Heading east and north

Friday, May 25, 2018
Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
This morning we slept in as long as we could, which for me wasn’t long at all. Still jet-lagged, I was up pretty early. We again enjoyed a fine breakfast before checking out and heading out at 11:00. We stopped at a favorite market of Dave’s and were tempted by peshminas, carvings, jewelry, and carpets. We were educated, but managed to avoid spending any money.
We then started out to the east north east toward Moradabad, our destination, about four hours’ drive away. Traffic was difficult leaving Delhi, and the road was under construction for miles as we entered the State of Uttar Pradesh, known for a number of things. It has the reputation of being a particularly corrupt state. It is also known as the symbolic home of Hinduism, where the religion mostly developed. Many people feel protective of it, which has resulted in rising persecution against Christians and Muslims, who insist on worshipping only one God, not honoring the Hindu pantheon.
Many Muslims, in the whole country, are defensive and don’t feel kindly toward the other two great religions, since first Christians under the British, and then Hindus rules them since independence. Or course that’s forgetting the Moghuls….
The small Christian minority is stuck in the middle, and often has trouble coming from both directions. These are all sensitive topics.
But back to Uttar Pradesh. The roads we travelled were either being repaired, as was the case near Delhi, or in pressing need of reparation. The Modi government has made of priority of improving infrastructure and signs of that are clear.
The countryside through which we passed was flat, open and brown, it’s summer now and parched. In places it reminded us of Provence in the south of France.
We came to a crossing over the Ganges River, the holy river of Hinduism, and stopped, parking on the shoulder just before the bridge. We walked across the bridge and down stairs to a landing area, where there were snack shops, a shrine to Shiva and steps leading to the water. The shrine centered on a brightly-painted human-sized statue of the god surrounded by lingam, which are stylized phallic symbols associated with his worship. 
There were many scattered around the site. Worshipers poured water and the lingam and caught it again as it ran off so it could be carried away. I guessed that the water much be thought to gain some virtue from this process. Vendors sold empty plastic bottles so that river water could be take away
We went down to observe pilgrims bathing in refuse-filled water. Jasbir, who is Hindu, explained that after bathing, pilgrims leave their old clothes behind, and at least some of it ends up in the river, along with plenty of other garbage. Bathing in the Ganges is supposed to purify one spiritually, but it certainly wouldn’t do so physically, not in this location.
A montage of details faded from one to another: two boys beating drums, a portly woman wringing out bright clothing in the river, sacred cows standing stolidly in the heat, chewing the cud; bathers going down to the river and coming back up in various states of dress and undress. Other bathers frolicking, dunking themselves and splashing about, friends and family members chatting.
Touts rushed up to us to ask if we wanted to take a boat. Motorized wooden boats ferried passengers back and forth across the river, to and from a cremation site on the far bank. Hindu dead whenever possible are cremated on the banks of the Ganges, and their ashes scattered in the water. No such cremations were taking place while we were there.
It was colorful and picturesque to observe the scene, so different from my background. But the filth and idolatry made it repulsive as well.
More than halfway along our path, we sought a clean bathroom and Jasbir suggested McDonalds. We saw several American fast-food joints all in the same small area: the other two were KFC and Burger King. In the first of the three we found a very clean interior, including restrooms as we expected. There were several groups of teens hanging out in the air-conditioning, judging by their dress more affluent, which one would expect. 
American fast-food is a luxury most Indians could not afford. And, a thing inconceivable in the States, there was no beef on the menu. There was no pork either as a sign informed customers. The lack of beef was out of respect for Hindus, the absence of pork out of respect for Muslims. Instead, one could buy chicken sandwiches or veggie burgers. I ordered a small portion of fries to tide me through until dinner: they tasted exactly the same as everywhere else.
On the outskirts of Moradabad, we arrived at our hotel, a pleasant place with good air condition, which is important on this trip since the temperatures have been averaging well over 100 F, as much as 45 C. We checked in, settled in and freshened up.
The restaurant didn’t open until 7:00 pm, at which time we had a Indian meal, spicy and delightful.
Tomorrow morning we’ll be able to catch up on our sleep, if sleep we can. We’re still affected by jet-lag, so it remains to be seen whether we’ll be able.



Thanks for the commentary and pictures. With temperatures so high, it's not surprising that so many people are bathing in the Ganges. The customs of bathing in the river, the shrine photo, and the discussion of religious differences are new to me.