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Dreaming of Incredible !ndia

Good Night
The plane rattled upon take off, rose steadily into the sky and just like that the vibrancy of Beijing was swallowed up, shrouded, by an impenetrable haze of smog and clouds. At 32,000 feet I was left only with my impressions of China and what is perhaps the worst movie ever made, the straight to DVD release of Private Valentine, starring Jessica Simpson. I have a penchant for falling asleep on most forms of transportation; planes, trains, automobiles and ferries knock me out faster than the strong stuff your grandfather used to keep in his liquor cabinet. Considering my predisposition and the cinematic masterpiece that was on display before me on a couple-dozen 10 inch screens, I wasn't surprised to find myself drifting into an uncomfortable quasi-sleep. My eyelids grew heavy: I could not wait to get to Thailand.

What Dreams May Come
"To those of you not continuing on with us to Addis Ababa, thank you for flying with Ethiopian Airlines. We hope you enjoy your stay in New Delhi." I had woken up just before we touched down on the tarmac. The sweet angelic voice I had just heard was that of the pretty Ethiopian stewardess who had been so accommodating earlier in the flight. "What did she just say?" I asked myself as a wave of panic began to crash over me. "New Delhi? As in New Delhi, India?" It was simply impossible! Why on earth would I want to go to India? I'd seen Slumdog Millionaire: there was nothing for me in India! Why was I getting off in New Delhi? My girlfriend had suggested adding India to the itinerary, but I had scoffed at the Idea. I suddenly calmed down and a wry smile materialized on my face, "Wow. This is one hell of an in-flight dream! I might just enjoy this one a bit."

Sweet Dreams: Like Rose Water Syrup

My surprisingly lucid imagination was firmly in the driver's seat. Unfortunately, the driver took a turn down a rather seedy road and into an even seedier neighborhood. "This is Pahar Ranj. Your hotel is over there." he said with a wave of his hand. All I could see was a dirt road with what looked like hundreds of five-foot-wide alleys snaking off of it. It was four in the morning, the street smelled of human urine and animal feces; dozens of rats ran across the street and mangy stray dogs cowered in dark corners, sharing road side sleeping space with human beings. Incredible !ndia is the Indian tourist board's slogan for its recent marketing campaign. "Incredible !ndia my ass." I muttered under my breath. Realizing that we were not about to let him just unload us in such an environment, the taxi driver reluctantly got out of the cab, unloaded our bags and lead us through one of the many narrow alleyways, or as I termed it at the time, the passageway through Hell.

Flying around India

They do all of these studies about dreams. If you dream that you are in water it has a certain significance. If you dream that you are dancing in a tutu in front of a naked audience it could hold another key to your subconscious. So what does it mean if you dream that you are flying? The second we set foot in that alley way in New Delhi's Pahar Ranj neighborhood we took flight; However, this time there was no airplane just a visceral and sensory journey through central India. We saw the historical monuments and civic promise of India's capital juxtaposed against the abject poverty that plagues most of the country. I pushed a broken down taxi cab through Delhi rush hour as I was all the while inundated with street children begging for a meager donation, whatever it may be. Flash forward, faster than a speeding bullet or slower than an excruciatingly slow Indian train ride--I can't really recall which--to Rajasthan, the crown jewel of India. The holy city of Pushkar, rife with its Hindu pilgrims and scheming Brahmin priests who ironically belong the highest of all Indian castes. A death defying bus journey to the city of Udaipur revealed its magical floating palace, which served as the backdrop for the majestic Mewar festival. From Rajasthan to the dreamlike Mughal architecture of the Taj Mahal and the surreal experience that is Varanasi; the ash from the burning of bodies and the sweet stench of the Ganga river burning our noses as we toured the "oldest city in civilization." After Varanasi we soared through the mountaintops of northeast India into Darjeeling via jeep to soak in the Nepali Ghorka culture and from there swooped on Kolkata, the old colonial capital, where I witnessed a man die at one of Mother Theresa's many philanthropy houses throughout the city and the country.

Rise & Shine
I woke up rather suddenly on a plane headed for Bangkok from Kolkata international airport. "Enroute to Thailand from Kolkata, India?" I thought to myself. We were supposed to be arriving from Beijing.

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