I spent most of February traveling in western and north-central India,  
dividing my time more or less evenly between national parks or wildlife areas  
(Sasan Gir, Kanha, Bharatpur/Keoladeo Ghana, Ranthambore and Corbett) and 
the  cities of Mumbai, Delhi/New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.  I’m forwarding an  
album of 53 of my photographs of birds and other wildlife from the trip to 
all  the recipients of this e-mail, via Shutterfly.  
Needless to say, the trip was spectacular, both for the monuments of Hindu, 
 Mughal and British Colonial culture, and for the birding and wildlife  
viewing.  166 life birds out of 248 total species!  The pictures are  just a 
sample; many of the most spectacular birds, like the Black Bittern,  
Coppersmith Barbet, Crimson Sunbird and Orange-bellied Leafbird, were seen at a  
distance or too briefly to photograph.  I had only a 70-300 mm lens and no  
tripod; carrying any more equipment would have been difficult.  But the  
Grimmett/Inskeep field guides are very helpful, and I was able to bird at each  
location with knowledgeable naturalists who spoke good, if heavily accented,  
English.  February is the dry season, and the deciduous forests (there are  
virtually no conifers in peninsular India) had lost many of their leaves, 
which  made it easier to see the birds, although of course some migratory 
species were  absent.  There was dust everywhere, which was sometimes 
uncomfortable, but  almost no mosquitoes.

Beyond that, the life of modern  India is startling, to say the least.  The 
12th and 21st Centuries flourish  right next to each other.  Women in full 
burkas, women by the side of the  road making plates of dried dung with 
their hands (to be used as fuel), or  carrying it in big metal bowls on their 
heads, and women in beautiful saris and  jewelry talking on cell phones, side 
by side.  Men riding working elephants  to transport loads of sugar cane.  
Men talking about the visits of Bill  Gates and Paul Allen to India, and 
pointing out the opulent residences of the  heroes they are emulating--Bollywood 
stars and local billionaires.  India  has noisy, highly partisan and 
uncooperatively diverse democratic politics,  together with a sclerotic, corrupt, 
pseudo-socialist bureaucracy, but it struck  me as the most capitalist place 
on earth.   
This kind of travel is not for the faint-hearted.  The fourteen-hour  
nonstop flight from New York to Mumbai--fifteen on the way back from Delhi--is  
hard enough.  Getting from one place to another on the Indian roads, which  
apparently are never maintained once they are built, is much harder.   
Getting anywhere without hitting a water buffalo, or a camel-drawn cart, or a  
farm tractor hauling a little trailer packed with thirty people, while trucks  
and cars are trying to pass the rest of the traffic in both directions by  
crossing into the path of oncoming traffic, is nearly a miracle.  I had  
expected to see the cows wandering the streets unmolested, and wasn’t surprised  
by the goats, but had no idea that pigs would be nearly as common.  Lots of 
 dogs, too, but almost no cats.  
Having visited elsewhere in the developing world, I wasn’t shocked by  India
’s poverty (and it actually didn’t seem as bad as what I have seen in 
parts  of Mexico, Egypt and Kenya), but it’s not pretty.  In contrast, the  
opulence of the luxury hotels in the big cities is at least as amazing, and the  
food was really good, too.  The trip cost A WHOLE LOT of money, so it was  
definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  As it was, I didn’t get to the  
high Himalayas, the northeast areas bordering on Bangladesh (where the bird 
life  is reputedly more like that of southeast Asia), the far south or the 
nearby  islands such as Sri Lanka.  More things to dream about, if not 
actually to  see.  
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Sent: 4/13/2012  4:58:49 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: Mark, your pictures were  shared

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