Farewell to India


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March 5th 2019
Published: March 6th 2019
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India, Days 13 - 15, Monday - Wednesday

Not much on Monday. Just flight to Delhi in early afternoon, so no rush. Taxi to Jaipur airport was no hassle. Jaipur airport not the most thrilling but security did manage to severely piss Pip off by confiscating her (very) small, folding, travel scissors!

India / Jaipur now joins a doubled list of places on Pip's 'Aarrrggghhhh' list for scissors confiscation. It numbers 2 at the moment, the other being Finland. You have been pre-warned.

Our flight was originally due to be two parts - Jaipur -> Delhi -> Amritsar - but as explained in previous blog now curtailed to Delhi. We looked for an Air India desk on the way out, but couldn't find one. As we made our way into central Delhi on the Airport Express Metro to the new, more upmarket hotel that Paul has booked us for our final 2 nights, we imagined how many call outs there may have been at the airport for "Mr and Mrs Wadsworth please contact the Air India desk as your flight is due to depart!'. Oh dear.

Turns out that the hotel is opposite to the ancient Jantar Mantar Observatory that we visited at the start of our trip. And our 10th floor, front room has view across to it. Nice up here. The Delhi traffic and all its incessantly honking of motor horns seems so much further away, and we have kites (the bird, not the things on string) flying past our window.

The marble bath in our bathroom is ENORMOUS, 3-4 times the size of normal. It would seem sinful to waste that amount of water to fill it. But there is also a TV in the bathroom too. And as for the breakfast spread in the morning......

So we pretty much stuck to the hotel for the late afternoon & evening. Sometimes you just need some down time.

Tuesday we set off firstly for India Gate by tuk-tuk. 100 rupees /£1. Seems like so many things over here are "Only 100 rupees.". In amongst the madness that is Delhi and its tuk-tuk drivers, our Sikh driver must have been the slowest in town!

India Gate is an "Arc-de-Triomphe" like archway in the middle of a crossroad, 42 metres high. Almost similar to its French counterpart, it commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I. The memorial bears the names of more than 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens.

Another memorial, Amar Jawan Jyoti was added much later, after India got its independence. The eternal flame burns day and night under the arch to remind the nation of soldiers who laid down their lives in the much more recent Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.

You can't actually get up and under the arch, but the detail is interesting. The commemorated names are carved onto the structure itself rather than on 'plaques '. Beautifully kept, with planted pots all around, though where on earth they are drawing the water from for these gawd only knows. Stinks like old school stink bombs!

It turns out that India Arch is at the centre of an area of commemorative memorials, a bit like the Vietnam Memorial end of the Washington Mall. And a lot of this must be of very recent construction. A look at the Google Maps satellite view of the area shows the North and Eastern area around the arch to be dusty brown, desolate parkland. Now there are several areas of memorials and manicured lawns.

Beyond, to the east of India Gate, is the National War Memorial, only officially opened by Prime Minister Modi on 25 February 2019. All the usual security checks on the way in. They even instructed Paul to put his compact camera away, which was a bit two faced as taking photos with mobile phones was quite clearly allowed, as shown by these from Pip's phone.

This area mostly commemorates the dead of conflicts since the 2nd world war, particularly those with Pakistan of which there have been several. One of the large bronze murals recounts the gallantry of the Indian forces in beating Pakistanis ..... in the Himalayas. ...at over 21,000 feet, near a glacier, at -50°C!! 😨

Having visited there, whilst resting and rehydrating we noticed an area behind us that had many, identically styled, military figure bronze busts on plinths. From where we were sat we thought they looked like British soldiers, and after our refreshments we made our way around the fencing to the area's entrance.

It turned out that this space, the Param Yodha Sthal, has the busts of 21 recipients of the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military honour, introduced some time after independence from England but awards backdated to 1947.

As we went in the Indian Army guard approached us with his hand outstretched. We thought he was heading for Paul's camera - we were now outside the earlier, more controlled, central area. Turned out he just wanted to shake our hands, and then walk us to the central explanation plaque. We had already noticed that we the only apparent westerners who had ventured beyond the India Gate into these new areas, and we think he admired that we were there.

