I’m in India!
February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
What a journey. After twenty-six long and uncomfortable hours, my plane touched down in New Delhi, just before midnight. Anything over four to five hours has me tossing and turning, but luckily I had Ginger Ale and horrible Richard Gere movies to pass the time – yay! I tried to get some shuteye between Seattle and Paris, but a (curious?) French lady across the aisle took an interest in me, and decided to pass the time by staring my way. With only two feet between us, it made it virtually impossible to focus on anything.
On the last leg I was temporarily seated next to an old Indian man who wanted to go through my belongings, read my notes, and kidnap my book. It was a refreshing change; I’ll happily take that over staring contests any day. He talked and talked, but the only thing I understood was that he resides in Boston and is visiting family for the next two weeks. Other than that it was all gibberish; just because someone speaks English, doesn’t mean it’s the same language.
Our time together was short lived, as a stewardess eventually offered me an aisle seat up the way. At that point, I thought I was going to have to pry my book out of his hands in order to get it back. What a cute little fellow.
I was spent by the time I arrived at my guesthouse in Paharganji, also known as Slum Station – local’s words, not mine – so I called it a night. As I drifted off to sleep, listening to the sound of stray dogs wreaking havoc in the streets, I did my best to fight off the feeling of loneliness. The first few nights are always the hardest when on your own and away from home.
I awoke the next morning feeling well rested and ready to explore. Walking into the street was like landing on the moon, or so I presume. It’s a very different world here. The congestion is mind boggling. I’m not sure how anyone gets anywhere in a timely manner… or at all for that matter – Saigon has nothing on this. The air is thick and heavy, even though it’s cool, and after a few hours roaming the streets, a slight burning sensation took over my nose. I’m guessing that’s not a good sign.
My wandering proved fruitful, as I took in much more of the city sites than I had originally intended, and all were enjoyable. First stop was the Ghandi Memorial Museum, which turned out to be the highlight of my day. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Shortly after his death, collectors began searching all of India for anything of importance, so that a center could be created not only to commemorate him, but as a way to bring life to his teachings. They did a wonderful job. Walking off the grounds, I couldn’t help but feel moved… in a way, we’re all guilty of fighting the wrong battles, with the wrong tools, and for the wrong reasons. What a truly beautiful and remarkable human being.
After treating myself to a delicious snack of sambusa, it was time to visit Humayun’s Tomb, also known as “Mini Taj”. The structure was commissioned by Emperor Humayun’s wife, Hamjida Banu Begum, in 1562 AD. Take the Taj Mahal, paint it red and then shrink it down in size, and you’ve got yourself Humayun’s resting grounds! It’s quite amazing, really. When I go, just put me in an incinerator and call it good. Nice and easy. No tombs or temples needed.
Last but not least, was a stop at the Lotus Temple, which is a Baha’i House of Worship, completed in the early eighties. Seeing as how it wasn’t within walking distance, I caught a ride from a friendly Indian gentleman, who went by the name of Noel. We chatted about family and his life growing up on the outskirts of Delhi. He was even kind enough to treat me to a cup of chai. I tried to pay, but he insisted. When we reached the temple, he turned from his seat, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Now you listen here. You be careful. They will try to steal your camera. They will try to steal your shoes. They will try to steal everything you have. They do not care. You hear me, okay? Okay? No care here.” It was on that warm and fuzzy note that I exited the car and crossed the street with care.
With Noel’s words of wisdom ringing in my ears, I opted to enjoy the view from outside. After all, I only brought one pair of shoes.
Tomorrow it’s goodbye Delhi, hello Agra.
A few of my favorite quotes: