.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Nature of Service

I've got to put a disclaimer here, as much as I hate them. I am talking purely about my personal opinions here, and about my reaction to these events. It is not at all my intent to impugn or judge any culture, particularly one as old and venerated as that of India. This essay is my own natural reaction to the treatment I received, and let me preamble all of it by saying, I would rather have the experience I describe below visited upon me a thousand times, than to have a hostile culture reject me through isolation, expulsion, or any sort of violence.

If there's any great life lesson I've learned in India, it's that I am no good at being served.

It was impossible for me to imagine the nature of the service I received in India, even though it was explained to me several times. It was explained as a luxury by Americans, and as a fact of life for Indians. For me, it was a nightmare, and a nightmare that was repeated over and over, in every place I visited and every situation in which I found myself.


At my company's Bangalore office, there were 4 women whose jobs were "housekeeping". In America, this position would mean that you never see them, because they only come in the office at night, to empty garbage and sweep floors. In India, "housekeeping" means keeping the workers (the developers, the software testers) at their desks by doing absolutely everything for them. Housekeeping brings water to the meeting rooms, they straighten out the break room area after people have finished lunch, and they dust the stairs clean several times a day.

The first day I was there, a cold bottle of mineral water materialized on my desk. My coworker asked me if I would like a masala dosa, and I said that I would. He said a few words to someone, and twenty minutes later, I had one. When they weren't actively working, they would sit in the stairwell landings and talk quietly. Every time I walked up or down the stairs, they stopped talking instantly and stood up, smiled, and nodded to me.

On the first day this was exotic and new for me, and like I said, completely familiar to everyone else. Not even worth a mention.


On the fifth day I was parched. I needed water. I got up, I looked around. I went upstairs to the break area. Nothing but the tap and a water cooler, neither of which was safe for us foreigners. I opened a few cabinets. Nothing. Someone found me wandering and asked what I needed.

"Some bottled water. Do you know where it is?"

"Oh, don't worry. We'll get you some."

"Well, if you could just show me where--"

"We'll have 'that' go get you some, and bring it straight-away."

"I--well, okay. But I'd like to know for the future so I can get some myself."

"But it's their job. They're here to do that."

It was nearly an hour before I got my water. I never found out where they kept it, or whether they had to run to a convenience store every time I got thirsty. Toward the end I just brought the damn water from my hotel room, where I received 2 new ones every day in the mini-bar. Like magic.

I finally learned how to operate the space-aged coffee machine, but nearly every time I tried, someone would stop me, summon "that" over, and have them prepare it for me. They prepared a lovely cup-and-saucer arrangement with a napkin, a spoon, two sugars, and two crunchy caramel biscuits. I just wanted coffee, and I don't take sugar, but my only choice was to be gracious.

Every time I wanted to do something or get something or do anything at all, there was someone there to do it for me. The message was clear: your talents at your job is the reason you are here. Let us take your focus away from these meager concerns so you can concentrate.

That's flattering, it really is. The problem is, they didn't do it as quickly as I would if I could just do it on my own, and sometimes they would do it wrong. Once I asked for water, and in 30 minutes I had a Diet Coke in front of me. I'd rather drink motor oil or bong water. 45 minutes after that I had my water. If I knew where the blasted stuff was the whole thing would be over in 3 minutes or less.

But I feel guilty complaining about the service. Since I didn't ask for it and it's provided to me at no overt charge, how could I complain about it? The simple fact is, I didn't want it. It wasn't good for me. And I wonder how many others, Indian, American, British, have met up with the same experience.

The Taj in the Moonlight
This was it, yaknow. This was probably the only chance I'll ever get to see the Taj Mahal. Considering the harrowing journey that went along with it (which I'll write about one day), the cost that was near double what had been quoted to me, and the low likelihood of my ever returning to India, I doubt the chances of it ever being possible again.

When I chose the dates for this trip, I did it based on the fact that one of the full weekends I was here would fall on a full moon. Our company admin in India emailed me to ask about any special travel arrangements she could help me make, and I let her know about the dates as well as about the moon.

A few days later I emailed her and asked if she had any suggestions about what sites to go to or who to call to ask about these arrangements, and she informed me that it was all taken care of: the flight from Bangalore to Delhi on Friday night, the overnight stay in Delhi, a half-day's tour of Delhi on Saturday, a drive to Agra, overnight stay in Agra, half-day's tour of Agra on Sunday, drive back to Delhi, then flight back to Bangalore Sunday night. Oh, and including rides to and from the Bangalore airport.

