cat_hindistan


Respect to Tandoori Roti, Mumbai
Friday, 18 March 2011 00:49
DSC00810Everything is so nonsense. People walking around with luggages, the beggar approaching to me, station announces and hundreds of people sleeping on the ground without minding the plenty of rats. At the moment, all pointless to me. Whilst thinking all about these I recovered for a moment. I was sitting just at the middle of CST Mumbai train station. I put my hands inside my pockets, I had only 6 rupees. We could buy one bottle of water if we had 9 more rupees. My eyes looked for Özcan. He was a little bit far from me, sitting on his backpack and looking around in a senseless way, just like me. For a while our eyes were caught and we stared at each other in a way "what are we gonna do dude". We were in India's 14 million of population city Mumbai, without any identification, money and homeless...

DSC_0577We had decided to come to Mumbai by bus as we couldn't find a train. We spent 22 hours on the dusty Indian roads to get to Mumbai and the bus dropped us in the suburb area of the city and left. Although it was difficult to get to centre we managed to reach there and we were able to find a damp and dark room in Colaba region of the city. We were not expecting more than this indeed. Since the city was ruled by Portuguese in the history the architecture of the city reveals itself from other cities in this manner. By means of the architecture, hot weather and the sea we felt like we were in somewhere in South America. Among these architectures we loved CST Mumbai train station building the most and we hated it the most at the same time. Just like India. The other interesting building was Taj Mahal Hotel. This hotel which is also located in Colaba district is mostly recognized by people with the terrorist attack which was made in 2008. Mumbai consists of Hindu, muslim and christian societies and it is the city where the confliction between religions is the most in whole country. Thus security conditions are so common all around the city. The statue known as Gateway of India just stands next to this hotel. It was the first point of landing of the British governers during British Raj, nothing more than this.

DSC_0615Due to World Cricket Championship, cricket is spoken all around the country. Beyond speaking it is also played in every corner. Oval square is the point for meeting of cricket lovers. This huge round area is surrounded by many coconut trees and many people line along and play cricket all day. We had the chance to make a one shot but after this shot we figured out that cricket is not for us. Furthermore we get bored when we watch cricket matches. Since the population of the city is great such wide areas are so important. One of these wide areas is the Chowpatty beach. It was nice to meet with the sea after months but swimming in the sea is a courage issue. Pollution is a big problem in India. Once our expectations were not met with the sea we took ourselves to the India's famous markets and bazaars. We walked along in the Mangaldas silk and clothing market and Zaveri jewellery market for our female readers.

DSC_0653In one of the web sites Mumbai was called as the city of expectations. The contrast in the city residents' lives prooves this phrase. As there are luxurous cars, shops and residences the biggest part of the city consists of slums which is ignored by tourists. When Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan directed the movie called "Slumdog Millionare" in 2008 which is telling the life in Mubai slums the issue was focused on directors and the slums. Because it is one of the few movies which is telling the real life in India. Bollywood produces around 1000 movies in a year which is twice in number of Hollywood movies. But these movies mostly tell about an unreal, wealthy lives. That is why we decided to go to Dharavi slum where the "Slumdog Millionare" movie was made, the biggest slum in Asia. None of guidebooks nor internet tells about how to get there. We just get a suburban train and asked people how to get there. At last, we were there. Infact it is not that easy to be here. The life here is completely different from the life in the city centre. We didn't know what we would meet here. The people are living in simple houses and the streets are so dirty. People tried to talk to us and some of them touched us as well. In every quarter children surrounded us, some tried to sing and some tried to make acrobatics. Some just dared to stare and smile from far. The only thing they need was some care. As we got used to the area our communication with the children increased. The communication continued with the teenages of the neighbourhood, sometimes in a game table.

India is a though and tiring country for traveling due to country opportunities. We completed our Mumbai trip and we wanted to go to south India to the beaches of Goa to get rid of the stress of India. We came to CST Mumbai train station and everything started here...

