Delhi Trip Part 2

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We started out taking the Metro (how I love the metro!) down to the JLN Stadium station, and walked from there through the back alleys nearby, to get to Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Dargah. It was an interesting sight; you have to cover your head (men and women alike), and women are not permitted inside the tomb area itself. It was interesting, but a bit of a depressing sight as well, because throughout the weaving through the passages are beggars, blind or elderly or kids, and they’re trying to solicit baksheesh the entire time. It’s depressing–but you have to turn your eyes, because you just could not survive any other way, I think. Compassion is good, and give to organizations… or buy food, blankets, etc. Some of the beggars are actually part of gangs, who have to give their money to the gang leader at the end of the day — others are kids who just want candy, and you watch them toddle back off to their well-off parents.

We walked from the Dargah to Humayun’s Tomb, walking past a few different Mughal-era pieces of architecture as we went (including one tomb/site that we couldn’t find any info about). Humayun’s Tomb was interesting; you can definitely see all the work that has gone into repairing and bringing it back towards a closer level to its famous descendent, the Taj Mahal. The grounds are beautiful, and we only caught a glimpse of Isa Khan’s tomb (they’re doing some restoration on that site now as well). It was nestled beneath a tree outside a mosque/tomb area that we decided to sit down and read for a bit in the shade and the breeze… and found out my Kindle’s LCD screen had broken.

My mood thus soured, we pushed on to the main tomb and I sat on the stairs as Adam went up and took loads of pictures; Humayun’s Tomb is sometimes called the “Dormitory of the Mughals” because over 100 people are actually buried there. It’s a “standard” layout of a tall platform with four staircases set around it, and the tomb and fanciest work done atop that platform, with the rising dome. When he was done, we headed out. One of the guys was trying to solicit us for a taxi – we wanted Rs30 for Khan Market (which is eminently reasonable), and this guy wanted us to “stop at family shop”. Knowing full well how that deal works (they bring you there and don’t let you leave till you buy something), we declined… we watched as his prices dropped to a FREE taxi ride if we’d stop at the family shop. That should tell you there’s something sketchy going on, right there!

We finally got a rickshaw and made it up to Khan Market, which is an upscale tourist shopping area that’s in a bracket-like shape; take a ] and turn it on a diagonal, and then inset a smaller bracket in front of it – you end up with four sets of storefronts in one small area, selling everything from saris to jewellery, shoes to books, pens and stationary to expensive designer kurtis and watches. There’s a stationary shop (Anand’s Stationary) which I like very much, as well as a few good bookshops (including Bahir’s which has been around since 1953 – shortly after Partition), and while it’s expensive, it at least gives you a good view of what can actually be gotten in Delhi.

From Khan Market (our mood slightly improved by pizza), we took the Metro back up to Paharganj and then I got my mehndi done on my hands. Two men did it fairly quickly; one took each hand and just powered through the design. Due to the absurd Delhi heat, it dried quite quickly, and the colour was less than great (orange rather than dark brown). We had dinner and mused over what to do – draw over it in Sharpie, as Adam has skills from years at OPC with the kids? Just deal with it? Once again a bit miffed, I resigned myself to having orange splotches on my arm… and then we went back to the hotel, where the hotel owner had a pleasant surprise.

He sent off one of the staffers to get some Ayurvedic mehndi darkening powder: rub it on dry, wait 5-10 minutes, wash it off. We tried it, and I have never been so impressed with a product in my life. The mehndi is now dark, as it should be – and for Rs10, and waiting about 10 minutes, well worth every paisa! I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get it up here in Mussoorie/Dehradun, but I’m going to try… or else I’ll have to buy a kilo of it when I’m next in Delhi, since over the last few days, a lot of women have been VERY interested in it (especially our Dravidian-heritage friends).

All said and done on Monday, we packed up and were ready to go at 6am for our 6:50am train. We had ended up needing to book first class in order to ensure we got back (didn’t want to risk waitlisting), and it was an exceedingly cushy experience: fancy porcelain bowls, cups and glass glasses for juice, breakfast and a snack, and newspapers. The one quirk was that they were clearly using reconstituted milk powder for the milk for our cereals, because an attendant came down the rows with a large pitcher, full of steaming milk. Warm milk on cornflakes is… an experience, and one I’m leery of repeating.

We made it back to Mussoorie safe and sound, which was a pleasant relief; back to the grind of school and teaching, and now the definitive count-down to folks coming in December!

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