Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Music and Travel Vlog Ep.13 – Delhi Is Home

 

Support the project at https://andyeversole.com/be-india

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Day 13 – Delhi is Home

Day 13 – Delhi is Home

It’s amazing to me the quickness with which humans can become comfortable in their surroundings. It seems as if it’s a very ancient and profound wisdom, buried deep in our DNA. It only takes a few days, even in a place that is extremely different from what you’ve been used to, for one to become “at home” in a new place. In my travels around the globe, this happens to me over and over again, yet never ceases to create a sense of wonder about what it means to be human, and what it means to be home.

IMG_8386
Leaving Jaipur, the Pink City

This is the feeling I got upon returning to New Delhi today, after a spectacular four day jaunt through the Golden Triangle of India. This is the name for the region that is connected by New Delhi, the capital of India; Agra, which is 3 hours south and the home of the famous Taj Mahal; and Jaipur, 3 hours directly west of Agra, which is the capital of the state of Rajasthan. In this four day tour I’ve seen things that will never be forgotten, namely the image of the pristine white dome of the Taj Mahal as the sunrise began to peak through the clouds. As well as a religious and musical festival procession leading through the streets of Jaipur, that could just have well been located on a street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

IMG_8392
So thankful to catch the Shama band parading through the streets!

The day began with coffee and an omelette at our comfy Airbnb. Our driver, Samir was scheduled to meet us at 9. He was on time, and so were we. We hopped in, and began our the last leg of our tour, the 4 hour journey back to New Delhi. He stopped at the Water Palace on the way out of town, but as stated in the previous blog, I we had become wary of the tourist funnels, and I politely asked if we could just skip it and get back on the road, to which he obliged. The ride through the countryside was beautiful yet uneventful. That is, until we hit a standstill traffic jam. Traffic jams in India are a bit different, in that cars and trucks are backing out, turning around, stuck, any and all manner of traffic patterns can be found in an Indian traffic jam. The golden rule, according to Samir, is not to stop, because if you do, you could be sitting for hours. So our only path was to careen down off the highway into a farming field.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 3.08.02 AM
The only path around the traffic jam…through the fields!

It seemed like an adventurous move at first, but soon started feeling like a deathtrap. We agreed to get out and push if anything went wrong, which it certainly looked like it would. It was all tilled soil, hard dust, and mud. The first major bump got him stuck, but with a little maneuvering and some pushing, we pressed onward. The next obstacle was a gigantic mud hole with about 10 farmers just sitting around it. I suggested that Paul and I get out of the car to lighten the load a bit, and Samir went full speed ahead through the mud, slinging earth in every direction. Miraculously he made it through, we hopped back in, drove back up onto the highway, and were somehow on the other side of the traffic jam. He’s been driving these roads for over 20 years, and it showed off with this impressive display of skill, bravery, and stupidity 😉

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.45.26 AM
Rolling through the storms, traffic jams, and farm fields with Samir, the best driver in India

Pulling into our neighborhood back in Delhi, it felt like we were returning home. That’s the feeling I spoke of earlier, and it was quite stark and clear this time around. I’m really beginning to feel the heartbeat of India, the energy of it’s streets, the spirit of it’s people. It takes a minute, but once you begin to hear the melody of the song, it sounds like home.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.51.22 AM
Feeling the heartbeat of India

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Music and Travel Vlog Ep.12 – Peeling Back the Layers

 

Support the project at https://andyeversole.com/be-india

 

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Day 12 – Peeling Back the Layers

Day 12 – Peeling Back the layers

Almost nothing in India is as it seems. Layer upon layer lies in a maze of smiles, motivations, and business. As we awoke from our “designated” hotel that was “recommended” by our driver, we began to come to a realization of the whole mechanism at work. He miraculously came out outside just as we did, as he had been sleeping in the guest house at the same hotel. Which would have been fine, but the place was a dump, and we didn’t even have running water in the morning. Our plan was to find a nearby cafe for our traditional coffee and internet ritual. Our driver assured us nothing was open, and “suggested” a nearby restaurant that he knew was really good.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.08.27 AM
Entering the Pink City of Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

This was the moment I decided to jump completely off the train. We had inadvertently got ourselves wrapped up in a complex web of funnel tourism. Everything is connected. The hotels, the restaurants, the things to see, the tour guides, the demonstrations, they all provide kickbacks and favors behind the scenes. It’s a feeling like the Truman show, when you finally realize the true nature of what’s happening. Right then I decided to go off the reservation, to go rogue. I told him we would check out that restaurant, get some coffee, and call him in about 2 hours. He had a whole day of expensive pre-planned activities for us. That would be the last time we saw him for the day.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.10.15 AM
Sometimes you have to just jump in a Rickshaw and bounce!

