Yatara is the Hindi word for travel, and it is derived from Yatana, which is their word for suffering. It means you’ve been taken out of your comfortable existence and forced to adapt to ever-changing conditions. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, and the Indians are experts at it. I’ve never witnessed such an unending demonstration of graceful resourcefulness. Our group of 11 women and two men (including our instructors) had a very intense eight days to learn this very important lesson in Indian culture. We covered three states, six cities, innumerable villages and incalculable kilometers. It was immersive, intense and satiating, and we managed to take a few thousand pictures, actually improving our skills along the way.
Slightly better picture of a dog.
Bad picture of a dog.
The dearth of multiple electrical outlets and in-room coffee makers is a first world problem. Six hours in Delhi and it was clear to me that I would not be allowed to complain about anything for the rest of my life. But it is still an adjustment – dodging traffic, aggressive monkeys and camel spit is not par for my course. And since I could not complain, I learned to anticipate the lack of toilet paper (a Western convention) and the Indian-style toilets (better known as “squatty-potties”), to bypass the powdered coffee and powdered cream in favor of masala tea (this goes in the plus column), and to adjust to the new time zone – IST (better known as “Indian Stretchable Time”). By the second day, I felt inaugurated.
By the third day, I’d tossed my Go Girl (look it up) and learned to roll with it – literally.
Sawai Madhopur Express.
This is the second trip I have taken with my friend Sharon, and we’re great traveling companions, both sharing similar humor and inability to find bras and Band-aids. We look out for each other and each other’s stuff. She’s saved me from leaving behind jackets and tripods, and I always have adaptors and disposable toothbrushes handy. We remind each other to take our malaria pills, use our grapefruit seed oil for questionable beverages and to not rinse our toothbrushes with tap water. Didn’t keep me from leaving my hand brace in above bathroom.
Bonnie, ready for Mr. Tiger.
Efrain and Sharon, ready to shoot.
Our group is comprised of some lovely Canadians – adventurous ladies Viki and Vania from Vancouver Island, Maggie and Ron, expat Brits from Ontario, and Ruth, a teacher of law from Saskatchewan. From the states, there’s the well-traveled Dorinda from Denver, Connie, a vivacious southern belle from Atlanta by way of Dubai, and Dr. Charla Bird-Ross, from Florida by way of Jupiter (I think she’ll agree with that description), for whom this is a whistle stop on her way to the Philippines to open an orphanage for disabled children. Leading this varied pack of shutterbugs is Efrain Padro, an extremely talented professional photographer (and self-admitted “reformed lawyer”) with a patient shooting and teaching style, and Bonnie Caton, a young, talented writer and photographer with the skills of a diplomat. Both are fun and funny, generous and…adaptable.
Our intelligent, passionate and good-humored Indian tour guide, Rajesh Shivare, is a veteran, although this is his first tour focused on photography. Raj tells us that it’s helpful to have a group with a mutual interest and context, and he and our instructors designed an itinerary that was full and challenging. As is the Indian way, we learned to roll with the stones, potholes and cows in the road, and to take advantage of the surprises we found. Raj’s philosophy is that travel is the best way of educating one’s self. “Make a picture as you experience it, bring it all back and use it to improve your life.”
Raj negotiating the rickshaw convoy in Old Delhi, outside Jama Masjid Mosque.
Raj, riding the rails.
We trundled through Delhi on bicycle rickshaws and rode the rails to Ranthambore, bumping and jostling from city to countryside, through villages and farmlands and jungles. We rode canters, camels, elephants and tuk-tuks, and our tour coach, a pretty comfortable bus driven with (relative) care by Anand with the help of his hard-working and sweet-natured porter, Chand.
All journeys have different durations, but they all must come to an end.
Given the ambitious schedule and thinly available wi-fi, I’ve had to start this entry as I fly over Greenland on the 15 hour flight back to the U.S. Viki and Vania are on to other states of India, Maggie and Ron are headed to points unknown with their guidebooks. Ruth is staying some extra days in Delhi for a conference and further sightseeing. Bonnie is heading to a seminar in Florida (right into the mouth of Hurricane Sandy), and Efrain is on to Turkey to scout a possible future excursion (hmmmmm….).
I’m anxious to spend time at my computer where I can recount the details and share each step and pictures of this travel adventure, the first of many more to come. One more plane and an automobile and I’ll be home. While I’m very much looking forward to a long, hot shower, a night’s sleep without an orchestra of horns and barking, and the affection of my kitties, I am sorely sad to be leaving India. I am bringing this all back and I will use it to improve my life, something that began just by stepping onto the airplane at the onset of my journey. And when I step off this one, it will not have been Yatana, it will have been Parivartana.