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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 20.7972, 78.5742
Now I feel like I'm in India! I didn't feel it in the outskirts of Delhi; everything I saw looked like rural Cambodia: the markets, the traffic, the litter and rubbish everywhere, the poverty, the begging. Indian children are also beautiful, but their dark eyes seem liquid, watery. On Saturday my young roommate, Meaghan, and I explored a few malls near Delhi; we had some free time, and Singjy, our guide, suggested we might want to do that, and take the metro back to near our hotel. In the States I hate malls; I never go shopping except at very alternative stores. (Thank you, Bill, for handling all our shopping needs at home!) I truly hate malls, their sterility, their stale air, their horrible lighting, the things for sale that nobody really needs, and the constant music piped throughout can drive me crazy within ten minutes. (Ask Bill.) These Delhi malls were a bit better, but neither of us wanted to spend our afternoon there, so we stopped for lunch, and then I finally talked her into walking back to the hotel. Singjy said it was about six kilometers, so maybe 3 1/2 miles. Nothing much.
It felt good to walk as lunch had been heavy with oil and the weather was distinctly chilly, so, since we had no map and just a vague idea of where we should go, we decided to follow the overhead metro track as Singjy had said to take it to the end. Lots of traffic, horns honking, broken sidewalks, large puddles and muddy areas, people everywhere, plus there were many loose dogs, goats, cows, pigs, and one camel. We stopped and asked for directions several times, but either Meghan remembered seeing some landmark we passed, or I did, so between the two of us we eventually found our way back. Singjy was impressed; no one else on his tours had ever done that, successfully, at least. For dinner we had a feast of spicy vegan Indian foods, so many delicious offerings I couldn't eat them all. That was my first day in India, but I still did not have a distinct feel of the country. But Singjy told me to be patient; that it would come.
Yesterday we drove and drove and drove, through massive traffic (similar to Bangkok's traffic, but the roads here are much worse) for most of the day, heading to Roopangarh. We stopped for another feast at lunch; if we keep eating like this we will gain a lot of weight in a very short time! Finally we drove through streets so narrow no car was ever meant to travel there. Houses and storefronts were ancient. The market was crowded; we almost couldn't pass, as motos and cows and goats and people and other cars all were trying to pass by too, so we waited, then started, then quickly braked and waited again, but finally we squeezed by the tiny, narrow street that led up to Roopangarh Fort, where we were to spend the night.
Built in 1648, Roopangarh Fort is forbiddingly impressive. "There is your room, up there," Singjy pointed very high up. We climbed up slippery cobblestones reinforced with patches of cement, and then climbed even higher up steep stairways to the top floor of the fort, and there was our room. Huge, enormous; it was big enough to be a hall where many people could have had a banquet or held a dance! It was gorgeous, in a medieval sort of way, and also very cold. We quickly put on long pants and extra sweaters, and then followed our guide down to the village beside the market.
Groups of children soon surrounded us, asking "One for two! One for two!" We didn't know what they meant, but it was obvious they wanted us to take their pictures with our cameras. Unlike in many other countries where I have travelled, they did not want money afterwards for having their photos taken; they were delighted just to see the photos of themselves. (Singjy told us later that "one for two" meant "one photo."😉 I took many, many photos of beautiful children on that walk. Kids would run out from houses and corners calling "One more!" and stand there smiling. Some even dragged out babies so we might be more inclined to photograph them holding a baby. I took photo after photo until it became dark. "No more!" I told the children. We had a thoroughly delightful walk through the village, and when we returned to Fort Roopangarh the lights had been turned on; the high buildings looked like a fairyland out of the Middle Ages. This, now, is India! I truly felt welcomed to another era, a planet distinct from all the other countries I know. Now I feel one of the unique flavors of this country and cannot wait to have many others revealed to me. This is India!
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