Monday, March 28, 2011

Jaipur Once Again...(Elephant Polo Photos, too!)

It's a good thing we like Jaipur so much.  The first annual R-10 Deloitte PPD (Partner Principal Director) Retreat was scheduled to be there and we were definitely going to be there as well  !!  Not only was this a chance to return to this wonderful city...but Suzanne has been wanting to go to the Silver Spurs Equestrian Stables since before we even fully decided that we were coming to live in India!!

This time we would fly direct and non-stop to Jaipur...and not have to endure the torture of an 8-hour drive from New Delhi.  The flight was pleasant enough (more on the return flight later in this post!) - both taking off and arriving right on time.  We decided to go a full day early and spend two extra days after the actual retreat for some horse - this was as much a "mini-vacation" as it was a business trip.

The Deloitte Retreat was to be at the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel of the Taj group of hotels, so - you have to know that it has to be a special place...  We arrived at the hotel and just sort of unwound a bit...saw the bar and partook of its wares.  The pool was too far away to go to, but it was very pretty.  The grounds of the hotel were had a walking/running track, lots of open spaces...a giant, life-sized chess board (that was set up wrongways...I had to explain this to the manager!!) and - - a huge grass field for...of all things:  ELEPHANT POLO!!!

That's right... on the morning of the first day of the retreat...there was a group of tourists taking one of those fancy five-star trains around the Golden Triangle...and one of their events was to play elephant polo on the spacious grounds of the Jai Mahal Palace!!  We got to go down and "inside the ropes" (it helped to look like the Euro-tourists...we never got asked for our tickets!!) and pet the elephants and a big old camel named "Raju"...  Amy Francis was thrilled, to say the least.  She wanted to actually get on one of the elephants and play some polo - but - I think that's where the tour-guides from the train company drew the line!!  THAT was to be for paying customers only.

Pay we did, actually....we bought a ton of "Jaipur Polo Club" gear...while we were shopping at the makeshift souvenir stand set up by the polo of the Deloitte partners from Hyderabad - Wally W. (he affectionately calls me "Stuart" because of a misprint in a local Hyderabad magazine a few months back!) cracked me up.... his wife was trying on a "Jaipur Elephant Polo" fleece vest and I said it looked "cute" on her...

Wally said to me: "Gee, 'Stuart'....we don't need any help spending my money here!!" 

The polo was fun to watch...albeit really SLOW as you can imagine...elephants don't exactly "gallop" to the ball! 

After polo...the Partner/Director Retreat started so I lost my wife for a few hours.  I had made an appointment in advance via e-mail (what a small world this has become....Jesus never got more than 100 miles from his home-town!!) to meet with the fellow who sold us our rugs last time we were in - he sent a car around to get me and I got to indulge in some serious shopping. 

Here are photos of Day One (and part of Day Two) in Jaipur (including the Elephants!!) on our Facebook Photo Album Page

The evening came and we were treated to a festival-style dinner with Rajasthani dancing girls with pots of fire on their heads, brightly-painted elephants (see photo of ASB and one of them at the top of this page!) and decorated camels...a great spread of Indian foodstuffs and an open bar...what's not to love about that!!  The feast was at the Rambagh Palace Hotel....truly a hotel beyond anything I have ever seen before.  We were so taken by the place that we got a tour...and - - when we inquired about pricing for the next two nights...we decided against staying there...we'd have to take a second-mortgage out on our house!!  What a palace, though!!  I also need to mention that it was COLD....really, really cold!!  1-degree C. (about 34-degrees F.) - - the first time I have been cold since we arrived in India!!

The next day found Amy Suzanne back in retreat meetings and I killed time around Jaipur...

That night was another dinner...this one was truly strange...

A long long long bus-ride was taken to a place I'd have to say was like a Disneyland version of a Rajasthani "village" was called the Chokhi Dhani Resort - and - was interesting, to say the least.  Dinner was served "ethnic style" sitting on the floor and eating God-only-knows what.  Had this been our first week in India...I would not have touched anything on my plate...but - I've gotten to be pretty adventurous...even Amy ate most of hers...

Maybe I'm not supposed to say anything....but, evidently some of the other partners did not think it was all that hot because some took cabs out of there almost as soon as we arrived... and the hotel restaurant was packed when we finally got back to our rooms!

The best way to describe what it was like is to show our photos from our Facebook album: Jaipur Part Two

As you can see from those photos....the next day was spent out at the Silver Spurs Equestrian Stables where Amy was able to get her show-jumping on.  She had such a great day...and I had a great time watching her!!  The place will have a bed and breakfast soon (if they don't already!) and we will certainly be back!!

The next day she rode again and we got to bed early so we could make the 06:30 A.M. flight back to Hyderabad.  Needless to say...I'm the one who like to get to the airport early and Amy has learned that it's better to give-in and go along with me.  Unfortunately...this day there was a ton of ground-fog and the flights were all delayed up to three hours!!!  Amy was not well-pleased...but she found a way to make herself comfortable and got some much needed Zzzzzzz's.  See photo below:

Anyway....we made it back to Hyderabad and all was well...another amazing trip to Jaipur...we will be back, that is for certain!!!

Next up....Falaknuma Palace and our new Bluegrass Band..."The Banjara Hillbillies"!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bangalore...a quick trip...too quick!!

I made myself a promise....I was going to catch up on my blogging and get the last post done before I leave for my first official "home visit" to the U.S. in just three short days.  There were two other trips we took as 2010 was coming to a close and 2011 was beginning.  First was a business-related trip for Deloitte recruiting to Bangalore (now called "Bengaluru", but I don't know anybody that calls it that...).  It was a Sunday morning...we had a flight at around 8:30 A.M.  Amy Suzanne was coming down with the flu of some kind (terrible chest cold and fever) and really wanted to cancel or at least postpone the trip.  I talked her into flying and convinced her that getting into a nice big fluffed-up hotel bed for a full day of uninterrupted sleeping is just what the doctor would order...

