Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Taj, Tabla, and Two days left!

Hello again,

It feels like a long time since I have been able to write. Mainly because the computer time in the Agra hotel and Delhi hotel were so expensive, (tourist rates). But we are now back safe and sound in Indore, where the beggars don't knock at your car window, and the vendors don't charge 'American' prices for their goods. It was really an eye opener to be in the tourist trap center of India. We did get to see the Taj Mahal and it was amazing. It was surreal to see something up close that we have all seen in pictures our whole life. It is just a little bit bigger than I thought, and we were allowed to go inside, which was a shock to me. The detail in the marble and inlay work was incredible, and even more stunning when you consider that it is 350 years old. Our day in Agra was consise and guided by a man named Lalit, who was very cool and good at keeping the group on track and happy. I told him that I played music and so he took us to a store that had live performers playing tabla and sitar for the customers. They let me sit in for a couple of tunes, which gave me so much satisfaction that when I was done, my desire to buy overpriced goods was totally gone. I can't say so much for the rest of the group however. It was all in good fun though.
The atmosphere in Agra is very difficult to understand. We were not allowed to go out walking on our own, not that we would want to, there was an insane amount of beggars and street vendors who had no problem surrounding you in packs of 5-10 at a time while yelling and begging for your money. Lalit told me it was a result of the gross inbalance of funds in the city due to all the proceeds from the 5 million+ tourist $$ going to the Indian government instead of the people of Agra. He made a point to mention many times that the Indian politicians are the most crooked people on the earth.
The day after Agra we drove back to Delhi and Scott and I parted ways with the group. They went back to Indore, and we began our mission to find some nice instruments in Delhi. We had set it up with our trip leader last week to be able to spend and extra day in Delhi so we could find a nice set of tabla for me and some tabla and flutes for Scott. I won't get into details here, but we were running around Delhi like madmen for the next 24 hours, going to every music store that I found while surfing the web before the trip. The three main stores we bought from were Raj Musicals - 2 nice tabla cases and a nice tabla (just the small one) for myself; Delhi Musical Stores - a couple of flutes for Scott and a biya, rings, and tuning hammer for myself; and finally Bina - a nice set of tabla and some flutes for Scott, and a mini set of tabla for myself. We finished just in time to make it back to the airport for our flight. It felt a bit weird to buy all this stuff, put it in the cases and then immediately turn it over to the airline for it's first flight. Everything survived the 3 hour flight back to Indore and I have been playing everyday since.
Yesterday we visited the most affluent school in Indore. It was a private K-12 school on a beautifly maintained 120 acre plot of land. Our visit was brief, but Scott and I got to check out the music department, which consisted of 5 teachers. It was the first school we visited that taught Indian classical music. They boasted about 5 or so students that just won national music competitions and they even organized an impromptu concert for us. It was great to talk to the teachers. They took Scott and I to an elementary class that learned only western childrens songs. I played 'Norwiegin Wood' on guitar while the teacher sang along, and then the class sang 'How Much is that Doggy in the Window'. It was cool.
In the evening we got a visit from two musicians from Indore. One has played tabla for 25 years and the other played Indian classical music on the Mandolin. They came into our hotel room and played for about an hour. It was a great little intimate music experience. It was so interesting to hear Indian music on the mandolin.

Just two days left, and I must admit, I am ready to come home. The trip was set up in such a way that we have been kept so very busy that everyone is getting worn out. It has also been extremely hot. Yesterday was 106 degrees! Last week was 114!! To top it all off I hear that there is snow on the groun back home. I am sure the complaints are equal on both sides of the globe. I am growing ever thankful for my time hear reguardless of the weather, and it will be sad to go, but I am sure I will be back soon.

Thanks for reading,


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