We jumped in a rickshaw and told the driver to take us to an Indian coffee shop. There we met a very nice older gentleman who invited us to sit with him. Thus began the next web of adventures. I ordered some coffee and a tasty omelette, and enjoyed some nice conversation with our new companion.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.16.03 PM
Sharing the banjo gospel with our new friend

He was a retired teacher and writer, who was passionate about his coin collection. He loved the pursuit of gathering every American quarter from every state, and all the other half and full dollar coins of our Presidents. I told to him to soon be on the lookout for the new Trump coin, coming soon. Haha! Of course he invited us to his house for lunch, and one to hardly ever turn down these invitation, of course I accepted. We set plans for 1pm and headed to the Airbnb to check in. Compared to last night, this place was a palace. Plenty of room, very clean, swimming pool, and friendly staff.

IMG_8312
This seems to have been the check-in ritual at the Airbnb

After a 30 minute relax period we set off for our friend’s house. All we had to go on was an address, so it was a bit like a scavenger hunt. We kept getting closer and closer, asking people along the way, finding our path through a maze of cars, motorcycles, cows, alleys, and markets. We eventually found it and settled in for an awesome, simple, easy lunch. Afterward showing us his US quarter collection, he broke out some samples of his batik artwork, a specialized skill of dying cloth to make colorful images. He said they took 10-15 days to create and that he didn’t make them anymore. I expressed interest in buying one and he was surprisingly open to idea. So, I bought a couple of gifts, which by India standards, were quite expensive, and we set off down the road.

IMG_8345
Our friend and his batik work

Around the corner was our next destination, Jantar Mantar. This is a courtyard next to the Imperial palace that contained an exciting collection of ancient astronomical observation structures. All were aligned with the sun, moon, and planets to track the celestial bodies and their movements. Given my affinity for space and the stars, I always enjoy these ancient astronomy sights. At the end of the tour there was a traditional Rajasthani band playing music and selling handmade puppets.

IMG_8369
The ancient astronomical structures of Jantar Mantar

They saw my instrument on my back, and invited me to sit in with them. This was my first true jam while in India, so I was really excited to play. We played for about five minutes, occasionally creating some special musical moments. As the crowd began to gather around, so did the security guards, and they asked me to stop playing, much to the ire of everyone enjoying it. Alas, the perils of a life filled with banjo.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 2.21.53 AM
Jams with the street band at Jantar Mantar

The rest of the day was filled with swimming, dinner, and a nighttime search for live music, which was largely unsuccessful. We did find a dance club and a rooftop bar however, and enjoyed our last night in Jaipur sipping a Kingfisher beer and showing off our best dance moves.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 3.15.15 PM
Dancing the night away in Jaipur

Though all is not as it seems, and the layers must be peeled back and continuously untangled, the heart of India beats strong and true. It’s hidden away, packed deep inside of a loaf of naan bread. But once you find it, once you see it’s true colors, your life is forever changed.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.33.04 PM
The heart of India beats strong and true

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Music and Travel Vlog Ep.11 – The Golden Triangle

 

Support the project at https://andyeversole.com/be-india

 

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Day 11 – The Golden Triangle

Day 11 – The Golden Triangle

5:15 comes early. We get ourselves together, pack our gear, and meet the guide by 5:30 at our home stay gate. The morning is quiet but windy, as a rainstorm and cloud cover moves in. I can feel the electricity in the air, and in my body. Today we have just a 10 minute walk to one of the most amazing structures in the world, The Taj Mahal. Our guide, Imran, leads us along the road to the grounds, briskly. Though it’s 5:30 in the morning, the crowds are already beginning to arrive.

AHE00730
Entrance to the Grounds

Sunrise at the the Taj is one of the most coveted experiences available to us earthly mortal humans. We get our tickets, shoe covers, bottled water, and the tour begins. He begins explaining to us the history, the different structures surrounding, and the meaning of all the symbolism. The symmetry of every last detail is incredible. It’s all laid out perfectly, according to the math, the sun, and the Muslim religion behind its creation. All together, you get a feeling of cosmic wonder and amazement, mixed with the exactness of mathematical perfection.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.06.53 AM
Through the Gate

As we walk through the main gate, the white marble of the main structure seems to rise right out of the ground and right up to heaven. The majestic emotions you feel when you first come upon it are hard to describe with words. Only music, love, the birdsong, and the monkeys perched along the tops of the surrounding walls seem to hint at its deeper message. Though the clouds protect us from the sun, it peaks its face out a few times, glistening and parading through a spectrum of colors that reflect off of the pristine white marble of the dome. As the sun finally breaks through completely, spiritual bliss takes hold, and the poem with which this amazing monument to love was written, is finally recited in its entirety.