She slept a little on the plane...she really felt crappy...but the show must go on...  we had booked on-line what looked like a great hotel that was really close to the Deloitte campus in Bangalore.  We didn't know how nice it was until we arrived. may be the nicest hotel we have stayed in ANYwhere.  It's in the same hotel family as the Kempinsky Falkenstein in Frankfurt where we stayed on our way over last May.  The Bangalore version is called the Leela Palace - and a palace it was.

The bed in our room could not have been more like my "doctor's prescription" if I had designed it myself.  Amy was in it before the staff brought our bags up to the room...and there she stayed for most of the next 12 hours.  It was a big poofy bed with all white sheets, pillow-cases and comforter.  They even had a "pillow menu" so you could choose your own goose-down firmness.  Laying there in that bed, it looked as if the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man had halfway eaten my wife!!

While she slept, I checked out the excellent pub called "The Library" (and Bangalore is civilized...they had Jameson Irish Whiskey for Irish coffees!!) - a super buffet (the one that they have on Sunday is legendary - and this particular day, it was really crowded...but I did not partake...too much food!)  The whole place was huge...and even the lifts (elevators) were cool.  We had a nice room with a cool view of the front of the hotel.  It truly was at least one of the top five hotels I've ever stayed at!!

Suzanne finally felt like getting up and we had dinner and drinks...  Even sleeping all day, she still got into bed early for her big days of interviews....

We got up and I spent the day sightseeing...and she spent hers at the Deloitte office interviewing candidates.  My day included a wonderful visit to the beautiful temple called the Sri Radha Krishna-chandra Mandir (it's ISKCON's local masterpiece...if you don't know the acronym "ISKCON" - it's the Hare Krishnas...)  Overall, it was one of the most beautiful Krishna temple I have ever was HUGE!!  Much, much larger than the tiny one here in Hyderabad... or, the one I know best, the Los Angeles temple in Culver City on Watseka Avenue.  I bought a calendar and a few odds and a private puja (it came with my entry-ticket...and everybody was interested in the fact that I had actually seen their founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada one day back in the early 1970's at the L.A. temple.  Prabhupada had evidently personally help to install and dedicate the Radha and Krishna Deities (see photo, upper left) in the Bangalore temple...and they have another even bigger temple on their "drawing-board" and it will be even more magnificent!!

After spending a good three-hours at the temple, our driver took me over to the local golf and country club so I could see what that was all about.  It was in the city and surrounded by those really tall mesh fences that you see around mid-city driving-ranges in Southern California...I really wished that I had brought my clubs because the first hole was a really short par-4 that I really wanted to play.  Even though it was a private club, staying at the Leela Palace got your day-privileges with I could have rented clubs, but it was almost mid-afternoon and time to pick up Amy at the office.

We had a great dinner and she was feeling much better!  My prescription for sleep really did the trick.  We made it to the airport the next morning on time and made our way home to Hyderabad in time for her to spend most of Tuesday at the office catching up.

Overall, Bangalore is one of the prettiest cities we have been to.  It looks very well laid-out, was full of big trees and lovely parks.  Many of the government buildings were built by the British (Bangalore is the capital of the India state of Karnataka and is a pretty busy place...) - as were the many parks.  It's a very green city with open spaces preserved for green ways and parks.  People always talk about the horrible traffic in Bangalore...but we didn't find it all that bad... not any worse than Hyderabad, and certainly nowhere close to being as congested as the streets of Mumbai or New Delhi!

I think I could live there...

Next up: Our second trip to Jaipur!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The trip home: Kudos to Kingfisher Airlines!!

We had a nice breakfast and did some other light sightseeing.  Suzanne did some shopping (didn't buy anything, to her great credit...she couldn't get the guy to move his price on some very expensive Pashmina scarves...and - for some reason - the wool scarves in this one shop caused me the allergy-attack from hell!!  Thank God we had our bags packed for the flight home, so my eye-drops were just a dig-through the suitcase to get at.  Our guide was pretty tired I think...we asked him to take us to a nice restaurant so we could have a bit of lunch before heading out to the airport for out flight to Delhi and then on to our "Home in Hyderabad".

I must say that she has come a long way since we arrived in India...but - on this vacation...Amy Suzanne was not exactly "Miss Adventurous" when it cam to dining out.  We pretty much ate at our hotel wherever we stayed... and this restaurant was a little should I say..."ethnic" than we had expected.  Our guide dropped us off and we walked inside.  Amy wasn't near "panic stage" - but I could see by the look in her eyes that she was NOT comfortable in this restaurant at all (I will spare the owners of the place and not mention it by name!!)

We were seated and it took her about 15-seconds to say, in no uncertain terms: "I am NOT eating here!!"  I thought we were going to bowl-over our guide as we bolted from the door of the place... as he was still standing right outside!  We told him to please find our driver and have him take us back to the Ista so we could have a proper last meal.  I must say, I truly didn't mind the looks of the place at all...and - I think if this had happened now, Amy would have ordered her food and loved it...I've seen her eat in much more questionable circumstances since then!!

So....we went back to the hotel and ate...and drank...and drank a little more...preparing for the trip home.  I was prepared for the small plane this time...and had fortified myself with several doubles of Jameson Irish Whiskey. 

We arrived at the airport.  The best way for me to tell the tale of what happened next would be to re-print the letter that I sent to the Chairman of Kingfisher Airlines  I cannot give them high-enough praise!!

30 November 2010

To: Dr. Vijay Mallya, Chairman and CEO
Kingfisher Airlines, Ltd.

Dear Dr. Mallya:

On the short video we saw on our flight from Delhi to Hyderabad last evening, you told us that you wanted feedback from your customers. Here is some feedback, and I do hope that you take the time to read it.

Yes, we are real customers. Yes, we flew with Kingfisher Airlines last night. It was our first experience with your airline.

Here are are particulars (as far as I remember them):

Names: Fr. Scott E. Kingsbury and my wife, Amy S. Brubaker

We are not "King Club" members, but we will be!!

We currently live in Hyderabad (Banjara Hills). We are living in India on a 2-3 year assignment for my wife's firm, Deloitte. We are both expatriate Americans from California, U.S.A.

