Delhi delights - Return to India 1

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January 11th 2018
Published: February 28th 2018
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Return to India 1

Delhi delights

January 2018

I want to take you on a journey. Not just any old journey, but one where we can combine the spiritual mystique with the natural and cultural delights of this fascinating land we know as India. Janice has kindly allowed me off the lead for a month to enable me to share time with my younger brother, Mike; a much experienced traveller and devotee of this vast country. We’ll put behind us the trials of long haul, some 23 hours from rising on the day of departure in the UK to arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for e-visa check, and finger-print and face recognition for some, at immigration.

I’ve heard it said amongst you that you have no desire to visit India: for yes, there is indeed poverty, there is an abundance of rubbish, there are many beggars on the streets and cows and pigs are free to wander at will in their role as recyclers supreme. But its people are remarkably content with their lot; it’s not always happiness as we in the West, with our insatiable appetite for material wealth might recognise it,
Shopping Mall - New DelhiShopping Mall - New DelhiShopping Mall - New Delhi

'City boys and girls in Western dress'
but an acceptance of a reality they bear with a placid strength of character and spiritual enlightenment, each with his inheritance, however frail.

Whilst here in New Delhi we will take in the wealth of the city's monuments and revisit briefly, the markets of Old Delhi. You will wonder at the rich kaleidoscope of colour, from slender ladies in splendid saris and glittering bangles, the bright neon lights, the constant bombardment of honking horns and revving motors, the throbbing masses of people with dark brown flashing eyes, and your nose will be in ecstasy with the rich aromas of herbs, incense, spices - and burning rubbish at break of day. You will discover an intensity and diversity of religion beyond your imagination and you will surely be captivated by every smile of welcome and every hand offered in friendship on every corner and at every turn of your head.

This is not our first visit to Delhi, allowing us the opportunity to seek out some new delights and venture further into the back streets of New Delhi in particular on this journey. Regular followers of the ‘grey-haired-nomads’ and the ‘keep smiling’ blogs of brother, Mike, will realise we’re not back-packing youngsters, but two grey-haired old gents who will quickly become the centre of attention when in areas the average tourists rarely visits: a shopping mall of calorie stacked fast-food joints, McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King amongst them, bustling with wide-eyed teens; city boys and girls in western dress, revelling in the delights and horrors of a modern world advancing at capitalistically propelled speed. “Take my picture,” they all call! And who are we to deny them a few pixels.

Beyond the fringes of this smart modern mall are gaping holes on unkempt footpaths. Cars, tuc-tucs and roaring motorbikes weave, tooting and hooting, in and out between dozing cows, flocks of sheep, street kids vie for attention with outstretched hands; balloon sellers call, food vendors stir spices in steaming pans, splashes of vibrant colour of cloth and sari, clatter and clutter, music blaring, endless banging and clanging ….and the grey, penetrating smog we still associate with our last view of LA back in 2006.

Let’s grab a taxi and take in a few of New Delhi’s sights and travel with time through the complex maze of India's religious heritage.

A glimmer of thin sunlight penetrates the fumes of manic traffic as we approach Humayun’s Tomb mid-morning and black kites circle above the dome of this wonderful 16th century building erected in memory of the Mughal Emperor, Humayun. Stand still just here in the shade of this giant ficus tree for a moment, away from the hoards of gathering tourists, and absorb the serene beauty of this delightful monument set in the midst of calm and peaceful parkland, and reflect if you will before we move on to Delhi Golf Club, on its likeness to the Taj Mahal.

“Sorry, Sir. Members only.” the guard commanded as we entered the gates of Delhi Golf Club. Mike explained or mission; to be allowed to take a quick peek around the clubhouse: the first tee and the 18th green, perhaps? With some reluctance the guard picked up the phone and called the Secretary’s office. A brief guided tour of the grounds followed: tees and greens, the busy practice area, the pool, the Pro shop and the very well appointed restaurant revealed the true value of membership here. “We have a thirty-five year waiting list,” we
The magnificent Swaminarayan Akshardham TempleThe magnificent Swaminarayan Akshardham TempleThe magnificent Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple

Built in just 5 years with volunteer labour
were told, “and five thousand members!“ Our gracious thanks must go to the Assistant Secretary for his courtesy and patience. We left with the knowledge that we had been privileged to enter this hallowed ground the elitist British left behind.

But the British failed to influence the deeply ingrained religious beliefs of much of this nation’s devout people. Let’s ask our driver to take us through the diverse maze of faiths.

Intensive security surrounds the nearby Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, inaugurated as recently as 2005. Set in 100 acres of beautiful parkland, this vast Hindu house of worship, with its intricately carved pillars and ceilings, was built in just five years with the help of more than 8,000 volunteers from around the world and some 300m hours of gifted labour. That is true devotion. Cameras and telephones are prohibited inside here; we’ll talk more about security in a moment, but the sublime beauty and craftsmanship it etches on the mind can only leave one breathless and speechless. Contemplate for a moment, the thought that Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, was started in 1882 and is not expected to be finished before 2041!

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib TempleGurudwara Bangla Sahib TempleGurudwara Bangla Sahib Temple

'The great and admirable gift of giving is born to those of this faith'

From Hindu we pass to Sikh, at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. This wonderful temple dates back to the late18th Century. It has much of the grandeur of the spectacular Golden temple at Amritsar we visited back in 2013, and here the welcome is once more as one would expect of such an important place of Sikh worship. Our friendly bearded and turbaned guide will walk with us, heads covered and bare feet, through the grounds, his bright eyes sparkling with pride as we pass through the enormous Gurudwara kitchens where food is prepared by gursikhs and volunteers for many thousands of visitors each day. All, regardless of race or religion, may eat for free here, seated cross-legged with their trays in long rows on the floor, so let’s join the 1,400 for this first sitting today to share in the generosity gifted by these most enlightened people. Afterwards we can then take a leisurely stroll around the perimeter of the sparkling pool if you wish. The great and admirable gift of giving is born to those of this faith. I am overwhelmed.