It was beautiful, and so efficient... what was there to argue about? So, fast-forward six weeks and I'm in Delhi, meeting the hotel Tour Services people Saturday morning.

"And you were told I wanted to see the Taj in the moonlight, right?"

"Yes, this has been mentioned to us."


I meet my tour guide and we're off. We go to see Qutub Minar, and along the way I'm looking it up in my Delhi book. Flipping some pages, I note in a sidebar about the Taj Mahal that the moonlight tours are of limited availability, and need to be arranged 24 hours in advance.

"Say," I ask the tour guide, "are we sure we got a moonlight viewing booked for the Taj?"

"When, for tonight?" he said.


"Oh, no sir. That would have to have been arranged last night. They need a 24-hours advanced booking. You want to see it tomorrow night?"

I'm trying to choke through the red bile spewing from my gut, and say, "no, I'm on a plane tomorrow night. I need to see it tonight."

"We'll see what we can do, sir."

He and the driver talk for a while in Hindi. They ask for my passport to make the reservations, which makes me VERY nervous. They make a detour, and the guide runs in to some travel agency. When he comes back, he's on the phone. He hands me my passport. Whoever he's talking to, he's very animated.

He hangs up. "It's impossible, sir. I've done everything I can, but they never informed me that you wanted to go in the moonlight."

"FUCK, man! I told them six weeks ago that that was the primary reason for my choosing to come this weekend, otherwise I would have come next weekend when I have Friday as a holiday!"

"Yes, sir. I'm very sorry. There is nothing I can do. Let me show you the email."

"What email."

"The email you sent to us when you booked this arrangement."

He produces a folder with papers in it, then hands me one. It's written from my company admin to the hotel that arranged the whole thing. It says "Marcus is very excited to see the Taj in the sunset!"

At this point I know it's over. The moonlight viewings have to be made to a government agency, M-F 0930-1730, and I know I don't have enough baksheesh to change anyone's mind. Since there's no document trail, nobody but my admin is to blame.

Or are they?

"Your agency knows about these moonlight viewings. Why didn't they suggest it? It says 'sunset' here. Wouldn't it be a natural fit to just ask about the moonlight?"

"I'm sorry sir, yes sir. That would have been a good suggestion." And his phone rings.

I keep talking anyway.

"When you got this gig, did it occur to you that maybe I would want to see it in the moonlight? Would it ever occur to just make an arrangement like that without even asking, knowing I'm going to stay close to the Taj and wouldn't have anything better to do that evening anyway?"

"I'm sorry sir, no sir. That would have been a good suggestion." He answers his phone, says two words, and hangs up, then stares back at me wide-eyed. The car is not moving. The driver is staring at me in the rear-view-mirror. We sit like this. It takes a while to dawn on me that I'm supposed to give them a signal that, yes, I'm finished berating them and we should get back to the tour.

I'll admit it. I was sulky as hell for the rest of the tour. After two or three hours and a few more monuments, we let the tour guide out and the driver went on to Agra. Still, I'm just brooding the whole time. I fucking KNEW I wanted to see it in the moonlight. I've known that since I was very young and studied the legends of the structure, and how it glows almost like silver under the full moon. And because someone writes "sunset" instead of "moonlight", this dream is denied to me forever. F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Six letters instead of nine. Sun-not-moon.

My ass has not been covered, or even looked after. Of the 15 things she had to arrange on this trip, she forgot only one. But if I had made the arrangements, despite the pain of the time difference and slight language barrier, I would have made certain of that one detail. When you give your "servant" a medium-sized task, there are lots of hidden subtasks, of which they prioritize some higher than others. Doing it on my own, I never would have left that one out, because the only reason I was going to Delhi was to see the Taj in as many colors of light as possible. She couldn't read my mind, so she didn't know that. She just thought I wanted to see a little of everything. When I got back, she met me at the door of the office with, "I didn't know it had to be booked in advance, or I would have specified moonlight." What can I say at that point? It's over. There's certainly nothing to be done about it now.

So, I can't blame my admin, and I can't blame the booking agency, and I can't blame the hotel, and I can't blame the tour guy. I fucking well blame them all. The only completely faultless person in this whole affair, unfortunately, is me. I would feel much better about it if I had some culpability in the matter. Some sense that there was something I could have done to fix it.

