Dallas Smith's Blog

Our Seventh Week in India

From Mumbai to Khajurajo to New Delhi

Enjoying six weeks in Mumbai

 Susan shipped one of her harps and left it in Mumbai with her harp student in order to have it for our future visits.  We performed more concerts during our six weeks than we typically do during the whole year in Reno.  The audiences are very receptive to our music.  They make us feel like stars!  As lifelong musicians, performing in India is very artistically and professionally satisfying. 

Life in Mumbai is not perfect.  Traffic is a nightmare.  I told this joke at several concerts:  Telling a visitor to Mumbai that they may experience some traffic is like telling a Titanic passenger that they may experience some moisture. 

Beggars are a problem.  The hit movie Slumdog Millionaire showed the cruelty of the beggar trade controlled by organized crime groups.  That is the unfortunate reality, and it’s good that Slumdog Millionaire didn’t sugarcoat it.  We were often approached by groups of women beggars, who were dressed nicely and visible all day every day at certain street corners. Our friend Rajesh told us of confronting a relatively young fit man who was begging.  Rajesh asked him why did didn’t get a job, since he was in good health.  The man replied to Rajesh that he made more money begging than he would in a regular job.  I made it my practice to give only to visibly deserving, that is amputees or older individuals who were unable to work and in obvious need.  Even if one wanted to, there are just too many beggars to give to all of them.

Mumbai is the site of Asia’s largest slum, Dhairavi.  It’s home to over a million people, who have small businesses, producing handicrafts such as leather goods, which are traditionally produced only by the lower castes.  Indeed, though it’s officially illegal, the caste system persists.  In my previous blog, I related how I had violated caste traditions by touching the lower caste man’s shoes. 

When people ask me how I cope with the poor people, my answer is:  Yes, they are materially poor, but they are spiritually rich.  Their culture, religions, and traditions give them the tools to cope with their circumstances.  The belief in reincarnation and the law of karma allows them to survive and thrive in spite of their poverty. 

Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves a mixed review.  On the positive side, Modi has managed to kick up industrial development. All Indian political parties are rife with corruption.  Apparently, Modi is less corrupt than his opposing parties.  Last year for the first time, we traveled on new roads which are comparable to our interstate highways. Modi also seems to be skilled in international diplomacy.  He plays up India’s being a counterbalance to China in the world’s international conflicts.

 But there is a strong negative side to Narendra Modi.  His BJP party has embraced Hindu nationalism, attempting to revoke India’s tradition of secular pluralism and replace it with Hindu religious dominance at the expense of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and any other non-Hindu sects.  Muslims in particular have been targeted.

In addition, Modi has attacked the press, banning and imprisoning journalists who dared to criticize him.  His autocratic repression extended to jailing his political opponents.  The remaining media acts as a political tool for Modi.  He is projected to win a third term in the current ongoing election process.

The parallels between Modi and Trump reveal that Modi is doing what Trump would like to do in case he is elected: prosecute his opponents, shut down any opposition press, and support the most radical religious fanatics, Hindus in India and MAGA Christians in the US.

New Delhi

India is a land of contrasts.  We had the opportunity to spend two days in New Delhi at the end of our India visit.  Delhi makes a much more modern impression than Mumbai.  Traffic moved freely on modern highways.  An elevated commuter train reduced the traffic by transporting passengers faster than in their cars.   Mumbai traffic is marked by many old cars, including the signature red and black taxis that have been on the streets for decades. (Air-conditioned taxis are blue.)  New Delhi traffic didn’t have any of those old vehicles.  Also, New Delhi did not have the many small vendors and street residents that one sees in Mumbai. I didn’t see any slum communities.


Besides visiting New Delhi during our last week in India, we took an overnight train from Mumbai to the largest railroad station near the famous temples in the village of Khajuraho.  I had wanted Susan to experience riding in the Indian train system, which was constructed by the British during India’s two-century colonial period. 

Our friend Kirit met us in Khajuraho and introduced us to his friends there.  Kirit, who lives in New Delhi, owns property near Khajuraho and has close friends there.  He helped arrange for a driver to pick us at the railroad station for the two-hour drive on a new superhighway to Khajuraho.  His friends owned the hotel where we stayed, who arranged a guide for our temple tours.

Khajuraho’s fame is based on a number of thousand-year-old temples that contain thousands of sculptures, of which only 3% are shockingly erotic.  The many temples’ sculptures represent the major Hindu gods, wars, battles, and orgies.  These sculptures represent a society that was obviously more sexually free than current Indian society.  What happened? Why?  There is no written history to document the nature of Indian society during that time.   Only the Hindu gods and goddesses have persisted through the many centuries that have elapsed since Khajuraho’s heyday. 

Our temple guide explained that the erotic sculptures represent the teachings of the Kama Sutra, and ancient Hindu tract which offers sexual instructions.  The point of the Kama Sutra instructions is to instruct the focusing of sexual energies toward the highest spiritual ideals.  The sculptures are also representations of symbolic sensuality between Hindu deities.  Many of the sculptures demonstrate extreme yoga expertise in their positions. 

Khajuraho and its surroundings demonstrate “old India.”  Some villagers live the same agrarian lifestyles that their generations of ancestors did.  The new super highways will make it easier for tourists to visit Khajuraho.  The general trend in India has been for village men to migrate to cities like Mumbai and New Delhi to look for work.  Apart from agriculture, there are no jobs in the villages.  Surplus vegetables, fruits, and grains feed the big cities.  Mumbai is one of the world’s ten largest cities in the world with over twenty million inhabitants.   


Jainism is one India's minor religions. (Zoroastrians/Parsis are another...) Jain's are famous for their strict vegetarianism.  Their belief in reincarnation is so strong that priests sweep the temple walkways to avoid the potential inadvertent death of a stray insect.  On an opposite side of Khajuraho from the Hindu statues are a complex of Jain temples.  They are quite similar in design and appearance as the Hindu temples, but with no erotic sculptures.  To those readers interested in the statement of beliefs on Jainism, expand the photo of Jain beliefs to make them readable.

My photo gallery for this final blog about our India trip features the famous erotic sculptures found in the temples of Khajuraho.  Click on individual photos to enlarge them and see the brief descriptions.  All photos in this blog text are from Khajuraho locations.


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