Our only land-line number is a U.S. line 626-789-6288
My mobile number: 789-300-3111
Amy's mobile number: 800-812-1114

My e-mail address is or scott.e.kingsbury@gmail .com

I write a blog entitled: "At Home in Hyderabad" -

The flight numbers in question from yesterday's adventure: Flight number IT 4310 from Amritsar to Delhi...connecting to flight number IT 804 (I believe that was the number) in Hyderabad. I think on the first flight to Delhi, we were in seats 5 A and C. On the flight to HYD, we were in Business Class, seat numbers 2 A and C.

I will try to keep this short and to the point - but I do hope that you read all if this report. In general, this report is about the OUTSTANDING service that we received from Kingfisher yesterday. As expatriates overseas, as you can imagine, both my wife and I fly a lot. You probably cannot name a domestic U.S. carrier (and most international ones as well!) that one or both of us has not flown at one time or another...

As I mentioned, yesterday was our first experience with Kingfisher...and I can guarantee you it will not be our last. While each-and-every Kingfisher employee that we dealt with was professional and simply wonderful, there is one particular young man who stands-out in our minds, and is the reason for our writing this e-mail! I will do this in list-form so I do not forget the incredible way that this professional exhibited poise and hospitality to us and all of the Kingfisher guests on our flight...professionalism, it would seem at first-glance, to be far beyond his years! I am usually not one to write an "attaboy" letter...but never has one been more deserved!

His name: Mr. Gurpreet Singh, a member of your Kingfisher Staff based in Amritsar. Our story:

1) We arrived at the Amritsar airport early...our flight was due to depart at 6:20 P.M. We had three bags to check - with a transfer from our Delhi flight to our home in Hyderabad.

2) A nice gentleman at the counter began to check us in...but he seemed to be having some computer problem with the continuing flight. Mr. Gurpreet Singh stepped in and took over....

3) He greeted us warmly and apologized for the delay....he, too, was having a bit of computer difficulty, but took our e-tickets and my passport, and kindly directed us to have a seat so we didn't have to stand at the counter.

4) We did as directed, and - it probably took more time that we had expected...but while we were waiting, every five-minutes or so, Mr. Singh sent over another member of the staff to give us updates.

5) When the problems were resolved, Mr. Singh personally left the counter and delivered our boarding-passes, not only for Amritsar to Delhi...but our connection from Delhi to Hyderabad as well. In addition, he handed us our baggage tickets, again apologized on behalf of Kingfisher - and wished us a happy journey.

6) As sometimes happens with all airlines, there was a delay in the flight. For whatever reason, our flight to Delhi was going to be late arriving and departing. So - we all sat and waited.

7) Again, here comes Gurpreet Singh to the rescue. Leaving his post at the check-in counter, with his handheld radio in hand, he proceeded to walk about the gate-area, and personally gave each and every guest an update on the status of our delayed flight. According to him, the new time was going to be around 8:00 P.M. This new departure-time was a concern to us, because it seemed by what he was telling us, that we might miss our connection in Delhi to our home in Hyderabad.

8) Over the next 20-30 minutes, Mr. Singh stayed in the boarding-gate vicinity and visited with my wife and I at least three times while we were sitting at the departure-gate, giving us updates and explaining how a "plane-to-plane" transfer of us and our baggage would work when we arrived in Delhi. He assured us that Kingfisher would make it happen!! Of course, my wife and I looked at each other in amazement. Quite frankly, one NEVER sees this kind of customer care and service in the U.S.

9) When our delayed plane arrived on the ground in Amritsar...who grabs the microphone to make the announcement that we would be boarding and departing soon? None-other-than Mr. Gurpreet Singh!!

10) We take the short bus-ride to the tarmac where our plane was waiting. The flight was delayed almost two-hours, but because of Mr. Singh's confidence, we were not worried about anything. As we approach the ramp to enter the plane....who is it at the bottom of the stairs, collecting our boarding passes? Mr. Gurpreet Singh!

11) I jokingly asked him "if he was going to jump into the cockpit and fly the plane as well...??" He laughed and said that he wanted to go had been a long day for him as well...and his mother was waiting for him. I can tell you, Dr. Mallya, that Gurpreet's mother is very lucky to have a son like him....and you are blessed to have such a caring and talented member of your Kingfisher Team!

12) But the story does not end there! As promised by Mr. Singh, not only was there a Kingfisher representative waiting for us on the tarmac in Delhi, but - the ground-team personally grabbed all three of our checked bags, - placed them (and us!!) onto a private Kingfisher bus...and took us directly to the jetway. We were escorted to our seats by the wonderful crew on-board Flight IT 804 (your Business Class is outstanding, too, by the way!)...and we just smiled at each other in amazement!! Again, this could NEVER happen on any airline in the U.S.!!

13) After one of the most comfortable and relaxing flights I've ever been on....we arrived in Hyderabad at the exact time Mr. Singh told us we would...and, all-in-all - we were only about 30-minutes later that we were scheduled to be!!

Dr. Mallya, our experience with your airline was on the very last day of our Northern India vacation. I need to tell you that, on our trip, we saw New Delhi, rode an elephant in Jaipur, saw the Taj Mahal for the first time, visited the Golden Temple...and stayed in five-star hotels the entire 8-days we were on the road.

But the thing that I will remember most? The special way that we were treated by Mr. Gurpreet Singh and all of the staff at Kingfisher Airlines. We are loyal customers now, for life.

Any chance you will be flying to Los Angeles, California by 2013??

Many, many thanks.

Most sincerely,

Scott Kingsbury and Amy Brubaker

His answer back follows:

Rev. Scott E. Kingsbury,

Thank you for your gracious message of 30 November to me.

I truly appreciate your taking the time and effort to share details pertaining to your experience at Amritsar Airport prior to your travel on flight IT4310 to Delhi for your onward connecting flight IT804 to Hyderabad. I also note that this was your first flight with Kingfisher Airlines; in this context, I am pleased to know that you and your wife enjoyed the high standard of service and hospitality extended to you by staff at Amritsar Airport.

It was also kind of you to single out for mention the exemplary service and commitment of our staff, Mr. Gurpreet Singh at Amritsar Airport. It is indeed heartening to learn of the manner in which he ensured that you had a seamless and comfortable travel experience at Amritsar Airport, as well as on arrival at Delhi Airport when you had to take your connecting flight to Hyderabad. I am delighted to share your kind words of appreciation with Gurpreet and his team at Amritsar Airport.

