Opening Babble

Joseph Campbell illustrated the classical cycle of the hero as a journey from the surface world, down through hell to vanquish the forces of evil, and then back to the surface, almost back to the original starting place.

And in that very way, we are true Classical Heroes. We have been down into India, and made our way out. We fought epic battles against legions of railway touts, flotillas of mosquitoes, swarms of pitiful beggars and the steady drain of the unique madness and non-Pythagorean logic of India--and we won out. Almost.

And we agreed as a family and with the many sages of the last century, there's nothing nowhere or nohow or notime like India... the ultimate traveler's roller coaster ride. At the end of our first week in India Salli said that India is like child birth--nothing, no book, no class, no talk with others can prepare you for it, and its extreme mixture of pleasure and pain have no equal.

India is called a subcontinent only because it suffered the fate of most Indian busses. Millions of years ago it was a continent meandering across a sea lane, no doubt compulsively tooting its horn for all other continents to get out of its way. But Asia

either didn't hear the horn or in typical Chinese fashion didn't care, and India rear ended the larger continent causing massive fender and hood dents we later called the Himalayas. For being such a poor driver India lost its license and was demoted to "subcontinent" class for the duration.
Fast forward tens of millions of years, and we find our earliest ancestors, including Neanderthal and homo erectus hoofing from Africa to its fertile river deltas to set up ancient ashrams where they could chant "om" to the moon, paint on rocks, and invent insane laws and taboos.

India today is a rest home for all the paradoxes, paradigms and permutations of the world. More than a country, India has been since earliest history one giant comedy of errors, a vast comic-book tapestry of swirling images and endless sensations, a living, breathing, belching varsity league example of chaos theory in action.

For us as travelers, India was not a destination, but more a carnival side show mirrored hall. Most of the time we never knew what was real and what wasn't, nor which was the way out once we found our way in. The simplest task, such as buying a train ticket or ordering a Pepsi became a complex ritual that had equal probability of turning out comedic or tragic. Negotiating a price for a room or even a roll of film requires dozens of people to stand around in animated conversation, tremendous effort and emotional results. At times it all became too wearing, and just at the point when you're ready to break down, that moment would be over, agreements sealed with handshakes, prayers bows, smiles and promises of eternal friendship. And you'd be on your way to the next adventure.

India stuns your ego and senses, washing over your every belief like a giant tidal wave, paralyzing your will and sending your very core into shock. You can choose any place in India, I'm convinced, and just stand there and see it all--the history of the world scrambling by in an endless traffic jam. Turn one degree and an entire new scene unfolds before you. Turn back and that which you were observing has changed into something entirely new, entirely ancient colliding with entirely modern. The logic of India is the logic of the infinite. Somewhere in India, as I write this, a monkey is rewriting all of Shakespeare's sonnets while another monkey edits it with a red pen.

We had planned to spend as much as two months there. We had planned to work with Mother Theresa in Calcutta, and Dr. Whittaker in Madras. We had planned, according to our bank, to have "no problem" accessing money from our accounts. And we had planned all wrong.

Instead, we spent one month in the giant subcontinent, most of which was in the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan. It was the time of our lives, the most exotic, stressful, rewarding, indescribable travel experience of any of our lives.

And the following stories are our feeble way to try and share those tales with you.

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