Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It’s the day before Christmas and all through the house the bustle of wrapping gifts has been replaced by the drama of our holiday trip to India – it’s been in the planning stages for a year, but lately has suffered a series of setbacks.

First there was the terrorist attack on Mumbai which led to a State Department warning that U.S. Citizens should not travel to India right about now. (It’s in effect until Dec. 30.) Saturday, Dec. 27 is when daughter Eleni and I are supposed to fly to Mumbai and then to fly the next day to Jodhpur where Eleni’s former roommate Neela Pania, is getting married in a three-day series of parties and ceremonies beginning on New Year’s Eve. Eleni has worked hard all year to plan for us the world’s greatest trip around India, including a camel safari into the desert, visits to the Taj Mahal and a boat trip on the Ganges.

Although most everyone we knew advised us we should NOT go to India just now, we stubbornly stuck to our itinerary. Marina, Eleni’s younger sister, even expanded it into her own trip around the world -- leaving Boston the day after Christmas to stay with friends in Paris, then joining us in India for the wedding, then on to more friends in Sydney, Hawaii and back home to Los Angeles.

Next glitch – Eleni lost her passport with the Indian visa in it. She came home on Friday (during the massive snow storm) after three days spent in NYC on jury duty — days of living out of a suitcase and staying with friends because boarders had moved into her apartment for the month she'll be away. Then, when she got home to Grafton, she discovered that the passport had disappeared during her wandering about New York.

So on Monday Dec. 22 she spent all day at the emergency passport line in Boston and then Tuesday Dec. 23, she traveled with her new passport back to New York City in hopes of getting another visa from the India travel visa folks. She couldn’t get an appointment because they’re all jammed up now, but she stood in the walk-in (no appointment) line. She burst into tears when told she’d have to come back on Christmas Eve, then someone took pity on her and said that if she went to the Indian consulate around noon on Weds. Dec. 24, she could probably get her visa then, which meant, with luck, that she might get back to Grafton in time for joining the rest of the family at a Christmas Eve party followed by the traditional church service (with the children acting out the nativity scene). After church we'll put the angel on the tree and each open one gift and then it’s really Christmas. Let’s hope she makes it back from Manhattan in time.

Eleni has been to India several times with Neela and I was so amazed at the photographs she took that I’ve painted watercolors based on them. The two photos above show the same woman who sells plastic bangle bracelets in the Clock Tower market in Jodhpur (where the wedding will be held.) The first one was taken by Eleni in January 2006, when the woman had her infant son in her lap.

A year later, the little boy was a toddler when Eleni came back to the same spot and handed the woman her photograph. It caused a sensation in the marketplace. The lady had never owned a photograph of herself and was delighted. All her friends wanted their photos taken too.

I’m in such a fever of anticipation to see India that right now I’m afraid to even start packing my bags until Eleni returns with visa in hand. So Christmas Day will be a frenzy of preparation, packing saris we’ve borrowed along with western clothes. God willing we’ll all find ourselves in Jodhpur on New Year’s Eve. And I hope to photograph and write about what happens throughout our Indian adventure.... unless there’s another storm or electrical outage and we never get out of Logan airport.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

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