I strongly believe that every interaction with a guest is a "Moment of Truth" which provides us an opportunity to deliver an exemplary level of service. This philosophy forms an important part of the daily work ethic of staff at all levels. Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your experience with me.

I value your patronage and look forward to the pleasure of welcoming you and your wife on Kingfisher Airlines again.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Vijay Mallya
Member of Parliament
Chairman and Managing Director
A UB Group Company ends our Golden Triangle Vacation story.  It was a wonderful trip from beginning to and...and = we had experiences that wee will remember forever.

Next up:  Our Trip to Bangalor and our Return to Jaipur!!

The Most Horrible Woman on the Planet!

Both Amy Suzanne and I were looking forward to the famous "flag lowering and gate closing ceremony" at the Wagah Border between India and Pakistan.  Ever since I had seen this video on YouTube about this wild ceremony (that occurs each and every day at sundown!!) - I could not wait to go!!  I hadn't realized when we first began to talk about making a journey to Amritsar, that the famous border-crossing was just a short drive away from where we were staying!!  How exciting!!  Even more exciting was the fact that our guide told us to bring our passports because a foreign passport got you seats in the very best part of the bleacher-style seating!!

We arrived amongst a literal crush of people!  The security (as you can imagine!) was extra-super-special-tight and everybody had to go through a metal-detector (not a big deal...we have to go through a metal-detector to go to Q-Mart in Banjara Hills and virtually any mall in Hyderabad!).  But in addition, each person had to get a pat-down search before they would let you in.  It was a bit of a madhouse...a couple of Indian soldiers on horse-back did some basic crowd-control when things got a little tight. This included threatening, but never quite hitting people, with long sticks.

They separated men from women going in for the metal-detector and pat-down...our guide stayed with me until the end...and then waved good-bye as I went in...  It was a little disconcerting being separated from Amy in that crush of people...but we had picked a place to meet and I found her straight-away.  When we got all sorted-out...she pointed at this lady...a fierce-looking older German woman (see photo of her at the top of this post) with a menacing scowl.  Amy said... "That woman right there is just horrible...she was pushing in line and I told her to stop it...and she yelled at me... f---ing b----!!"

I chuckled because Amy is generally a real dove when it comes to confrontation!  Anyway...on to the bleachers for the ceremony!!

As I said...our foreign passports got us great seats....and we were comfortably seated with a nice PIO (Person of Indian Origin) - a sweet girl with a heavy Australian accent....and began to do some serious people-watching....  The Indian side is much more crowded - and much louder...there was chanting ("Jai, Jai, Hindustan!!") and was very much like a college football game-day atmosphere!

The striking thing is on the other side of the border-gate....on the Pakistani side.  I saw one section with very brightly-colored clothing and the other bleachers were filled with people in fairly drab colored clothes.  It didn't take me long to figure out that it was because the men were not allowed to sit with the women in an Islamic Republic like Pakistan.  Chalk up one victory for freedom for the India side!!

The Pakistanis would shout something and the Indian side would chant back louder...this went on for some time.  Suzanne didn't know what to  - she did the only chant she knows...the chant for her Deloitte PSW cricket team...the "Stunnerz".  Here is a cute video of that that I posted on YouTube:

Amy chanting "Stunnerz....Stunnerz...."

Then the actual ceremony's sort of like war without actually being war...the two sides are dressed in colorful uniforms and hats...and they march around like something right out of Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks"

It's part peacockery and part cockfight warm-up....I have another short video that I took as the festivities began:

Our Visit to the Wagah Border Ceremony

Here is also a link to our Facebook Photo Album:

The Last of Our Vacation Photos (Volume Four)

The whole thing probably took only 20-minutes beginning-to-end.... but it was really worthwhile...I am so glad we went.  The people were all dismissed and an orderly (sort-of) parade headed for the exits.  Here is where things got a little off track.

Now...dear friends and readers of "At Home in Hyderabad" ...please know that I am not particularly proud of what happened next...but - this blog has always been about here's the unvarnished truth...

Amy and I were walking down the bleachers toward the road below us.  We stopped briefly to check out the scene and decided that it was best to go to the right (toward the parking areas)  - - a much better plan than going the way the police were suggesting...back behind the bleachers the way we came in.  As we were nearing the bottom of the stands...perhaps two steps up...Amy grabbed the hand rail and - - a women runs directly into her arm.....Aims turns around to protest...and sees who it is. guessed it.  "The Most Horrible Woman on the Planet" - - that beastly German broad was directly behind Amy Suzanne!!

What happened next actually shocked me!!  This horrible excuse for a human being PUSHED Amy from behind...HARD...and she stumbled a bit and landed on both feet on the street below.  Then something snapped!!

In a blind rage after seeing my wife get pushed from behind...I grabbed the woman by the throat really hard...and pressed both of my thumbs into her scrawny neck and Adam's apple.... I screamed at her in the most gruff-sounding and severe way I could muster:

"If you ever lay hands on my wife again you bitch, I will f---ing kill you!!!

Her squinty eyes bugged-out behind her sunglasses like a stepped-on toad - - and she looked genuinely scared.  She should have been!!  I have never been that pissed-off in my life!!  I let go of her neck with a strong push and she began to walk away briskly...

Her husband saw what was happening and came up and said something to me in German.  He was a fat beer-soaked little geek of a I yelled right in his face... "And f--- you, too!!"  He asked the rhetorical "F--- me?"... but then he saw my wrath as well...and decided it was best to skedaddle.  Two young Indian fellows saw the incident and one says to me in perfect English... " better cool it...." and motioned for me to notice three very armed soldier/police-types who looked as if they would just love to throw some crazed American into their jail!

During the walk out to our waiting guide and our car...Amy was holding me back because my dander was still up and I was still ready to kill that horrible lady.  I finally calmed down with the help of some gentle words of thanks from my wife...and we never saw those miserable German pantloads again...

