“Would You Get This For Me,” part II

As I told you in last week’s posting, some of the most authentic experiences we have had while traveling have come from when friends have asked us to get something specific for them.   Our search for the saffron-colored bowtie in Jodhpur, India took us on a memorable day-long adventure.  We visited Sambhali, a charitable organization where we met interesting women whose lives had been elevated from desperate poverty to success, prosperity and pride of ownership. 

Our second adventure in Jodhpur originated from a comment made by a friend back home who has psoriasis.  Her dermatologist had prescribed one of the new “biologics” which unfortunately was not covered by her insurance plan.  She had used up her samples which she had received in a free offer and the medication was working extremely well.  The cash price for this item was over $700 per month. 

By chance, a few days before we traveled independently to Jodhpur, we were spending the day with an Indian friend’s cousin who happened to be a doctor.  We were discussing with him the high price of certain medications in the US. 

Dr. Bakin Nayak, the cousin of our friend Raj in the US

“Let me check how much it costs in India,” he told us as he typed in the name of the medication on an app in his cellphone.

“You’re going to be happy about this,” he continued as he converted the amount into American currency.

“About $27!” 

While we were in Jodhpur, we asked the front-desk person in the hotel where we would be able to find a reliable pharmacy.  It turned out to be within a 10-minute walk through some of the most interesting city scenes we had seen during our trip.  

Jodhpur is known as “the Blue City” since many of its buildings are blue

Jodhpur is a large city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.  It is known as “The Blue City” because many of the homes painted in a shade of blue.  From the higher elevations of the city, such as from the famous Mehrangarh Fort, the city appears blue.  

Most of Jodhpur’s main streets are unpaved.  Cows roam freely among the cars, bikes, motorcycles and hordes of pedestrians.  Vendors line both sides of the streets selling absolutely everything.  It is noisy, colorful and overwhelmingly chaotic, but that is what makes India so fascinating to visit. 

On the way to the pharmacy, we stopped every few feet to take pictures of the women in their colorful saris,

Friendly people in the street

the pious Sadhus begging for a few coins,

and the ubiquitous slowly-moving sacred cows blocking traffic. 

Adults and children were generally friendly and many were interested in speaking with us since this is not the usual place to find American tourists.

Friendly Jodhpur teens

 One group of bejeweled Hindu women in their brightly-colored wedding outfits struck up a conversation with my wife, Meryl, and within a few minutes we were invited to her wedding, unfortunately taking place on the weekend after we were leaving.  That would have been an amazing experience!

Sister of the bride-to-be

When we arrived at the pharmacy, I was told that they would be able to get the item from the warehouse within an hour.  No prescription or medical documentation was required.  

Our friendly pharmacist in Jodhpur

While we waited, we continued to observe the constant flow of people and animals on the street.    At no time during these walks did we ever feel any sense of trepidation.  The people observed us with as much interest as we watched them.  

We ordered a three-month supply of the medication and asked if we could obtain more if needed.   Our friend back home was certainly happy with the price and our assurance that we had received from our doctor-friend that the quality of the particular pharmaceutical company. 

Later that evening, we researched on the internet about any problems we might encounter bringing this medication through American customs.  Unfortunately, it warned us that without a prescription, the medication in a large quantity could be confiscated, so we elected to stick with the small supply that we had initially bought. 

As it turned out, when we returned to the US, we were surprised that no one checked our luggage and the customs officials did not ask us anything about what we were bringing home.  The entire customs operation seemed to be a random effort of illegal drug interdiction done by drug-sniffing dogs.

We returned several times to that same chaotic location during our four-day stay in Jodhpur because it was one continuous photographic opportunity.  Since we were at the end of a month tour of India, we were already saturated with visits to forts, shrines and other notable tourist sites.

Just being able to walk through the streets of Jodhpur was an amazing experience.  When they call it “Incredible India,” they weren’t kidding!  To be able to visit this country is such an unbelievable treat, and sometimes an assault, to all your senses.  We feel very grateful that we were able to complete this trip only a month before the country was closed to tourism due to the Pandemic. 

