p126.jpg And in the streets there was the East one had expected: the children, the dirt, the disease, the under-nourishment, the cries of bakshish, the hawkers, the touts, the glimpses of minarets.
   -- V. S. Naipaul
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In March 2005, I spent three mind-bending weeks in India with my son Alexander (in silhouette above right) as my companion and Hindi-speaking cicerone. My camera did not capture nearly enough of the India which I found most remarkable: the vendors, the market stalls, the begging children, the rickshaw-wallahs and paan-wallahs and lime-water-wallahs, the bikes carrying rebar or auto fenders, the saddhus, the slums; my pictures show too many buildings and too few people, but they'll have to do. These images represent a very few places in an extremely varied country, beautiful and hideous, crowded, smelly and filthy, nerve-jangling and meditative, ancient, vibrant, splendid; here's a small taste of what we saw.

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Delhi
3/5/05
p18.jpg Namaste! My first day in India, immediate immersion: Alexander took me to Chandni Chowk, an incredibly crowded marketplace in Old Delhi. This is a nearby street as seen from the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. The street is filled with people, bikes, pushcarts, cyclerickshaws, scooters, autorickshaws (the small green and yellow vehicles). Notice the haphazard electrical wiring, the people on the roof, the foul air quality.
Delhi
3/5/05
p36.jpg Approaching dusk on the same day, after the overwhelming noise and congestion of Old Delhi, we stepped into the serenity of the mid-16th century Humayun's Tomb. In early evening we attended a Sufi concert on the grounds; beautifully lit stage, great modern sound system, video cameras on elaborate booms, billowing smoke from the garbage fire right next to us. Welcome to Delhi!
Varanasi
3/7/05
p01a.jpg We spent most of our three days in Benares at the Dhrupad Mela, a festival of a profound variety of Hindustani classical music. On the first night, a monkey on the tented roof reached down and grabbed the gaudy garlands at the back of the stage; that's why the garlands at the far left don't look quite right here.
Varanasi
3/8/05
p01.jpg We were very sleepy at 4am the next night after 6 hours of music when a raucous pakhawaj (North Indian classical drum) solo awakened the local monkey family, then they screeched and cavorted on the roof for 45 minutes. Here's one of them chilling on nearby steps at 5am and a banana-eating mother and child after dawn. p32.jpg
Varanasi
3/8/05
p08.jpg p20a.jpg As dawn broke at 6am, we left the Dhrupad Mela for a while as the locals climbed down the ghats (steps leading to the water) for a morning dip in the sacred, horribly polluted waters of Gangaji (Mother Ganges). Then we watched the sunrise over Gangaji from Tulsi Ghat.
Varanasi
3/8/05
p43.jpg From the back of a cyclerickshaw, a wide paved Varanasi street with passing cows. This is amazingly orderly compared to the old streets closer to the ghats, where pedestrians, cyclerickshaws, scooters and occasional honking cars share the narrow dirt street with cows, chickens, stray dogs, goats, and street vendors, not to mention garbage piles and cow dung. In Delhi, cows often avoid the terrible traffic by resting on the median strip.
Mumbai
3/10/05,
3/12/05
p05.jpg A walk on our first day in Bombay took us through a neighborhood vegetable market with beautiful produce in great variety. We thought of Rushdie as we looked down later on Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive from Malabar Hill. p12.jpg
Elephanta
3/11/05
p22.jpg p11.jpg An hour-long boat ride from Bombay transported us to another world: the breathtaking Hindu cave temples of Elephanta, carved into the stone hillside sometime between AD 450 and AD 750. Fabulous light filters in from the cave entrance, changing as the sun moves through the sky.
Elephanta
3/11/05
p64.jpg Around the corner from the main cave, still on Elephanta, dozens of playful monkeys cavorted, including this mother and her adorable baby. p52.jpg
Mumbai
3/12/05
p32a.jpg Looking north across the water near the jetty leading to the Mosque of Haji Ali as the tide ebbed, two Bombay fishermen and Bombay highrises. I expected poverty and I expected highrises, but I didn't expect dire slums with burning garbage right next to modern highrises.
Udaipur
3/14/05
p04.jpg The Jagish Temple, built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651, with some detail from its ornately carved façade. p19.jpg p21.jpg
Udaipur
3/14/05
p12a.jpg Eating breakfast in a rooftop restaurant, we heard even more commotion than usual from the street below. The street, barely wide enough for two autorickshaws to pass, was blocked by a passing Moslem funeral, and Indians are not shy about honking. Moments later, an elephant offering rides for tourists added to the confusion.
Udaipur
3/14/05

Jaipur
3/15/05
p66.jpg We had power outages daily except in Bombay. During this outage, the man in the red shirt climbed over this transformer's chain-link fence and up the tower with wrench in hand to disconnect a wire. The haphazard tangle of wires in the other picture is more orderly than wiring we saw elsewhere. p07.jpg
Jaipur
3/15/05
p06.jpg p09.jpg Street scenes in the Old City, near Chandpol: pepper vendors with a passing band, a camel cart, an odd shrine-like vehicle. p10.jpg
Jaipur
3/15/05
p20.jpg The City Palace: restoration work with passing monkeys; ornate decoration fit for the Maharaja who still lies there. p16.jpg p23.jpg
Jaipur
3/15/05
p27.jpg p28.jpg They look like modern sculpture, but these are astronomical instruments in the Jantar Mantar, the Royal Observatory built by Jai Singh ca. 1728. We later visited his observatory in Delhi too.
Jaipur
3/16/05
p030.jpg Some tourists arrive by elephant at the magnificant hilltop Amber Palace, begun in 1592, but we just walked up the hill. Here's Ganesh on an elaborately painted wall. p039.jpg
Jaipur
3/16/05
p075.jpg p079.jpg We headed up the steep, hot, dusty road from Amber Palace toward the impregnible fort perched on the hillside high above. Only a few steps from multitudes of tourists, we found ourselves alone until a long-limbed Hanuman langur bounded by, then another, eventually two dozen in a convivial social group.
Agra
3/20/05
p013.jpg The pictures you've seen all your life do not prepare you for the reality: the magnificent Taj Mahal, huge beyond all expectation, flawlessly conceived and executed. You first see it perfectly framed as you pass through its monumental gateway. Look at the people on the distant platform for a sense of scale. p077.jpg
Agra
3/20/05
pan9sa.jpg And here is the Taj later, its marble turning pink in the serene glow of sunset, with the Yamuna river on the north side.
Agra
3/21/05
p203.jpg p209.jpg We spent most of Monday at the Taj too, and it was much less crowded than Sunday. At sunset the sky went crazy, just for a few minutes. p223.jpg
Delhi
3/22/05
p015.jpg My last day in India began with a quiet morning at the Qutb Minar, a minaret started in 1193 and finished in 1368, adjacent to the remnants of a 12th century mosque with elaborate decorations. p018.jpg