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Awakening at the Sunrise Suite

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Gateway to India

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“Someday,” I promised Iris, unable to completely quell my bourgeois roots,  “I will take us there in grand style.” It didn’t happen like that.

In the fall of 1972, a year into marriage and our first jobs, my bride, Iris, and I agreed that if Richard Nixon was reelected U.S. President, we would leave the country for as long as our money lasted. On November 8, we laid a world map on the floor of our one-bedroom in Boston and chose India. The book that compelled us was Be Here Now, by the former Harvard psychologist Richard Alpert, who’d changed his name to Baba Ram Dass after finding a guru in the foothills of the Himalayas. Iris wanted to find that guru; I went along for the Kiplingesque journey.  Three months later we found ourselves in a funky hotel just off New Delhi’s Connaught Place in the city center where snake charmers and masseurs tried to charm naïve Western tourists out of newly converted rupees. It was a different India then. This was 30 years before “Brand India” and “Incredible India!” and “Call Center India.”  We hit some of the traditional tourist spots—the Taj Mahal in Agra, the erotic temples of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, the Red Fort in Old Delhi, the burning ghats along the Ganges River in Benares. We t …

Perry Garfinkel is the author of Buddha or Bust. A longtime contributor to the New York Times, and a teacher of writing, he returns to India frequently. 


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TravelPersonal EssayIndia

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