Tuesday Oct 18, 2005 - day 19 - Back in Delhi - Kathy: 229 photos, Bob: 138 photos

            Today we had a full day in Delhi with nothing planned except last-minute shopping.  We had some extra time in the morning, so we walked to a park near our hotel called Lodi Gardens.  The park was beautiful, with large trees, green grass and a running stream.


There were two Muslim tombs in the park which we had a great time exploring.


            We had talked our former OAT guide, Sujay, into picking us up at the hotel and taking us shopping.  When we were on the OAT portion of our trip, I kept looking for good shopping, but I found only two kinds: overpriced treasures that cost a fortune and cheap-ass junk made for the tourists.  I didn’t like either, and I let Sujay know it. 

            I love decorative boxes.  I’m also a woodworker and can make my own boxes, so I’m a bit picky about them.  I’ve done my research and I can tell you this:  if you find any nice forty-dollar box in the United States and open it up, you will notice a small sticker that says, “Made in India.”  I told Sujay that for the past several years (yes, years) I have been threatening Kathy that if we ever get to India, I’m going to find that box factory and buy five-hundred dollars worth of decorative boxes.  And I didn’t mean to pay that for just one box!  Now here I was at the end of the India trip, and only one very small box to show for it.  I was disgusted. 

            Sujay had been kind enough to store two of our bags at his home so we didn’t have to carry them on the train to Gwalior.  So now he delivered them to us and we took them to our room, then we headed out shopping.  He took us to the shop of his friend, where he said we could get good merchandise and wouldn’t get ripped off.  Of course, I knew he would get a commission, but we know Sujay well enough now that I trust him and his judgment completely.  We’ve met hundreds of people on this trip who said, “Come visit my brother’s shop.  He’ll make you a good deal.”  These have all been bunk, but when Sujay said it, I knew it must be true.

            I wasn’t disappointed in the shop, either.  It had some very good quality stuff for reasonable prices.  I was so impressed that we ran our credit card up seven-hundred dollars for some wonderful things, including a very large decorative box with white inlay that will be a nightmare to get home.  I also bought a white marble statue of Ganesha like the one I saw earlier, only better.

            After shopping, we walked down the street to a famous Delhi café where we ate lunch.  I don’t remember the name, but it was pretty good.

            After lunch, Sujay took us to the national museum.  Outside was a replica of one of the Ashoka inscriptions.


The museum had all kinds of good statues from India’s history, including the “Dancing Girl” from the ancient Harrapan society that Kathy and I had read about before the trip.  Another thing I found interesting is a set of game pieces from the same ancient Harrapan culture that looked like chess pieces.  Sujay had said earlier that the game of Chess had its origin in India, but I didn’t realize it went back that far.  These pieces actually looked like modern rooks, bishops and pawns.  I’m sure their meanings changed over the years, but this was amazing.  Too bad photos weren’t allowed in that section of the museum.  It was kind of annoying since the museum wanted outrageous money to use a camera in the first place (more than the admission fee).  Consequently, we only paid for Kathy’s camera and I kept mine locked away.  At least she got some good photos.

            Another thing I found interesting about the museum is the parallel between ancient Indian and Greek mythology.  The Greeks, I knew, believed that when you die, you first meet up with a ferryman and cross the river Styx, then you had to get past Cerberus, the two-headed guardian dog of the underworld.  What I didn’t know is that the ancient Indians of 2000 B.C. believed that when you die, you have to cross the river Vaitarni and get past two guard dogs who guarded the underworld.  Coincidence?  Or was there some cross-cultural mythology going on?

            I tell you what, I’ll sweeten the pot: The ancient Indians also had a god named Kamadeva who had a bow and arrow, and if he shot you, you would be smitten with arrows of love.  Sound like anyone familiar?  A guy named Cupid perhaps?

            Another thing I found out in the museum: You know the famous “Dancing Shiva” statue?

