I woke up at 04:20 today, got ready, packed my bags, and walked to the New Delhi train station, ignoring all the rickshaw drivers along the way. I then walked through the lack of security (there was a baggage x-ray machine and a metal detector, but no police men who gave a damn about their duties) and was approached by a man in plain clothes requesting to see my ticket; I requested to see his identification and he then promptly walked away; once again, the police men did nothing (they’re probably working together). I then waited on Platform One for just over a half hour for the train to Jhansi to arrive; when it did, I boarded the train, stowed my baggage overhead and under my legs, and then waited until 06:00 for the train to depart. The experience on the train was an overall pleasant one; the passengers were treated to a bottle of water, a Fresca, tea and cookies, and a meal of some fried vegetable matter, bread and butter, and mango juice; the only downside was that it began to warm up as the sun rose higher in the sky and, as with many vehicles in this part of the world, the air conditioning was not turned on in an effort to save money (not the environment or energy or anything like that . . . just money). I was surprised to see quite a number of people outside, along the tracks, defecating in the open during sunrise (I had read the news articles about open defecation in India, but did not expect to see it myself, thinking it was only in very remote areas, evidently it is in all slum areas). In two hours, the train reached Agra and at this point I wish I had known better for my trip to Agra – I definitely would’ve taken the train since it was quicker and more comfortable than the bus; also, it arrived at 08:00 while the bus I took didn’t leave New Delhi until 09:00 and it didn’t arrive until 13:00. The train then continued on and it reached Jhansi at 10:45, just as it was scheduled to do so. I then took an auto rickshaw (I didn’t want to, but it was the cheapest and easiest way) to Orchha, costing me 250 rupees (I asked the tourist office and the manager at the hotel I ended up at what the price should be, and they each said 250 rupees, but I don’t trust them – foreigners always pay more, and the man at the tourist office looked up as he said the price, which is usually a sure indicator that someone is lying).
I then reached the hotel in Orchha that I had looked up on Booking.com the night prior, paid the auto rickshaw driver, checked out the room, agreed to take it for two nights, and then paid for the room, which ended up being two-thirds the price that was offered on Booking.com (saving some money, not bad – the room also has an excellent view of Orchha Fort). I then grabbed my camera and tripod and started exploring the town of Orchha. I walked by the Ram Raja Temple, which I was told was busy with wedding ceremonies today on account of it being the Hindu festival of Vivaha Panchami, which celebrates the marriage of Ram and Sita (it had many people hanging around, selling flowers, treats, and other goods), before continuing on to the Cenotaphs (a grouping of fourteen chhatris (or memorials) to the past rulers of Orchha along the Kanchan Ghat of the Betwa River); along the way, I saw quite a few children defecating along the sidewalk, barely in the bushes, or where anywhere where trash is dumped, which happens to be everywhere; I think the Peace Corps needs to come here and start building simple latrines and other important infrastructure necessary for high concentrations of human beings. I then reached the Cenotaphs, walked around the outside, found out I need to purchase a ticket at the Orchha Fort to get inside the Cenotaphs as well as other historical monuments in the area, and then walked back toward the town, figuring I will be back tomorrow when I have all day to explore. I then reached the Chaturbhuj Temple (which was constructed in the early seventeenth century by the Bundela Rajputs of the kingdom of Orchha), walked inside (no one checked my ticket there . . .), and then I shown around by a young mentally disabled man wearing a sign that stated he was “deaf and dumb”; he took me up to the different levels in the temple, through steep, narrow, and dark stair wells; then up to the different parapets near the ceiling (giving me a bird’s eye view of the inside) and the roof top with its dome and spires; also, from the roof, I had a great view of Orchha Fort and Ram Raja Temple. I then went back down the stairs, tipped my guide, and walked back to my hotel room. Once back inside the hotel room, I got to work on my much neglected journal entries (this first week in India has been very exhausting for me, so I lazed in my room in New Delhi, too mentally tired to type anything out on my laptop). I went out after 19:00 in search of a place to eat food, but with the thoughts of open defecation in my mind combined with knowledge of the diseases flies can spread, I decided to eat only packaged food today; so I bought a bag of cookies made with dried fruit, a pack of raw almonds, a Sprite, and a water. I then returned to my room and my laptop to munch down on my snacks and type some more journal entries. At 23:00, a short parade made its way on the main road through town to the Ram Raja Temple in celebration of Vivaha Panchami (actually, the hotel I’m staying at spent yesterday and today making over 5,000 fried sweets to hand out on the streets for free throughout the night on account of this festival); there was a man riding an elephant, a truck with a high stage where a singer and trumpeter were standing and singing Hindi songs (it sounded like a mix between Indian and circus music), a small group of men in bizarre costumes and white-paint walking along the road, and, at the end of the short parade, a man in a covered cart (some religious figure handing out gifts), being towed by a couple of men; also, there were several staffs with flags, strings of electric lights, and locals dancing in the street; it was one of the strangest things I’ve seen in my life (and I’ve seen all of David Lynch’s feature films). After the parade passed through, a holy man gave me a handful of nuts and raisins and then I returned to my room to go to sleep for the night.