We read a lot of the individual plaques, and, without counting, we're sure more than half were awarded posthumously.

We guess this new area is not on tourist routes yet.

Tuk-tuk to Purana Quila - yes, 100 rupees again - a 1500s Fort built by Humayun, he of the earlier blogs and whose tomb we had visited on the first full day of the Explore trip. Nowhere like as extensive as the Red Fort, but what there was were interesting, including

A very good museum with artefacts back to 3rd century BC
A beautifully decorated and carved mosque
A central, 2 storey, octagonal building which Humayun used as a library. So it was here that he had the fall that caused his death.
A really deep step well as the fort's water supply.

For some reason the place seemed to be full of dozens of young Indian couples around the grounds. And this was a Tuesday daytime.

Then tuk-tuk - don't ask the price - to Raj Ghat, the commemorative area built around the location of Ghandi's funeral pyre - 31 January, 1948. A black marble slab, open to the sky, beautifully decorated with flowers and petals, and an eternal flame. It seems to reflect the simplicity of Ghandi's life. Again maybe only 2 or 3 other western tourists there with us.

As we were leaving there on yet another tuk-tuk we noticed that this Raj Ghat was barely 5 minutes walk, just on the diagonal junction corner from, the original Ghandi Museum we had visited at the beginning of our time here! A little joined-up thinking and notices at the Museum would not have gone amiss.

That was pretty much it for Tuesday . We had some rest back at the hotel and them thought of heading for the spice market, but, when we got to the tuk-tuks it all became a bit complex. The drivers - if you start 'talking' to a tuk-tuk driver you always end up getting surrounded by others trying to entice you onto their vehicle - started talking about Shopping Mall Spice Market, and Wholesale Spice Market. We wanted Wholesale but they said it was closed. And when we also indicated that we were aiming to eat in the area - at the deep fried, filled breads place we had used with the Explore guide - they started talking about it getting dark, and being dangerous with thugs and bag snatchers and how they wanted noticeably more rupees to take us there. ....... We gave up, and had a light snack in the hotel. Just as well really as soon after 'staying' Paul's luck ran out and he succumbed to finding out that spicy food can be as hot on the way out as it is on the way in 😈. Though by morning he was back to normal!

Wednesday we headed for the National Museum. Somewhat tired and dated, though 3 or 4 of the galleries had had more recent makeover. Lots of interesting pieces. The quality of the stone carving, some 2-3000 years old, is so detailed. As were the cast bronzes. One dated back 3500 years or so and was, as most of the bronzes, made by the lost wax process. That is

Model the figure in wax, including all the fine detail
Seal the wax inside a fine slip clay then
Seal that inside more substantial clay.
Fire it, which sets the clay and melts out the wax
Pour molten bronze into the now empty mould
Cool, break off clay, finish/file/polish

What fascinates Paul is that this, essentially, is still the process by which Howmet Castings/Alcoa, Exeter, where he used to work, still make turbine blades for jet engines.

A lovely silk textile gallery, and some incredibly detailed paintings.

Tuk-tuk up to the Viceroy's House - not open today though - and the surrounding Government buildings, then back to hotel to pick up bags and make our way to the airport for our new flight that leaves at 04:15. 😟

And that's our brief sojourn to India done with.

To finish, before we close off this series of blogs from India, some observations that didn't necessarily relate to individual blogs :-

- really surprised at how little smoking we saw, vastly different from what we expected
- data roaming costs in India are really cheap. Our guide, Abi, told us he pays 388 rupees, about £4, per quarter for his phone costs and gets unlimited texts and calls, and 1.5Gb data per day!
- toilet paper in toilets is practically non-existent
- rarely seen the term 'disabled' eg for metro seats. Tend to use terms like 'differently abled'
- amongst the signs seen on one building site
No Safety : Know Pain
Know Safety : No Pain

See you next time - late April into May when we have 4 days in Baku, Azerbaijan then 2.5 weeks driving around Georgia and Armenia.


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