Monday Oct 3, 2005 - day 4 - New Delhi - Kathy: 133 photos, Bob: 144 photos

            This was a very full day.  We started out at a place called Qutab Minar, which was a complex of buildings erected during one of the many Islamic dynasties of India. 

It all centers around a very old mosque.

There is a very tall tower, the Minar,

which was basically the minaret tower of a mosque, and it stands 234 feet tall.  It was begun in the twelfth century.  This is just the kind of site that Kathy and I love.  There were lots of buildings

to explore and wonderful examples of Islamic architecture. 

We explored the place for about an hour, walking among grave sites and intricate carvings

so we didn’t feel rushed at all, but I’m sure Kathy

and I could have spent all day there.

            Next, we visited a carpet shop where they sold very good quality silk carpets

made by a co-op of families from Kashmir.  When we were in Turkey, Kathy and I had really wanted to buy a good carpet, but they were so expensive that we didn’t.  So here in India we gave ourselves permission to buy one.  We spent a long time getting a small carpet and agreeing on the price, but we did come away with a six-foot runner, and we are very happy with it.

            After the carpet place, we visited a war memorial that reminded me a lot of the Arch de Triomphe in Paris.

We took photos of it and some nearby kids swimming and playing in one of the fountains.

            Walking back to the bus, we saw our first snake charmer.

            Next, we drove up to the Capital building area where all the government big-shots did official government business.  We parked the bus and spent some time walking up to the buildings and taking photos.  Looking back down the hill, we could see what Sujay called the “Champs Elysees” of Delhi. 

We walked up to see the president’s house,

which had a very fancy yard and ornate iron gates.

Walking back to the bus, we were surprised to see some monkeys running around on top the government buildings.  I said that I was not surprised to see “monkey business” in the federal government.  I told Sujay that we also have monkeys in Washington D.C., but they call themselves Senators.

            That was pretty much the end of the “half-day” tour, but Sujay wanted to give us something more, so he took us to a Sikh temple.

The Sikhs are a separate religion that wear turbans and seem very Islamic in origin, however, they are more “new-age” than Muslims.  They believe in the teachings of the Ten Gurus who wrote a holy book which they treat with great reverence.  At 6:00am or so, they “wake up” the book from its designated bed, and the chanting begins.  Throughout the day, there is continuous chanting and prayers.  Sikhs go to the temple every day, and the chanting doesn’t stop until 10:00pm when they put the holy book back to sleep on its bed for the night.  We were allowed to go into the temple and see the altar area, and it was cool.

            There were lots of cool-looking dudes at the temple, and some of them were bathing in a ritual bath.  Others wanted to take our photos as much as we wanted to take theirs.

It was strange.  Everyone kept looking at us as if we were quite an oddity, and I’m sure we were to them.

            After the Sikh temple, we went back to the hotel and took a quick shower before dinner.  Dinner was hosted by an Indian family, and our group split into two halves, each half going to a different home.  After driving for more than an hour in heavy traffic, we finally arrived at the house of the woman who was our host.

            Dinner and conversation were both wonderful.  We talked about many things and had a lovely time.  There was a couple from California, a couple from Alaska, and of course we are from Minnesota.  We had a wonderful time talking about how Minnesota is colder than Alaska most of the time.  I told her that in the wintertime, all the lakes freeze hard and people drive their cars and big trucks right onto the lake.  She asked, “Don’t the cars fall through the ice?”  I explained that some cars do fall through in the Early Spring when the ice has become thin, but mostly they do not because the ice becomes like a three-foot (one meter) thick layer of concrete on the lake.

            She told us she was a cook and culinary expert, and she served us fantastic Indian food.  She even gave us some of the chocolate she made herself, and it was fantastic.  Her fifteen-year-old son was a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, which Kathy and I also love.  We had just watched all three DVDs of the movies one week prior to our trip, and so we had a good time talking to the boy.

            Our hostess was very nice and charming, but she dominated the conversation, and in a way it seemed a little bit scripted or artificial.  She had a servant who she had kept as a very small boy, and I thought she treated him a little bit snobbish.  She had a bit of an elitist attitude about her, but still she was a gracious host, and again, the food was nothing short of gourmet quality.  I would like all of her recipes, and she offered to give them to us.  For example, she had a wonderful dessert that was just like a very good “apple crisp” but it had both apples and pumpkins in it.  Delicious!

            The OAT information requested that everyone bring a hostess gift, but we were the only ones who remembered.  We gave her a big bag of some Minnesota Wild Rice, which is a special type of rice grown in Northern Minnesota and harvested by the Native “Red Indians” of our state.  It has a very unique flavor and is very expensive as rice goes.  A 32-ounce bag of wild rice costs probably eight dollars or more.  We told our hostess to cook the rice longer than regular rice, and that we could e-mail her some recipes if she wanted.  Because she was a professional cook, she really appreciated the gift.

            Suddenly, we were told that our bus was waiting outside, and we departed in haste.  It seemed like an abrupt end to the evening, but still we had a great time.  We didn’t see much of her house, but just a sitting area and a dining room where the food was set up buffet-style.

            When we got back to the hotel, we were tired, but we needed to pack our bags because we were scheduled to leave early for Jaipur tomorrow morning.

            More observations from a day of driving around:

            There is lots of dirt everywhere, but this is an enigma of Delhi.  There is dirt, lots of dirt, and piles of bricks and rocks, but not really much trash.  The trash seems to be collected together into neat piles, and the piles are loaded onto trucks and hauled away.  Despite all the dirt, this does not look or feel like a dirty place.  It is common to see a beautiful woman coming out of a very dirty house looking bright, clean and pristine, her Sari perfect without a single spot of dirt or stain on it.  It seems as though people care only about the insides of their house, not the outside.  Inside the house–like tonight’s host’s home–it was very clean, well-kept, organized, modern and spotless.  Outside, it might look like a completely hopeless wreck.  Perhaps this is intentional, because if your house looks like a rich man’s house on the outside, then maybe you are more likely to be a target of crime, robbery, vandalism and maybe you will be accused of trying to look better than everybody else.