I'm in Madurai, in the state Tamil Nadu. We're all getting a bit travel-weary, and my sister and I at least are counting the days until we're back in Mumbai (after which we will be in North India for the duration of the trip).
There are beautiful palaces, comfortable hotels, lavish temples, and scores of desperate destitute men, women, and children everywhere we go. I've stopped carrying any money with me at all, because I know that as soon as I fill my pockets, there will be a blind woman wearing a homespun sari and tapping a cane waiting for me, holding out her hand and begging for money that I know isn't going to go to booze or drugs. If, by chance, the terrain is too rough for the beggar woman, there will be some cheery 5 year old selling homemade postcards, claiming the money will be used for school fees.
The poverty is hand in hand with the corruption, and the corruption is linked to the strong anti-Aryan racism here, but enough on that. This is a status report, not an essay.
Status: I haven't gotten sick, even now that I've ventured into forbidden food such as mangos and chircuts. I have no idea what they are called in English (or even Tamil), so it will probably help none of you to know that they are absolutely delicious and unique. They look about like fat, unripe kiwis on the outside, and have a light but saturated orange meat on the inside, with a small dark brown oblong seed. The last few days, my uncle has made many of the pilgrimage stops that we put this tour together for originally. Tomorrow, we head for his last pilgrimage stop, to Kanyakumari. Afterwards, I go to my friend N's wedding in Mumbai, and from there I travel to Agra with P, my mother, and 4-6 cousins.