IMG_8165
Sunrise at the amazing Taj Mahal

After leaving the grounds, we are whisked off by our driver, guide, and a whole concoction of tourist trap mechanisms designed to separate us from our money. I always respect the hustle, but finally begin to glimpse all of the instruments at work in this symphony of capitalism. They take us to a “presentation” of the primitive stone and wooden tools used to create all of the elegant marble work found in the mausoleum. After explaining the technique for a few minutes, he leads us downstairs and begins one of the most impressive sales jobs I’ve seen. Beautiful marble artwork fills several rooms, ranging from huge dinner tables to miniature elephants. My Banjo Earth budget forbids me to partake in these activities, though that chess set was amazing. After some hard nose negotiations, Paul buys a gift for his girlfriend and we’re off.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.10.30 AM
The stone art “presentation”

After fully coming to a realization of what was really happening, I politely declined the next “presentation”. We instead opted for a spot behind the Taj Mahal, which gave us a far off view of the dome and a great opportunity for a banjo video. Though this experience is the opportunity of a lifetime, it was only 12pm, and we still had half a day to go. So, we dropped off our guide, tipped him, and began our 4 hour trek to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan.

IMG_8236
Recording in the fields behind the Taj

Sleep took me over for the first part of the drive, but after wakening, I was treated to a beautiful drive through the countryside of India. Wheat fields, brick smokestacks, women carrying things on their head, camels, buffalo, peacocks, kids playing pick-up games of India’s national pastime, cricket…It was all there. This drive really began to give me a sense of the vastness, the beauty, the truth, that is India.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.18.25 AM
Driving through the Indian countryside

Just before reaching Jaipur, we stopped at a place called the Monkey Temple. It is a series of temples and structures tucked away on a mountain, that house three to four thousand monkeys. Our first stop was the Temple of Shiva, the Cobra Goddess, where I was anointed with an orange design on my forehead. As went went further back in the mountain, the monkeys began gathering around. Five or ten here, twenty more there, until there were hundreds all around us, jumping, walking, playing, and occasionally fighting. As you hand them a peanut, their human like five fingered paws reach out to take them like a small infant, but with the grace and curiosity of an old soul.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.29.41 AM
Just monkeying around the Monkey Temple

There is a natural amphitheater at the very top of the mountain filled with water that provided a perfect place for some music. I got out the banjo, pulled out my slide, and played my tune “9 finger Blues” to the Gods, the monkeys, myself, and anyone else who dared to listen.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 2.31.44 AM
A little bit of that 9 Finger Blues

As darkness began to set in, the guide warned is it was time to go, as the leapord who lives at the top of the mountain would be coming down soon. We headed out, got back in the car with Samir, and settled into to our overly modest hotel for a night of somewhat restless sleep. These are the days of Banjo Earth: India.

IMG_8261
The Monkey Temple is an unforgettable place, just off the beaten path

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Music and Travel Vlog Ep.10 – Journey to Taj Mahal

 

Support the project at https://andyeversole.com/be-india

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Day 10 – Journey to Taj Mahal

Day 10

Journey to Taj Mahal
We are excited to get out of Delhi for a few days. I’ve been here now for over a week, and though I am quite fond of the place, I’m ready to visit some other parts of this incredible country. Today the plan is to visit one of the most iconic buildings on the planet, the enigmatic and spectacular Taj Mahal. Our idea is to catch a day train into Agra, the location of the Taj Mahal, spend the night in an Airbnb, and ride the train back tomorrow to Delhi. So we pack our things, and head out of the house around noon to get this next adventure started.
Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 1.49.57 PM
Central Delhi Train Station
Finding our way to the train station and buying a ticket feels sort of like stumbling through the dark. We find the station no problem, but the ticket buying process is not that easy. The teller same something in hindi and points us off in another direction. There is an older guy standing by who sees what is happening, and directs us to the foreign tourist office which is around 2 kilometers away. He walks us outside and gets a rickshaw ride to the office. The driver is a wild man and seems to think he is a helicopter, which makes for an interesting ride to the office. But we make it with no incidents to speak of, and sit down for some travel negotiations.
Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 1.54.37 PM
Life in the fast lane
As we look at the available trains, he informs us that the trains are actually, no trains available. They all seem to be sold out for the day. He assures that he can provide us our own personal driver for the trip, and that also we should really think about spending a few more days going to Jaipur and seeing more of India along the way. I’m not sure if this was the plan all along, but it seems to start making sense. This guy is quite the salesman. We end up agreeing to a three day trip with a personal driver, Samir, who walks in at the end of our negotiations, and we’re soon off on our journey.
Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 1.58.30 PM
With Samir Khan, the best taxi driver in India
Samir is really nice guy, and I’m glad he’s our host for this journey. As we start to head out, he asks if it’s ok that he stop by a tire shop near his house to get a new tire for the car, and says we can come in for a visit with his family and to have some tea. Of course, I say sure, no problem, and before too long, we are in a very strange, very dirty neighborhood, walking up flights of stair to his apartment. Inside we find his wife and three daughters, who seem delighted to see us. I play some banjo for them, and as usual, that works to really warm them up to us. It’s amazing the power the banjo has to open doors and hearts in this world. After hanging for awhile, we get some gas, air in the tires, and we’re back on the road to Agra.
Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 2.03.22 PM
The road to Agra
It’s about a three hour drive from Delhi to the Taj Mahal. The drive is a beautiful journey through the Indian countryside, which is full of wheat fields, brick firing smoke stacks, and the occasional camel, buffalo, peacock, and cricket game. I thoroughly enjoy the ride and all of the conversations I had with Samir as Paul slept in the back seat. We covered love, life, politics, Indian and American culture, work, and all kinds of other pressing matters.. We reach Agra around dark, check into our Airbnb, and settle in for the night.
IMG_8111
Banjo Earth at the Agra Airbnb 
On the rooftop of the building, we can see the outline of the majestic Taj Mahal in the distance, and it really gets me excited for our sunrise visit to this amazing place. After a short walk, dinner, and catching up on some administrative matters, it’s time for bed. Hopefully pleasant dreams of love and light await. Another full day of wonder and adventure for the Banjo Earth crew.
IMG_8113
The shadow of the Taj Mahal excites me for tomorrow’s sunrise visit

