Memories of India
By Pat Alzobaie
We had no problem at Delhi airport. They have a platform to lower people with mobility problems.
The sights, sounds, tastes, activity, and colors of India make a trip there an incredible experience, despite some problems caused by using a wheelchair.
My shower stool collapsed with me on it, causing me to find my way across a cold marble floor to where I could get up. Security in Houston lost my passport for a time, and then they denied they had ever had it. After they returned it to me, I went on. My wheelchair was mashed to the point that one big wheel fell off the next day, but the airline replaced it. Bathroom doors were sometimes too narrow, but a couple of plastic chairs solved that problem. There were places that I could not enter because of their multiple steps.
But these problems fade with the memory of streets with cows in the middle, blocking or slowing traffic, women in brilliantly colored saris, carts and stands of bright fruits, vendors of everything from glass bracelets to knives to toilets, bicycle rickshaws, motorcycle-type vehicles with a compartment used as taxis, trucks loaded with everything from marble slabs to cotton, camels pulling carts, elephants and on and on. This all combines to make a trip through a city or even being stuck in traffic a joy.
Shops of every description lined the streets. We visited lots of stores, selling miniature paintings, mirrored pillows, bedspreads, saris, tablecloths, wall hangings, clothing, and jewelry. We visited a spice and tea shops where we sniffed and tasted and brought home a large quantity of the hundreds available.
Jewelry took most of our money. Gemstones and silver were an incredible bargain, along with clothes. We shopped liberally.
Food was great. Spicy, but we were usually asked how spicy we wanted things.
Many forts, temples, and palaces were inaccessible or only partially accessible. I could not get into the Monkey Temple, but visited the Rat Temple.
A drive through the area inhabited by gypsies was a delight. Gathered skirts replaced saris, and nose rings and toe rings replaced earrings.
Also very special was a camel ride out into a desert of dunes. While there, feeling certain I would fall off a camel, having ridden one before, I rode on a flat cart pulled by one. That evening there were dancers around a campfire.
Hotels were simple, at my request. Some were very interesting. One was in the home of a retired professor. Another had beautiful furniture, and a third looked out on a street in a small town with incredible people and animal traffic.
I never encountered a squat toilet. I try to avoid them in restaurants. All our toilets were Western. Some bathrooms I could get through, some I had to transfer to a plastic chair and then scoot. The bedroom doors were all no problem. I am sure that in higher priced hotels the bathrooms would have been more accessible, but I wanted to avoid the kind of thing that happened to me in Sri Lanka, where I never encountered any Sri Lankans, except those who were waiters, etc. So we traveled Indian style.
We rented a car with an amazing man driving it. Sushil loaded and unloaded our ever-growing piles of luggage and my wheelchair countless times. When the car overflowed, he sent some of our luggage back to his place in Delhi where it awaited our return. He was magnificently able to locate people to help carry me up and down steps. He is also a conservative driver, which is a blessing in a land where few are. He seemed to know people wherever we went, and I would strongly recommend him. His prices were low, and he knew a lot about everywhere we went. His website is www.sushil.net.ms
I also have vivid memories of the red buildings of Jaipur, the carved ones of Jaisalmer, the lakes of Udaipur, an amazing market street in Pushkar, elaborately painted buildings in Ranakpur, and, of course, the Taj Majal.
It was an amazing trip. I have many fond memories of the sights and sounds, the people I met, and people's curiosity over my wheelchair, quickly replaced by a shy smile returning mine.
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