Saturday, July 26. Pune, India, a city of 6.5 million is known as the "Oxford of the East" with over 200 colleges but for me it will be equally memorable for my first camel ride. I jumped on a camel yesterday. A small herd was moving through the street as we parked the bus to visit a site. A member of the group asked if he could take a ride. A young boy agreed - for rupees of course! The camel was very intimidating - belching out horrible noises and barring its teeth as it did not seem to want to kneel. After a colleague did it, I just had to grab the opportunity - quite an experience - riding a camel alongside the crazy rickshaw, motorcycle, and auto traffic!! Nothing can ever describe the traffic here. I find myself getting braver to just start crossing a street despite the ongoing traffic and not acting intimidated. Traffic lights are near nonexistent and stop signs even rarer. The traffic flow never stops. The craziest is when your driver takes off in the opposite direction in the middle of ongoing traffic!! Lanes -- no one knows what that is here. Horns beep CONSTANTLY like a symphony just to say "I'm here". I had thought that nothing could beat the high drama of an auto rickshaw but the camel ride can not be matched.
Cultural sites were the focus of the day. The collection at the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum was impressive. India has such a rich history to tap. It is sad to see how dismal the conditions are in the museums - no air-conditioning, no restrictions on flash photography, and many rare, priceless pieces accessible for touching. A visit to the Aga Khan Palace reminded us again of the tremendous influence that Gandhi had on the people of India. He and his wife were interned at the palace for nearly two years when he was creating a great deal of unrest in India. The palace had a simple memorial to him there on a beautiful site. The next stop was a cave temple. This is a rock cut excavation dedicated to Lord Shiva - one of the three main gods in India. There are shrines all over India. Ganesh - the elephant headed god - seems to be a favorite. He is the "remover of obstacles".
An evening concert of fusion music at a local "open sky" amphitheatre was a treat. A noted American saxophonist teamed up with a famous Indian keyboardist along with many other musicians at a concert called "Rain Raga". This was a wonderful evening experiencing another first - global music trends based on Indian music patterns. We got to mix with the musicians afterwards. The local conversations with people are often the richest part of the trip.