After another traditional vegetarian Indian breakfast (don't ask me what it was but it was lovely!) we popped out to see the night watchman & asked to take his photo..
We printed his photo out on our little printer & he was really chuffed, showing anyone who walked by! It turns out the cleaner here is also his daughter; she is really sweet so we did the same for her :)
I've been so busy taking photos today plus the fact that we've been on the road the whole time & therefore no wifi, that I've not had chance to post anything but now we're back at the Signature Grand in Delhi I can blog away!
The Road Trip of all Road Trips (so far!)
Okay, where to start.. let's just say that today has probably been my favourite day in India so far - no beautiful monuments or palaces but we got to see more of India & to meet some people we'd probably never get to meet if it wasn't for the fabulous Mr Singh :)
Armed with 200 pens, notepads & a thousand stickers plus mini printer & the obvious camera paraphernalia we set off from Agra to Delhi via the Old Road. We told Mr Singh that our only requirement for today was to stop in some villages to meet some children and left the rest up to him.
On the way
There is no denying the filth, squalor, chaos & noise of the cities & towns, but this is not all that India has to offer. There is beautiful countryside, green fields, quiet(er!) villages & some lovely people, happy to welcome you into their home.
From the start to the end, the drive was a total pleasure, the usual array of crazy driving, hundreds of people milling about, buying, selling, chatting, playing & the same amount of donkeys, goats, cows, pigs & dogs & monkeys, also either working or just hanging around.
The irony of this trip so far is that despite the apparent lethalness of the roads - every single thing is streetwise and I can honestly say that I have only seen one dead animal (a rabbit) compared with the hundreds of bodies on the side of the huge empty roads of Australia and although we covered more miles in Oz, the comparison is still of note when you consider the vast number of people & vehicles on the streets of India.
From 0 - 60 in 5 minutes!
The first village we stopped at was about 50 miles from Agra, and a few hundred yards off a main road. There were the usual things going on in the street, the farm workers driving their animals, the men chatting & playing cards, a few women going about their business & a couple of young children so we pulled over, grabbed the camera, a few of the gifts, took a deep breath & got out.
If I didn't say I was a bit nervous I'd be lying as it's hard not to feel intrusive when you are a westerner entering a very foreign community but after dodging a few bikes, donkeys & cows, we crossed the road to approach the kids. I showed them my camera, raised my eyebrows & they smiled so I was off!
After a couple of pictures, we gave them each a pad & pen & within 10 seconds, 5 more had appeared, some with their parents & some on their own. Although some of them were understandably wary and/or shy, their curiosity got the better of them & within another few minutes we had a crowd of grinning, scowling, pensive & laughing 2 to 10 year olds around us. At this point I'd forgotten who I'd taken photos of so we just handed out as many pads & pens out to the younger ones as we could! Some even smiled & said 'Thankyou' in English which was lovely.
It may seem exploitational to some people to be doing this but at the end of the day, I am a photographer & I find these dark eyed children who are living such a simple existence both beautiful & intriguing & if giving some of them a small gift in exchange for what I want from them & the intention is good then we are all winners. I know for sure that when we left I had a good feeling in my heart & looking at them laughing & showing each other their gifts I know for sure it had made their day too. I was only sorry that we hadn't brought 5 suitcases full with us..
Wonky table one - Mr Singh won
After another hour or so of driving I was desperate for the loo so the ever resourceful Mr Singh (have I mentioned he's a star?!) found a small cafe on the highway that served nice latte type coffee & lunches.
Unusually for its location, this one had a little garden with about 5 sets of tables & chairs and seeing as it was quite a nice day (the sun was trying to peep through the haze at this point) we decided to have our lunch in the garden. When I say 'we' this doesn't include Mr Singh who was muttering about it being cold; I told him he was welcome to stay inside where he'd be warm but ever the gent, he decided to join us anyway.
There then followed an hilarious 10 minutes of firstly finding 4 chairs out of the 20-odd in the garden that didn't at best, have a screw missing or at worst a missing leg. Having triumphantly found a full set & having wedged Mr Singh's ample frame into his, we then discovered that the table we were at had a wobble, so thinking it was due to a piece of something being stuck under it, we removed said thing, only to find that it then had a 45 degree tilt to it! I looked around at the other tables and realised that they must have been special sets made for couples with extreme height disparities as they all had 45 degree angles! Needless to say, Mr Singh got his own way in the end & once we'd prised him out of his chair we went back inside.
Village number two
By the time we arrived at the next village chosen (maybe randomly maybe not) by Mr S. we were concerned that we would run out of pens so instead we split up the stickers we'd bought so they could have these with a pad each (as we still had loads of these having bought more than we did the pens due to weight)
When we stopped, there were 2 boys standing and staring from a doorway but after snapping them they vanished and about 6 different children appeared at the gates of the next house along, looking interested. Putting our most friendly smiles, we approached the doorway to their home & they were rally happy to see us, although a couple were a little bit shy. Having got some individual shots and after giving them their pads & stickers, a smiling man appeared and he joined in on a group shot. This village must've had a much smaller population as having been there for 10 minutes, this time we weren't besieged, so Lee went back to the car to get the mini printer which links direct to my camera. After a few minutes of embarrassment due to technical hitches (like me forgetting how to set it up without using my phone which had died!) we managed to print off several of the group shots and gave them to the family. While we were struggling to set up, one of the other dads from the family had joined us & between the two of them they offered us chairs and a cup of tea. Both dads were lovely, their English was very good and we chatted for a bit about where we were from & what we were doing & when we'd finished we shook hands and left one very happy family waving from their doorway :)
Time was ticking in now and we still had a couple of hours to go before getting to Delhi so we called it a day regarding anymore village stops & just enjoyed the rest of the ride home.
Between watching everyone driving the wrong way round the roundabouts, the wrong direction up a one way road, tuck tucks carrying 12 people & their shopping bouncing over randomly placed speed bumps, rows of men peeing in the fields, cows standing or lying down sleeping in the middle of the street, Mr Singh's dry sense of humour & reference to 'cows shits' & just the general chaos, I was crying with laughter for most of the journey back at the absurdity of this incredibly unique country.
More dropped wine!
Arriving safely back at our hotel we said a sad goodbye to Mr Singh, having promised that when we come again we will let him organise our trip (we couldn't imagine anyone better for the job!)
Whilst chatting to Mr Singh, the porter had already taken Lees bags from the car including a half bottle of wine saved from the night before at the Coral Tree as wine is very hard to get from the street & very expensive in the hotels (hence saving this one)
Unfortunately when trying to get into our room (we reported the dodgy lock before we left for Agra as the door had been jamming & we were promised it would be repaired by our return) the porter had left the wine on the floor outside & somehow it got kicked over, so with another explosive shower of glass & merlot, reminiscent of the 'Red & White fight' of 28th December, Lee lost another bottle of wine! I did some work on my blog and then we went for our second Delhi night walk to find a restaurant that Lee had found on the net but when we got there it turned out to be a street food seller & seeing as we didn't feel comfortable standing on the street eating & couldn't take it back to the hotel we walked the quarter mile back again & went to the hotel restaurant.
The meal was nice, the music was loud!
It's 1.15am & I'm shattered,