Friday, January 27, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foot over bridge fail

When I first viewed this elaborate cross-over-the-traffic-and-get-to-the-metro system, it looked pretty impressive.
Escalators, ramps and stairs all in place to keep us safely above the masses of traffic below.

But it turns out that it was all a waste.
After we'd walked far into the pathways of metal and concrete, there were wires blocking the way.

We thought to just cross over them, but a schoolboy walking behind us said that the path further on was not completed yet and we couldn't get to the metro station that way.

So we had to make our way back down through the maze, once again far away from our destination, blocked by lanes of busy traffic.
Of course, everyone else was also crossing on foot, so we just joined the rest of the chaos and managed not to get run over.

Wandering buffalo

It's only just barely north of the city, but it seems these buffalo have slightly more of a rural life than some others.


Coronation Park part II: Found you, King George V

King George V of England is the whole entire reason I wanted to go see Coronation Park.

It's where the biggest statue in the world of King George V lives.
In a very obscure, out of the way place.

You see, he started out under the canopy near India Gate. But at the time of independence, he was removed to Coronation Park.

The Coronation Park that is now a construction zone and a mess of mud and brick.
Out north of nowhere, no less.
More irony.

But King George V, we found you. Don't be embarrassed by being in the graveyard of statues. Someday this will be a nice park and maybe someone will come to visit you.
We did.
Have hope.

Coronation Park part I: Construction park

Way out north, there is a
statuary graveyard. When India gained it's independence, there were several British statues that found themselves to be homeless. So they were moved all together to a new location.

In the move and over time, the identities of most of these statues were lost. Former viceroys, military officers... the whole place was forgotten and unvisited.

Until recently, when the Delhi centennial was in the news and someone paid attention to it.
Then it was decided to clean up the park, trim down the shrubbery and make it a nice, visitable place.

The whole statue graveyard/construction site park is kind of amusing.

It should be nice when it's actually finished.

But for the time being, we were walking around amongst the mud and dirt and unlaid bricks. We would not have been let in to a place like that in the US.
I find it very ironic to walk around somewhere with forgotten statues next to piles of brick next to big machinery.
Ironic how history turns out. It's not even close to what the original creators of the statues had in mind.

Metcalfe House

To take this picture, I deliberately disobeyed the "photography is prohibited" sign.

All I wanted was to see the Metcalfe House.
I would have been content with just a glimpse of the rooftop from the other side of the gate. But it didn't go quite the way I had anticipated.

After seeing Dilkusha and reading stories about how Sir Metcalfe's house in Delhi was the center of high society during his time, I was curious.
I had read that nowadays it is the Defense and Research Development Organization and people are not allowed in. So I expected not to be let in.

I suppose the idea I had in my head was viewing a great, big mansion from the opposite side of a well guarded fence.
Like this:

Wait, Sir Metcalfe was British.
So more like this:

And then I would have been satisfied.

Instead, this is how it went down:
We arrived at the imagined well-guarded gate and were asked where we were going.
"To see the Metcalfe house," I replied. And he waved us inside.
A quick picture from inside the gate has got to be better than any view from outside the 12 foot walls.
Everything inside the gate, though, just looked like big, ugly office buildings. Where was this mansion?

The next military official approached us: "Where are you going?" And he led us into the security room where our bags were xrayed.
Then he didn't know what to do with us. He didn't understand what we wanted to see. He didn't understand why we didn't have a "who" to see. And he didn't understand why we were trying to get anywhere without a permission letter.

So he went and got someone from higher up.

The next man spoke some English. He wanted to know which department we were visiting or who we had come to see.
No one, no department, I tried to explain to him. We just want to see the Thomas Metcalfe house, to see what it looks like from the outside. We will look at it, I said, and then we will go.

That made no sense to him. We were in the DRDO, after all, where people are engaged in the research of new technologies for defense and research. We must have had some other purpose for being there.
And of course, they weren't going to let us in--I didn't even mind that--I just wanted to see where Sir Thomas Metcalfe lived.
I rephrased our request as many ways as I could think of, but I was not getting through to him.