Yes, India is Incredible!

In Part III, I will tell you the story of the adventure we had in Spain a few years ago when a Spanish friend back home found out that we were passing through the area where she had come from.   It was another example of the “authentic field trips” that we have enjoyed while traveling.      

“Would You Get This For Me?” (Part I)

Have you ever been on a trip and someone asked you to get them something specific from the place where you were traveling?

On our trip to India last year, we had a few interesting experiences as a result of special requests from friends back at home. 

The first was from a friend who asked me if I would pick him up a specially-colored bowtie.  He wanted a “saffron-colored bowtie” which would go well with an outfit his wife was wearing to a holiday party. 

We took his request seriously, so anytime we were in a clothing store during our tour around the country, we looked for this special item. After checking in many locations, we determined that this was not something that was going to be easy to find.  We decided to wait until the end of our trip when we were going to be traveling on our own to the city of Jodhpur. 

Jodhpur is in the northwestern part of India in the state of Rajasthan.

As an aside, we often like to end our trips with a separate independent excursion.   After we have been traveling with a group where all the details are being taken care of by a tour leader, it is fun to see how we can function on our own within the country. 

We have done this almost every time we have traveled, both after cruises and group land trips.  Rather than rushing back to the airport to head home, we have found that this additional three or four-day excursion is a memorable way to end our time abroad.  We call it our “cool-down period” and it literally gives us the opportunity to slowly and deliberately enjoy a slower pace than what we had become accustomed to while we were with a large group rushing around with a tour guide.

After our tour in India ended, we had stayed an additional three days in Mumbai so that we could we met up with cousins of Indian friends from back home.  Then we flew from Mumbai to Jodhpur which in itself was an interesting experience because we didn’t have the services of a tour guide.. When we arrived in Jodhpur, we were met by a driver who took us to RAAS, a luxury hotel which was within a walled compound directly in the city.  We felt very comfortable venturing out into the city but it was a pleasure to come back to the quieter, protected confines of this hotel.

We began our search in earnest for the bowtie in many of the shops near the hotel.   By chance, one shop owner recommended another store down the street which was the outlet for a European NGO (non-governmental organization).   The owner showed us his inventory of ties and shirts but suggested that if we wanted to have something custom-made in a special color, we should visit the home base of the NGO and they would be able to make it while we waited. 

Sambhali: Self-esteem, Unity and Independence

The NGO turned out to be a group home in a large, converted mansion located about a half-hour outside the city. 

This converted mansion, known in India as a “bungalow”, is the home of Sambhali.

We arranged for private transportation (a motorized rickshaw) and spent the morning learning about how over the years, hundreds of women have been rescued from poverty through the generosity of European donors.  Mothers and their children who would have otherwise been homeless were given the opportunity to learn a skill (in this case sewing) and were subsequently set up in business for themselves after they had completed the training course. 

The women and their children seated on the floor where they were sewing customized yoga mats.

While we were at the home to about 12 women, we were shown their workplace where we selected the material in the specific saffron color. 

Cutting our chosen fabric to make the bowtie
Applying decorative henna to the arm of her colleague who was getting married that weekend.

While we waited for our item to be completed, we talked to the women who were busy sewing yoga mats for a Swedish donor who had traveled to India to see the working conditions of the women who were creating her product.  We also watched as one of the older women applied the decorative henna to the arm of her co-worker who was getting married that weekend. 

After returning to the area near our hotel, we visited one of the successful “graduates” of the program who had her own shop selling many of the sewn items. 

Sanju’s boutique

It was wonderful to hear Sanju’s story and to share her pride in having risen from poverty to a middle-class shop owner.   


We love these “authentic experiences” while we were traveling especially when they are spontaneous and unplanned in advance. This was a welcome break from the tourist sites that we had been visiting for the past three weeks.   These “field trips” provide us with a much more realistic view of the foreign country.   

In next week’s installment, I will tell you about the next request we were able to fulfill while visiting the same city of Jodhpur. 

“¿Podrías conseguirme esto?,” parte 1

¿Alguna vez ha estado de viaje y alguien le pidió que le consiguiera algo específico del lugar al que viajaba?