I’ve seen it a thousand times, but what I didn’t know is that it signifies the end of the world.  In other words, when Shiva dances, his third-eye opens, and he does his job of destroying.  Heads roll.  Like something out of a Manowar song.

            The museum also had a fancy Buddhist reliquary, supposedly containing relics from the Buddha.  And here I thought only Christians and Muslims had reliquaries.

            We saw a lot of Garudas too, which are like winged flying men who transported the gods.  We had seen a lot of them in Thailand, but I didn’t know they were Hindu in origin.  I wondered whether these had their origin in the Farohar or Fravashi of the Zoroastrians.

            Unfortunately, by the time we got through the museum, we were tired, hot, and generally tired of looking at statues.  The museum was very good, but we just weren’t in the mood.

            Sujay had to leave to pick his wife up from work, so he dropped us off at the hotel and we bad him a fond farewell.  He was one of the best guides we’ve ever had.   He was always willing to bend to the needs and requests of the travelers in his care.  We gave him an appropriately large tip, shook hands and said our goodbyes.

            While riding around Delhi today, I actually saw a sign that said, “Zero tolerance for breaking traffic laws.”  Can you believe it?  I’ve been here three weeks and I refuse to believe they have traffic laws.  Maybe they mean the Highway Code of India I mentioned earlier!

            All around Delhi, especially near Lodi park, we had seen billboards advertising a special dance show being performed, and so we decided we wanted to go.  The problem was, we hadn’t written down any information, so we didn’t know where it was, nor the price.  Because our trip was almost over, we had very few Rupees left and we didn’t want to change more.  We asked about the dance at the hotel concierge desk, and they were completely useless.  They didn’t know anything and they blew us off.  We did some more investigating on our own and determined that the dance would be at the Purana Quila, or “old fort.”  We decided to take a taxi there and take our chances with the cost, hoping our rupees would hold out just a little longer.

            When we got to the fort, we were delighted to find out that the performance was free. 

It was sponsored by the Government of Delhi, and every night for a couple of weeks, they had a different performance.  Tonight’s performance was like a martial arts display.  Some parts seemed very much like T’ai Chi Chuan of China.  Other parts seemed very much like something you’d see in Thailand.  It was fantastic, with beating drums, chanting, and wild dancing with torches and swords whipped around at lightning speed in all directions.  It was incredible and delightful.

            At times, this was a calm, meditative and quiet display. 


Other times, it had incredible energy.  The people on stage were dancing, jumping through hoops of fire, balancing.  One guy whipped steel swords around faster than I thought was even possible, and when I say that, remember that come from a place of experience: I studied T’ai Chi, Pa Gua, Xing Yi, and Shaolin Kung Fu for years.


            When we got back to the hotel, we realized we hadn’t eaten anything for dinner.  We hated to take the time because it was 9:00pm (21:00) and we knew we had to get up early, like 2:00am in order to catch our early flight back home.  Still, we went to the hotel restaurant and I ordered some Tandoori chicken.

            We waited and waited and waited for our chicken, and now it was 9:45pm.  I complained to the waiter, and still our food didn’t come.  I told Kathy that I wouldn’t have ordered the food if I had any idea it was going to take that long.  Finally, we got the food with the apologies of everyone, and they told us it was “on the house” because of the long delay.  The food was good, and I decided to pay for it anyway.

            We went back to our room and prepared for our early morning flight back home.


            The biggest hassle about the trip home was when we got to London’s Heathrow airport again.  We were taking the same airplane to New York that we took from Delhi to London, but when we got to London, they made everyone get off the plane and pass through security again.  The problem was, in order to get back on the plane, we had to get to the other side of a huge bullet-proof glass wall.  Following signs, we proceeded to walk for about forty-five minutes up and down flights of stairs, down long corridors, past countless cryptic signs telling people to go here and there, and when our forty-five minute walk was over, we found ourselves in the same gate we deplaned at.  Then we proceeded to board the same plane, amazed at the extent of British airport bureaucracy.