And that, my friends, is the story of "The Most Horrible Woman on the Planet"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog Extra! The Great Boulder Hills Seven-iron Experiment

I was talking with my friend (and fellow "Flintstone", Bill Sullivan just the other day about how best to play our golf course.  By the way, the "Flintstones" are a local group of guys from all over the world who live in Hyderabad and play golf together at the Boulder Hills Country Club where we are all members.  Bill was saying that he'd like to go out to play Boulder Hills with "nothing but a seven-iron and "below" - - just to prove to himself that the game is not about power, but more about control of the golf shot and keeping the ball in play.

It sounds obvious...hit the ball down the middle and keep it in play and you will score better.  Well, today, I decided to put this challenge to the test.  And I found the results to be very interesting and quite telling...I learned a lot and had a ton of fun pulling it off.  Now, for those of you who play golf in the U.S. (or virtually anywhere else in the world, for that matter) - "DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME" - I was literally the only golfer on the course all day long and played two-balls per hole at one time.  My fellow Boulderians...please don't tell the management that I did this on the day before the Audi tournament...and please note that I fixed each and every divot and ball-mark!

Here is the hole-by-hole account of the round(s) - I played one game "regular" - using all the clubs I would regularly hit - and the second game I never used anything over a 7-iron:

Front Nine:

Hole #1 376-yards - Par 4 

Regular game: Hit a perfect 3-wood right down the middle, left myself 160-yards up-hill to a middle flag.  Hit a duff rescue-club about 70-yards, hit a PW deep over the flag, two-putts.  Typical opening hole for me. Score - 5

7-iron game: Hit 150 down the right side, hit a second 7-iron perfectly, hit a wedge to the right edge of the green, putt from off the green Score - 5

Hole #2 400-yards - Par 4 (#1 handicap monster with a lake)

Regular game: Did what I always seem to do...put one into the lake on the right on the fly.  Took a drop, hit a 6-iron to the flat area before the green, chipped on, two-putt.  Score - 6  One lost ball

7-iron game: 150 yards straight.  another 7-iron 150 yards straight, PW to the green, two putts.  Score - 5

Hole #3 127-yards - downhill Par 3

Regular game: No difference here between the two games.  Hit PW a little long.  Two-putts for par.  Score - 3

7-iron game: PW to the right side of the green - white flag.  Two putts for par.  Score - 3

Hole #4 395-yards - Par 4

Regular game: Kept the driver in the bag, (playing it "safe") hit a slicing 3-wood onto the rocky hillside, took an unplayable drop Hit a 5-iron into the gaping green side bunker on the right, came out nicely, two putts for double-bogey.  Score - 6

7-iron game: Perfect 7-iron off the tee - second shot a safe 8-iron short of the green.  Sand-wedge to within 10-feet.  Drained the putt for PAR!  Score - 4

Hole #5 518-yards - Par 5

Regular game:  Like to hit driver here to gain distance...didn't work.  Hit a line drive towards the rock on the left...had to punch out (hit a good shot!) - hit an 8-iron down the right side to the garden-spot in front of the tree with room to the left -  PW went a little long - chipped on and two putts for a double-bogey.  Score - 7

7-iron game: Perfect 7-iron from the tee...another put me down by the lake in two...pinched a little by the lake on the left and the rocks on the right...hit an 8-iron down the right to a garden-spot to the right of the tree...SW on the green short of the flag - two putts and made bogey.  Score - 6


Hole #6 369-yards - Par 4 (The Temple Hole)  Not much difference here...I usually play it safe to end up short of the creek...the only difference was I usually hit 6-iron off the tee and play it like a Par 5.

Regular game: Hit a great 6-iron short of the creek, hit a 5-iron just short-right before the bunker, chip was deep onto the green.  Nice putt - tap-in for bogey.  Score - 5

7-iron game:  I may hit 7-iron off the tee from now on...actually ended up in a better place than I did with the 6-iron.  Nice flat lie short of the creek, hit a smooth 8-iron into the middle of the fairway, left 100-yards even.  SW to the right of the flag - two putts for a nice bogey.  Score - 5

Hole #7 495-yards uphill - Par 5

Regular game: Hit a great 3-wood down the left side, hit another great 3-wood to the 100-yard marker on the right, stuck a PW hole-high, two putts for par.  Score - 5

7-iron game: Perfect 160-yard 7-iron, then another, then another...three very good shots!!  Left an easy SW to the green...left about a 10' putt - which I drained for par!!  Score - 5


Hole #8 173-yards downhill - Par 3

Regular game: I like to hit 5-iron to a back-flag and a 6-iron to the middle.  Chose 6-iron and hit it too well....back left - just off the green.  Putted it very close.  Made the putt for par!  Score - 3

7-iron game: Problematic.  No place to lay-up really because of the lake short-left.  I don't think 7-iron is enough club.  Over-swung and put it over into the rocks on the right.  Hit a second ball on, but short-right.  Two-putts for double bogey.  First lost-ball with the 7-iron game.  Score - 5

Hole #9 382-yards - Par 4 (second shot over water)

Regular game: Need driver here....hit it perfect...right down the middle but too short to go for the green in two.  Hit a 9-iron to about 65-yards short.  Hit a SW really deep.  Lucky I didn't 3-putt.  Great putt...tap-in for a nice bogey.  Score - 5

7-iron game:  Not sure 7-iron is the right club...could go into the creek.  Hit an 8-iron perfectly.  Nice-lie -  short of the creek - took out the trusty 7-iron and bladed it directly into the creek!!!  Took a drop, hit an 8-iron onto a small hill on the left, hit a great PW out of the rough - two-putts for a TRIPLE bogey 7.