En nuestro viaje a la India el año pasado, tuvimos algunas experiencias interesantes como resultado de solicitudes especiales de amigos en casa.

La primera fue de un amigo que me preguntó si le compraría una pajarita de un color especial. Quería una “pajarita color azafrán” que iría bien con un atuendo que su esposa usaba para una fiesta navideña.

Tomamos en serio su solicitud, así que cada vez que estábamos en una tienda de ropa durante nuestro recorrido por el país, buscábamos este artículo especial, pero después de registrarnos en muchos lugares, determinamos que esto no era algo que iba a ser fácil de encontrar. Decidimos esperar hasta el final de nuestro viaje cuando íbamos a viajar solos a la ciudad de Jodhpur.

Además, a menudo nos gusta terminar nuestros viajes con una excursión independiente separada. Después de haber viajado con un grupo donde todos los detalles están siendo atendidos por un guía turístico, es divertido ver cómo podemos funcionar por nuestra cuenta dentro del país.

Lo hemos hecho casi todas las veces que hemos viajado, tanto después de los cruceros como de los viajes terrestres en grupo. En lugar de regresar corriendo al aeropuerto para regresar a casa, hemos descubierto que esta excursión adicional de tres o cuatro días es una forma memorable de terminar nuestro tiempo en el extranjero. Lo llamamos nuestro “período de enfriamiento” (our “cooldown period”) y literalmente nos da la oportunidad de disfrutar deliberadamente a un ritmo más lento de lo que nos habíamos acostumbrado mientras estábamos con un grupo grande corriendo con un guía turístico.

Jodhpur, una ciudad en el estado de Rajasthan

Después de que terminó nuestra gira por la India, nos quedamos tres días más en Mumbai para poder reunirnos con primos de amigos indios de nuestro país. Luego volamos de Mumbai a Jodhpur, lo que en sí mismo fue una experiencia interesante porque no teníamos los servicios de un guía turístico. Cuando llegamos a Jodhpur, nos recibió un conductor que nos llevó a RAAS, un hotel de lujo que estaba dentro un recinto amurallado directamente en la ciudad. Nos sentimos muy cómodos al aventurarnos en la ciudad, pero fue un placer volver a los confines más tranquilos y protegidos de este hotel.

Comenzamos nuestra búsqueda en serio de la pajarita en muchas de las tiendas cercanas al hotel. Por casualidad, el propietario de una tienda recomendó otra tienda que era la salida de una ONG europea (organización no gubernamental). El propietario nos mostró su inventario de corbatas y camisas, pero sugirió que si queríamos tener algo hecho a medida en un color especial, deberíamos visitar la base de operaciones de la ONG y podrían hacerlo mientras esperábamos.

La ONG Sambhali: autoestima, unidad e independencia

La ONG resultó ser una casa de grupo en una gran mansión reconvertida ubicada aproximadamente a media hora fuera de la ciudad.

Esta mansion convertida, conocida en India como “bungalow”, es le hogar de Sambhali.

Organizamos transporte privado (un rickshaw motorizado) y pasamos la mañana aprendiendo cómo a lo largo de los años, cientos de mujeres han sido rescatadas de la pobreza gracias a la generosidad de donantes europeos. Las madres y sus hijos, que de otro modo habrían quedado sin hogar, tuvieron la oportunidad de aprender una habilidad (en este caso, coser) y posteriormente se establecieron en el negocio por sí mismos después de haber completado el curso de capacitación.

Las mujeres y sus hijos sentados en el suelo donde cosían esterillas de yoga personalizadas

Mientras estábamos en la casa de unas 12 mujeres, nos mostraron su lugar de trabajo donde seleccionamos el material en el color azafrán específico.

Cortar nuestra tela elegida para hacer la pajarita
Aplicando henna decorativa en el brazo de su colega que se iba a casar ese fin de semana.

