Published: November 20th 2005November 19th 2005
Meeting up with my chum from yesterday at 9AM looked increasingly like a bad idea, given that jet lag, people shouting inside the hotel, people shouting outside the hotel, and a synchronised barkathon by the neighbourhood dogs at ~4AM, had conspired to keep my sleep time to a minimum. But I kept to the schedule, he bundled me into an auto, and off we went. He had just been looking in a clothes store because apparently "Sock is broken", a comment which deserves an airing in the next series of Little Britain. Again, the atmosphere was very convivial. We had some chai, and talked about Indian culture. I asked if he ever saw any Western movies, to which he replied "Oh yes, we get some great ones here". Such as? "Anaconda". The one with Jennifer Lopez? "Yes, they've made 1 and 2, and are about to make 3." Crikey. Anything else? "Yes, Harry Potter". I swiftly changed the subject.
After seeing the Lakshminarayan Temple (actually just the gardens, as you had to temporarily surrender your camera if you wanted to go into the temple itself, which I was loth to do), the India Gate, Raj Path (which reminded me a
little of the Mall in Washington DC), and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the visits to shops resumed. After enduring the sales pitch of a carpet seller, who unfurled so many of his wares that he created a miniature pashmina Himalayas between me and the exit, I said that enough was enough. By a not-so-amazing coincidence, my commission-hunting friend then realised he had to go to class. However he did leave me with his auto driver, so I was able to spend the rest of the day sightseeing.
First stop was the Qtub Minar, which is India's largest tower, and one of the earliest Muslim monuments in the subcontinent (pictures to follow). It's impressively tall and covered in carvings in Arabic. Many of the tourists that I saw here would reappear again at the other destinations I went to today.
Next was the Baha'i Temple, one of the more recognisable of Delhi's landmarks. It resembles a blossoming lotus flower, surrounded by 9 light-blue pools of water, and is the centre of the Baha'i religion. I managed to attract more unwanted attention here. Two teenage boys with a very rough grasp of English managed, over the course of half an hour, to
Shaped like a blossoming lotus, this is surrounded by nine clear pools of water, and contains a very peaceful meditation hall.
indicate to me that they were travelling to London for some medical treatment, and could they stay in my house? When I commented that I didn't have a house, they suggested maybe I could give some money to help pay for their accommodation. This struck me as a good moment to leave.
Final stop of the day was at Humayun's Tomb. It was pioneering in its day, in that many subsequent Moghul buildings in India followed similar design principles, such as a geometrically arranged garden, with the best example being the Taj Mahal. This was the most interesting building I saw today, both in terms of the architecture and the setting - quiet, grassy grounds irrigated by a network of water channels and populated by squawking green parakeets and chipmunks. Afterwards, I was ferried back to the hotel, feeling fairly drained after a long, dusty day.
I'm sure this topic is going to rear its head again, but I'm not sure who I can take at face value here. Literally everyone who approached me today (bar one, a girl from San Francisco who saw my Cal T-shirt and mistakenly assumed I was a fellow Californian) - and I
haven't even bothered to log all the incidents - had an ulterior motive. I'm very reluctant to adopt a policy of not trusting anyone so I think I'll just have to hope that my "good person" radar focuses itself quickly.
Whilst walking back down Main Bazar to the hotel, I was offered drugs of various classes by one guy, and cigarettes by another. Following in the wake of yesterday's questions regarding call-girl rates, I must really look like one of the more vice-prone tourists here. I confidently expect to be offered the services of a sheep in the coming days.
Note to self - keep an eye on bottled drinks. Diet Coke is not zero calories here, plus the yellowy offering that I'd fondly thought was lemonade of some description was both out of date (August of this year) and had written in small print on it "Contains no fruit".
There are more photos below