DSC_0699Train had already came to the platform and all passengers were moving to their berths in the train. We were so excited that we would reach to the sea after a 12 hours of journey. We also got on the train and I released my backpack and shoulder bag for seconds. But my shoulder bag was immediately disappeared in the crowd. It was stolen! The train was about to leave from the station and we had to decide and we got off from the train. Because all my belongings including our both passports were in that bag. Apart from this my wallet, my camera, my diary for 3 months of memories and my music player that accompanied me in many sunsets in various points of the world was also stolen. We knew what to do in such condition because we had exactly the same bad experience once we were in Mongolia. That time the stolen bag was belonging to Özcan and the content was almost the same. Immediately we have been to the Indian police and we got a report about the case. This report was our only identification. Yet we had no passports, no money and no atm cards. We couldn't go to the Turkish embassy that it was night time. The day after was Sunday so we had to wait for Monday. We refunded the train ticket that we didn't use. It was only enough to buy some water and Indian bread which is called as Tandoori Roti.

DSC00818After spending two nights in the train station we have been to Turkish embassy on Monday early morning. The answer from the embassy was so disappointing. We asked for having a new passport but only thing they could was arranging a travel document and to send us back to Turkey which means the end of the trip. Whereas we had many countries on the itinerary. We quit from our jobs for this purpose. Beyond we invited our friend to Thailand and he already bought his tickets to meet us. We wouldn't ignore all these, we had to go on our way! So we decided to call the embassy in New Delhi and explain the situation. The calm voice on the phone was consulade attendant Mr. İrfan. He told us that they can provide us a new passport. This was the best news of last two days. At the end of the second day We managed to transfer some money by using Ozcan's passport copy which didn't have even Indian visa. So we solved the food problem but accomadotion problem was still existing. Becuase hotels don't accept customers without valid passports. Thus our third night was again at the train station with many homeless people. The follwoing day we tried to buy a ticket to New Delhi. Again we were asked for passport. We did our best to convince them to get the ticket with the police report instead of a passport. And we started a 22 hours of train journey to New Delhi.

DSC00821As soon as we arrrived in New Delhi we had to have new photographs that even the ones I brought were stolen. I needed a national ID first to apply for the passport. Unfortunatley it was also stolen. I asked for some documents from my father to send me via e-mail to get a national ID. I told him that I need this document for a visa application that I didn't want them to worry. As I got my national ID the section for given place was written as New Delhi, Özcan's was written as UlaanBaatar. Mr. İrfan patiently got the applications and made us wait. Were the passports delivered on time, would we be able to get a Indian exit visa on time. We just wanted get away from these ideas and problems and again we headed to south India, to Goa obstinately.

PICT0139It is the second time we used plane for traveling to get away immediately from the atmosphere of New Delhi. The previous flight was after the case in Mongolia, we had the same feelings that time. We were in Goa soon in Arambol beach where the coconut trees meet with the ocean. This place is famous among hippies and its silence and peace was what we needed. Its peace influenced its residents that the hotel owner didn't insist for original passports and let us stay in his hotel which was just 2 minutes away from the sea. Each ocean wave hitting the beach took a piece from our stress and we enjoyed the place. During our stay in Arambol we met several Turkish people unexpectedly. Banu was traveling for 3 years with her 11 month aged baby and her friend Pınar was accompanying her last three months. In addition to these travelers it was so surprsing for me to meet a friend from the universtiy randomly. Sercan used to work in a shipyard in Turkey and he quit his job to have meditation in India. He already spent 3 months in India. As we got together we decided to travel Goa all together with Sercan.

One of the best moments of Arambol is gathering on the beach at the sunset time. Many hippies play drums and people accompany them either by their drums or by dancing. At this moment it is possible to see many people meditating in various technics on the beach. All these activities made us forget where we were. We spent 6 days in Arambol and after we moved to another beach of Goa, Anjuna. We slept two nights in Anjuna beach and as soon as we got the news of our passport delivery we again turned back to New Delhi to obtain the visa.

