Thursday, November 27, 2008
"You Are Crazy Man"
I wrote this late at night. When I finished writing this about 1:30am Delhi time, I brought up my browser and first heard about the terror in Mumbai. We stayed up till 3:00am and watched the terror live. We didn’t know what we would be able to do in Delhi today. I am writing this at 7pm, Thanksgiving Day in Delhi. We were able to spend a full day site seeing and shopping. I will blog about it later. Our hotel, The Taj Ambassador is located in the Diplomatic area of Delhi near all of the Foreign Embassies. There is additional security everywhere. We leave tomorrow AM for the Amritsar at the Pakistan border. We checked with The US Embassy and they said there will be no problem. If I don’t blog, it is only because there is a problem with Internet. In a future blog I will discuss the conversations we have had with Indians about this attach. We loved the Taj and Mumbai and feel terrible for everyone.
This was our first real day in Delhi. We were picked up by our guide and we went to the India Gate. This monumental structure was made to honor the Indian War dead in the First World War. As you get close to it you can see that the names of all of the war dead are inscribed on the bricks. It is a very touching memorial.
From there we drove to the Old City of Delhi. This area is densely packed with people, mostly Muslims. The area is dominated by two structures. The gigantic Red Fort, which was the home of the Mughal Emperors until the revolt of 1857, and the famous Jama Masjid Mosque, the largest Mosque in India. We were amazed at the size of the Red Fort, and it was especially touching to Cathy and I because of the book, The Last Mughal, which is the story of the revolt of 1857 and the ending of the Mughal Empire by the British. Also one of our favorite Bollywood movies, Rang De Basante has scenes filmed at the Red Fort. We plan to return there later while we are Delhi to see it in depth.
We then walked through the Mosque. It is old and huge. It is where the Mugal Emperors prayed. It is still in use. Surrounding the Mosque are the narrow alleys of an area called: Chandni Chowk, filled with thousands of merchant stalls that comprise Old Delhi. Over 2 million people live in Old Delhi. It is unbelievably packed, and exciting. The alleys of merchants are grouped by what they sell; you might go down an alley that has store after store selling only calendars, or street after street selling only ribbons or buttons. You can’t drive down the alleys. You can only walk or take a rickshaw which is peddled by drivers that must have the most powerful legs in the world. I had always thought that rickshaws were a tourist kind of thing, but by a ratio of probably 50 to 1 the rickshaws were filled with Indians of all types, women, families, deliveries, etc. These ARE the preferred method of transportation on these narrow alleys. The alleys are so jammed and so narrow that there is no way you can get off a rickshaw and go into a store to buy something. The rickshaw couldn’t possibly park in front of the store while you shopped. So we never got off our rickshaw as he peddled through the market. We plan to return to the market before we return to the USA. What you have to do is leave a rickshaw and pay the driver and then get another rickshaw. I rickshaw driver (peddler) charges 2 rupees per kilometer (a rupee is worth approximately 2 cents) do the math!
From there we drove from Old Delhi through New Delhi to the other side of the city. Delhi has 14 million people or so. New Delhi and Old Delhi are right next to each other, but they are as different as day and night. You simple go through the gate of the Old Delhi and you are in New Delhi designed by Edwin Lutyens - and it feels like you are in London! It was designed in the 1910’s with wide streets, roundabouts everywhere, and lots and lots of parks. The Government Center has all of the Embassy’s and lots of rich people. They live in Art Deco Homes that are called bungalows; we would call them large mansions! We really like Delhi and we know we will return.
We then had lunch and went to visit an area I knew little about. Delhi has a long history of multiple empires ruling it and the area called Qutub Minar is the oldest. It reminds you of ancient Rome. At he site there are lots of old structures from the 11th century, celebrating the Muslim capture of Hindu Delhi where the Muslims destroyed the Hindu Temples and built Mosques. It is dominated by incredible very large and tall minaret. The entire site was a revelation to us.
From there we went shopping and then returned to the Hotel. I had a massage and then drinks and then we went to the most famous restaurant in Delhi: Bukhara.
Our taxi was driven by a Sikh (you can tell by his turban). We told them that in a few days we are flying up to Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple (the most holy place for Sikhs). He was most impressed. I then took out by Iphone and played a song from the soundtrack of Rang De Basante which I knew was a Sikh Hymn. I put the earpiece in his ear, he listened and then he looked at me and said “You Crazy Man!”. I knew we had bounded!
Apparently President Clinton had eaten at Bukhara and they have a sampler dish named after him. We ordered it (and 2 bottles of wine) and it was huge. The restaurant is in a very Los Vegas like Sheraton Hotel. The hotel was very glitzy. They served cloth bibs with the dinner that we thought were strange, but eventually we put them on. They forgot to give us silverware, when we requested it from our waiter we were informed, no silverware, you eat with your fingers in Indian Style (right hand only). We had a new appreciation for our bibs.
We got in a Taxi to return to our hotel, I was in the front seat with the driver, Cathy, Courtney and Ferris were in the backseat. Somehow, in the course of the drive, the cab driver became convinced that I was married to all three women, had 12 children between them and I was vey rich. He became my best friend and complimented me on my choice of wives. He then proceeded to drive up and down the same broad streets going in circles as he ran the meter up. My three wives (for the duration of the ride) were laughing hysterically and we all had fun. The driver of course by the end of the ride wanted me to pay for the education of his three children.
There was a wedding going on next to our Hotel and I always wanted to attend an Indian Wedding. They are over the top. You can tell a Indian Wedding because they are outdoors, go on all night, and have lots of bright lights and noise. Cathy and Courtney (wives 1 and 3) decided to pack it in for the night, Ferris (wife no 2) and I decided to crash the wedding. We walked over to the bright lights and discovered there was no wedding but rather a brightly lit gas station and Metro construction going on. Dejected we walked back to the hotel.
As we were walking back, two elephants came down the road, one with no rider just ambling along, the other with a sleepy rider sitting on top. Ah Delhi!