Friday Oct 7, 2005 - day 8 - Jaipur to Ranthambore - Kathy: 143 photos, Bob: 64 photos
Kathy did not sleep well again. She was up in the middle of the night, typing on the computer. She is keeping a journal of her own. When I woke up at , I decided to let her sleep a bit longer while I took a shower. While I was showering, I was thinking about the Hindu religion and other religions. All over the world, people pray to various Gods and all have these spiritual needs, and they are very similar to one another in some ways and different in others. I began to wonder: what is the common core teaching that is common to all religions?
I would like to believe that the common teaching of all religions is love, but I realized that the idea might be just one of my romantic ideas. At once, my inner voice said, “The common thread of all religions is not love. It is leaving the Self behind and focusing on God.” How true, I thought. Some religions like Buddhism believe in meditation and pursuing God individually. Other religions, like Islam believe in doing community things and duty to God. Christians believe in loving your enemy and doing good to those who hate you. But all of them teach to leave yourself behind, abandon your ego, let go of the Self, and instead focus on God.
Today we are driving from Jaipur to the Tiger Sanctuary area, which is more remote. Most of the day will be spent driving. Just now, a few minutes before I am writing this, we stopped the bus to visit a small village in the countryside. Earlier in the trip, we told Sujay that we had bought some pens for the children, and he suggested that we could give them directly to the school in some remote village, so now was our chance.
After digging around in our luggage that was stashed in the belly of the bus, I found the pens and paper we had brought. Before our trip, we had been buying pens for this occasion. We bought pens at several stores, some ordinary black, some purple and other fun colors, and still others were small colored magic markers. So we’ve been carrying around a gallon-size Ziplock bag which held hundreds of pens. I grabbed the bag, and most of the small notepads we also brought, and we walked into the village.
When the local children saw my large bag of pens, they
surrounded me and started asking me to please give them pens. I felt bad because I brought the pens for the
So we walked to the school. It was a small, cramped building made of concrete, and hundreds of children were crammed inside of four or five rooms. Each room had a teacher. Sujay introduced us to the schoolmaster, saying that it was a private school, and this man had created the school with his own money to teach the children. Each student has to pay a nominal fee of 30 rupees per quarter or something to attend school. (Public schools are even cheaper, like 15 rupees per year.) For some unknown reason, girls get to go for free. That includes their school uniform and one cooked meal.
The head teacher introduced himself and talked briefly about his school, but his English was so bad that we could hardly understand him. Because we had such a hard time understanding him, Sujay took over and continued talking about the school, then pointed to me.
I handed the schoolmaster the bag of pens and the
notebooks and said, “On behalf of my wife and I, and all of the people of the
The school master thanked us for the gift, then we took photos of the occasion.
We took lots of photos of the children, and they were very friendly.
Then Sujay took turns writing all of our names on a chalkboard in sanskrit. Then he asked the children to read them, and one by one I could hear them say, “Dorothy,” “Carol,” and “Kathy.” He didn’t get to my name; I was too busy taking photos.
At the end, a group of children started singing a nursery rhyme that many Americans know: “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again...” It was very touching and I was nearly moved to tears. English language is now mandatory in Indian schools.
As I was leaving, I saw that each child had one of our pens in their shirt pockets. I thanked the school master for teaching the children, and I apologized for interrupting their classes.
As we were walking back to the bus, I took a good photo of a pig.
Back on the bus, we continued to drive for several hours through the countryside. Castles and forts dotted the beautiful countryside
and people were working in their fields. We drove to Ranthambore, where there is a game preserve and some of the wild tigers and leopards.
The hotel in Ranthambore is beautiful. The grounds are almost jungle-like
with lots of plants and beautiful flowers.
There’s a long beautiful walk
to our rooms,
on an optional visit to a local fort
and got lots of good photos.
I stayed behind to take some photos
and catch up on my writing. I went shopping and bought my mother a wool scarf from a local shop, and his prices were much more reasonable. Walking back from the shop, I saw a camel cart and gave him money to take his photo.
Next, I saw a poor man hauling some firewood, and I took his photo too.
The man started walking away, so I followed him and gave him a small gift of money for letting me take his photo. He looked like he could use some money.
Before dinner, we had a slide show presentation about
tigers and how endangered they are, and also about poachers. I think the government of
In the evening after dinner, most of the people went back their rooms, but Kathy and I sat outside with Sujay and another couple from the group, Leone and Dale, and we discussed religion. Sujay, of course, is a devout Hindu, and so we asked him endless questions. We talked about the differences between Sufi saints, Yogis, and Sadhus and what they believe. He said, for example, that Hindus believe that this Earthly incarnation as a human would only happen once, and it happens on the 84th incarnation. Other incarnations would be as other animals. He said, for example, that our first incarnation might be as a cow, because cows are holy. But we might have been a bad cow, and therefore, the next life we were born as a horse, and after that a pig, which is pretty much lowest on their scale. Eventually we learned our lessons and got better until our 84th incarnation, in which we are a man or woman. If we don’t please God as a man, then we’ll be born as something else again and the cycle starts over.
I told him that unlike most Americans, I believe in reincarnation, but I believe that we come to this life in several human bodies.
Another example of a tough question: I asked him why lots of people worship Vishnu
the preserver and Shiva the destroyer, but very few people worship Brahma the
creator. He said that there are only two
temples in all of