Agra, Part 3: Other Experiences in the City

I already wrote about getting to Agra, and the main reason for visiting Agra. But let me mention a few other small things about our trip.

Our lodging in Agra was our first Indian homestay. We stayed with a middle-aged couple named Anil and Sandhya. They have a daughter who is in college. When she left home for school, they converted their spare bedrooms into a homestay, called Sri Radha Krisha Kunj. They both still have regular jobs. She’s a grade school principal, and he is a merchant who imports and sells copper wire.

Our hosts greeted us on arrival with garlands and tilaks, which are red painted marks on the forehead normally used to welcome guests.

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Here I am with a tilak on my forehead and a garland of mums, roses, and marigolds around my neck

It was nice having a home cooked breakfast each morning, and one night we paid extra to have a home cooked supper. I learned a few things from our stay here.

For one thing, we learned, due to necessity, how to take an Indian style bucket bath. I’d seen a video from Wilbur Sargunaraj on this, so I had some idea, but this was the first time putting it in practice. I used way less water than I expected, only about a half bucket.

Another thing we learned better was navigating Indian streets as a pedestrian. At least I felt like Agra is where I started getting the knack of it. Did you see the video I shot of walking in Jakarta? It’s kinda like that, but with no sidewalks at all, and the people don’t just stick to the edges of the road but walk out in it along with the cars, buses, trucks, bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, horses, cows, and oxcarts. And I guess camels, too, though I haven’t encountered a camel on the road yet as a pedestrian.

I feel like I also started getting tuned into Indian nonverbal cues, which are different than any we encountered in Southeast Asia. People don’t seem to smile as much here as elsewhere, and the famous head wobble can mean so many things, from “thank you” to “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” to “yes” or even “no”. I’ve still got a long way to go, though.

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Anil, Beth, me, and Sandhya

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