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Saturday, January 26, 2013

PEARL'S ASHES: #8--Taj Mahal

I've been around the world around ten times.  There was once an airlines called Pan American World Airways.   Pearl and I took our first around the world journey on PanAm01, westward, way back in the '70's.  On 17January2010 I began my global adventure to Vietnam, Cambodia, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, New Delhi, Barcelona, Munich, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, DC, New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  By this day 130 countries had clicked on this blog site and  I was averaging less than 100 visitors/day.  Today, I'm up to 211 countries and 500 visitors/day.

I wrestled with whether I should ask permission from the Indian government to allow me to lay Pearl's ashes at the Taj Mahal.  Then, rationality prevailed and I decided to do all of this surreptitiously, for they would have said no anyway and taken forever to do this.

To minimize customs problems I came up with a solution.  Fill gel caps with Pearl's ashes, for they were the same color of my high blood pressure pill.  I then tossed this capsule at the chosen site.

Thus, today  I continue my future book on Pearl's Ashes with my first international ceremony at the Taj Mahal.  First, though, you need to click on the following postings to get a sense of what I had to go through:

  -  INDIA SUCKS!  (In particular, note that I struck a nerve, as I normally have no comments.  There were 48 responses, most agreed with me and many were really funny.)

I'll take the liberty of just copying part of my 8February2010 blog posting on INDIA IS AN EXPERIENCE:

To begin, can you believe there are 82 HD channels, and at the time of the Super Bowl, there were 6 soccer matches, 2 rugby, 2 badminton, 1 tennis, 1 golf, 1 auto racing, 3 cricket and, on ESPN, a SEC gymnastics competition. NO SUPER BOWL in Delhi. Anyway, I couldn't have caught all of it as at 6:15AM I was picked up for my Taj Mahal encounter, the primary reason why I'm on this trip.

There was a driver of a minivan and a navigator, joined by a tour guide for a person from Sweden, another from Turkey and myself. Remember from yesterday, all this cost me about $50, including lunch.

The drive of 4 hours to Agra was a nightmare. Early in the morning, a red light means please consider slowing down, but, if there appears to be no crossing traffic, whiz through as fast as possible. The 130 mile ride was mostly down a four lane highway, with a few complications. Ox, goat and horse driven carts; wandering cattle and water buffalo; way overloaded trucks; tuk-tuks that carry not two people, but up to 20; congested towns; people running across the street and horrendous air pollution (it was smokey the whole way). For transportation buffs, you will see every possible mode of transport since the dawn of civilization, including trains that seem to move along well and, above, airplanes, which I only imagined were there, for the haze is worse than when the volcano emission envelopes Honolulu.

We finally got to Agra and went straight to the Taj Mahal. The cost of entrance was about $20 for this and the Red Fort. Frankly, like Angkor Wat, the experience was not awesome. I'm glad I came, I enjoyed the tour, but I was sort of disappointed. These accompanying photos actually show the Taj to be whiter than actual. This is one of the 8 wonders of the world. Time and pollution, though, have stained the white marble. But, after all, this complex is more than 350 years old. I did, however, honor Pearl.

No, I'm not dropping Pearl's ashes, but below is where I selected as her site. I asked around for a possible yellow tree, but could not find one.

The location is at the base of the kind of pine tree found in Hawaii, plus, next to it, what looked like a lehua blossom found on the Big Island.

There were a couple more incidents, which you can read if you click on this article, but the most exciting part of the whole trip was the ride back to Delhi, all 6 hours of it. This was the equivalent of the road through hell, again, but worse. They say that just at the moment of a catastrophe, time slows, like, say, your car meeting another head-on at 60 miles per hour. To survive in this traffic, the driver needs to be intrepid, no, make that, reckless. He needs to fearlessly pass cars and animals and toot his horn as much as possible. Time virtually stopped for me at least a dozen times today.

The miracle of it all is that not once did our van even scrape another vehicle. I did not see an accident all day. However, an hour into Delhi we ran into an electrical storm. If you never have been through one of these, you're in luck. In one town there was a siren blowing. Maybe tornadoes? Lightning hit a pole in front of us and sparks fell on the road. But, I landed at the Le Meridien, which, I said yesterday, is an oasis.

Job completed, but story not quite yet over, let me now insert the first part of my blog on FROM DELHI TO MUNICH TO BARCELONA:

I left the Delhi Le Meridien at 6:30AM and was taken by a hotel car (free) to the airport. Check in was terrific, for Lufthansa upgraded me to first class.With some trepidation, I nevertheless passed through customs with ease. I was about to have a croissant and capuchino breakfast in the Lufthansa lounge when a uniformed officer asked to see my boarding pass (BP). He then ordered me to accompany him, for there was a problem with my check-in baggage. Maybe another extortion scheme?

I imagined all sorts of worse case scenarios. Maybe someone had somehow snuck in a pound of heroin or a bomb into my baggage. We passed through one security gate, where they stamped my BP. At this point another uniformed officer with a rifle accompanied us. We went through two more security areas, where they again stamped the BP, into the bowels of the airport. Then I thought, oh no, my “India Sucks” blog really pissed off someone and they were going to execute me. However,Cambodia, maybe, but certainly not India. We made it to where bags accumulate, and there was my suitcase. It occurred to me then, what if they never found me before the plane left. This suitcase would never have made it to Barcelona.

They asked me to open it. At this point, I sort of realized the problem. TSA has a key to my type of luggage, but they don’t in India. As I was opening the bag, I was asked if I had a lighter in there. I said, yes, and found it in the bag with my cigars. He huddled with two others and they talked for several minutes. Then they went up to a higher official for several minutes more of animated discussion. I thought, with these histrionics, for sure, another $100 would be necessary. But I would go no higher. Then I saw one of them use a device to evacuate the lighter of the fluid. They gave me back my lighter, I closed the suitcase, they all smiled, so did I, and I left the area, accompanied by my two guards, mildly embarrassed for my unkind thoughts. I had to re-pass through the three security tables, where they again stamped my BP. By the time this was all over, my BP was totally unrecognizable. I was returned to the lounge, where I fixed myself a stiff Bloody Mary, except with gin, as there was no vodka.

In a short while it was about my boarding time, so I left for the gate. There, I learned that there was a two hour delay. No problem, at least I made it this far. Finally I boarded, and the 8 hour flight was about the best I’ve had in all my years of flying.


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