Regular game: 45 (on handicap)
7-iron game: 45 (on handicap)

7-iron game is 1-up after nine in match-play

Back Nine:

Hole #10 378-yards - Par 4

Regular game:  I have not been hitting driver here lately.  There is a stand of trees down the right and there is a rocky wasteland to the left.  I took the 3-wood out of the bag to "play it safe" and hit a line-drive into a patch of rough and a bush and a rock.  Unplayable.  Took a drop and hit an 8-iron just short of the green.  Hit a SW spot-on and luckily I made the putt for a scrambling bogey.  Score - 5

7-iron game:  Put a nice 7-iron down the right side and safe...hit another nice 7-iron short of the green to the right.  Hit a nice wedge from almost the identical spot my "regular" ball was, but not as close.  Two-putted for bogey.  Score - 5

Hole #11 183-yards - Par 3 (downhill)

Regular game:  I know the perfect club for this shot.  The Gold tees were playing at the Blue Tee markers...and I almost had a hole-in-one from this spot last June.  It's a smooth 6-iron.  I hit it a little too-well and was long and left of the flag with about a 30' downhill putt.  Put it about 5' away - missed it and three-putted for a bogey.  Score - 4

7-iron game:  Hit the 7-iron high...too high.  Fell short of the green.  Chipped straight over the hole long.  Two-putted coming back down the could have been worse.  Score - 4

Hole #12 396-yards - Par 4 (#2 handicap hole on the course.)

Regular game:  Took out the 3-wood and pulled one dead-left and O.B. into the brush.  Re-teed and pulled another one dead-left and O.B. into the brush.  I decided not to lose a third brand new ball and picked up and just played the 7-iron shots.  Score - 7x

7-iron game:  7-iron right of center.  Another 7-iron to the perfect spot - 110-yards from the pin.  Hit a PW that I wanted to bounce onto the narrow green and it got caught-up in the long Bermuda grass that fronts the putting surface.  Putted through the long grass (afraid of the dreaded "flyer") - and it worked.  One-putt for a nice bogey.  Score - 5


Hole #13 324-yards - Par 4 dogleg left - tricky hole

Regular game:  Hit one of  the best 3-woods I ever hit on this hole...gave myself a good look at the green...but couldn't really see the flag.  110-yards out...chose a 9-iron and pulled it badly - up into the rocky hillside to the left of the green...bounced out and onto the left fringe.  Putted off the fringe and left a tap-in for a nice par.  Score - 4

7-iron game:  Not so good this time.  Hit a good 7-iron off the tee...put a nice soft wedge over to the garden-spot at about 75-yards.  Sliced a PW into the brush.  Lost ball.  Went back and hit a better wedge...two putts for a triple-bogey.  Score - 7

Hole #14 539-yards - Par 5

Regular game:  Need the driver here.  Hit it pretty good but I was too far right and ended up behind a tree,  Misjudged the club and hit a 7-iron trying to clear the tree...caught a big branch and it bounced straight down into the leaves and rough.  Punched out by the big tree in the center of the fairway - hitting four with a long way to get home.  Hit a good 3-wood to about 70 yards.  One in five and two-putted.  Lousy double-bogey.  Score - 7

7-iron game:  Here the "7-iron game" gets interesting.  I know for a fact that there is no way to cross the creek with a seven - even a well-struck one.  I chose a nine-iron to push the limits of the grass on the near side of the creek...and - that is not an easy shot.  I hit it perfectly.  Then I hit a 7-iron and another 7-iron and was in the middle of the fairway in three.  I hit another 9-iron just short...chipped on and made two putts for a double.  That's a long hole with nothing to hit over a 7-iron!!  Score - 7

Hole #15 434-yards Par 4

Regular game:  Chose the 5-wood to get out and into the middle.  Hit it a mile-high and only about 140 yards long.  Needed to lay up to the lay-up place, hit a third shot on the blade and barely across the creek - chipped on and made a two-putt double.  Score - 6

7-iron game:  Hit the 7-iron off the tee further than the 5-wood.  Still not enough to challenge the creek...laid up.  Hit the CPR rescue-club perfectly - jut off the green to the right, hole-high in three.  Putted on and made the 2-footer for a winning bogey.  Score - 5


Hole #16 197-yards Par 3

Regular game:  Distinct advantage for the regular game here.  Hit the CPR just short of the front edge of the green.  LONG uphill putt - left it about 4' short.  Rimmed the putt...went in and came out.  Took a bogey I didn't deserve!  Score - 4

7-iron game:  Hit a nice high draw - landed 5' from the cart path on the left.  Hit a beautiful PW on to the middle and two-putted for a tie.  Score - 4

Match is DORMIE!!!  Regular Game is 2-down with 2-to-play!!

Hole #17 387-yards  Par 4

Regular game:  Hit driver...and hit a good one.  155-yards left from the left side of the fairway.  Wind was blowing so I chose a 3/4 5-iron.  Big mistake.  Hooked it into the left trap!  Duffed one in the trap for three...skulled one over the green in four, chipped-on and two-putted for a match-losing triple-bogey.  Nice.  Score - 7

7-iron game: 7-iron, 7-iron, PW, two putts for a bogey.  This 7-iron game was working!!  Score - 5


Hole #18 622-yards Par 5 into the wind.

Regular game:  Actually played this hole pretty well.  Hit a great drive...a perfect 3-wood and left me 225 to the green over water.  Not a chance with the wind.  Lay-up shot to 110 yards.  Stiffed a nice 9-iron to within 8-feet when the wind held it up.  Made two-putts for a 6 and that is a good score on this hole!!  Score - 6

7-iron game:  Hit a PW to a side-hill lie next to the ladies tee.  Hit three more great 7-irons (laying 4) to almost the exact same place the "regular ball" was in three.  Hit the same 9-iron a little right of the white flag and made two-putts for a respectable 7.  Score - 7


Regular game: 50 (terrible)

7-iron game: 49 (just slightly less terrible)


Total stroke-play:

Regular game:  45 - 50 = 95

7-iron game:  45 - 49 = 94

So, boys and girls...what did we learn??  First off...I suck at this game...even though I love it so much!!  Secondly...something I knew all along but refused to believe...straight and in-play is much better than O.B. and in the weeds!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jallian Wala Bagh (Site of the Amritsar Massacre)

There is a stark contrast between the Golden Temple experience and that of visiting the site of the Amritsar Massacre.  It lies only 400 meters north of the Golden Temple.  Most Americans, if they know anything at all about this tragic massacre, know it only from Richard Attenborough's film... "Gandhi"....

