Indian Nationalism

One of the biggest surprises here in India is the intensity of Indian nationalism. I’m always shocked when homeless people living on the sidewalks suddenly blurt out, “India is the greatest country on earth!” They mean it, they believe it. To Westerners, it’s baffling. Many Indians, even those struggling to survive, are thoroughly convinced of India’s greatness.

One college-educated, young professional we encountered proudly informed us that India would be the “world leader” by 2015. Thinking that he meant 2050, we asked for clarification. “No, no” he assured us, “India will lead the world by 2015. In six years.”

“How will it lead the world,” we probed, “economically? militarily? culturally?”

“In every way,” he assured us.

Baffling. But where is this coming from? Continue…

Glenary’s

What’s wrong with us? We are in the beautiful Himalayan foothills but instead of exploring the surrounding countryside, we’re exploring the baked goods assortment of Glenary’s Restaurant and Bakery right across from our hotel.

Completely ignoring the great views from the cafe, our eyes are, instead, fixated on Black Forest cake, banana nut muffins, chocolate covered doughnuts, and butter croissants – and that’s just Continue…

10 Highest Mountains

We’ve managed to get our first view of phenomenal Kangchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world. Although we are still 74 km (46 miles) from the mountain, it looks massive towering over the valleys of Sikkim.

Seeing Kangchendzonga is also a milestone for Thomas and me. This means we have seen 8 of the top ten highest mountains in the world. The remaining two mountains, K2 and Nanga Parbat, are both located in northwest Pakistan, and we obviously won’t be heading there right now.

To celebrate the eight, we have put together our own pictorial list of the world’s ten highest mountains, respectfully leaving blank spaces for K2 and Nanga Parbat. We’ll get to Pakistan some day!

Darjeeling

Finally, we’ve moved out of the lowland’s scorching heat and have arrived by toy train in world-famous Darjeeling, Bengal’s former summer capital situated in the Himalayan foothills.

This household-name hill station surrounded by forests and tea estates, is not a secret hideaway though. Buzzing with Indian tourists shopping for Darjeeling tea and pashminas, the city is surprisingly hassle-free and relaxing. Why? Because we are Continue…

Women!

How many more ways can you insult a woman?!

These kinds of street signs are plastered all over northern India. Another one of my favorites is “Be Gentle on my Curves.”

The Curse of the Hijra

Hijra, India

The first time I saw two hijras in a hotel lobby fighting with the receptionist, I was very confused. Loud and obnoxious, aggressive and lewd, these women did not behave like any other Indian women I had seen. Why? Because, as it turns out, they were not women – at least not in a traditional sense.

In the West, for a lack of a better term, hijras would be called Continue…

The Pope is a N*zi

“What country are you from?” asked the Goan woman on the train.

“I’m German,” I answered routinely.

“You know,” said the devout Catholic touching her crucifix, “our Holy Father, the Pope, is a N*zi.”

Awkward silence mixed with confusion.

“He’s what?” I asked looking for clarification.

“He’s a N*zi,” she said, smiling at me with pride.

“A N*zi?” I asked, thinking well that’s not the first time I’ve heard that opinion, but it’s a rather interesting comment coming out of a devout Catholic.

“Yes, a N*zi – just like you.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The holy father is also from Germany,” she replied smiling kindly. The woman was actually convinced that our nationality was called “N*zi”.

Wow, our time in India has proven over and over that average Indians have absolutely no concept of western culture, but this was a real mind-blower. I tried to give her a quick history lesson, but she refused to understand what I was saying. In fact, she went on to declare how beautiful it was that H*tler had chosen an Indian symbol, the sw*stika, to represent his movement. Yikes!

(Asterisks are being used to prevent content filters from blocking this posting).

Tigers of Bandhavgarh

Follow along as we move through Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh in search for the elusive Royal Bengal tiger.

Get a glimpse of the park’s landscape and, of course, of the animal we came to see. On only two safari drives, we were lucky to spot 3 different cats. See for yourself how close we got to the tigers on elephant back.

Mohamed – Mahout and More

Mohamed is one of those extraordinary individuals in the world whose fascinating life goes largely unnoticed by the people who meet him. Most visitors to Bandhavgarh National Park will encounter him under rather unusual circumstances: a tiger show, a situation in which they are rather distracted and not likely to find out much about his personal life.

What is a “tiger show”? Visitors to Bandhavgarh hire jeeps to explore the park along a series of dirt jeep tracks in search of the region’s wildlife. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to find a tiger. Unfortunately, tigers don’t usually Continue…

Tigers 3, 4 and 5

Third tiger’s a charm! We finally got our good tiger view and over a hundred pics to prove it. We shot this female (with a camera of course) from elephant back. But as if that weren’t enough, we spotted this female again as well as two additional male tigers on our second drive into the park. Outrageous! Three wild tigers in one drive.

But spotting three tigers is not just luck. Continue…