DSC00855We mostly write many articles criticising the bureaucracy and the obstacles in Turkey. But this time I will tell different things. It is the first time I got the advantage of being a Turk at this point. We were informed about every phase of our passport application via e-mail by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Just a year ago there were many problems about the passport change procedures but it seems that all these problems are solved. The ministry is working so fast and systemically about the passport issue soon. I am wondering if there is another country that can provide a biometric passport to a citizen in abroad in 6 days. Once we were chatting with a Swiss friend I was told that Swiss citizens can get this kind of passport in a month in their countries. Beyond this many countries can only provide a temporary passport from the embassies. Apart from these all employees in the Turkish embassy were so helpful to us and they took care of us. In fact when we were in Mongolia and South Korea we faced the same behaviours from the embassies. Some habits might be changing soon? As soon as we got our passports we have been in the immigration office and applied for a exit visa. The following day we were able to see the visa on our passport and the same day we left from India and arrived in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Our dearest friend Aycan, I am pleased to tell you that we are waiting for you right in Bangkok. Although all these, Başka Türlü Bir Şey is being on the road, obstinately...

ismail
 
Pink City or Blue City, Jaipur & Jodhpur
Friday, 25 February 2011 18:20
DSC_0365The answer to this question was same for everyone who traveled around Rajasthan, the northwest of India before. Jaipur, the capital of the state is famous with its pink walled buildings while Jodhpur is well known with its old blue houses. But the actual difference is much more for us; Jaipur has a huge crowd, confusion and traffic jam which includes elephants as well as cars and rickshaws. On the other hand we feel Jodhpur is more beautiful with its more organized, peaceful life and gorgeous Meherangarh fort which looks over the city.

DSC_0375It was around 04:30 AM when the train from New Delhi arrived to Jaipur train station. We already arranged where to stay since we really needed some rest after tiring Varanasi, Agra and Delhi days. We came to our hotel close to the train station after some walk, a peaceful one with its attractive green garden. The guy who opened door with sleepy eyes  tool us to the restaurant after telling that the room we supposed to stay will be ready around noon time and we could wait in the restaurant. This must be the worst thing for 2 tired travelers who only need some sleep that time. We tried to sleep on the chairs but couldn't. Fortunately the couple from Netherlands whom we met in Nepal before came after some while and we spent some time talking to them. Meeting again with people whom we met before in other cities during our trip must be one of the very special tastes of this trip. Of course the first one would be the group again from Netherlands, the group whome we met in Chengdu and traveled around Tibet together and met again in Kathmandu, Varanasi and Agra.

DSC_0530Our first day in Jaipur was exactly like we supposed to, all we did was sleeping. Finally we had clean beds and a hot shower. In fact it was the only way to feel better after getting tired in confusion in Delhi. We spent all the night watching television, it's hard to watch Lord of the Rings in Indian but it was OK. Next day we were in Jaipur streets. Noone who traveled to India before suggested Jaipur as a "must-to-see" city, hence our expectations were really low. As a matter of fact, there was nothing much to meet our expectations except the buildings with its dull orange colour instead of pink and the elephants who are moving forward in the traffic jam next to cars and rickshaws. Falling asleep while watchin television was very attractive again, besides there was the next episode of Lord of The Rings tonight. Seeking for comfort has a huge priority sometimes.

DSC_0494We didn't lose so much time in Jaipur hit on the road to Jodhpur, to our actual destination. Our travel-mate during this train trip was a yound Indian guy, Atul this time. There was also a long haired, bearded nude beggar with only an orange sash on his neck who insisted us to give him some money but we couldn't get on well with him. The information that Atul gave us about India was pretty interesting actually. The caste system which was forbidden years ago but still effective, the independence period of India to get rid of British colonisation and tens of different languages that are spoken all around the country. Atul loves his country very much as well as his people. He knows İstanbul by Bollywood movies. Who knows, perhaps one day he visits us in our city.

DSC_0545It's best to declare Jodhpur with its two well-known titles; "City of Sun" and "Blue City". We understood the reason of two titles after we climbed up to the Megerangarh Fort which is built on top of the rocks that are overlooking to the city. The red color that the sun turned into while setting was forming a colour carousel on the walls of old blue houses. The houses were painted to blue in order to get rid of the mosquitos and to cool the houses against the high temperature which is around 45 degrees in summer. We met with the actual side of India after we climbed down the fort and headed to the narrow alleyways among the blue houses; little kids running around barefoot in the rubbish and the cows who look extremely happy while eating rubbish. After seeing much on the road in India, this is the main items of the summary of India in our minds. Another intereresting detail; most of the kids we met on alleyways wanted us to take pictures of themselves. It seems the wish to be a movie star increases as we get closer to Bollywood.

