (yup, drinking and smoking and gossiping) unseen while enjoying the view of busy Jaipur. Next time you see photos of Indian palaces, note the windows. Then pretend you are a woman whose face is always covered to the outside world.

Q – Quiet? Not on your life.  Horns, traffic, yelling, music, kids, animals. All part of the overload.  Quiet hotels, yes, with exception of our tent camp’s howling jackals and 24/7 music from somewhere in the distance.

R – Rickshaws. When traffic was too dense, streets too narrow, or  crowds too thick, rickshaws. The wild rides of our lives. Full visibility. Mine even ran over a woman’s foot. No injuries, unlike Ashok’s mishap.

S – Safaris and Saris. We hunted the elusive tiger (with cameras).  But with only 40-some cats in a reserve of 400 square kilometers, we saw none.  Aussies at the bar one eve reported seeing TWO and a leopard.  We toasted their good luck. Then, the last day of our trip, Bindu taught us gals how to wrap a Sari, resulting in my newfound appreciation for the figure-flattering ensemble (no matter my two-week-stinky clothes, clunky Nikes and travel weary hair/face). I should have bought one.

wardrobe malfunctionT – Temples. I was losing Temple interest until our Hindu spot. I may have been the only one who shot the “wardrobe malfunction.”  Since Hindus don’t worship statues (they worship gods; statues are just there to represent the gods), I don’t think I will be punished in the forever-after for this sexy shot.

U – Unions. I wanted to write about weddings, and needed a “U” for this list, so forgive me here.  Bindu was phenomenal in her info about the ultimate Indian union: marriage – arranged and/or love ones. On long rides through rural countrysides, she gave us numerous insights into the many facets and experiences. She even brought us the Matrimony classifieds and helped us grasp how culture works for them.

V – Varanasi, the holiest Hindu city in the world. Spiritual. Sacred. The place where people go to die. Because that is where they are cremated – right there on the river bank, ashes put into the Ganges. We took boats twice, once at night for crowds and aarti ceremony (along with cremations) and again at the crack of dawn to witness individuals starting their days with morning blessing rituals. Unforgetable.

W – Water. This Baoli step well is an engineering masterpiece.  The water table is waaaay down there, so some centuries ago, someone said “let’s make it AWESOME to go get the water.”  Thirteen stories down a stadium’s worth of square-cut stone steps, this is in a remote village, one where locals never noticed what an incredible find this is.  No ticket booth.  No lines.  Just go in.  Our day was fog-shrouded and alone here.IMG_2976

X – X-ray in the airport.  I was packin’ needlepoint this trip – sharp scissors and needles. Six flights, none of the TSAs cared except this one guy who could see something was in that carry-on. Dig, dig, dig as I stood mum, all he found were several hotel sewing kits. That satisfied him and he took ‘em.  And I did needlepoint on 45+ hours of flights round-trip.

Y – Yoga Class. What a necessity after more than two weeks of travel. Being in the Land O’ Yoga, I REALLY wanted the experience. I’ve practiced yoga for more than 10 years. Larry had his first. Good times.

Z – Zoo.  Plenty of animals: cows, goats, dogs, sheep, monkeys, cobras, buffalo, rats, cats (but saw no tigers), raptors, parakeets, snakes, crocodiles, elephants, jackals, peacocks, king fisher birds. Goats were a particular source of laughs for fellow travelers Miriam, Esther and me. Goat in sweaterI am LAUGHING STILL as I type this… as we left bags of clothes to donate to charity with Bindu, I said to Miriam, “In a few years when we return to India, we’ll see our clothes on goats and dogs, not people.” This was a VERY COLD WINTER, animals had sweaters! OK, if you are not laughing, this is for Miriam and Esther.  And for my travel buddy Larry who cries with laughs when we go over this one.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Worth The Whisk January 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Thank you Medini. Bindu, our OAT guide wrapped the sari, it’s hers.

2 Medini January 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Loved the glimpse! Your A-Z depiction and topics gave a new dimension to the cultural experience. And whoever draped the saree on you did a phenomenal job! Enjoyed seeing India through your eyes! Lovely!

3 Esther January 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm

It was wonderful reading your blog and re-living our trip.

I honestly think that the “goat child” will soon be wearing one of our hand me down sweaters!


4 Worth The Whisk January 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Andrea, your punster is one of my favorite things about you.

5 Worth The Whisk January 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Karen, you know where to jump onto this tour, Ms. Shared My Africa Experience!

6 Karen Guerra January 29, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I’m jealous!


7 Andrea Giambrone January 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm

You are an AmaZing woman. A to Z, not only a typically Patti-pragmatic and all-encompassing solution, but SO WELL DONE! Concise, juicy, colorful – in all its accident prone, toes-to-butts scenarios. Apparently, India is never having to say you’re Sari. Oh I know – that’s just awful. But the photo of you sari-clad got my attention and my punster has long been out of control.

8 Angela January 21, 2011 at 11:47 am

Patty – I love the clever alpahbet format! What a great way to encompass everything. Thanks for sharing. Love all the insight!

9 Preethi January 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm

You really evoke the color, cuisine and culture of India…I just returned from a trip to South India, and you make me so homesick!! Great photojournalism and writing Patti!

10 Jean January 19, 2011 at 11:04 am

Good overview of our trip to India. You and Larry made us all much more aware of the food presentation, preparation, and taste. Your pithy sense of humor made the visit much more enjoyable for everyone. We also hope to go back to India.

