So my adventures in Belgium left me with a fairly serious cold, that after 15 hours of flying from there to here (landing three times--owwwww), had left me completely deaf and totally miserable. Fortunately, I am traveling with my best girlfriend from grad school, Jen. We met up in Amsterdam and flew to Delhi together. After a "sleepette" in a hotel in the sweltering heat, we left early the next morning for Bhopal (via Indore...even the planes run like trains).
Once in Bhopal, we were picked up by Deepak, a human rights activists for Dalit and Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, and were whisked away by our driver to Pachmarhi (a tourist town in a national park where our study circle was to be held). Or so we thought. Packed tightly around our luggage in a tiny car and sweating in the heat with the AC on full blast, Jen and I dozed off. We woke each time we made a stop, hoping we had arrived. But no--an errand...another errand. Which, we found out was for the tea we would share with Deepak and his wife at their home.
Perking up a bit at this unexpected generosity, we shared dahi (yogurt) and aam (mango) various biscuits, Indian junk food (chickpea flour noodles deep fried with assorted spices and nuts and salt) and milky sweet tea. (I take mine bina chidi--without sugar). I slurped up three packets of yogurt in an effort to get my guts sorted before I ate anything else. It feels really rude to refuse water in India (and we were really thirsty), so we gingerly sipped some water.
At the end of our hasty meal, Deepak rearranged our luggage, and in response to our inquiring looks, he told us his wife and 11 month old son (who is adorable) were coming with us in the tiny car. The journey would take 5-6 hours...would we like to use the restroom?
Welcome to India.
P.S. In case you were wondering, it is in fact possible to arrange 6 people with all their luggage (even our ridiculous baggage) in a hatchback Hyundai and drive for 6 hours. Let's just say we stopped a lot.
To be continued...