Finally, we gave up and went back out through the gate. If the mansion is still in there, it's buried among ugly buildings and bureaucracy.
It was not the adventure I expected to have, but it was adventurous, nonetheless.

Hindu Rao baoli

Hooray for sighting another baoli!

The Hindu Rao baoli has certainly seen some damage.
It could be from lack of upkeep, or it could have happened in the battle of 1857.

Even so, it has a nice green color and I would have been sorry to miss we almost did.

From atop the Pir Ghaib, I looked all around for where the nearby baoli I'd read about was located and couldn't find anything.

I'd given up.

As we walked out, a woman asked me if we'd gone to see the Ashoka pillar nearby. Yes, we'd already seen that, I told her.
"And the baoli?" she asked.
"No, where is it?"
"It's down the road and on the left."
"Oh further down the road. Good. We will see it."
"You want to see it?"
"I will come with you. I have the key."
The key! Ohoh! How marvelous the holder of all the keys was standing here before us, or we never would have gotten in, even if we had found the baoli!

But because we had met her, she walked with us, opened the gate and told us to look all around.
All around is what she said, and you know, there are not many safety precautions taken in places around here. I easily could have ended up in a pit of green slime.
And that's what the police officer who stepped in also worried. He came inside the gate and scolded the keeper-of-the-keys: "Don't let them go there or there. It may give way and they will fall."
No worries, man, I do not want to fall into that.
Nor did I want to get the nice, key lady in trouble.

So we looked around, took pictures, thanked her and moved on.
One more Delhi baoli: check.

Pir Ghaib

A short walk away from the Mutiny Memorial is Pir Ghaib.
Being that it's located in the civil lines area, some of the fighting of 1857 took place here.
If time hasn't damaged the buildings enough, the battle did and there is not a lot left of what used to be a palace.

Pir Ghaib is named for the 'Disappearing Saint'. The story goes that a holy man came to this remote area to meditate. People would come to him with their requests and gone was his peace and quiet.
So one day he just disappeared.

The buildings are from around 1360 when Firoz Shah Tuglak--who also used to visit the saint--built himself a hunting lodge and what seems to be an observatory here.

Maybe Firoz thought he could find the missing saint with the astronomical tools.
Maybe he looked for another connection to a higher power.
Maybe he just wanted to go hunting and sleep under the stars.

Mutiny Memorial

The British built this Gothic style tower in 1863 in memory of the soldiers who died in 1857.
It seems they really took this event to heart, as it is covered with elaborate detail and plaques filled with information of who and how many died or were wounded.

But it's a controversial bit of history, and could easily be thought of as insulting, calling the Indian freedom fighters "the enemy".

In 1972, a new plaque was put up, clarifying who the enemy and heroes really were.

The tower stands above the treeline and can be seen from a distance. But, understandably, it is not often visited.
It was even difficult to explain to a rickshaw, driver where I wanted to go. I pointed to the tower in the distance, called it by different names, including the local one of Ajitgarh, but I couldn't make myself understood by any one who wanted to find such a place.

Maybe they just didn't want to go uphill?
Who knows.
I did find it. I did photograph it. I did add it to my collection of Delhi experiences.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fire in the house

My neighbors lit a fire in the middle of their living room floor.

Yes. They did.

Right there on the marble floor, they sat around it like it was a winter evening campfire.

What must the people above have thought when the smoke filled their living room and their toes were toastier than usual?

It seems it was a holiday, Makar Sankranti. But usually, people celebrate by flying kites or taking a dip in the River Ganges. So I don't know what led them to light a fire in the house.

Maybe their heater wasn't working?
It's a mystery.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ambassador advertisment

Here's another decked out ambassador.
Travel in style and advertise your business while doing so.
Yes indeed, the ambassador is a versatile vehicle, and always classy.

Sweet spot

Well look here...
The street dogs have found a way to get off the cold pavement.