DSC_0560We will keep on going south, next city in our route is the largest cidy of India, Mumbai or Bombay in old terms. We decided to go by bus after we learnt there are no tickets available until March 14 and getting rid of the fake sellers who wanted to sell us train tickets to Mumbai in same day for twice price. Hold on, one of the guys in our guesthouse came...

- Sir, what are you doing here ? Why didn't you go ?
- We are waiting for the bus, we have 1,5 hours more. The bus will depart at 15:30.
- Noo, noooo. It's at 14:00. Are you still here ????
- ...
Özcan
 
Eternal Love and Taj Mahal, Agra & Delhi
Friday, 18 February 2011 20:07
DSC_0038By Jehangir's death one of his four sons Khurram came to the throne of Mughal Empire. After being empire all world called him "Shah Jehan". He was smart, intelligent and also ambitious empire. His third wife Mumtaz Mahal was his strongest ambition. Unfortunately he lost her love while she was giving birth to their 14th child. Thus Shah Jehan wanted to built a marvelous mausoleum for her love by means of using empire's all opportunities. Best architects and craftsmen were called from all over the world to make this marble structure. And finally it was completed in 22 years. After years this work of art would be among world's new seven wonders, would be the most stunning symbol of eternal love and everybody would call it Taj Mahal.

DSC_0152Varanasi was our first destination in India and we thought all other cities would be similar, apparently it was not. After going out from Agra train station this Indian city welcomed us with its more tidy, clean, open areas and better roads. And of course we were also welcomed by Inida's must, monkeys and cows. This city which used to be the capital of Mughal Empire in history is so distinctive due to keeping the world's one of the most symbolic structures. After crashing a cheap accommodation next to Taj Mahal it was turn for having a look at this dazzling edifice with its whiteness from the near which we have only seen its pictures before. The price becomes bigger to enter in such a unique building which is by the Yamuna River as we had to pay 75 times more than an Indian person to get inside. I guess Indian government is trying to cover the expenses in the treasure which Shah Jehan made during the construction of Taj Mahal. Actually Taj Mahal not only consists of main building. It is a complex with its wide garden inside trees and two red building on the east and west wall of the garden. One of these red building was used as mosque and the other was built to keep the symmetry also it was served as a guesthouse. It made sense how long did it take to complete it as soon as we saw the combined handiwork elements from Persian, Indian and Islamic architecture. Inside the Taj Mahal is more simple and tomb of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal lie alongside in the middle. We spent a night in Agra and then caught a train to the capital of India, New Delhi.

こんにちは (Hello) Delhi

DSC_0255As the train brought us from Agra to a station called Nizamuddin which is far from New Delhi station, we got a banlieue train which we don't prefer to get in Turkey. It was so difficult to get inside of this old looking and dirty train due to crowd and our huge backpacks. Indians not used to see foreginers here were surprised with our entrance and they were smiling. We reached to New Delhi train station after few stops. Most of the hotels and restaurants stand on a street called Main Bazaar in front of this station. It is hard job to walk on this dusty street where it gets muddy when it rains. As the rickshaws, tuktuks (auto rickshaw), cars and cows participate in the traffic the street turns into a battle area. Among these there are some westerns who dress up like a traditional Indian and walk on barefoot in the street, we couldn't resolve the issue, maybe you can. Sometimes it is annoying to be a foreigner in India. In addition to beggars who follow us all the time, street sellers try to sell in a insistent and unrespectful way even you are not interested. Once you walk in the street many sellers come and try to sell you souvenirs. As you are not interested they offer to sell drugs. If you are still not interested then it is possible to hear some Indian words from the back side which you can't understand the meaning. The situation didn't change for Main Bazaar and many Indians followed us to see their hotels but anymore we even don't answer those kind of sellers. The quality of the budget hotels is the worst in India among the countries we have been before. Sleeping in a clean and average bed is considered as luxury. In most of the hotels there is no hot shower instead hot water is served in a bucket.