And that's the bitch of it: I'm the one who got screwed. I'm the only one who got screwed. Everyone else in this little chain of events "got theirs". The tour agency wouldn't lower their price because they weren't properly informed. The tour guides still expected (and got) tips because they showed me what the hotel told them I wanted to see. The hotels got their ~9500 INR each night for 7 hours of sleeping and no advantage taken of their amenities, because they were told I was going to stay there. I certainly don't expect the admin to get in any trouble because this stuff was all "above and beyond", i.e. non-company business she wasn't even obligated to do.

And that's the problem with me being served. These tasks that others see as mundane or "beneath me", I take pleasure in. I am the chef de cuisine in my home. My wife refuses even to hire people to mow the lawn. When we don't ask other people to do things, we have only ourselves to blame if they're messed up. We enjoy that responsibility. We do the research in advance for the things that matter to us. We don't rely on other people, only to end up disappointed at their failure.

There are a couple other incidents, but they'll better serve as asides in a travelogue. Besides, you get the point: I don't like having every little thing done for me, because nobody cares about every little thing the way I do. They don't have a vested interest in making sure it gets done. They have a job to do, and every component is treated with the same level of detachment as the next. I can't imagine living my life with so little hands-on involvement in the little things. It wouldn't be luxurious... it would be hell.

I am no good at being served. I wonder how many people really are.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

The General's Daughter, by Nelson DeMille

Started 4/1, finished 4/6

I bought this book from an outdoor bookstand in Delhi, en route to the airport. I had just seen the Taj Mahal and finished Roth's Everyman, so I was in the mood for a more forgettable experience. See, that's what Nelson DeMille is for me: always fun, always entertaining, always forgettable. If all I ever do is write books like he does, I'll be pretty happy.

The General's Daughter was made into a movie (which I've not seen) with John Travolta in the lead, so I couldn't quite make up my own face and voice for the Paul Brenner. The good news is, the smartasserie and wit that I love so much about the John Corey novels is all here. The love story is as predictable and shallow as you'd want it to be, and DeMille is always good at twisting the suspense out of anything.

Not much of a review here, because there really isn't much to say. If you like Nelson DeMille, you probably don't think this is the book they should have made a movie out of, but it was still a good yarn to be read on a plane from Delhi to Bangalore. Good old DeMille, just like good old Greg Iles (more of whom, coming soon).

Book #9 will by the Novel, by James A. Michener


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Everyman, by Philip Roth

Started 3/30, finished 4/1

Fear of Death. White Noise was about fear of death. So was The Old Man and the Sea. Hell, nearly every book I've ever read contains at least a component of fear of death. Everyman is nothing but a meditation on this topic, by a writer who's getting up there in years.

I've wondered since I read it, was his purpose just in creating a story about a man who fears death and let the character spring from that, or to create a living, breathing human being first, then force him to confront death?

What I do know is that the effect is quite amazing: the man in question is despicable. In my book they don't get much worse. He's a son-of-a-bitch philanderer who leaves his wife and two kids, then leaves his next wife and one kid, then whines that he's lonely all the time. He follows every stereotype you can imagine about a bastard businessman in the 60s: skirt-chaser, workaholic, dullard, etc.

Yet when it comes to his confrontation with his parents' deaths, the misery rings so true that you have no choice but to sympathise. It's like Jess said about another Roth book: this character, "superficially very different from me...was, by the end of the book, completely known and understandable in my alien brain". This privileged bastard had to throw dirt on his own father's coffin, and while doing it had the hallucination that his father was not in a coffin at all but just lying there, and the dirt was covering his face, getting in his eyes...

...and I don't care who you are or were or hope to be, but that's an image that will stay with me forever. I'm sure when I'm in a similar position, the memory of having read this book will serve as a comfort, that I'm not alone, that... oh my god I can't even finish typing it. Roth dove right in on this, the most terrifying and lonely event in a person's life, and looked it in the face. Jesus Christ I don't think I could ever do that. I wept real tears while reading this book. I can't remember the last time I did that.

By the end you're so exhausted and conflicted you want to read John Steinbeck just to bring some levity to your life. I chose differently, I chose Nelson DeMille.