Mientras esperábamos que nuestro artículo estuviera terminado, hablamos con las mujeres que estaban ocupadas cosiendo tapetes de yoga para un donante sueco que había viajado a la India para ver las condiciones laborales de las mujeres que estaban creando su producto. También vimos como una de las mujeres mayores aplicaba la henna decorativa en el brazo de su compañera de trabajo que se iba a casar ese fin de semana.

Después de regresar al área cercana a nuestro hotel, visitamos a una de las “graduadas” exitosas del programa que tenía su propia tienda vendiendo muchos de los artículos cosidos.

La boutique de Sanju

Fue maravilloso escuchar su historia y compartir su orgullo de haber pasado de la pobreza a ser dueña de una tienda de clase media.


Nos encantan estas “experiencias auténticas” mientras viajamos, especialmente cuando son espontáneas y no planificadas de antemano. Fue un descanso bienvenido de los sitios turísticos que habíamos estado visitando durante las últimas tres semanas. Estos “viajes de campo” nos brindan una visión mucho más realista del país extranjero.

En la entrega de la próxima semana, les contaré sobre la próxima solicitud que pudimos cumplir mientras visitábamos la misma ciudad de Jodhpur.

Es Un Mundo Pequeño

Antes de que mi esposa y yo fuéramos a la India por primera vez el año pasado, hice arreglos con algunos amigos indios para encontrarnos con sus primos en Mumbai después de que terminara nuestra gira.

El primero era primo de amigos judíos indios de Florida. Hemos conocido a muchos miembros de sus familias extensas de nuestro amigos cuando visitaron los Estados Unidos y también varias veces en Melbourne, Australia, donde vive la mayor parte de sus familias.

El primo, Abraham Moses y su esposa pasaron el día con nosotros y nos mostraron muchos de los sitios judíos en Mumbai. La mayoría de las personas desconocen por completo la antigua población judía en la India (una vez más de 50.000), principalmente en el área de Mumbai. Su número ha disminuido debido a la migración a Israel, Estados Unidos, Canadá y Australia. Los barrios que pueden haber tenido muchos judíos han sido reemplazados por una población musulmana e hindú. En las imágenes, se puede ver cómo las sinagogas han sido rodeadas por apartamentos destartalados y algunos rascacielos de nueva construcción.

Ellos nos llevaron a varios lugares que nunca hubiéramos podido visitar. Vimos la sinagoga donde se casaron nuestros amigos en Florida hace 25 años. También nos llevaron a un magnífico restaurante de mariscos llamado Trishna. Era como si estuviéramos visitando a unos primos perdidos.

La sinagoga en Mumbai donde se casaron nuestros amigos en Florida
El interior de la sinagoga
Frente al arca de la sinagoga

Curiosamente, los judíos en India casi nunca han experimentado incidentes antisemitas como en otros países con una gran mayoría musulmana. A pesar de una gran migración hacia el exterior, especialmente entre los más jóvenes y más educados, los judíos restantes no sienten ningún prejuicio. Históricamente, había muchos judíos en el ejército, el gobierno y la industria cinematográfica.

Una vista de las viviendas junto a la sinagoga

El primo, Dr. Bakin Nayak, al Museo de la Ciudad de Mumbai

Al día siguiente habíamos acordado encontrarnos con el primo de mi otro amigo indio de Florida, esta vez un primo hindú, Bakin, que también es médico.

Quería mostrarnos algunos lugares fuera de lo común en Mumbai, así que cuando nos conoció, preguntó si había algo que aún no habíamos visto. Le dijimos que no solo habíamos visto todos los sitios turísticos habituales, sino que el día anterior teníamos un tour judío especializado.

Inmediatamente, sus oídos se animaron. Me preguntó el nombre del primo judío de Mumbai. Bakin nos explicó que desde que era un niño, su mejor amigo era un niño judío que había dejado la India después de estudiar medicina con él y que había emigrado a Australia. Se mantuvieron amistosos y se mantuvieron en contacto casi todos los días.

Resultó que este médico australiano vivía en Tasmania donde ejerce la psiquiatría. Su hermano vive en Melbourne y, por coincidencia, estaba casado con la hermana de nuestro amigo indio judío de Florida. Habíamos conocido a esta hermana durante nuestros viajes allí, pero no a su esposo.