RIMG0612During British Raj in 1900s government decided to move the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The British founded a new city near Delhi so it was called as New Delhi. The other part of the city is now called as Old Delhi. Delhi also used to be a capital city during Mughal Empire and many architectures from those days remained. The Red Fort and the biggest mosque in India which is called as Jama Masjid has a courtyard for 25000 people was built by Shah Jehan. The shopping area called as Chandni Chowk has a history of three century. Sis Ganj Gurdwara temple in this area is a temple moslty visited by Sikhs. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion and most of the Sikhs live in north-west of Inida which is called as Punjab. They have unique hats and clothes and they never cut their hairs and beards. Apart from these the are called as Connaught place is the district where wealthy Indians live. On the contrary to other parts of Delhi this district owns many famous brands shops and luxurious restaurants. Metro is a possible way of transportation but we mostly used to take the rickshaws and the auto rickshaws which are called as tuktuk. Because it is a cheap and funny way of transportation. Inspite of they look so small once we got in a tuktuk with 7 people including driver. But obviously Indians are better than us at this point as they can fit more people than us.

Once again we succeeded a meeting with our Turkish friend Serhan. In fact we met him during our trip when we were in South Korea. Again destiny made us meet here this time in New Delhi. During Serhan was giving us the fresh news from Turkey and about our friends me and Ozcan were busy with the fresh baklavas and home made cookies brought from Turkey. Many thanks again and again for this favour dear Serhan. Our dear doctor Aycan, whom we will meet in a month in Thailand, now we are expecting more from you as you arrived in Bangkok.

RIMG0656We always meet many different people on the road. We spent time together with 4 Japanese people in Agra and Delhi whom we met in Varanasi train. One more time we admired the kindness and the purity of Japanese people. Junko, Kaori, Atsuko and Shiho's tears made us so emotional when it was time to say good bye. Our guest list for Turkey is getting bigger and bigger which will be considered as a kind of second round the world trip in the future. Besides we have already many homes away from our home. After we left our friends we got to train station and we wanted to go to Jodhpur which is called as the blue city. Unfortunately tickets were not available for Jodhpur. Thus we selected a point from India map and we caught a train to the capital of Rajasthan province, the pink and dusty city Jaipur. We are not hurry we will see Jodhpur soon. As the Indians say "no hurry, no worry, chicken curry"...
ismail
 
The City Which Hindus Come to Die, Varanasi
Monday, 14 February 2011 09:36
DSC_0274Last minutes of the dark night, the first lights of the morning are about to shine on Ganges... Hundreds of Hindus are waiting for this moment. The color of the upcoming sun is so similar to the color of the flames nearby. As the sun starts rising women with golden colored piercings on their noses and colorful clothins go into the water as well as the man who has yellow, red and white religious traces on their foreheads. Some bath in the holy river in order to wash away their sins while some cremate their loved ones in order to liberate them from the cycle of death and birth. A new day is just about to start in Ganges River where the life and death intersect for Hindus...

DSC_0879After spending 15 days in Nepal, we decided to move forward to India where over 1 billion people lives. We heard a lot about India but we don't know what awaits us. We realized that many surprises are ahead when we left Nepalese border and got into India. It took days to obtain Indian visa in Kathmandu but the visas on our passport were not checked by officials behind some electronical boards or soldiers, in fact there were 2 middle aged guys behind wooden tables in a little dilapidated cabin just next to the road. Another one just told us how to go to Gorakhpur where we should catch a train to Varanasi, our first stop in India. In a few minutes, we were in a jeep with 15 people including us. There were even 2 people sharing the driver seat. One of the passengers in the jeep had a big red trace and some rice grains on his forehad and this was a clue about how a colorful country we arrived to. We set out our way to Gorakhpur among crowds, bicycles and cows with loud and continous horns. Everything we met on the way was surprising for us but especially poorness and pollution were attracting our attention. It seems master Cüneyt 360 was right, we thought China was dirty but in Nepal we thought China was really clean and when we saw India, we now think that Nepal is really organised and clean. The words of the owner of the restaurant which we stopped for a while was summarizing the situation; we needed a trash and he said "No Worries, throw it away, this is India"

