August 10, 2008
It seems that the past week has been rather busy. Last weekend I went to Agra with six other people who are staying in the guest house. We took an overnight train, which was a pretty good experience since the car was air-conditioned. Once we arrived we had breakfast in a nice hotel and were greeted by a tour guide. Our group started by going to the Taj Mahal, which I found to be absolutely amazing. Of course I've seen it in so many pictures, but to see it up close is a truly breathtaking experience. The symmetry and elegant artwork is unbelievable. Next we went to a marble shop and had the opportunity to see how the designs are carved into the marble. They showed us beautiful marble tables and statues (which were all very pricey). We also got a tour of Agra fort and went to a famous Sufi shrine. That same night we all took the overnight train back to Lucknow.
On Tuesday I went to a village with a group of Italian tourists. The tourists were on a program where they get a tour of "real India" in which they stay in lower cost accommodations and go out into villages in different parts of the country to see how people are living. Part of the tour is arranged through SEWA, which is how I was able to come along. SEWA runs a school in a village for girls from the surrounding areas. The children are taken to from their families and live at the school because they would otherwise receive no education. Most of the parents are illiterate and, according to our guide, do not understand the value of education for girls. We sat in the class room with the children and observed some of their maths lesson. It was good to see that the girls are learning these skills, but at the same time it must be very difficult for them to be separated from the families. We then went into one of the villages and saw rice fields, straw homes and several cows, and had a chance to talk to some of the people who were living there. The Italians taught the children a couple of traditional Italian songs, which was nice to see. We then came back to SEWA, shared a wonderful lunch and went on a tour of each step of the chikan making process.
Last night I went to a Dastarkhawn, or an evening of Lucknowi cuisine and culture. It was held at Iqbal Manzil Palace, where a prince lives. When we came there was a small mina bazaar with jewelry and perfume then we sat on the floor of one of the palace bedrooms and listened to a Qawwali performance. The meal was held on a long, low table so that everyone was sitting on the ground while eating. The food was very good, although I don't think it was quite worth the 1300 rupees it cost for the evening.
Posted by gcline at August 10, 2008 11:33 AM