Finishing on a high note

New Delhi Travel Blog

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Old Delhi, approaching the Jama Masjid

Today was my last day in India, and I spent it with Ananthi, one of the travelers from Singapore whom I met in Agra and then spent the last couple of days traveling with.  I had great fun with her, enjoying the opportunity to process the Delhi’s intense swirls of activity with someone else, rather than just by myself.

 

We spent most of the day in Old Delhi, which I was keen to experience again.  Its narrow, grungy, maze-like streets choked with bicycle rickshaws, pedestrians, cows, and mopeds and lined with hole-in-the-wall shops selling all manner of things from the magnificent to the mundane (sweets, spices, brilliantly colored everyday saris and drop-dead fancy wedding saris, bangles and other jewelry, shoes, gorgeous handmade paper, deep fried snacks, faucets, tires, not to mention the pushcarts selling piles of fresh fruit, or the juice vendors with their piles of oranges and lemons, hand-cranked juice squeezers, and frosty glasses…everything imaginable) could draw you back again and again, and you’d probably never see the same thing twice.

Inside the Jama Masjid
  It is a feast for the eyes, and whether by bicycle rickshaw or by foot (just don’t get run over!) your sight is constantly alighting on a daily moment that is in and of itself a thought-provoking portrait.

 

We also went back to the nearly 500 year-old Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, to admire its enormous courtyard, fine arches, and delicate minarets.  Remembering the climb up it from earlier last week, I suggested to Ananthi that we buy tickets and go up, but we were told by the ticket seller that as two lone women we couldn’t.  He pointed to a sign in English confirming this:  women wishing to go up the minaret must be accompanied by a male!  He gave us to understand that we didn’t necessarily have to know the male, just go along with one, so we simply waited until the next male minaret-goer arrived (a Chilean man with his Danish girlfriend) and went with him.  I’m still unsure as to what danger lone women wishing to go up the minaret present to themselves or to others…

 

Ananthi and I also visited the Gurdwara Sees Ganj, a Sikh house of worship, which was buzzing with activity.

Sweets at Haldiram
  In the central part of the temple men and women sat together on Persian carpets and listened to the kirtan music being played, while in the communal kitchen lunch was being prepared and served to hundreds of people.  Anyone who wants to eat can come in and do so, and so Ananthi and I joined in, sitting on mats on the floor and eating the roti, lentils, and curried vegetables being served.  Afterwards we went into the kitchen and joined about a dozen women who were rolling out balls of dough into flat rounds for roti, which were then taken over to a flat range where another person cooked them briefly on each side until they were a speckled light brown.  The two of us rolled out rotis like this for about half and hour, no explanations or words needed to be part of this communal activity.  The atmosphere was friendly, welcoming, unquestioning. 

 

In this way the afternoon passed, weaving our way in and around Old Delhi, becoming part of the crowds of people going about their daily activities, pausing to have lunch at a local joint (Haldiram’s – very good), peeping into shops, getting swept up in the flow and motion.

 

Before I knew it, it was time to get back to my guest house to collect my things, drive to the airport, and fly back to Seattle

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Old Delhi, approaching the Jama Ma…
Old Delhi, approaching the Jama M…
Outside the Jama Masjid
Outside the Jama Masjid
Inside the Jama Masjid
Inside the Jama Masjid
Sweets at Haldiram
Sweets at Haldiram
New Delhi
photo by: peeyushmalhotra