In case you have is how it looked in the movie:

Jallain Wala Bagh

In a nutshell....the story goes like this:

In Amritsar, India's holy city of the Sikh religion, British and Gurkha troops massacre at least 379 unarmed demonstrators meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh, a city park. Most of those killed were Indian nationalists meeting to protest the British government's forced conscription of Indian soldiers and the heavy war tax imposed against the Indian people.

A few days earlier, in reaction to a recent escalation in protests, Amritsar was placed under martial law and handed over to British Brigadier General Reginald Dyer (a seriously bad man if there ever was one!!) who banned all meetings and gatherings in the city. On April 13, 1919... the day of the Sikh Baisakhi festival, tens of thousands of people came to Amritsar from surrounding villages to attend the city's traditional fairs.

Thousands of these people, many unaware of Dyer's recent ban on public assemblies, convened at Jallianwala Bagh, where a nationalist demonstration was being held. Dyer's troops surrounded the park and without warning opened fire on the crowd, killing several hundred and wounding more than a thousand. Dyer, who in a subsequent investigation admitted to ordering the attack for its "moral effect" on the people of the region, had his troops continue the murderous barrage until all their artillery was exhausted. British authorities later removed him from his post.

The massacre stirred nationalist feelings across India and had a profound effect on one of the movement's leaders, Mohandas Gandhi. During World War I, Gandhi had actively supported the British in the hope of winning partial autonomy for India, but after the Amritsar Massacre he became convinced that India should accept nothing less than full independence. To achieve this end, Gandhi began organizing his first campaign of mass civil disobedience against Britain's oppressive rule.

There is a beautiful mural of the incident inside the museum portion of the memorial.  General Dyer's face has been gouged off of the painting on the wall: (Photo credit:  Me!!)

It was here that we had our first run-in withe the local "paparazzi".  There were many children visiting the memorial the day we were there...and most of them had cameras or mobile phones with built-in cameras.  If ever we felt like we were visiting from the moon...this was it!!  We were literally surrounded by school kids (see photo upper left)...  Everybody wanted a photo with the "strange white couple from the moon"...and we kindly obliged, of course...  It was pretty wild.

After the kids left us alone...we had some time to reflect on the horror of the place.  There are places in the walls where they have left the bullet holes - and have highlighted them.  Original and huge holes in the mud-bricks made by the Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifles carried by Dyers' goon squads.  The place where the people died in the well is preserved, untouched....  It is a monument to man's inhumanity...and lies just a stone's throw from one of the holiest sites on the planet...a place dedicated to peace and tranquility and charity and the love of God manifest amongst His people. An amazing contrast.

We were pretty emotionally spent by the mid-afternoon...and we opted to pass on some of the other sites on our tour.  Instead, we went back to the Ista Hotel in Amritsar for a shower and a nap before our sundown visit to the Wagah Border Ceremony...  Stay tuned for that....we have video (coming soon!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Beauty of Amritsar

Amritsar was by far my favorite place that we have visited in India since we arrived.  Srisailam was cool, too.... but the Golden Temple makes Amritsar such a special, spiritual place.  And I think Amy Suzanne might say the same.  We liked Jaipur so much that we actually went twice...but for different reasons.  In Jaipur, she found a place for show jumping long before we ever left for India...a wonderful place called Silver Spurs Equestrian Stables (ASB's testimonial is on this site...check it out!!) and we went there on our second trip to Jaipur in January...more on that later...)  But Amritsar??  A slice of heaven on earth.  Allow me to explain:

The Golden Temple is so beautiful.  The very gleam and luster of the gold on the incredibly ornate and yet elegant exterior looks like God's own throne-room - - As Christians, we sometimes talk about the "pearly gates" and the "streets of gold" in Heaven....well... that's what the Golden Temple looks like.  But the amazing part is not the grounds, it's not the temple's the atmosphere of the whole place.  It's the people.  It's the spiritual nature of the place ... and it's the Sikh religion that envelopes the's hard to put a finger on just what I felt there....

Suzanne took a lot of pictures there.  Here is the link to our Facebook albums that include Amritsar and the Wagah Border Ceremony.... Our First India Vacation (Part Three of Four) and The Last of Our Vacation Photos (Volume Four)

As you can see from Amy's photos...there is a lot of charity going on in the place.  One of the hallmarks of the Sikh religion is their dedication to works of charity.  Feeding the poor is not only a Sikh seems that it's a mandate!  I know of the ritual "free meal" of the Sikhs before I came to India... the Vermont Gurdwara is right down the street from my home parish, St. Mary of the Angels.

The Langar or free kitchen was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people of the world regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. "..the Light of God is in all hearts." 

For the first time in history, Guruji designed an institution in which all people would sit on the floor together, as equals, to eat the same simple food. It is here that all people high or low, rich or poor, male or female, all sit in the same pangat (literally "row" or "line") to share and enjoy the food together.

The Langar has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of women and children in a task of service for mankind. Women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food to the pangat. Langar also teaches the etiquette of sitting and eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of sameness of all human beings; providing a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary.

Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. The food is normally served twice a day, every day of the year. Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar. This is very generous, as there may be several hundred people to feed, and caterers are not allowed. All the preparation, the cooking and the washing-up is done by volunteers and or by voluntary helpers (also known as Sewadars).

Besides the Langars attached to gurdwaras, there are improvised open-air Langars at the time of festivals and gurpurbs. Specially arranged Langars on such occasions are probably the most largely attended community meals anywhere in the world. There might be a hundred thousand people partaking of food at a single meal in one such langar. Wherever Sikhs are, they have established their Langars. In their prayers, the Sikhs seek from the Almighty the favour:

“Loh langar tapde rahin."

"May the iron pots of Langar be ever warm (in service).”  (Thanks to SikhiWiki for the info that I pirated!)

And it's not just the Langar pots (and ovens and chapati making machines - they feed so many people at the Golden Temple that not all of the chapatis and pulkhas can be made by hand!) that are warm.  It's the warmth of the people that really struck us.  Our guide could not have been more pleasant...very knowledgeable about all things Sikhi (and we discussed the deeper things of life throughout our visit...I'm sure this drove Amy Suzanne crazy...which is I'm sure why she took such awesome photos when we were in Amritsar!)  Although we got stared-at quite a bit (let's face it...look at the pics...Suzanne could not have looked any whiter and I was looking like a biker Priest from Mars...with my black clergy shirt and a bright orange "Golden Temple" bandanna on my head!) - we were made to feel as welcome as visiting royalty!

