Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

India, day one

Well whaddyaexpect? It's the airport! First impressions are important!

Arrived Delhi at 5:30ish in the morning. Didn't get to the hotel (Hotel Tara Palace) until eight or so. After a quick breakfast, I spent the whole day getting rickshawed around. Bapu was a fine guide and very helpful, if like many in Delhi, possessed of the “special wheedling skill” that comes from living here.
Bapu: rickshaw guide extraordinaire, master of wheedling, charming bastard (compliment)

I'll get more into this later, but for now, let's let the pictures speak for themselves. The persistence haze you'll see is pollution. In Jaipur, my first guide mentioned the three Ps: Population, Pollution, and Parking. Aside from him, people were insistent that it's just fog.

Suffice it to say that Delhi is not to be encapsulated in a simple description. No story is simple, but as with all such places you can't compare any written description to the real thing. I could follow in the footsteps of many another traveler and write my impressions, but these are only half-formed right now. I suspect I'll be able to provide a more thorough and richer report later.

 The preceding pictures were taken from Jama Musjid, the great mosque in Old Delhi. More pictures of the mosque follow below.

Obviously, there is extreme poverty in Delhi and people seem to live on the grift in what is one of the next booming economies. I don't have a sense yet or enough to go on to tell me how India will deal with this situation. Looking at the difference between Old Delhi and New Delhi, it is fairly obvious that there is a geographic separation of the poor and the middle class/well-to-do. It is ever thus, but the difference is jarring when you're heading through the nicer neighborhoods of the diplomats, the officials. the grounds are stunning and even the Air Force base looks like Beverly Hills, from the outside, naturally.

Most of what I've recorded is an attempt to capture the sense of what the lower classes have to deal with. I don't know any of the well-heeled here and so, can't speak from their perspectives. But the wallas and the rickshaw drivers speak volumes. The workers who nap on the sidewalk or under trees testify to the severity of their labour. I'm in India, I might pick up some Britishisms...

For those who are curious, I mentioned to my pick-up from the airport that I was on my way to Dharamsala. He immediately said, “ah, Dalai Lama monastery”. I took that as favorable, so I said, “yes, he's a good man”. I wasn't ready for this: “what? no good man! Many people need food there!” the implication being that His Holiness is just one more Guru on the Take. I wasn't going to argue with him for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the language barrier. I understand that in the north, English is not the lingua franca and my Hindi is far too lacking.

This may also point up to to tensions between the Tibetans and the local populace. I suppose I'll find out more once I'm in Dharamsala.

I'll be heading to Jaipur. I didn't plan on spending this much time in the area. The downside to the region is that it is tourist trap hell and I hate tourist traps. Unfortunately, I couldn't book passage to the north in a reasonable amount of time and so elected to do this (which is what I would do if I were leaving the country; guess you could say it's best to get it over and done with).

Today and tomorrow are Jaipur and Sunday onto Agra. I'll check out sundown at the Taj Mahal (and dawn the next day) and then head back to Delhi to pick up the bus to Dharamsala. 

Following are views of the Masjid-i Jahan-Numa, more usually called the Jama Masjid. It was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal. Jama Masjid refers to the weekly Friday noon congregation prayers. I'll scribble more about all these later. In the meantime, avail yourselves of the links to Wikipedia entries for starters.

Following are images from the outside of the oldest Jain temple in Delhi. The interior is even more beautiful, replete with some of the most amazing statuary and decorative use of gold and precious jewels I've seen yet. It almost borders on the gaudy, but everything has a reason for being there in its place.

No comments:

Post a Comment