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 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.
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.
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.
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.