We spent the most amount of time wandering about the grounds of the Golden Temple as we did any other time on our vacation.  The place was just magnetic...a place that made you want to stay.

The most interesting part (for me) was when our guide asked if I wanted to meet a Sikh Priest (called a Granthi, I believe)...and of course we said "yes!"  We walked past some guards and up two flights of stairs to the building full of "clergy" quarters that surround the shrine and lake. We were ushered in and given tea.  The cell looked like any monk's bed.... icons on the walls (various pictures of Guru Nanak and the Golden Temple...along with pictures of all the Sikh gurus) - - and a state-of-the-art treadmill in the corner!!!

The priest who lived in this room came in and greeted us...but it became apparent that he spoke no English whatsoever.  I asked a couple of questions through our guide as our interpreter - - the priest was a tall man...the longest gray beard I had ever seen...past his waist... surrounding the greatest smile and wrinkled brown skin.  The whole time he was with us....he was getting dressed in his most traditional Sikh garb because, as it turned out, he was officiating at a wedding that afternoon.  He had on a sharp blue turban, a white kurta and white linen pants...covered over by a long  woollen sweater-vest in gray.  He attached a long ceremonial sword to his belt...and calmly put all THREE of his cell-phones into various pockets!!  One was a BlackBerry!

I had one last thing to say.  I simply had to mention the nice treadmill.  As the kindly old priest was saying his goodbyes and making his way toward the door, I knew that the time of our visit had come to a close. I said to our guide... "Tell him that I admire his dedication to God...and to physical fitness!!" - as I motioned toward the treadmill... It was just then that I realized that he did speak at least some English after all - he gave a hearty laugh and shook my hand long before the guide got around to interpreting what I had said into Punjabi!

Here ended our stay at the Golden Temple.  Stay tuned for more!!  Next up... our visit to the memorial site for the Amritsar Massacre (also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre) and the Wagah Border Flag Lowering Ceremony) 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Amritsar (and the Golden Temple)

If you are a stickler about itineraries that stay "on time" - then traveling by road in India is not for you.  Our carefully planned schedule declared that the drive from Agra back to New Delhi was to take "4 hours" after an "early breakfast".  In retrospect, I am extremely happy that we took the "early" part of breakfast seriously.  Our flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport to Amritsar was due to take off at 4:00 P.M.  We finished our delicious Indian breakfast at straight-up 8:00 A.M. - knowing that we would arrive at the airport at least two-hours early.

Then...on the road to New Delhi..."a little bit of India" happened.  There were wandering herds of goats crossing the road...a truck loaded with about 300% more rice than it could have possibly held had broken its' axles and spilled it's load all over the only road out of town, several other overturned trucks and assorted "goods carriers...and, of course, the the occasional broken-down auto-rickshaw that was completely blocking traffic.  All of this...coupled with the traffic-jam-from-hell that started at the very outskirts of Delhi and lasted all the way to the airport....we came very close to missing our flight.  The drive took almost exactly eight hours instead of four!!

We made it through security and out to the gate where our ride was to take us out to the tarmac and our plane... just as the first bus was loading.  As we are driving along, looking at each other and wondering aloud just how we managed to make our drive in eight hours instead of the recommended four (kudos to our driver, Raj - - he really cut through the traffic jam like a champion!) dawned on me that there was no large plane parked anywhere near where we were headed.  The only airplanes on the tarmac were small, propeller driven ones.  Let me say up-front that I am not a fan of small planes.

I know Amy was as frightened as I was.  Not of the plane...but of the fact that I might not able to get ON the plane.  I dug deep and found some bravery that I didn't know that I possessed - - and we got on to the tight and claustrophobic interior of Kingfisher Airlines Flight No. IT 4309 and found our seats for the just-over one-hour and fifteen-minutes flight to Amritsar.

We landed a little later than expected...but our travel staff from Zutshi Travel World Services were right there outside the terminal at Amritsar airport awaiting our arrival.  The airport was brand new looking...and looked very much like the same architects that did the airports in Hyderabad, Bangalore, the new terminal in Delhi had designed this one.  Our guide was with the crew...and he asked us if we were interested in keeping to the schedule to see the Golden Temple at sunset.  To be truthful...the idea of spending one extra minute in a car after the drive from Agra to New Delhi was pretty unappetizing.  we opted to go straight to the hotel for a good dinner and good nights' sleep.  The hotel that was booked for us was the Ista Hotel - - and - a huge brand-new mall had been built right next-door to it...very similar to the InOrbit Mall in Hyderabad.  We checked in and got started on our wonderful stay in far our favorite place on this leg of the journey into the Golden Triangle.

On the morning of Sunday 28 November - we got up and met our guide in the lobby.  He was a devout Sikh, which turned out to be very interesting and a tremendous boon to the discussions we would have throughout the day.  The drive out to the Golden Temple was a bit longer than we had figured on...but - it was so worth it!!  One can not help but notice that the place is truly "holy ground".  After parking the only enter the temple grounds after carefully washing your hands and feet in the fountains and pools provided... there is this... - I guess I'll call it an "aura" about the place that is unlike anything I have ever felt before.  I have never been to the Vatican...I can imagine that the feeling there is similar...

When the actual temple comes into is so well.... GOLDEN!!  The day itself was a little hazy...but the golden glow of the temple cut through the light fog like a beacon.  The male pilgrims visiting the temple were surrounding the lake that surrounds the structure...taking religious baths with their children - there was a special area for the women to bathe.  The line that crossed the bridge over the shrine lake that led to the temple for the daily reading from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was daunting...and - we never braved it to go inside.  This was O.K. for us...because it took us the better part of the morning to take-in the beauty of the place!!

More on our day at the Golden Temple to come....stay tuned!!

Here are the photos that Amy Suzanne took during our first full day in Amritsar:  Our First Indian Vacation Part Three (of Four)