Sarees, Humayun’s Tomb & Kashmir Carpets

 Everywhere there is evidence of cultures living side-by-side or perpetually conquering one another. Below are our photos from the Islamic Monument Qutb Minar, constructed by the first Delhi Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak in 1193, with stones pillaged from the 30 Hindu temples within 1000 km of Delhi.

qutb

While the men have predominantly adopted the drab garb of westerners, the great majority of women have retained the brilliantly colored sarees or Punjabi dress, and people (or attire) watching has proved even more interesting than the variegated architecture. Apparently we as white tourists prove equally interesting to them. I caught the man in the far right photo above taking photos of me, and in show of acceptance showed him all the photos I took of his people, after which we took a photo together. I couldn’t tell if he thought it as funny as I did; he seemed somewhat nervous.

sarees

Next we stopped by Humayun’s tomb, a beautiful structure built to honor this second mogul emporer by his wife. This tomb included an entire mausoleum for the barber. The structure is surrounded by a lovely park where people enjoy the ample, lush surroundings with friends and family. It is surprising after all the warnings of crowdedness to visit the many peaceful and spacious parks.

Humayun’s Tomb

The carpets are amazing, and learning about them makes me wonder why it never crossed my mind that the exquisite detail relates stories and symbols of the families and places from which they come. All of the carpets are hand-knotted on a loom, according to codes which are sung as they weave to indicate how many threads to include in each knot and which color thread. To one merchant’s great surprise, after half an hour of him picking out carpets to show us, I asked about a gold and black carpet across the room, which proved to be one of the most intricate, overwhelming pieces of art I have seen in person, an undertaking so grand that, we were told, only 5 families in the state of Kashmir are capable of such a feat.

carpets

Other sites included Hindu and Bahai temples across the street from one another, where the people waited two hours to pray in each institution.

temples

Finally, our tour guide took us to a government-subsidised shopping center where we got ripped off, as we thought and as our driver later confirmed. Still, we paid lower-than-american-prices for kashmir silks.

silks-delhi

Josh: Follower of God, Enthusiast

In Christian texts Joshua means “Jesus as a better Joshua, as Joshua led Israel into the rest of Canaan“. Yesterday our guide, finding Josh an enthusiastic student of the history, cultures and architectures of Delhi, told us Josh means enthusiasm or intensity in Hindi.  A cursory investigation in Google suggested otherwise, with josh as a verb meaning to be silly or banter.

There is also a dish called Rogan Josh that has been on many menus the past few days – an aromatic lamb dish of Persian origin, Rogan meaning old, josh meaning “heat, hot, boiling, or passionate”. Another interpretation of the name rogan josh is derived from the word rogan meaning “red color” (the same Indo-European root that is the source of the French “rouge” and the Spanish “rojo”) and josh meaning passion or heat. Excited to find himself on the menu, Josh ordered Josh for lunch today and quite enjoyed it. For dinner we went to Chonas, a restaurant of mostly young people in the upscale Kahn market. (You wouldn’t know it was upscale except for the Puma, Nike and McDonald’s stores – there is still trash, homeless people and rubble; yes, large unorganized piles of building materials in random places throughout the market.) Chona’s restaurant serves 2-for-1 660ml Budweiser bottles, with which Josh washed down his second delicious meal of Mutton Rogan Josh. “I am full of myself” he said at the end, and we walked back to our hotel through the peaceful streets of central Delhi.

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Clock-wise: Josh with 2-for-1 660 ml Budweiser; Rogan Josh; Shots at the upscale Kahn Market restaurant Chonas

Electricity, Sim Cards & Gowns for the Ladies

Aside

j&d rickshaw chandni chowk

Headed down to the crowded Chandni Chowk market of Delhi today, where merchants pedal the same products as 350 years ago – the spice street still has all the spices,  ditto for jewelry, saris, shoes, etc. We bought raw cinnamon bark, which people chew for a snack here, various chicken, potato and veggie masala powders (masala means something akin to “mix”) and some ridiculously hot peppers, apparently good for running off unwanted neighbors at dinner time. 