Book #8 will be the General's Daughter, by Nelson DeMille


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Started 3/17, finished 4/7

Book #6 was supposed to be the Satanic Verses, but I didn't want to bring a banned book into a new foreign country. I figured the worst they could do was confiscate it, but I just didn't want to deal with even the smallest hassle. I brought the Maestro instead.

If you'll recall, I've read the Maestro before. At the time I commented that the man uses words like knives to cut through the boring bullshit of what other writers (including myself) consider important. That is still true in Cholera. When most writers would take pains to explain to you "the problems of river navigation" that his main character is solving, Marquez just tells you he was solving them brilliantly. Why leave it out? Because it doesn't matter. These characters have rich lives in parallel to the plot of this story, but Marquez doesn't care about them. He's giving you a single viewpoint into his perspective on this story, and only shows you enough of it to get across the main point.

This story is about two young lovers who meet and fall in love very early in life. When the opportunity arises for them to become serious and reveal their love to the world, the woman suddenly decides that the whole affair was silly, and chalks it up to youth. Unbeknownst to her, he spends the next 51 years waiting for her husband to die, so that he can restate his lifelong vow of love to her, and they can stage an epic courtship at a time when most couples are retiring and dying together.

Along the way, we catch glimpses of their lives, love affairs, children, jobs, travels, and sicknesses. At certain points we're convinced that neither party has given the other a moment's thought in years. But there is always a lingering memory waiting around a corner, something that will trigger one or the other to rediscover the longing they shared in their youth.

It's told beautifully. We come to know these people, even though it's through this one window of perception, as well as we would know a fellow schoolmate, a co-worker, a boss, a grandparent. All the stages of their lives are described so vividly that we feel they must have existed, that we are reading a textbook instead of literature. The best-written textbook ever, by the way.

And yet sometimes I was frustrated. Frustrated because he will describe the process the man uses, for example, to formulate a love letter. He spends pages on how it will be crafted, how the thoughts will pile upon each other until the pen flows as freely as a river. How others are in awe of the emotional power his words can produce. And then? We never get to read the frickin' letter!

Sometimes, when I take off my rose-colored glasses, when I make myself forget the words of Crawford Kilian, who said, "any aspiring writer who doesn't read the master [Marquez] is stumbling around in a dark blind alley.", I think to myself "wasn't that easy?"

Isn't it great that I can tell about a guy who writes a beautiful letter, a letter so woeful and amazing that women melt into puddles reading it...and then I don't need to actually write it?

I mean, Ayn Rand had a character who invented a machine which would take the static electricity out of the air and turn it into DC current. She didn't explain how it worked. Is that the same thing? Well, kind of yes, kind of no. This fiction thing is all about invention and imagination, but the medium of exchange is the written word. When you say that a man wrote some amazing words, isn't it kind of cheating to then playfully skip over those words? It reminds me of Tenacious D, who once played the greatest song in the world, but have now forgotten it, and must instead sing a tribute to the greatest song in the world.

I've read novels about best-selling novelists where the novels themselves are never revealed. But said novels usually aren't the main focus of the story, either. I believe Marquez is capable of writing love letters that great, so why didn't he?

I once wrote an outline of a story, which I may still use, where the long lost footage from Orson Welles' Magnificent Ambersons is found. Upon hearing about this, a friend asked, "well, aren't you going to need to make with the footage, especially if this turns into something?" I guess the answer is, "no, not if I'm considered untouchable."

Anyway, this was just a niggling little criticism, borne more out of disappointment than real ire. In the ~180 page Of Love and Other Demons, it was a rarely but effectively used tool for skipping details. In Cholera, I felt like he just got tired of writing, and started glossing. The first sections of Cholera are told in a more traditional "show" manner, where the scene paints itself and we are led around by the description, rather than just reading an account of the actions and motivations of the various characters. It was beautiful. Then around page 80 he lapses into this "tell" mode, particularly when it comes to his characters' writing, where I start to long for the colors and textures (and specificity, most importantly) of what had come before. It was still good, but it didn't make me dream.

It's just that if you know you're reading one of the greatest writers of all time, and he's talking about truly great writing, it's a jarring thing to be denied the opportunity to see at least one example.

None of this will deter me from agreeing that Marquez is one of the greatest writers out there, nor will it keep me from reading a Hundred Years of Solitude, hopefully later this year.

