With our return to Delhi after visiting the Punjab, we had completed a triangular tour of this wonderful triangular country. From Kanyakumari at the southern tip, to Khangchendzonga in the north-east and Karnal (on the way to Amritsar) in the north-west. We even passed through the geographic center point of India - located very conveniently in the city of Nagpur where Anil's sister, Manju lives. You may feel that after six months in India, we have seen it all! Not so! We plan to be back in January 2008, to see some of the many places we missed; the deserts of Rajasthan, the temples of Kurjahao, Dharamsala (home of the Dalai Lama), the cave temples of Ajanta and Elora, etc., etc.
When we were in Darjeeling, we met a British tourist who told us of a quotation on a wall in a particularly seedy restaurant in Pelling, Sikkim. He was already questioning the safety of the food he had ordered, when he read "Life is an endless journey, why not end it here?" The restaurant owner obviously thought that Pelling was the Shangri-la of Sikkim, but his quotation back-fired due to his limited understanding of English. The British traveller lived to tell the tale, I'm sure he will tell it to all at home.
I liked the first part of the quote "Life is an endless journey...". This sums up our hopes and dreams for our future. Stay tuned for more tales from the road.
Before leaving Delhi for the last time in 2007 (we actually passed through the city five times), I want to share some photos of the beautiful flowering trees in full bloom. This is the first time we have ever been in India in the month of May, and these trees require the 40 degree heat before they will bloom, and fill the city with a blaze of colour. As orange is one of my two favorite colours (the other being purple, like in the Jacaranda trees I photographed in Ooty), I was over-the-moon with delight. The orange trees are called Gulmohar. Just as we were leaving, the Laburnam started to open and added a splash of yellow to the landscape. They are called "Chinese Lanterns" by the locals.
The other wonderful discovery we made during this hot season in India is the calls of the birds. Two birds were particularly plentiful on the Delhi Cantonment - the peacock and the koel (pronounced "koyal"). I am told the koel only sings from a mango tree, and as this is mango season, the two-tone calls will be a sound I will always associate with this time in India. There are dozens of peacocks on the military base where we stayed with Ajay and Neeta in Delhi. Their calls to each other are haunting and almost as beautiful as their plummage. Anil says that it is not only Generals and Brigadiers that strut there stuff on the wide roads of the base. We saw peacocks whenever we went for our long evening walks on the "Mall", a road that is closed to traffic in order for people to walk safely in the cantonment in the mornings and evenings. The biggest surprise for us was to learn that peacocks can fly. We saw several sitting high in trees and one even flew to the uppermost peak on a General's residence, his silouhette was striking against the setting sun.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in India, and after months of eating healthy South and North Indian food, we treated the Delhi Kapoors to some fast-food, a nice change for them. Yo! China for dim sum and Mcdonald's for soft ice cream. Dhriti and Tanuj, our neice and nephew treated us to an evening meal at "Punjabi By Nature", an upscale non-veg restaurant.
The night before we left, we had the treat of visiting with our friend, Alka Dutt. We have known her since she was four years old, her grandfather was Anil's father's best friend in Patna. She was born in Edmonton, raised in Vancouver and now lives in New York City. She has come to India with Pearson Inc., the publisher of Penguin Books where she works as an Auditor. We had a short, but sweet visit with her, and promised to visit her in New York as soon as we are able. We are hoping this is the first of many visits we will have overseas with friends and family from home.
It's time to leave India, though we have five-year, multiple-entry visas, we are not allowed to stay longer than six months at a time unless we plan for a long stay in advance. We never dreamed that we would ever stay so long in India, or so comfortably. But for now, it is on to Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur here we come!
Editor's final note: Now we move from the land of Tandoori to the land of Tom Yum.
Yum Yum indeed!