You anticipate the crowds, the shanties, the signs of minimalistic living. But modern niceties are woven through the crowded ancient city, often in an impressively bewildering way. After passing through street upon street with wildly-strung wires Josh asked me “How do you think electrician’s fix this stuff?”

spices  electricity nightmare

sim card debacleOn our trip through the market we continued our (now 3-day) quest for the prepaid phone card. In India the purchase of a pre-paid sim card is quite involved as they try to crack down on terrorists communicating in the motherland.  As such, the application requires a photocopy of your passport, profile picture, visa if you’re foreign, and a 1 day wait period while the government approves your application. Once you qualify for the service, even international, is inspiringly cheap. Here’s to passing … hopefully soon …

One of our first sites was the Jama Masjid mosque, where women must don robes. A family wanted to take their pictures with me; Josh and I are guessing it’s because of my blond hair, but as neither of us speak a drop of Hindi, it’s just conjecture.  

j&d at muslim mosque kids at muslim mosque

There are fewer signs of modern globalization in this big city than in the few others I’ve visited, but next door to the McDonalds we spied a Baptist church, as well as a couple advertisements with white men in underwaear … really weird.   But this mix of culture in one confined area was the will of Sha Jahan who built this “Old Delhi” or Shajahanabad.  On this same street you can find within 2 kms the baptist church a jain temple, a sikh temple, the islamic mosque and a hindu temple.

IMG_0452   baptist church india

The street that used to be the center of town lined with fountains and beautiful markets is now something akin to a free for all…if you sit back and watch, you can imagine yourself in a theatre performance mashup of stomp, cirque du soleil and mario cart.  Hold your breath, look twice, watch your toes and leave the rules of the road behind as traffic flows more like water than traffic.

bazaar congestion

Many Things Hidden Inside You

Our hotel offers complimentary yoga at 7am, and since my body still thinks it is 9pm at 7am, I pitter-pattered my way down to see how it compares to the Vinyasa that is so popular in the States (or at least in Texas).

The master, Lana, was from Nepal, and I was apparently the only guest who wanted to do yoga at 7am, so it felt a little more like karate kid, with my personal master revealing to me positions I wasn’t sure I was capable of (he got my legs behind my head for the first time since Jr High) and muscles I didn’t know I had (lotus – yes, it takes muscle to configure your legs like this).

Lotus Position

“This is your first time doing?” he asked after my surprise at his ability to negotiate my legs into this position without pain. “There are many things hidden within you”.

We warmed up with Hatha yoga, “the foundation of all Yoga styles”, and progressed to what I think he said was Sivananda yoga, which “combines postures, breathing, dietary restrictions, chanting, scriptural study, and meditation.” I’m a yoga newbie, but couldn’t much tell the difference between either of these and Vinyasa.

We are off to tour New and Old Delhi.

Namaste

-j&d

Mack’s Ear Plugs, Pitaya & Car Horns

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The first thing that caught our attention here was the symphony of car horns – drivers use these here not to signal annoyance or rage, but rather in place of turn signals; they beep as they weave in and out of lanes, so that driving signals are auditory as much as visual. They are cute little horns, though, so it’s more pleasant than, say, the cacophonous honking of thousands of Dodge Ram pickups.

After a surprisingly painless 28-hour journey from Houston to Delhi via London-Heathrow we were greeted with orange garlands, a traditional offering to welcome visitors or in honour to the Gods and Goddesses.

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Immigration and Customs took less time as foreigners arriving in India than as American citizens returning from a weekend in Mexico, another pleasant surprise, and by 5am we were blissfully asleep, me with my amazing Mack’s Earplugs, so I didn’t even know we could hear the horn symphony from our room until Josh told me this morning, as we breakfasted on delicious sweet pitaya – kind of like a white kiwi – and Idli with Sambar dip (rice cakes with what reminded Josh of beef stew).

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Still have a few remaining things to wrap up in the states (we forgot to cancel our gas, electricity and water .. doh!), so it’s off to purchase a pre-paid phone and then dip our toes into the sea of New Delhi.

फिर मिलेंगे (See you later in Hindi)

-j&d

Exodus

Off and away! Photos to be posted soon, along with great tales of foreign lands, in particular the riding of a camel (we have recently learned that it is not a camel if it has only one hump, so we will be seeking out the two-humped beast).
It has been a long journey finishing up at our jobs, packing up our beloved Castle , dropping Pig and Cassie off in Austin under the care of dharol’s kind parents, and many bittersweet goodbyes.
Looking forward to new horizons, from new Delhi and Istanbul and finally onto the Rockies!

-j&d