Book #7 will be Everyman, by Philip Roth


Monday, April 16, 2007

Open Letter to My Future Self

Remember that time you went to India?

Remember the three-day weekend where you were supposed to stay in a treehouse suite on Nilgiri, on the wildlife preserve in Tamilnadu?

Remember the table-runners, the area rugs, the saris, the tea sets you were going to buy, using the bargaining techniques learned in Hawaii and Morocco?

Remember the culture you were going to dive into, the words and phrases you were going to pick up in all the languages, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telegu, even Urdu or Syndh?

Yeah, you remember all that. So what did you do instead?

None of it. Not one stinkin' thing.

Well, to your credit, you did go to the Taj Mahal, you still have the detailed photographs and that vial of water from the reflecting pool. You didn't get to see the Taj in the moonlight because of the most idiotic stupid fucking beaurocratic bullshit that you're probably still not over, but you did get to see it.

But as to missing out on the rest of it, you need to remember the full context, the story behind the "why". You need to have compassion for yourself as a result of this, because at the time you didn't really have any choices to make. Anyone would do the same thing given the circumstances.

This trip was for you some sort of culminating event, a test of character, an adventure. You set out with an open mind. People told you that, of all the people they knew, you were the one who would appreciate this opportunity the most, take the most advantage of it. You'd take in all the surprises like an infant, laughing and giggling and waiting for the next one before the first was even processed.

You'd eat every kind of curry and chutney and exotic Indian fruit, veggie, and spice they could throw at you. You usually say you won't go into any fast food restaurants, this time you'd carry it several steps further: you wouldn't visit any Western-food restaurants. You'd eat Indian food, goddamnit, because you're in India. Maybe you'd have some Chinese, Korean, Japanese, food because you're awfully close by and maybe it's different enough from what you get in America to warrant a slight detour.

Three weeks of glorious culture-diving, nothing but new discoveries, a choir of angels singing your acceptance of everything new and foreign, and culinary delights you'd learn how to make and feed to your family.

And for the first 4-5 days, everything went as planned. You worked, you went to the hotel, then did the same thing the next day. You didn't want to do anything on those nights because you'd have 2 more full weeks to explore as much as you wanted. Work went well, you communicated regularly with K, got into webcam sessions with the kids, and wrote post cards. You ate everything you had wanted to eat, all Indian food, just as spicy as the Indians you hung out with liked it, and it was all just great.

Then Friday came, and you had to get on a plane that afternoon to visit the Taj Mahal. Early in the morning your stomach became extremely upset, cramping, sweating, churning. At around noon you became so sleepy you could barely keep your eyes open. It was like those dreams you have occasionally where you're driving or flying a plane but in that dream the feeling of sleep is so heavy that your eyes only open halfway and you can't see the road or the horizon. You know you need to push on, to keep going, but you physically can't open your eyes through the fatigue. You begged a few hours of sleep from your coworkers, who thought it was a good idea.

You slept the sleep of the damned. In the room there was a horrible buzzer, a doorbell that lets you know when someone is at the door for you. This buzzer sounded several times during your sleep, but you only incorporated it into your dreams, and never realized until probably the next day that someone was trying to get your attention.

You thought you had beaten jetlag, but you hadn't. You'd just pushed yourself into feeling its effects all at once, rather than the slow regimen that may have worked out better.

The sickness continued. Through Delhi and Agra, through the whole weekend and the next work week. Around Wednesday it became clear that you couldn't go to the treehouse feeling the way you did. The cramping and nausea were merciless, attacking nearly every hour without letup and with some other very unpleasant symptoms.

So you had Good Friday off. You had the opportunity to go to Hyderabad to see an old friend, but she wasn't available. Coworkers urged you to take day trips, but instinct told you not to go too far from the hotel and the familiar surroundings. The stomach aches were slightly less frequent, but they were still there. Being on a coach, air-conditioned or no, would not be the best place to sit and churn for 12 hours.

No, you hadn't taken many pictures except in Agra. Bangalore is a beautiful city, with thick, tall trees the likes of which you'd never seen before. But at no point during the three-day weekend did you venture out. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt kept you inside. You read 4 books, watched at least 7 movies, and stayed forever at the mercy of the cramping. You tried to see a movie but they were all sold out.

You don't know shit about India. You haven't done anything worth a damn in India. The Taj barely counts because it doesn't have much to do with present-day people or the culture... in fact you were either surrounded by Germans and Americans the whole time there, or the Indian guides who continue to relate "facts" about the Taj Mahal that have long been proven false.

