India: "The Sole Country"



February 4, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

In 1897, Mark Twain wrote:

"The sole country under the sun that is Endowed with imperishable interest for alien prince And alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, Wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, The one land all men desire to see, and having Seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of The rest of the globe combined."

I will journey to this "sole country under the sun" whose long Northern border collides with the Eurasian land mass to drive up the earth's crust to produce thirty of the world's highest peaks. I desire a glimpse of the peninsula that pierces the Southern waters to bathe in a Bay and an Ocean and a Sea. And in the West, a Sea of sand.

Five Weeks of Superlatives


March 15, 2007

Beginning in early February and continuing for almost five weeks, I traveled more than 3000 miles in central and western India. Over the road and in the air, there surely were a few challenging moments. But most days were exciting. And every day was special.

Seven events were outstanding. They were among "The Best."

Here are my four "best" meals, my two "best" beverages and my one "best" compliment.

1. The Best "Humble-Caring" Meal

Mumbai: "The Gateway of India"


March 11, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary who visited their colony in 1911.

The Gateway stands tall in Mumbai (Bombay) on the shore of the Arabian Sea. This "bold basalt arch of colonial triumph" greeted the many thousands of soldiers who arrived during the later years of the British Raj.* It also was the last structure they saw when they departed in 1948 after Indian Independence was proclaimed.

Ranakpur, Dilwara, Palitana and the Dohli: "The Jains"



Gujarat, India


March 10, 2007


Dear Family and Friends,

Kem cho,

The green and yellow aluminum beach chair is lashed to a bamboo platform. The platform is then lashed to two long bamboo poles. Here in Palitana this litter, this contraption, is called a dholi.

I sit. Charged camera is at my side, binoculars strung from my neck, cap atop my head, my day-bag loaded with water and sunscreen. I give the signal. In the late morning sun, one on each end of a pole, the four young dholi bearers deftly hoist yours truly aloft for the two hour, four kilometer (2.5 mi) scenic ascent of 3572 steps. Three thousand. Five hundred. Seventy two. Steps. Six hundred meters. Up.

Lothal: "Dear Oscar, the Harappan!"


State of Gujarat



March 9, 2007

Dr. Oscar White Muscarella

(Cc: Family and Friends)
Ancient Near East Department
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, New York

Dear Dr. Muscarella,

Oscar, my friend. One of us slipped up!

Was it you? Did you cut the Indus Valley Civilization from the curriculum of your Ancient History course at The City College?