Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Plastic wrapped luggage

This is what I like to have the people at the airport do to my luggage before I check it in at the airport.  It's kind of crazy to plasic wrap a suitcase, but I'm hoping it saves on the wear-and-tear that India-traveling has on my luggage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

City village paradox

If you saw these photos and I didn't tell you it was true, would you ever believe they were taken in the second largest metropolis in the world?
Delhi is an amazing gathering of villages, people and cultures.


What kid doesn't dream of selling candy, bubblegum, eggs to his neighborhood?

Neighborhood swimming

It looks like an unassuming gate, doesn't it?

The last time I was here, it was quiet.  This time, I could hear the shouts and laughter from the street before we even stepped inside.
Gandhak ki baoli is the neighborhood swimming pool.  
How cool is that?  To swim in a stepwell?  Other than the one at Nizamuddin, I didn't know there were any still in use in Delhi.  Most don't have enough water and are full of trash (not that this water was clean).

There were even a few boys brave enough to use the old-style diving pillars.  Maybe I should say "reckless enough", because beneath that green, trashy water is a set of stone steps, strong enough to break bones.

Still in the 105 degrees it was out there, it's gotta be nice to know the stepwell makes a good place to swim.

Cows in the road

What do you mean move?

All you can eat thali

Here it is--a lot of delicious food all on one really big plate.

Tash te nari

When they bring out the tash te nari, it means a good meal is about to follow. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Understaffed understatement

I think you would be hard pressed to find a shop or business understaffed in Delhi.  Any task, it seems, can be turned into a job for which someone can be hired.
The entirety of this cosmetic shop is shown in the photo, though you can't see all the people behind the displays.
There were three shoppers in the store.  I counted.
And there were--seriously--twenty-three employees.
That's incredible.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The tour finale

To locate some of the more obscure sites, I sometimes ask a bicycle rickshaw to take me around.  Then he does the task of asking where something is until we get there.
The enterprising rickshaw walla who helped find Khooni Darwaza and Delhi gate decided to add his own attractions to our "tour".
At one point he gestured to the left and pointed out the metro system construction, "Here's where they are building the metro."
The next attraction was the police station:  "See the police station over there?"
Ah yes, there it is.  A building from 1930.

He then asked us if we wanted to go to the Moti Mahal.  It was difficult to hear him over the traffic--what was the Moti Mahal?  Some answer was shouted back that we couldn't understand.  But since 'mahal' means palace, we figured maybe it was an old, famous building that would be worth seeing.
It was a lot further than we had anticipated, "How much further?"
"It's just here.  Just coming."
The build-up was immense as we went further and further into the old streets.  What could the Moti Mahal be?
And finally, "Here it is," he waved his arm.

A restaurant! 

The menu (which pictured the Hawa Mahal in Agra) claimed that dignitaries such as Nehru, Indira Gandhi and even J.F. Kennedy had visited.
It also mentioned that the restaurant "maintains the same quality as it did six decades ago".

Hm, ya.
Maybe a little too much so.

It was an unexpected finale to our historic Delhi scavenger hunt, but very much in theme--old, not as glorious as it once was.

Delhi gate

The Delhi Gate links Old Delhi with New Delhi.

It sits in the center of a busy road. 
On one side are the old tightly-squeezed, winding roads of Shahjahanabad, the last Mughal city.
On the other are the medical college and cricket stadium of modern Delhi.
Instead of passing through the gate as traffic used to, it makes it's way around this four hundred year old piece of history--never imagining that it might be in the way. 
The way old and new exist right next door to each other is one of India's greatest characteristics.

Khooni Darwaza

The Khooni Darwaza looks deceivingly pleasant.  But it's not really so friendly a spot and it's history is as disturbing as it's name:  Bloody Gate.
There are violent tales of the monument's bloodstained past.  Which are true and which stories belong to other gates is lost to history.

Maybe this is where Mughal emperors Jehangir and Aurangzeb executed rivals.

Maybe this is where refugees were murdered during the 1947 riots.

Maybe this is a gate where criminals were executed and displayed.
Two incidents associated with the archway are accurate:
The 1857 murder of the last three princes and heirs to the Mughal dynasty,
and the 2002 rape of a medical student.

I like gates, I like history, and I like a well-told story. 
But here the echoes of brutality from days gone by are a little too easy to hear, especially in a city nicknamed "the rape capital".
Perhaps when the dynasty of violence toward women is finally ended and they can feel safe on their own streets, this gate's bloody history can fade away

You can't see the stepwell...but you can see...

The last time I was here at Firoz Shah Kotla I tried to see the stepwell.
It was under construction.

This time, as the construction was finished, I hopefully approached the gate only to find it locked. 

There were three guards standing around, so my friend said to them, "The gate is locked.  We can't go in?"
"You can't go in, the gate is locked," he replied.
"But we want to see the stepwell.  Can you unlock the gate?"
"The gate cannot be unlocked."
"Then how can we see the stepwell?  We came all this distance.  Why is the gate locked?"
He then told us that there had been a suicide and until they were able to put a covering over the water, no one was allowed inside.
"How long will that take?" I asked.
He shrugged, "Two weeks, two months..."
Two years?

So once again, my only view of the stepwell was what I could see from walking it's perimeter and from atop the Ashoka pillar pyramid.
One day I will see it...
Also from the top of the pyramid was the view of the pillar and it's inscription, up close.
And the view of the masjid and underground tunnels beside it where so many come for djinn puja.

Firoz Shah Kotla is always one place that leaves me disappointed and ill at ease.

Petrol stop

It usually happens when you're in a hurry and can least afford the time:  the auto rickshaw driver stops for petrol.
And though I don't ever see passengers in the other autos lined up, I assume I'm not the only one this happens to, right?

In this instance, the driver said it was needed, and this line was just too short to pass up.
One bonus to the time in line there was seeing this auto decked out in pink and hearts.
It is the law that for safety's sake everyone has to step out of the vehicle while it is being filled with the CNG.  It does strike me, though, that if we are all standing within 5 feet of an auto that is going to explode, it is not going to make a bit of difference whether we were inside it or not.

Street snacks

 Fresh roasted corn, anyone?
Then a cold soda to wash it down?

I love the availability of street vendors.

"You can't come in"

"Go away," said the guard when I stepped inside the gate.
"I am waiting for my friend," I replied.
"Okay, then go away."
"But when she comes, we want to see inside."

"You can't.  It's prayer time."
"Oh." Set back but not giving up, I said, "Then we won't go see inside the masjid, we will only go in the park."
"You can't."
"Why not?"
"It's closed."
"But why?"
"The wall has a crack in it and the park has been closed to the public."
"Is the other gate open?" Persevering on...
"No gate is open."
"Can you unlock it?"
"It is not possible."
"Can you open it after prayer time?"
"No, this is not possible."

I tried.  I tried really hard to see Sher Shahi and the Lal Darwaza, but I did not succeed.