Saturday, June 28, 2008


I have to say, I booked a very nice hotel in Delhi before our trip thinking that we would be ecstatic to be in something so nice. Although the hotel was beautiful, it being a lovely 75 year old hotel in the heart of New Delhi, built by the English with inlaid marble and wood floors and the smell of jasmine in the hallways, it did not have the same impact on us that we thought it would . We were just grateful for a place to sleep.

This morning we started off by driving around New Delhi, which was built in the early 1900s by the English with broad streets and lovely parks. We went then to the Jama Masjid Mosque in Old Delhi. It was huge and built out of the same red sandstone that many of the old decorative building were made out of. It was built in the 1600s by the Moghul emperor that built the Taj. The architecture, tall turrets and large square surrounded by arches are what makes it unique and beautiful. There is nothing ornate about it, but its size and location on the top of the hill overlooking Old Delhi is very impressive. As we walked around men everywhere were looking at the girls. Our guide translated that they were talking about their blonde hair and blue eyes. They would pretend to be taking pictures of something else and then turn and take a photo of the girls. The girls were a bit nervous by all the attention. From the mosque, there was a great view of the chaos below and the grandness of the Red Fort, which is the old emperor's palace, and the large bazaar around the mosque. In old days the Emperor would travel by elephant to the mosque from his palace and the way was lined with fountains and pools.

We took rickshaws from the mosque to the Red Fort through the crowded street, with vendors on all sides and crazy drivers. The electrical lines that hung from above us where wild, tons of wires all lumped together crossing every which way. After touring the grounds of the Red Fort we then went to the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial. It was outside the city a bit and was a beautiful memorial garden with a simple black piece of marble marking the spot where he was cremated. It was peaceful, which was his way. 60 years ago Ghandi was cremated here 24 hours after his assassination. It was the largest attended funeral documented, 5 million people came to what was then a wilderness area. There was such a fire built and so much incense placed inside the fire, that those that came to mourn could truly be a part of the ceremony. The cremated remains were not sprinkled for 60 years, at the request of Ghandi. This was because during the time before the remains are sprinkled, there should be peace and no quarrels. Just this past January his remains were sprinkled in the Sea. Our guide gave us a great quote from Martin Luther King in respect to Ghandi, " Jesus gave us the message, Ghandi gave us the method."Ghandi was about doing great things through peaceful ways.

As we were walking out of the memorial grounds an elephant went walking by, carrying his "lunch"- a bunch of green tree branches, on his head along with what I will call a jockey- a slim man riding atop the elephant. There were motorcycles and cars going around him, it was amazing. There was also a snake charmer with two cobras in baskets. It was just like any cartoon I had seen -a man with a turban on, waving a flute around with the cobra's head moving around in the basket. We told Nathan to go and get near the cobra for a picture. Nathan was a bit nervous about that, he is terrified of snakes- we all had a good laugh. The man then motioned to me to pick up the basket withe the Cobra. When in India,.... I picked up the basket and the cobra was moving around and I was so terrified that if it darted at me, that I would drop it and the cobra would come slithering out! It was all very entertaining.

After a good Indian lunch of kabob and some other dishes I can't start to spell, we went to the outdoor markets to do some shopping, which also means bargaining. I do not love this side of the shopping here, although my mother and Uncle Dick would be loving it. They love to bargain. We found several things at one stand. When the vendor gave me the price in dollars Syd said, "Mom, that is such a deal!" There went my bargaining chip! But, I was able to talk them down to a better price, which is expected and part of the Delhi experience.

We made our way to Agra tonight, which is a five hour drive from Delhi. It has been like a movie, looking out the window. We have seen everything you can imagine. cows grazing on the medians of the roads with crazy traffic on either side, 15 people piled into one motorized rickshaw- a motorcycle with a bench on it, women working in rice fields, children tending goats in green pastures, large mosques and small temples, people climbing into large trucks looking for a free ride while trucks are stopped in traffic, trains and buses stuffed with people- standing room only, colorful fruit markets, children so dirty playing under a tree by the road with big smiles on their faces, people sleeping on the side of the road under a makeshift shelter, an old man digging through a trough of trash, men riding bikes just piled with probably with 15 wicker chairs tied to it, men flying around with their whole family on their motorcycle, including tiny babies, bikes with metal water jugs strapped to them and for that anything that you can image tied to their bikes, women carrying metal bowls filled with rocks doing construction on the road in their colorful saris,.. Once it got dark on the road to Agra, the towns were still busy and bustling. Fires were burning on the road side and people were gathering to visit together.

They say "Incredible India." I would have to agree.


Alison Strauss said...

I have read and reread your posts. The depth of your expressed feelings and experiences has grown exponentially and we are all feeling strong desires to do something so significant. Ashton asked me tonight if we can please plan a trip. Thank you for sharing with us. We can't wait for the photos and to see you all back safe and sound!

Karen M said...

Thank you for your note. We weren't able to read the notes until we got home tonight, after 34 hours of traveling. We are tired and happy to be home.