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.

I am flying on Wednesday to the capital city; the capital city of one seventh of the world's population.

I am apprehensive and excited. I am prepared and unprepared.

My 824 page guidebook includes a 26 page "General Index" (Abdali to Zoroastrian); a 25 page "Survival Guide;" and a "Phrase Book" for only five of the eighteen major regional languages (Assamese to Marathi to Urdu).

My travel kit includes several packets each of Loperamide Hydrochloride, Norfloxacin, Ethyl Alcohol hand lotion, DEET, Methyl Arthranitate SPF 45 and Ketoconazole. Did I forget anything? Oh yes, a refill of Alprazolam, for my knees, just in case. So please, try not to worry. I have more than a month's supply.

On the bright side, I have three 1.0GB San Disk memory cards, a new pair of New Balance 748 AL-1 360° fit Country Walk rib-soled walking shoes, and a GAP hooded outerwear jacket with ten pockets and hooks for mobile phone, gloves, snacks and Lord Vishnu only knows what else.

As I was waiting impatiently in the obscene insufferable long visa queue at the Embassy, I met Hans, a Dutchman living in Calgary, a fellow travel addict. I mentioned to him that I think of myself as an experienced and educated traveler. His response to me was, "Jan, this trip will be your graduation!"

So, if I make it through this (mini-semester) five week adventure in one piece, I will grant myself a Ph.D.

See you on the rostrum,

Janaab or Shrimaan (depending) Mister Jan

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