And lastly to the third of India’s predominant religions; a tedious traffic-packed journey across the City into Old Delhi before dinner to visit the Muslim, Jama Masjid mosque. Completed way back in 1656 AD, it has three ornate entrance gates, four dominant onion towers and two delicate 40m high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble. The courtyard here can accommodate more than 25,000 people and there are many visitors here today; to worship and wonder at this delicate monument to the Muslim faith, sadly desecrated by terror attacks in 2006 and 2010; the justification for tight security at all places of worship here in Delhi.

As darkness falls across the city we make our way to the bustling Maria Mahal market, a foodie’s paradise, for dinner. Amongst the noisy bustle of rickshaws and diners and tourists on narrow lanes we find the first signs of true poverty. A long line of squatting immigrants from distant villages seeking work and shelter in the city await donations from passers-by to provide their one meal of the day; wide eyed in anticipation. My ever-generous brother passed a 500Rs note (£6) to the portly proprietor at the door, and twenty-five starving souls sprang to their feet and jostled for seats in the bar.
Maria Mahal marketMaria Mahal marketMaria Mahal market

Immigrants from distant villages seeking work and shelter await a meagre meal
To put this into perspective, that's 20Rs per person, around 26p UK or 35cents US. We'll be eating elsewhere this evening.

It’s been another tiring day today; filled with so many new experiences of wonder, delight and sorrow. We’ll get a rickshaw back to our hotel to save our weary legs if we can strike a deal. 50Rs (60p) sounds about right.

I suggest you get an early night too. We’ll be making a speedy escape before Delhi-belly strikes us down, catching the 06.45 from New Delhi Station to Haridwar, to seek enlightenment from the banks of Mother Ganges in Uttarakhand in the morning. Don’t miss it!


The grey-haired-nomads

Accommodation: Tree of Life D-193 Saket, New Delhi - a highly recommended Homestay (our second visit)

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


The kitchens of Gurudwara Bangla SahibThe kitchens of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
The kitchens of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Free food daily for thousands of worshipers of all races and faiths
Another smiling face in another Delhi marketAnother smiling face in another Delhi market
Another smiling face in another Delhi market

Smiles aplenty here in India's markets

28th February 2018

Blimey Mate you off again
Hi David and Mike, Here am I looking out of the kitchen window at my garden, which at long last compares well with my neighbours'. Amazing what 4 inches of snow can do. India eh? I can almost smell the spices on you, which reminds me. I joined a basic cooking class year and quickly got five friends to sign up. We're known as the Spice Boys. A group of six of us are into year two and are in the middle of our French Cuisine course. Nyta loves it. I get to bring home a culinery delight every Wednesday. Tonight is Quiche Lorraine and Tart Tartain. India looks fascinating still. It's years since I was there but from your photos (always a pleasure) not a lot has changed. Enjoy yourselves and keep sending the blogs. Keep smiling, John
28th February 2018

Indian cooking!
Hi John and Nyta, Good to be home and eating real food again. Expect a knock on the door one Wednesday evening! Too much snow for golf right now, but we must make a date for later in the year. More blogs to follow - The Ganges, from Haridwar and Rishikesh to Varanasi. Keep doing it! David
28th February 2018

Fantastic trip
Enjoy every minute, the pictures are wonderful. xx
28th February 2018

Hi Moi and Graeme, Thinking of you too (two) right now - I'm painting a series of pictures (acrylics) on a migration theme. The first one portrays Monarch butterflies - those on the east coast overwinter down there in Mexico. I think the first ones leave for the north any day now. We missed the migration up the west coast in Pacific Grove back in 2006. Hope you're still enjoying every minute! David and Janice (More India blogs to follow)
1st March 2018

Old Delhi
Your photos of Old Delhi are exactly as it was when we visited (in January too), and it made me want to experience it on a sunny day with blue skies. I'm still not sure what to make of the Akshardham Temple, I think a second (or third or fourth...) visit may be in order to fully absorb and understand it :)
1st March 2018

Akshardham Temple
I know what you mean about this temple. It has serenity and considerable magnificence, but there is this strange funfair addition in complete contrast. There is perhaps justification in that it introduces the young to their religion in an easily understood and enjoyable manner. Enlightened perhaps? And where is the justification for such a display of religious pomp when so many millions remain on the poverty line? An old argument going back many thousands of years. I guess faith is what holds it all together. David
1st March 2018

What a trip, eh?
And it's only just started! Did we really do all that in a day and a half?
2nd March 2018

Did we really do all that?
We actually did rather more, But I’ve run out of words, I’m exhausted and I’m still recovering! Thank you Mike for letting me share these moments with you and for all your guidance and knowledge of this intriguing country. Big brother, David
1st March 2018

breathless and speechless
A wonderful essay on the wonder, delight and sorrow that draws you to India yet again. Captures the aroma that pricks the nostrils...that touches your heart. Your words and images make me breathless and speechless...looking forward for more.
2nd March 2018

Hello Dave, That’s praise indeed from a master of words, though our styles could not be more different!! Many of the delightful people we met in India have asked if I will return. This was my third trip to India: the second with brother, Mike, and I have to answer as I’m sure you would too - “As much as I would love to there are too many other places I’ve not yet seen.” You’ll think back on that when you reach my age no doubt! David
5th March 2018

A second trip
India is charming, yes and assault on the senes but if you can't look past that your travels will be limited. . A Brother trip is always a good thing.... glad you've been unleashed! Sounds like you will be on FB pages around India. Thanks for taking us along on the travels. MJ

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