On the flight from Newark to Delhi, I picked up a few fellow students engaged in my study abroad program. We had booked a short stay in the Delhi Holiday Inn airport hotel. We figured we’d make the most of our seven-hour layover and try to catch a little shut-eye before our 5am flight. Problem was, our flight out of Newark was delayed – by hours – so our seven hours became five. And, it turned out, the lengthy time needed to negotiate the security and other protocol variables of accessing the hotel meant we had about 2.5 hours of rest time. And that was interrupted by people taking up a game of tennis outside our window – at two in the morning. All in all, the hotel was hardly worth the lodging fee. But at least we got a much-needed shower before heading off to Pune.
Once there, we set out immediately to see some of Pune’s sites, determined not to sleep until sunset to allow us to acclimate to Indian time. We visited Parvinder Temple, atop a hill with at least 150 rough-hewn steps to the top. Each one was worth it, because the view of the city was fabulous!
As we climbed, we passed a shanty-town where dogs and goats lay down together and napped in the sun, and a cave where dogs and pigs shared slumber. The common denominator here, I was to learn, was dogs. They are ubiquitous in India, living without home or owner, feral and mostly just barely surviving. Typically skin and bones, and skittish, these were the first of a great number of dogs I would encounter while in India.
Before we drifted off to sleep that evening, we’d had the chance to visit Aga Khan Palace, where Mahatma Ghandi had been incarcerated by the British for daring to incite dreams of an independent India, and Pataleshwar Cave Temple, where Shiva reigned over a dark corridor of rock, and a giant banyan tree dominated the adjacent grounds. A good night’s rest was an imperative, since the next morning we were heading off to the Western Ghats, home to lush rainforest and sacred groves.