DSC_0660A similar situation was awaiting us in Gorakhpur; confusion, bicycles, cows and a train station with no indoor or outdoor seats, where all people wait for trains while laying down on the floor both inside and outside. And of course some people who pee outside near the walls. Fortunately we could find seats for the night train to Varanasi. Ok there were no seat numbers specified on the ticket which means we would sit on any free seats but the ticket was so cheap. How bad could it be ? We got the answer in a few hours just before the train took off. We couldn't get on the carrier in our first try since it was very crowded. We could get on another carrier very hardly by pushing people in. It was full of people inside, tens of people were sitting on upper and bottom berths and many were standing on foot just like us. There were even people sleeping on the very upper shelved which were supposed to be used for luggages. Our worst journey so far was about to start. We decided quickly, put our backpacks on the floor and sat on them. After a while we layed on them and started sleeping since we were tired. We slept uncomfortably and in pieces on our backpacks in the corridor among many Indians staring at us and smiling. We realized that we are approaching Varanasi since people started to get ready to get off. There aren't many officers in Indian trains. Some people started to jump off the train after opening the doors when the train started to get slower.

DSC_0315The morning was about to bleach while we were walking through the narrow alleyways next to Ganges River to find our guesthouse. The only guests on the streets at this time were cows, dogs and old Hindus with their long hair, beard, painted faces and orange based clothings. They were heading to Ganges slowly. After a little while we found the guesthouse in the middle of the streets full of rubbish. I am not quite sure if we can describe the amount of rubbish and pollution but it feels like the words will not be enough to describe it. The room we would stay was at roof and it was possible to see the old and neglected houses of Varanasi and the monkeys roaming around the roofs. This must have been the reason why the cute dog which was the mascot of the guesthouse was annoyed, it seems he couldn't get along with the monkeys.

DSC_0207Varanasi is assumed to be one of the most sacred and colorful cities in India. The city is established on the eastern coast of Ganges river which is very sacred to Hindus. There are only some cows walking on some arid land on the western coast, nothing else, not even a small hut. Hindus come to this city in order to wash away their sins by bathing on the ghats which are actually some steps next to Ganges River or cremate their loved ones next to the river. This is so important to them, because they believe that a Hindu whose body is cremated here will liberate from the birth-death cycle and reach Nirvana. That's why it is possible to see many old Hindus who wants and waits to die here. These people generally stay in particular empty buildings specified for them or in the streets and ask for money from the travelers like us to buy quality wood. This is the reason why the city is also called "The City Which Hindus come to die". Most ghats are used for bathing, many Hindus bath here especially early in the morning. Few remaining ghats are used for cremation. The fires do not go out for 24 hours in the biggest and most important burning ghat Manikarnika and there are around 200-300 bodies are cremated daily. In some special cases the bodies are not burnt and they are left to Ganges. Around ghats fires are all around and people have their holy bathing rituels. On the other hand children play cricket, sadhus smile to tourists, cows and goats wander among the ghats. Life goes on here. By the way I actually don't know how to explain why a cow attacked me, we are in trouble with animals...

DSC_0197There is a ceremony every evening in the main ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat which is also the biggest one. Many candles surrounded by flowers are left to Ganges after this ceremony during which people pray against Ganges full with smoke, fire and dances. After watching one of these ceremonies, an old Hindu wanted to leave a red trace to my forehead as in all other Hindus but I kindly refused it, because it may be hard to explain this to my mother. On the other hand, we saw many just married couples around Ganges. The couples with a huge crowd come here to pray for a happy marriage. Besides we witnessed a fest during our last day in Varanasi. All the students in schools build a sacred monument, bring them to Ganges with a cheerful convoy and leave them to the river. It seems everything in Varanasi, death, life, wedding and fests are related with Ganges. Of course there are also some photographers who wants old Hindus to get into water to take photos of them and some Indian who extremely insists on selling drugs, hash, boat tour, flowers or silk to visitors but they are also a part of the life in Ganges. Another detail that surprised us was the huge Muslim population in Varanasi, they are around %45 of all the city but not around mostly, there are only a few mosques are around.

DSC_0260Now we are heading to Agra and then to New Delhi. Our train left Varanasi in the evening and is fast comparing to our previous train trip. It is a bit cold since the doors of train are open but this doesn't affect us a lot after getting used to cold in Tibet. It seems mice are also not affected, they keep running in the carrier. Our adventure in India will go on, there are a lot to explore in this colorful country.
 
Özcan