I spent most of yesterday with a co-worker's cousin Amit and then later with co-workers of Amit's from I.B.M. for lunch, dinner, and Diwali fun. Diwali is huge. Lights like Christmas. Candles everywhere. Beautiful rangulis. And fireworks. I thought neighborhoods in the U.S. were loud with fireworks during Independence Day celebrations. Nuh-uh. Not even close to Delhi during Diwali. Holy crap it was loud last night. The night sounded like what I imagine a war zone would.
Spending time with them was great. More when the paper journal gets transcribed.
I've settled down a bit from the other day. India doesn't exactly scare me. Still have serious issues though. Tipping is pretty much expected almost everywhere. Between not knowing what's expected in which situations, not knowing how much is normal, not being able to convert dollars to rupees in my head, and the fact that pretty much no one will give change (so that I have smaller bills to leave tips) to foreigners, I'm up shit creek without a paddle. I am also really not enjoying the fact that I am a mark in Indian's eyes. By and large, most Indians are not trying to get into my wallet, but in a country of 1 billion people, it only takes a small percentage of persistent hawkers before there's enough to get really irritating. For instance, the second I step outside my hotel, a pack of taxi drivers, auto-rickshaw drivers, and rickshaw wallahs decend on me. Fuck, just let me walk the block to the corner in peace. In the parking lot of the Taj Mahal, the t-shirt and post-card sellers got into a shoving match over who got the rights to me. Fucking irritating.
Now that the Taj Mahal is mentioned, I saw it today. Absolutely beautiful. Would have been even more beautiful if not for the crush of people inside. Try to admire the beauty of the marble inlay work inside and get overwhelmed with the stench and press of hundreds of unwashed sweaty people. From outside though, it's definitely gorgeous. You can go look at pictures. Nothing will impress on you the beauty of this mausoleum until you actually go there. Nothing.