Slept well. Breakfast in hotel. I’m trying to only eat hot cooked food and no meat (because I’m told, Indians eat very little meat, so the whole process from animal to table is likely to be less ‘safe’ than in England.) It was hard to resist bacon and a wonderful array of pastries. I did have some milk in my coffee, but didn’t eat the butter, which although was pasteurised had been left on warm table, not in chilled cabinet. Am possibly being too fussy. D ate everything.
We walked around the old part of Delhi. A few years ago, in Mumbai, I bought an Indian tunic and trousers ( the trousers – baggy at top and tight at ankle are called ‘salwar’. The tunic is called ‘kameez’ and the veil/scarf is called ‘dupatta’.) I felt bit of a wombat in the hotel, which is full of Westerners, but on the street it felt much more comfortable to be dressed the same as everyone else. The clothes are also very comfortable, as the fabric is light and the veil can be used as a sunshade over your head. It also covered my bag rather neatly – being aware of pick pockets is part of being in India.
We saw the Red Fort, a big mosque and a market. Best was the market, teeming with people, noisy with traffic and shouts and loud speakers from Hindu temples. There was a constant smell – spices and diesel fumes and sweet food and urine and incense, all in a tangle. The traffic was mostly on the road, but motorbikes and tuktuks sometimes avoided lights by driving along paths, so you had to be alert. It was wonderful and foreign and intense.
There was some kind of parade, with a few lorries with loud speakers and people shouting slogans. No idea what it was about. Some young people on one lorry shouted at us to take their photo, so we did, which made them all laugh. I had my sweets ( in case we saw child beggars – but there weren’t any.) I took a handful out to the lorry. They reached for them, long brown fingers and bangled wrists. They all shouted “Thank you, thank you”, and I made it back to the path without being squished under a lorry. It was a nice moment. Travel to different cultures is often like that – loads of difficult things to get used to and the occasional special moment that makes you glad you came.
We booked a tour through the hotel to Huymayun’s Tomb. It was a short drive away and we went in a couple of minivans. I happened to be with some people from Shanghai, so I chatted a bit in Mandarin ( decided I should let them know I understood them, in case they started to talk about me – which is always embarrassing.)
Huymayun’s Tomb was built before the Taj Mahal ( which we also plan to visit.) It was lovely. There was a beautiful domed building, which the Persians had taught them how to build. ( Apparently, to build a huge dome, you need a smaller one inside so it doesn’t collapse. Persians were rather good at building them.) The gardens are an integral part of the monument. They reflect ‘paradise’ and have water and trees and birds. Peaceful. There were lots of stars, which some tourists thought were the Star of David. Our guide told us that as the Persians were Muslim, they wouldn’t allow any depiction of living things, so the Indians used geometric patterns, which included the stars. They have no link to the Jewish star ( just as the many swastikas have no link to the Nazi symbol.)
We drove back via India Gate, which is inscribed with the names of Indian martyrs. Opposite, at the end of a long wide road, is the president’s residence, Vijay Chowk. It would be magnificent to look from one to the other, but there was too much pollution haze, so was all rather difficult to see. The round parliament building is also there.
We also passed lots of queues outside banks. Each bank has a guard on the door, armed with a stick. There are two queues, one of women and one of men. They stand so close together that they are touching, stomach against the back of the person in front. I guess so no one can push in. There was some shouting, but we didn’t see any fighting. I wonder how long it will remain calm, the queues seem longer every day.
Tomorrow we are going to visit the poorer parts of Delhi. D is on the board of a charity which works here, so we want to meet the people and see what their needs are. We meet some of the workers tomorrow, and they will show us the projects they’re involved with. Should be interesting.
Thank you for reading.
Why not sign up to follow my blog? Then you won’t miss hearing about the other parts of Delhi, the resettlement areas and slums, where few tourists visit…