Friday, 10 February 2017

India is Endlessly Confusing

Today was very confusing, for much of the day we didn't know what an Earth was going on. We noticed that we haven't seen a Western tourist since we left Ahmedabad three days ago, and even there they were really sparse. This turns out to be a blessing, but also a curse, it is wonderful to think that we are travelling to places not many Westerners venture to, and it also means that we are somewhat of a novelty, with lots of curious stares until we smile -- and most of the time that smile is returned -- lots of people wanting to have photographs with us, and lots of people wanting to talk to us and find out where we are from, if we like India, how long we are hear for, and where we are going next. And lots of people wanting us to interact with their babies and toddlers, whether they want to or not. One little two year old, towards the end of the day, looked absolutely petrified at the prospect of shaking Michael's hand, even when he crouched down to two year old height. I did a little better and got a quick hand hold and the hint of a smile which then turned into a cheeky smile and a blown kiss. The only really down side is very little information written in English, so we often don't really understand what we are visiting or where we are allowed to go or what is going on at all really. Today we learnt just to have faith, and even in the depths of confusion and misunderstanding we end up having wonderful experiences.

The day started off as per what has become our usual routine. Alarm, breakfast, this time of aloo paratha, and then down to meet our driver to depart for the next destination, which today was Somnath which is on the coast of the Arabian Sea.

First tourist spot was Triveni Sangam, which is the confluence of three rivers; that is two actual rivers and one spiritual river. There is a long ghat where people come to wash away their sins and free themselves from the cycle of rebirth. We take a walk along the ghat past the cows and dogs and hogs. It is actually really pleasant, apart from all the animal waste and the vast amount of litter in the water.
We then walk to a couple of temples, and are made to feel very welcome even though we feel a little unsure if if we should be there.

Back to the car and the driver takes us to the place where Krishna is supposed to have ascended to heaven; again it is very pleasant, though the temples here are relatively new and so not that interesting, and again we don't have a very good understanding of the place despite the one English information board we find. Back in the car and a 7km drive to another site which is supposed to also be the place where Krishna ascended to heaven, with the very same sign in English. There are many more people here, a large group of woman chanting under a shelter and some people being served food, a shallow step well with bright green water which somehow manages to sustain three turtles, and a new temple that appears to be under construction, with bamboo scaffolding inside and out and some workmen toiling away.

In the evening we arrive at the main Somnath temple. An important pilgrimage site and more confusion for us. As we arrive the driver tells us that no bags, cameras, phones, wallets or belts are allowed inside, this is a problem for us as we are carrying all of the above as well as our passports. We wander past all the stalls outside the temple and try to orientate ourselves. There is a security gate checking that everyone abides by the rules. With limited information we eventually navigate checking our bag into a cloakroom, getting through security, leaving our shoes at the shoe counter, getting through the second level of security, and finally into the temple complex. It is very serene, despite the large number of visitors and, I assume, pilgrims. We spend some time looking out over the Arabian Sea before visiting the temple itself. A little more security and a long queue to do darshan and puja.
Michael and I take a seat outside with our backs to the setting orange sun and watch the colour change on the temple as the light fades.

Once we have retrieved our shoes and our bag we find a little outside restaurant for some South Indian supper before our driver suddenly seems to appear from nowhere to take us back to the hotel.