Sam Presnell of The Rug Gallery has been an owner and retailer of rugs and carpets for 37 years. He has graciously provided us with today’s post about his first trip to India. This post gives you a little insight on his experience and what a trip to India is really like. Tomorrow will include a follow up post called The Colors of India where Sam will help us understand what goes into making a rug.
It’s funny, I never needed to go to India in today’s world because it comes to you via trade shows and the internet. On my first trip to India, we landed in New Delhi after a long 15 hour direct flight from Newark, where we were met by a gentleman who was to drive us to our first night accommodations. We immediately drew 2 extra people who I assumed were with the driver. Well to my surprise, they were there to help with luggage and of course seeking a tip, and we had not asked or were we looking for help. My first comment was to the driver asking him “Are you going to take care of them?” He immediately acted as if he didn’t understand English. I pulled out a 100 rupee note and gave it to one of them; I later learned that would be a whole day’s work for somebody like this. Wow 2 dollars?!?
The next day, we arranged for a driver to take us to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I had no idea the drive would be 5 hours and was like playing dodgem all the way. Once there we checked into the Oberoi. WOW, that was like living like a king! I would highly recommend this place and was well worth the splurge. Every room has a view of the Taj Mahal. The room and grounds were meticulous.
The Taj Mahal was worth it, it truly is deserving of it’s reputation of one of man’s greatest achievements. We had a personal tour which began at 6:00AM (to beat the crowds). We also visited the fort where the Moguls lived. That was worth the 650 rupees. (approximately 13 dollars)
Then on to Varanasi, a holy city for the Hindu’s on the banks of the Ganges. What a eye opening experience.
My first impression was shocking, as in culture shock. I had seen the pictures and heard the stories, but I still had no idea and I am having difficulty in describing it for you . The best way may be by telling you about an incident. After visiting a Carpet expo in Varanasi, about dark and with major traffic,while attempting to cross at a rail road crossing the gate went down. First, I noticed anyone that was walking, using a bicycle or motor bike kept ducking under the gate where the train stopped and waited. Then, the lanes to the right of us (which you would think were for the traffic going the other way) filed in with cars, trucks and pedestrians. The same was happening on the other side of the gate. Then, the begging children started banging on our windows and refused to leave unless we paid them. One even badly washed our window, streaking it worse than the dust that had existed. After it seemed like an eternity, a police officer came down with a big switch and started beating the people who kept trying to cross. Eventually, he cleared the tracks and the rail cars passed. When the gate lifted it was a free for all. My first thought was there was no way we were getting out of this mess, but some how by inching and honking – without a scratch we were able to get through. That’s it – organized chaos, but it works for them and it seems very normal after a while. You come to accept and understand that this is normal to them and there is nothing that can be done, just go with it. The indifference by the people is also understandable to just ignore it or you and dare anyone to run them over, somehow it works.
In Cincinnati, I was on my way to Starbucks and turned a little early. The car which saw me honked, screamed and gave me the bird. I had to laugh because in India someone comes down the road on your side and you move over like it is nothing. Boy we expect a lot don’t we? There are such things as rules and rights! Sorry leave them at home. It’s everyone for themselves and just go with the flow….
Come back tomorrow for more from Sam. Thank you, Sam for taking the time to share your experience with us! – Shannon