|We were thrilled with our excellent seats on a balcony in this photo, prepared to watch the Hindu ceremonies on the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. What an experience! We wished all of our family, readers and friends, a very happy holiday season.
Today’s photos were posted on February 20, 2020, which happened to be my birthday, creating an incredibly spiritual and cultural experience in Varanasi, India, at night on the Ganges River, which proved to be one of our highlights in India experience. For the story and more photos from this post, please click here.
Over the next several days during the Christmas season, we will be sharing some photos of us and sightseeing venues, as we savored unique and fascinating experiences while on our planned initially two-month tour of India, cut short weeks early due to Covid-19.
|The priests were primarily young and agile, performing the ritual perfectly synchronized and with grace and ease.
It’s ironic how over the past nine months in lockdown, we have spent little time rejoicing over the exquisite Indian treasures we observed during the tour. Now is the time to do so. Once the lockdown began, it seemed our focus had been getting out of confinement and moving on in our world travels. It’s been a long and arduous challenge.
Last night, Tom and I discussed how grateful we are to have weathered this challenge, getting along so beautifully, overall staying upbeat, and avoiding feeling hopeless or depressed. Many of our readers have written and asked why we’ve been able to get through this unscathed, but the answer isn’t as straightforward as one might think.
|Smoke from the fire rituals wafted through the air.
Amid all this Covid-19 madness, my dear sister Susan passed away in August, with three members of my immediate family falling prey to the virus, each eventually recovering. Another stress-inducing situation was the design and development of our new website. Day after day, over many months, we experienced frustrating interruptions preventing our site from being “alive” and functioning as usual.
Fortunately, we worked with a beautiful, knowledgeable Indian company, SEO Company (based in the USA with operations in India), who was quick to respond and address the complicated issues as they appeared. Part of our service with Kate and Mital, our two tech people, is to provide a complimentary first year’s service to change and adjust aspects of our site as needed.
|A well-lit boat on the Ganges River.
A few days ago, they added a vital “plug-in,” an app that prevents us from seeing or receiving spam comments. We were getting no less than 10 of these each day, primarily pornographic spam, which required me to handle each one separately. Now, they are gone permanently, thanks to their assistance.
Of course, during this period, we’ve been concerned about a visa extension for India. But, finally, according to the country’s immigration website, visas for foreign nationals will be automatically extended up to and including 30 days after the international airport re-opens. That has not happened yet but may transpire by the end of the year.
|The young priests are highly skilled in presenting this ceremony every evening.
How did we get booked on an Emirates flight to South Africa for January 12, 2021? Some airlines and countries had special arrangements to be able to fly in and out of India. The option for South Africa didn’t appear until recently. We could have left a week earlier, but, in light of Covid-19, we chose not to travel so close to New Year’s, which undoubtedly would result in larger crowds at the airports and on flights.
Again, ironically, it was exactly nine months ago today that we had a flight booked to South Africa and were turned away at the Mumbai airport in the middle of the night, ending up returning to our original Mumbai hotel, which closed a few days later, leaving us without a place to stay.
|The crowds filtered into the area earlier in the evening as many boats moved closer to the ceremonies.
The stress of those 24 hours until we worked out details to stay here at the Courtyard By Marriott Mumbai International Airport for this duration. During the first three months or so, every day, we worried that the hotel would be forced to close with the lack of customers or Covid-19 restrictions, and once again, we’d be left with nowhere to stay. As the months rolled on, we finally were able to relax.
So, yes, we are grateful this holiday season and extend our warmest, heartfelt wishes to all of our family/friends/readers, regardless of a spiritual/religious affiliation or not, to embrace this time to reflect, refresh and renew as we make our way into a New Year, in only days to come.
|Chanting and music bellowed from this historic temple.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and embrace gratefulness.
Photo from one year ago today, December 20, 2019:
|On this date in 2013, we spotted this white mass in a tree hanging over the pool, only 15 feet, 4.5 meters from where we sit each day, waiting for visitors. It turned out to be a tree frog’s nest, which magically appeared overnight. For the year-ago story, please click here.