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My Incredible India – by Andreea. Part 1: Delhi

Delhi: visiting Red Fort

A visit to India is like discovering a new universe with multiple layers. Every step you take on the filthy streets of Delhi or the delicate marble halls of Taj Mahal, every historical landmark you see in ruins or shining as new even if hundreds of years old, or every person you meet (from shy ladies walking about elegantly in sari to aggressive kids that try to sell you something in the mosque) will peel off one leaf of this universe and either make you love it or dread it.

You need to be into Baudelaire and the whole “aesthetics of the ugly” to really understand how such a place can touch you indefinitely …it’s not a comfortable, luxurious or zen vacation, but it’s meaningful and shocking, in your-face beautiful and ugly and crazy and diverse and weird …

The entry in a new universe: a cheap flight, high end hotels, and a lot of documentation

I was sure I would see Taj Mahal one day, but traveling toIndiawas not high on my list … until I received the tip of a lifetime…and the chance to fly there for an incredible price. One Google images search for “delhi” and “india” convinced me instantly …this is the land of mogul architecture, the birthplace of yoga and good food, the embodiment of diversity and the home of one of the wonders of the world……Putting together the plans to make the puzzle of a lifetime experience took a lot of work and documentation, some tough negotiations with the other travelers on logistics, but in the end, here we are, 4 people (+1 later) traveling to India with high hopes, a travel book, a lot of airy cloths, bookings to 4 stars hotels (did not dare to risk anything below) and still …a bit of anxiety… we have never done something like this before.

Delhi

The doors of the airport open to a heart stopping 35 degrees and unbelievable humidity. It’s 2am in the morning!!…and our friend greets us at the airport with the reassurance that this is actually one of the coolest days so far … I suddenly understand why tickets in the monsoon season are so cheap :) … but we are here …and there is no time to whine, India greets us instantly with weird cars/ rickshaws, unique people with exotic outfits and the inevitable garbage everywhere. Let’s tackle this subject now and get it over with…

India is not spotless…some people are heartbreakingly poor, the live/ sleep/ eat on the streets and I can understand how neatness can fall from the priority list when you don’t know if you are going to make it to the next day.  It’s strange; while in the car, the filthy streets don’t make me feel disgusted, but rather intrigued… I start seeing beautiful buildings/ suspended bridges and parks rising like spring flowers in the snow… only the snow is a cool compost of papers, food, bricks (bricks are everywhere), plastics, and good old fashion organic matter :)

I finally get the cultural shock when we reach Carol Bagh neighborhood and I realize that my excellently rated (as per trip advisor) Wood Castle hotel is situated in the poorest, most degrading place I have ever seen (so far…) people & dogs sleep on the street, the buildings are cramped up together, some new, some in total ruin and we cannot find the hotel… because it’s actually a small family owned business that barely strikes through the surroundings. We get in, it all looks great and spotless but my anxiety is still with me…that night I wipe the sink, the door handle and the towel hanger with sanitizing gel … I am being ridiculous but I cannot help it ….

Early morning finds me a bit more relaxed, it the light of day it all looks bearable and ugly-beautiful again and the fascination of discovering this new universe gets a hold of me. We take the subway to the city center, and start experiencing the real India with the “help” of a rickshaw driver that simply does not want to understand that we want to take it by foot to the subway located 500m away…

People are beautiful and so diverse and … just so you know; the average Indian person is very clean and fashionable :). Actually a ride with the subway in Delhi is not very different than a ride in Bucharest at rush hour … the only notable difference is that in Delhi people look at you (the white person) constantly and boldly with a variety of facial expressions that range from curiosity to shock, to admiration or repulsion, to envy or worst of all … lust. It becomes clear that we will be “superstars” throughout this trip … people stop us to take pictures … especially since we are clearly un-appropriately dressed… We did pack up long sleeve t-shirts, but failed to realized until then that in India the upper part of the body is not taboo … you can show off your hands, your neck & cleavage, not to mention your belly button which seems to be the most natural thing in the world to do… but once you expose your legs …even partially … you are really learning the concept of “paparazzi”.

