1.16.14: The Guiding Light

India is the land of The Guide. Be it commerce, spirituality or tourist attraction, there’s always an insistent somebody hovering at the gate, champing at the bit to interpret, explain, or pave the way for you. But the guides for us are the guides who don’t claim to be guides. Who don’t even consider themselves guides. The ones you run into unexpectedly, almost by surprise. Guides in disguise. Like Bulli, in Varanasi who takes you to all the right places in record time, hopped up on paan and masala chai. Like Mohammed, the 10-year-old charmer at Fatehpur Sikri’s Jama Masjid who in theory is supposed to lure folks over to his family’s trinket shop by the elephant tower but is really a happy, snappy fountain of knowledge fluent in six languages who instantly dubs Paolo “Ali Baba” and proceeds to dole out a steady stream of fun facts on architecture, history and religion while also pointing out the best photo ops and keeping us from stepping on dead bees in our shoeless feet. And like Dharmender, the genial driver who is going to take us on a whirlwind tour of Rajasthan and shows up for the trip with flower garlands, a tin full of homemade Kite Festival sweets and amazing music on the stereo. Let’s hit the road!


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