11 Worth The Whisk January 19, 2011 at 8:57 am

Bindu — YOU were the Rock Star of our trip, what a levelheaded, beautiful, smart, informative, enlightened tour guide. And, you seem to always know when to also let us have quiet time. Larry and I enjoyed it all, thank you so much.

12 Worth The Whisk January 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

Deeba, it would have been nice to meet you here, too. One day! My next post is almost ready… the food!

13 Russ Allen January 19, 2011 at 3:11 am

I have read your post and am more ready than ever to take the trip. It sounds like it has what I always look for in a trip, DIFFERENT. So now where are all the foodie pictures?

14 Deeba January 19, 2011 at 2:44 am

I LOVED your A to Z…and I loved experiencing my India through your eyes! fabulously done, and am so glad you experienced our chaos, our colours, our curries … yes there seems to be a method to our madness! It’s just a little tough to figure it out! This is the India I love…and I do wish I had met you when you were here! xo

15 Kate January 19, 2011 at 12:04 am

Oh what a blog ! India is on my bucket list !!

16 Bindu Lall January 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm


You are en excellent writer! And you captured our 15 day adventure in a concise and attractive way!

Great to see so many of your friends are getting inspired by your post! To all of you out there…come to India…it’s like no other place on earth!

Take care !!

17 Patricia January 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for sharing.

18 Val January 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm

….and delightful!
LOVE the A-Z approach!……….but of course, you knew I would!

19 jan January 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm

How could I possibly have missed India in my travels. What a wonderful description of all the interesting things to see….and how I wish I could pack my bags and leave tomorrow. Maybe I will join Elise and go hot air ballooning. Great reading!!!

20 Nancy January 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm

What an unbelievable blog. Very creative and well written. I’m even more motivated to travel to India now.

21 Lentil Breakdown January 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Loved hearing about your colorful adventure. I took a (very pricey!) balloon ride in Cappadocia in Turkey that was unforgettable. Still haven’t been to India, but am enamored with the food, and it is no coincidence that my favorite pic of in this post is the roti with steam rising.

22 linda January 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm

What a terrific travel blog. I cannot wait to go. Thank you.

23 linda January 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm

What a terrific travel blog. Just right. Thank you. I cannot wait to go.

24 Lynn January 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Thanks for sharing this with me Patti. I’ll get my husband to read it and may-be it will inspire him to go. Beautiful story and lovely pictures.

25 Vicki January 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Patti, it sounds like you had an AMAZING trip! I loved reading your post and feel so bad for Ashok! Now, let me get back to planning my own trip to India. You’ve inspired me!

26 Cynthia January 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Thanks for the report. Overseas Adventure Travel does a great job with all their destinations (I’ve been on four of their tours so far), and I have been contemplating their India tour. I’ve toured southern India (with a group of culinary historians), and loved it, but I haven’t made it north yet, and you make it look very appealing. Nice to hear that the tour was so great.

27 Worth The Whisk January 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Michael, I do, too. There are a hundred other topics to cover. We have to go back!

28 Worth The Whisk January 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Cathy — So glad you’re liking the India post. That hand was a teenager, and she HAS done that her entire life. It was perfection.

29 Cathy/ShowFoodChef January 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Oh! What a fantastic read. A good friend of mine goes to India every quarter to teach nutrition and health with one of the royal families and I listen to his stories of the color and the people, too and I want to go so badly. You have convinced me to move it up on the priority list. African Safari is on that too, so you are paving my way into my dreams. My fav pic is the women’s hand over the heat with the naan – it just feels like she’s done that a million times. Much {{{{applause}}}} and Namaste.

30 Michael / South Bay Foodies January 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I wish there were more letters in the alphabet so I could hear more about your trip! Thanks so much for this detailed and whimsical account of your adventure.

31 sippitysup January 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

The way you describe the moments just after the balloon trip feel so cinematic. I have either been in a similar situation somewhere (Fiji??) or I have seen the movie! GREG

32 Worth The Whisk January 17, 2011 at 8:27 am

Hot naan. Fresh naan. Neverending naan. aaaaaahhhh.

33 The Cilantropist January 17, 2011 at 8:23 am

Definitely interesting reading – I learned quite a bit about india that I did not know before – and sounds like an exciting trip! and just for the record, I would never turn down naan either… good call. 🙂

34 Worth The Whisk January 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

E – you think like me. Jewels.

35 elise January 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

first off, welcome back.
this post makes me want to travel to india now. so many things to comment on!!
im in love with roti.
i was cracking up picturing all the handshaking.
i had no idea you were so into hot air ballooning. it kinda scares me but i had a patient last month that operated them and now i think i may consider giving it a try.
congrats on not getting sick, but you should definitely have come home with some jewels!

36 Worth The Whisk January 15, 2011 at 8:17 am

Rashmi, I can see why you would be homesick. Such a different world, very exciting and incredible. Hope to see you soon.

37 rashmi from yumkid.com January 15, 2011 at 12:03 am

loved loved your post… and now I am home sick 🙁

38 Gisele aka LA2LAChef January 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm

It is so true about color in India. I’ve not seen colors like this anywhere- before or since my visit in the 80’s. I nabbed a vibrant emerald green (with deep teal undertones) silk shawl for myself, and one of the deepest purple ever, which I altruistically gave to a teacher and friend with deep brown eyes, and mahogany colored hair I thought would wear it perfectly. Sigh…

a lovely country

39 Kath January 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

Wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word of your post, Patti. I would love to go to India someday. Thank you for bringing some of it to life for me with your beautiful photos and narrative.!

40 Kit Spikings January 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

UNREAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU captured the beauty of the India I am in love with!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The people are the richest in the entire world! Great job Patti!

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