As far as you should be concerned, this was a lousy business trip, filled with discomfort, sickness, and one fine opportunity to see something you'd always wanted to see. Your Judas body prevented you from turning this into what you had wanted it to be.

You have to understand just how bad, how unpredictable, how deeply unpleasant this was. There was no way to anticipate it, and when it hit you were sidelined, barely able to keep working. The opportunity to explore India really wasn't there once the sickness started.

It appears that the sickness is related to the anti-malarial pill you were taking at the time, but you weren't about to risk catching malaria just so you could get out and take some pictures. Even if you couldn't enjoy it, at least you didn't catch malaria.

If you had arrived in Paris the first time and gotten sick, I'm certain you would have stayed right where you were too. One day you'll be back to India. K is in awe of the Taj, so the possibility exists.

Just keep all of this in mind whenever you look back with regret. The purpose of the trip, after all, was to do work with the team in Bangalore, and that you were able to do. In those terms this trip was extremely successful. If you need refuge from the regret and guilt, take refuge in that.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

My Forever Love Note to My Wife

I like to believe I've left my own personal love note on the Greatest Monument Ever Built For Love (the Taj Mahal). I didn't scratch it into the marble as a discouraging number of people have. I didn't leave any paper or film behind. I only left fingerprints on various sections as I traced the semi-precious inlaid stones, trying to study their borders.

When I walked around the mausoleum, where they don't let you take pictures, a little man came up to me. There were several other dressed like him, all in a simple off-white sherwani, unadorned but pressed. They showed people around, explaining the inlay process, telling little facts and legends about the crypt, and expecting very modest tips in return.

The little man came up and started explaining all the things I'd heard and read a hundred times before. I wanted to tell him to go away and let me look in peace, to let me lean against the back wall and take in the scene I will likely never see again, but before I started to say it, he asked me my name. I told him.

"Maaaaaaaarrrrrrrruukiiiiisssshhhhhh" he almost sang the name. It didn't echo in the chamber as much as it became amplified, extended, and faded slowly, after about twenty seconds. You could almost see where the sound was coming from and where it was going next.

"What's the name of your special lady?" I told him.

He sang K's name in the same drawn out, deep voice, and the effect may have been more profound. The short vowels didn't sound short... they sounded round and open, unapologetic, let's say, and as they moved around I wondered if maybe she could hear them back at home.

So I wonder if, in theory, those sounds could be still there, fading away far more than any machine could ever pick them up, but still alive and mingling with millions of vibrations from the calls of millions of lovers, and mixed in with the occasional "Allahu Akbar", set to last forever.

In theory, if I'm right, and the same could be said for my naughty grade school friends who would whisper cuss words at the dome of the capital building in Texas, to see if the person on the other side could hear the whisper. Those are no doubt floating around too. Maybe K and I need to visit the capital and tell each other repeatedly, in whispers, how much we love each other, while walking all around the circle. Maybe we can class the joint up a bit.


Friday, April 06, 2007

La Douleur

Before I post more pictures from India, I thought I'd put up a few from my stopover in Paris. I didn't take all that many pictures, because mostly I saw the same parts of the city I saw last time. What I focused on the most was my favorite statue in the world. I think the flash burned her out a bit, but I believe I catalogued her from most of the important angles.

Here they are, as well as a link to all the pictures I took in Paris. The captions tell the important parts of the story.

I must have taken nearly 30 pictures of her by now, and yet I still can't seem to convey her smallness, or the right color of green, or just how real she looks when you're standing next to her.


Monday, April 02, 2007

The Rashtrapati Bhavan

This is the Presidential Palace of India, the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Have a look at the picture on Wikipedia, then look at mine. I saw a picture very much like this of the White House when I went to DC, and I wish I had a better camera there so I could have duplicated it.

I don't collect much, and I hate souvenirs. The only things I take from places I travel are little vials of water, which I keep on a shelf... a bunch of little vials with masking tape on them marked "Loch Ness", "DC Reflecting Pool", etc. Now I can add "The Seine" and "Taj Mahal Fountain" to the shelf.

But I'm starting to think that, whenever I visit a country's capital, I'll try to get a picture like this. In my mind, there's a lot of meaning here, not apparent at first glance. See if you agree.