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The founding meeting of the Kamloops India Kingfisher Thunderbolt (KIKT) Club and The Historic Piss Up with Kelly Barstch - Dharamsala India, Nov 28th 2003

About two weeks ago, I recieved an email from a famous Kamloops (hometown) personality, Kelly Barstch. Kelly told me he was leaving for India in a couple of days and that he would love to meet up with us. I sort of had a quite protective reaction upon reading Kelly's email. I wanted to do whatever I could to make Kelly's stay as pleasant and wonderful as possible. Kelly is a really a great fellow and I am very fond of him and I know how totally whacked India can come across for first time travelers here. So....

I sent Kelly an email reply telling him we HAD to meet up, at least for a short time. I also gave him some details about arriving in India at the airport and getting a taxi, etc. Turns out Kelly did not really need my help as he handled everything himself with great ability. And so....

Yesterday, Kelly met up with Marsha and I at the bus station in Ludhiana and we took my Mother's rented car and driver and headed for Dharamsala / Mcleod Ganj. I thought it would be really exciting to be with Kelly. And it is. But, more than that, its totally comforting. A familiar face from home, with a 10 year great track record, as a friend. It not like Kelly and I and Marsha hang out all that much in Kamloops. But, we do have a fondness, mutual admiration thing going on. And, we decided we should meet more. So....

Last night, propelled and inspired by great comaraderie and more than a few bottles of Indian beer (brands: Kingfisher and Thunderbolt), we decided to found a club for people in Kamloops who have traveled in India outside the package tour circuit. We are calling this club the Kamloops India Kingfisher Thunderbolt Club and we should hold our second meeting back in Kamloops sometime in February or March....stay tuned!

True family love in Chandigarh

The only place in India I truly felt that I did not want to leave when we did. Marsha and I visited the Rawat family near Chandigarh, a family that I am so honoured and privileged to know. They started off as household staff for my Grandparents on my father's side, and soon became and always will be family. A more solid, more hard working, more honest, more loving family you will not find anywhere on the planet. I have benefited amazingly from their love. So, for one day, we laughed and talked and enjoyed each other's company in the most wonderful way. Marsha also was very touched.
Devi Ji, Sonia Ji, Man Singh. Aarti, Sonu, Rani, and little Sebi - I love you with all my heart, as I deeply love your dearly departed husband, father, and grandfather - Mohan Singh Ji.

India brought to you by Indian Railways

All over India, there are tracks. And, on these tracks, run rail cars managed by one of the largest organizations in the world - Indian Railways. There are so few places in this country that are not accessible by train. A visit to a rail station is like visiting all of India in one place. On one platform, all different types of people, with different purposes to their journeys, going every which way.

Autorickshaw Mania

Today, we took an autorickshaw for the umpteenth time. Today, it was in the Rajasthani desert outpost of Jaisalmer. From the first autorickshaw (aka three wheeler, scootie. scooter rickshaw) we took over two months ago in Ludhiana, this has been an extraordinarily easy and convenient way to travel, despite the fact that many autorickshaw wallahs (especially in the touristy areas) seem very much on the shady side. Autorickshaws come in many forms and are available virtually everywhere in India. I have started to take photos of different autorickshaws that I have seen and you can expect an occasional photo posted on the blog to highlight the interesting variations in different parts of India.

Taking the Jaipur City Tour

Yesterday, we did something we have not done so far in India. We took a city bus tour. And I must say that it was quite worthwhile in many respects. Jaipur is a city with many different forts, palaces, and other sites to see. The forts are quite spectacular but they are on the ridges of the hills that surround Jaipur and are expensive to get to by taxi or autorickshaw. At least I would guess 500-600 rupees (about Cdn $17-20). The bus tour took in all the major forts and sites within Jaipur city walls for exactly 170 rupees (about Cdn $6). Plus they provided a guide. Plus there were friendly fellow tourists on our bus.

There were a few different challenges. The tour we took (run by the Rajasthan government tourist development corporation) is not for people in frailer health. There is a lot of walking and squeezing into small jeeps and vans to the forts the bus can't directly get to. As well, there was one really tight squeeze walking from the bus to the Jaipur City Palace and the Jan Mantar observatory. We had to walk under a tight arch that was shared with two way traffic, and it was scary.

The tour started at 9:15am and we got back to the hotel by 7pm. The tour price did not include the cost of entry into different sites so the total cost was between 500 to 700 rupees. We saw a lot of Jaipur in one day and enjoyed it very much.

A taste of home

We had the privilege of eating at McDonalds yesterday...Most of you will go yuck...but that chicken burger was the best thing I had tasted in a while...A couple of things struck combo meal cost the equivalent of 3 dollars..that is a drink, fries and burger...what is it at home?? I don't think you can buy the burger at home for 3 dollars...Then I was looking at the people...women dressed in saris, girls in school uniforms, business men in western suits...and the menu adapted for Indian tastes, customs, religions...It occurred to me that McDonalds (love it or hate it) is really an international institution...Yes it is also part of a marketing plan...but it is the one place that has infiltrated and adapted to most corners of the earth...More than that its marketing and placement have made it one of the most universally recognized retail outlets on earth...what other business can claim that?