Sunday, October 23, 2011

Delhi, by air conditioned car, and by bicycle rickshaw

After sleeping late due to being bedraggled by the intense days of TechEd, being exposed to 10,000 people's possible germs, eating as natively as I could for a week, and being cooped up in an airliner's recirculation air handling system, I had a short breakfast of rice, prahnta bread, and hot salt water, then was met by (Mrs.) Punam Gulati, my tour guide for the day in Dehli. My driver, Praveen Sharma, had described me to her as "long hair and a beard". Guess that would be distinctive in most places.

As my energy levels weren't at their top, we talked about what might be skipped or driven past in case I needed to cut my day short. While I don't want to miss any time outside, it's better to take it easy than get burned out and ruin the rest of the trip.

The first major stop of the day, ignoring slowing down for a photo out of the car window, as the Jama Masjid mosque, built by Shah Jahan (in 1658, per my preprinted itinerary). No shoes inside, no immodest wear, basically meaning women had to don something similar to what my friend D refers to a a "house dress." The paper says this will hold 20,000 people, but from what I can tell, the majority of them would be outside in the sun, sitting or kneeling on hard stone. Punam said this is not the largest mosque in India, but it is one of the most important.

Then, a ride in a bicycle rickshaw (Hello, RediPedi!) through the markets/bazaar (Chandini Chowk) narrow streets and alleys of Old Delhi. Again, Punam was very professional in directing the driver where she wanted us to go, keeping up a constant stream of history, trivia, background information, and pointing out sights to see. We stopped so I could get out and see an even narrower street. She pointed out the matrix of overhead wiring, the lights set out for Diwali, and the purpose of many of the shops and street entrepreneurs. The ride was bumpy, but not as bad as a few of the car or bus rides I've had here so far.

The south side of the mosque is the Moslem section, where there are butcher shops (as opposed to Hindu vegetarianism), with live goats and chickens for sale in whole or in part. I detected animal wast odors more strongly on those streets, though it was just a short ride.

After that, we stopped at Gandhi's final resting place (Rajghat). I chose not to walk all the way to the stone memorial, but viewed the scene from an elevated walkway. I was reminded of Kennedy's grave in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, with the simplicity and a burning flame. There were a few flower arrangements atop the black marble.

We passed government buildings, where I was able to get out and take a few shots of the President's home (pictures, of course!).

Then I stopped in a shop where silk and Kashmir carpets and other products are sold. Very nice tea and biscuits, too.

The last planned tour stop, other than one I skipped, was Humayun's tomb, the so-called "Poor Man's Taj Mahal." Steep steps leading up to a large plaza area, with the tomb building in the center and having just one entrance. I uploaded one shot from this area to Panoramio. Interesting geometrical patterns all around, including on the floors and wall tiles. Punam said the stairs to the higher levels are circular, but are closed to the public.

I asked to skip the last planned stop (to the Qutab Minar) in favor of the National Rail Museum, which was closer in distance, and more to my interest. I learned about the variety of gauges in India, and saw relics of bygone eras, including royal saloons (not "cars"), animal holding pens, and lots of rusted steam engines.

For dinner, I was left to my own devices, but apparently Punam trusted my sense of direction (and street sense) to walk to a nearby restaurant. She made it easy, with "right at the next stop light, and right at the one after that." I didn't see anything right away, but another turn brought me to a sign for Subway, which I skipped in favor of M.B.s "multi-ethnic cuisine" just past. Though I was the only patron in the restaurant (yes Kumud) there were others upstairs in the bar area. Tandoori mushroom, and Butter Roti. Plus some sugar candy and seeds for dessert.

Tomorrow: 8AM departure for Agra

Photos, etc.












Bonus movie trailers - National Rail Museum

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