We visit the Red Fort and enjoy the relative coolness of the mogul gardens while sitting on the spotless lawn under a tree. Tens of squirrels tumble and play in the park – they seem very friendly …some come to admire us from less than 1m away, but I for one am admiring the Indian ladies… they are walking about elegantly in colorful saris or loose punjabis, I spot the most beautiful green sari ever… I want it for myself …but will never find one similar in all the stores I visit.

The call of the imam from the nearby mosque is calling us also to Jama Masjid … the biggest mosque in India is tucked in-between hundreds of bazaar streets and surrounded by small homes / shops …

This is where I see in full light the contrast of this unique world… children giggle while playing cricket in a disabled ornamental fountain full of garbage, oblivious to the incredible poverty and sorrow around them.  Life is beautiful and joyful even here…

In the mosque,  the inside court is beautiful, the walls are intricately adorned with red bricks and white marble, but walking barefoot on the sun-heated floors while covered in a “proper” plastic dress I received at the entrance is unbearable. The 3 man in the group seem to enjoy this better … they can walk in the actual sanctuary (in the shade) and blend in through the hundreds of man that just finished saying their mid-day prayer.

We decide we are hungry and tired … walking in the bazaar proves to be a challenge … so we let the men negotiate for a rickshaw ride. The experience is unbelievable… full adrenaline rush while passing incredibly close to the other traffic participants (cars, trucks, bikes, rickshaws, cows, camels, people, all using the apparent rule of “I pass through because I want to”).   We eat Chinese food at a mid-tier restaurant and then go to the south of the city to see the Lotus Temple, modern Delhi landmark and world center of the Baha’i religion. I like it :), it’s free entry, nobody asks me to dress up and the building is really special inside and out…

BTW … getting my shoes off all the time when entering a religious site (temple/ mosque) becomes a bit frustrating … I understand the cultural aspects of it and the symbol of purification …I certainly don’t want to be disrespectful but … my European feet have never tasted this experience before … I love shoes even more now (:))… walking barefoot feels unsanitary, and hot and even risky … though I need to admit most of the discomfort is in my head.

As we get out of the lotus temple it’s already sunset… the temperature becomes bearable so we find the strength to walk through the park and visit a Hindu temple that seems pretty animated for that hour.  Iskcon temple is dedicated to Rama/ Krishna and is pretty big by Hindu standards… we almost turn around when we realize we need to take our shoes off again… but inside they seem to play music so we want to see and hear more. The experience of attending that prayer touches me deeply. I am not really a spiritual person …but something in that temple makes me feel great…

Delhi ISCON Hindu temple  The prayer celebrates life to the fullest by song and dance; there is a group of people sitting on the floor of the temple playing traditional instruments and singing beautiful music…. The acoustics is better than what we get in Bucharest concerts J,  The atmosphere is so warm that we forget about the “don’t touch the floor” prejudice and sit down next to the worshipers that are clapping and singing and just enjoying themselves… this religion does not seem to ask for grimness/ serious devotion and silence, but rather for your full presence there, with an open hart and a happy mood: “God dwells in you as you :)” as I read recently in a book about India.

We all get home with a great mood late at night, but extremely exhausted. I take a very thorough shower (after a day like this you fall in love deeply with soap), and prepare for the next day …Agra city and Taj Mahal are waiting for us….

Pictures of Delhi

Delhi: flying to India

Delhi: Welcome to India!

Delhi: Wood Castle hotel

Delhi: walking

Delhi: visiting Red Fort

Delhi: Red Fort

Delhi Red Fort

Delhi: Visiting India

Delhi: Jama Mashid streets

Delhi: Indian bazaar

Delhi: Lotus temple

Delhi

Delhi: Hindu temple

Delhi: pensile trains

Delhi

Delhi: the public transport

Delhi: Urban traffic

Până acum există "2 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. I love India, but have never had much fun in Delhi. Looks like you’ve managed to enjoy it despite the culture shock!

  2. Andreea C says:

    indeed, i had fun…maybe the fact that we had a friend there to guide us helped on that. Delhi is not the place to expect creazy fun, but it still can be entertaining 😉

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