Well, as predicted, we kind of sacrificed Saturday to the
Gods of travel. We flew to
Eventually, we were on the plane, an eight-hour flight
Our flight took us quite close to
We arrived in
We stood in the
It’s a beautiful hotel, but it was then in the morning, and we were exhausted. We got our room key, went to bed and slept as best we could.
After breakfast, we had our orientation meeting next to an annoyingly loud waterfall. We complained about the noise to Sujay, who asked the hotel if we could use a meeting room. The hotel said no, so we huddled in a less-noisy corner of the hotel until staff decided we were blocking their way, then they graciously agreed to move us to a meeting room anyway!
After the orientation, we did a short 20-minute walking tour of the area. I think they’re taking it easy on us because we are still all jet-lagged.
Now it is about and we are going for our first real sight-seeing on the bus.
Evening: At , we got on the tour bus and drove to Old Delhi. It seems as if Old Delhi is half Hindu and half Muslim, and there are specific regions for each.
We went to the Big Mosque, supposedly the largest in
The courtyard was big and the
facade was too, but strangely enough, there didn’t seem to be a large indoor
building like other mosques we’ve visited in
Sujay had somehow persuaded (bribed?) the caretaker to open the structure and reveal its holy contents. Inside, he showed us several holy relics of Islam:
two ancient verses of the Koran, written down near the time of Mohammed,
a hair from the beard of Mohammed, one of Mohammed’s sandals
and one of his footprints in rock, supposedly a miracle.
Before we were finished, a crowd of devout Muslims had
gathered around us to see the relics.
Many of these relics were one of two such relics, the other being in the
After the mosque, we went for a rickshaw bicycle ride through Old Delhi.
I tried to get photos of some of the people, which was very interesting. However, we were almost always moving so the photos didn’t turn out very good.
The ride did illustrate how some companies prefer to wash dishes: literally in the streets with a vat of local water and a heater.
I packed a bunch of sanitizing alcohol wipes, and I think I’ll start using them on my dishes before meals!
During our ride, we got caught in a minor traffic jam, and also we got into a minor accident with another rickshaw in which our rear wheels became intertwined. Pretty soon spokes were broken, and it took some time to sort things out. We took a shortcut to get back to the bus, but by then everyone was onboard waiting for us.
After that, we drove to the grave site of Mahatma Gandhi,
the great political and spiritual leader of
This was a special occasion because today happens to be Gandhi’s birthday, and because of that, the place was crowded with people and there were special flower arrangements at the site.
We took the bus back to the hotel, and after an hour break there, we were taken to a fancy restaurant where we had some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. They served us all kinds of wonderful Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Makhani and many of my favorite dishes. To most of my fellow tourists, these were strange and exotic foods and they didn’t have any concept of Indian food, so I proceeded to explain the dishes to them. Our guide, Sujay ate with us and we discussed all kinds of things.
Throughout the day, we bombarded Sujay with endless
questions about religion, people, the caste system, the relations with
For example, today we saw several men walking around with a red dot on their forehead. It had surprised me, because I thought a dot on the forehead was the “bindi” mark reserved only for women, indicating they are married. So I asked Sujay about it. He said that on a man, it is a separate thing. It just means that they have been to a Hindu temple. If it is a long vertical line, it also means they received a blessing at the temple.
On our bus ride back to the hotel, I asked Sujay to give
us a Hindi Word of the Day, much like we did in
Sujay also tried to teach us another Hindi phrase, “I’d like some water.” I don’t know the correct spelling, but the words sounded like “Moojay pani Cha-He-Ay.” Moojay is me, Pani is water and Cha-He-Ay is “I want.”
Here are some observations from driving around
First of all, we saw tiny scooters driving down the street with a complete family of four riding on them! The scooters would have mom, dad, teenage son and six-year-old daughter, all crammed onto one tiny seat. Hard to imagine, but even harder to take a photo of.
Second, the men outnumbered the women ten to one. I guess that many families have tests done to
determine the sex of a child, and if it’s a girl, the fetus is aborted. I think that this was commonplace several
years ago. It is sad, but I suppose the
reasons are many. If you have a boy, he
can help in the fields and farm work better.
He can carry on the family name.
A daughter requires an expensive dowry and you have to find a suitable
husband for her, and if you don’t she can become a burden for life. But now
Third, I expected to see lots of shanty towns, cardboard
houses and street people in
Still, I didn’t see much of the extreme poverty around the city, and we did a fair amount of driving. I wonder if the government has done something to hide the problems from the tourists. Don’t get me wrong: the people here are “poor” by our American standards of money, but even the poorest seem happy. Children here are laughing and playing in the streets, making their own entertainment from nothing, compared to American kids who walk around angry, unhappy and isolated with their countless gameboys, televisions, computers and gadgets. The adults here are simple, but also happy. The joy just lights up their faces.
Despite all the wealth we have as a people, not many Americans have that joy inside, or if they do, they don’t show it.
Fourth, I expected to see large herds of cows walking
around the streets, and I was surprised to only find a few. Cows are considered holy, so people here
don’t eat beef. I was told that recently
a cow-count was done and they found more than one hundred thousand cows in
We asked Sujay what the cows ate in the city, and he said trash. People basically leave heaps of trash outside their homes and the cows wander around eating it. He joked that the city cows probably wouldn’t know what to do with grass if they saw it. It made a few of us wonder if Indian cows had a pallet for spicy curried trash.
Last of all, I was surprised at the lack of air pollution