Nuestro nuevo médico amigo de Mumbai estaba tan emocionado con esta increíble coincidencia que llamó a su mejor amigo en Tasmania mientras conducía. Según sus creencias hindúes, este era un ejemplo perfecto de karma. Le expliqué que el pueblo judío ve el mismo fenómeno como un ejemplo de “bashert” o destino.

Nuestro segundo día de visita a “nuestros primos indios” también fue un gran éxito. Nos llevó a un excelente restaurante vegetariano después de visitar un famoso pozo escalonado (“a stepwell”) dentro de la ciudad de Mumbai.

Mi esposa, Meryl, y nuestro “primo” en Mumbai

Nunca hubiéramos creído que en la India, con una población de más de mil millones de personas, hubiera habido una posibilidad tan increíble de esta conexión entre dos familias de orígenes completamente diferentes.

¡Simplemente muestra lo pequeño que es este mundo!

It’s a Small World!

A Memorable Personal Experience While Traveling

Before my wife and I went to India for the first time last year, I arranged with a few Indian friends to meet their cousins in Mumbai after our tour had ended.

The first one was the cousin of Jewish Indian friends from Florida. We have met many of our friends’ extended families both when they have visited the United States and also several times in Melbourne, Australia where the bulk of his family lives.

One of his remaining cousins in India was Abraham Moses. He and his wife spent the day with us and showed us several Jewish sites which we never would have been able to visit on our own. We saw the synagogue where our friends in Florida were married 25 years ago. They also took us to a terrific seafood restaurant called Trishna. It was as if we were visiting long lost cousins. 

Our friends’ synagogue in Mumbai
In front of the ark of their synagogue
The interior of their synagogue

Most people are completely unaware of the ancient Jewish population in India (once more than 50,000), primarily in the Mumbai area.  Their numbers have decreased because of migration to Israel, the U.S., Canada and Australia.  The neighborhoods which may have once had many Jews have been replaced with the Muslim and Hindu population.  In the picture, you can see how the synagogues have been surrounded by ramshackle apartments. Newly-constructed high rise buildings are often directly adjacent to the older low-rise tenements. 

Muslim tenements in the previously Jewish neighborhoods

Interestingly, the Jews in India have almost never experienced any anti-Semitic incidents as in other countries with a large Muslim majority.  Despite a large outward migration, especially among the younger and more educated, the remaining Jews do not feel any prejudice.   Historically there were many Jews in the military and the government, and the Bollywood film industry.  

The next day we had arranged to meet the cousin of my other Indian friend from Florida, this time a Hindu first cousin, Bakin, who also happens to be a doctor.

Dr. Bakin Nayak at the City of Mumbai museum

He wanted to show us some out of the ordinary places in Mumbai, and so when he met us, he asked if there was anything that we had not yet seen. We told him that not only had we seen all of the usual tourist sites, but that the day before, we had a specialized Jewish tour.

Immediately, his ears perked up. He asked me the name of the Mumbai Jewish cousin. He explained that from when he was a small boy, his best friend growing up was a Jewish boy who had left India after studying medicine along with him and who had emigrated to Australia. They remained friendly and kept in touch almost every day.

Melbourne, in the south of Australia with the island of Tasmania off the coast

It turned out that this Australian doctor lived in Tasmania where he practices psychiatry. His brother lives in Melbourne, and by coincidence was married to the sister of our Jewish Indian friend from Florida. We had met this sister during our travels there but not her husband.

Our new Mumbai doctor-friend was so excited of this amazing coincidence that he called his best friend in Tasmania while he was driving. According to his Hindu beliefs, this was a perfect example of karma. I explained to him that the same phenomenon is seen by Jewish people as an example of “bashert” or destiny.

Our second day of visiting “our Indian cousins” was also a tremendous success.  He took us to an excellent vegetarian restaurant after we had visited a famous stepwell within the city of Mumbai.     

We never would have believed that in India with a population of more than a billion people, there would have been such an incredible chance of this connection between two families from completely different backgrounds.

It just shows what a small world it really is!