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Music and Travel Vlog Ep.9 – Rest and Recharge

 

Support the project at https://andyeversole.com/be-india

Andy Eversole – Banjo Earth: India – Day 9 – Rest and Recharge

Day 9

Rest and Recharge
After going and going and going since arrival, today was a much needed day full of rest, relaxation, and recharging. I woke up feeling pretty rundown and dilapidated. The delhi belly from the last few days was getting old, and I also have seemed to catch some sort of respiratory issue. Naps throughout the day, eating only nuts and oatmeal, and a couple of neighborhood walks filled out my activities. Sometimes you just have listen to your body and obey it’s commands. It will tell you what it needs to be at optimal working order.
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.21.22 PM
Or was it?
Despite the lack of adventurous activities today, interesting things did indeed find their way to me anyway. I set out for a long walk to explore the Qutab Manar, the tallest single tower in the world. It is a Muslim work of art and worship, and signaled the beginning of their reign of Northern India many years ago. We’ve seen it majestically rising to the sky on our rickshaw rides home, and I’ve been very interested to give it a look. As Paul periodically slept and edited video throughout the day, I set out on this 2 mile walk to check it out. However, what I though was a road to walk there, turned out to be the metro line, so I ended up in this strange but interesting Muslim neighborhood. You can tell the differences between Buddhist, Hindi, and Muslim neighborhoods by the vibe, energy, and music coming from the speakers. This was definitely a Muslim neighborhood, and though many of the people were very friendly, there was another edge present that I had been unfamiliar with. I did not feel threatened or scared in any way, but I also did not feel as if my presence was wholly welcomed. So, I snapped a few photos and videos, and made my way back toward the house.
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.20.35 PM
The friendly butcher
On my way home, I was stopped by a very friendly Indian man who owned a nursery with his family. He invited me in for tea and cookies. As we was clearly not taking no for an answer, I came in with him and sat down for a nice chat and a wonderful cup of hot chai tea. I showed him some of my Banjo Earth youtube videos, and he introduced me to Mia Khalifa, and Indian porn star living in America! Haha!
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.22.07 PM
Chillin’ at the nursery
The day went on as before, with more rest and relaxation, charging up the batteries for the exciting and full days of travel just around the corner. Only one more trip to get a couple of beers for my partner and I would be the only other adventure today. This time though, as  I walked down the street, I noticed the trash and urine and other unsavories along the avenue started to affect me more. One side of our main street is basically a landfill and bathroom, with people openly peeing and dropping off trash, while the other side of the street is essentially vendors and car mechanics. I just really began to notice my own impatience with the dirtiness of the street, and the willingness of everyone to openly use this area as a public bathroom. I know this is a different culture, and I respect the fact that I am in their country, but I couldn’t help to become somewhat tired of the unsanitary conditions. There is such a contrast in India between the public spaces such as this, and the temples, mosques, and insides of peoples homes that are kept spotless and held with high reverence. Soon our travels will lead us out of Delhi and into other parts of India, which I’m finding to be a welcome change.
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.47.11 PM
Street-side restroom
So I grabbed a couple of Kingfisher beers from the store, headed home, got them cold, and Paul and I drank a little, talked, and then it was time for bed. We’ve got exciting travels tomorrow as we are headed to Agra to see one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. Onward we go!
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.21.42 PM
Onward we go!