Monday, May 16, 2016

SO.  MUCH.  HEAT.

The locals keep telling us it is indeed HOT, "It reached 44 today!!" they exclaim.
Sadly, though we are getting better at figuring out the in-head formula to convert rupees to dollars to have some idea of what we are spending, a formula for converting celcius to farenheit has not been commited to memory.  Note to self:  when we have internet look up that formula!  I know 44 must be over 100 degrees.  In Delhi it is a dry heat and I am sweating like I have never sweat before.  But it is interesting - the sweat doesn't STINK.  Even clothes taken off and dried in the hotel room do not smell sweaty before they are pitched unceremoniously on the DIRTY CLOTHES pile.

  
At India Gate - boy were we SWEATY!  And how about those HATS, eh??
We had a super busy day on day 2.  In fact, we were so busy that by the end of the day we were EXHAUSTED and bailed out on going to meet some relatives of a friend in Delhi (sorry Sumita and Abhishek, we felt guilty cancelling but MAN we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow...). 

We started the day with our tour guide at 8:30 am.  It was a Sunday and we were told traffic wouldn't be as bad as normal.  Let's just say, you would never ever in a million years find me driving in Delhi, even on a "light traffic" day.  There are round-abouts (traffic circles) everywhere, horns honking is the "music" of the road, motorcycles weaving in and out continually, and lane switching is a constant dance (I do not THINK turn signals are used, even though our driver says they are...). 

We saw tons and our guide knew all the details and history by heart:  Qutab Minar (a beautiful victory tower) and the gorgeous mosque that is next to it, the tomb of Humayun (an examble of Mughal architecture, where lots of important Mughals found their final resting place), the India Gate (a memorial to Indian soldiers who have died in war), the President's house (much more palatial and fancy than our meager White House), the Parliament buildings, the Lotus Temple (that we had missed seeing the inside of when we ventured there by ourselves on night one so we asked the guide to squeeze that in please!), Old Delhi, Older Delhi (this made me giggle), New Delhi - SO MANY DELHIs!!  The market, the bicycle rickshaw...


Qutab Minar


Starting off on our bicycle rickshaw ride!
And after an entire day of seeing the "sites", the things all tourists see in Delhi, I can confidently say that the sites are secondary to me.  The PEOPLE, the experiences, are what I crave.

The whole culture is enthralling.  There are SO MANY differences here compared to the USA.  For example, the market we went to is officially closed on Sundays.  But not to worry - when the official market is closed, the UNOFFICIAL vendors set up their "stalls" in front of the closed shops!!  Women with large pieces of cardboard spread out on the dirty ground selling pots and pans (of shapes and sizes we do not need/have in America).  Barbers set up with their shaving stands (where, our guide told us, many men stop and pay around 15 rupees (like .20 cents) to get a straight razor shave on the way to work, because they live in crowded spaces where each tenant only gets 5 minutes or so in the bathroom so there is not enough time to shave at home.  You can also get a head massage and hair cut right on the street!!  Of course, I wanted David to get a shave, but when you take even a second to consider it, our Western prudeness and concern kicks in; a STRAIGHT RAZOR that has been used on who knows how many people before you that might CUT you?  Ummm, best to not try it.  ).  There was the guy making some sort of bread with filthy visibly dirty hands while sqatting on his cardboard (this bread was soon to be sold in his shop).  The EAR CLEANING man/boy who would clean your ears for you while you sat on a stoop outside.  Oh, I almost forgot, the METAL MAN - his shop was one of the ones open on Sunday.  He was sitting cross legged in front of the shop digging through a burlap bag and behind him was MOUNDS AND MOUNDS of metal items - bells, pots, pans, coffee tins, anything and everything METAL.  It was like the worst episode of "Hoarders" you have ever seen, but it was a SHOP!!  If we had asked for a sword, I bet he would have dug through that pile until he found 2 or 3 for us to choose from. 

Isn't this just a fabulous sight to see???  So amazing to me.
The bicycle rickshaw was exciting!!  We rode through Old Delhi, where the roads are the bumpiest I have eveer seen. Our guide warned us to keep our elbows in the rickshaw, hold onto the camera, and brace ourselves with our feet.  As soon as we started off it was clear why - bump, bump, bump!!!  Fun!!  We saw things I never dreamed of, like this woman dressed in a beautiful outfit perched on top of a huge pile of bags, being pulled by a bicycle!!!  I am not sure how the BAGS stay balanced,
let alone the woman!!

I gave away 3 lollipops today from the stash of things we brought to give out to children.  One little boy came up to our back seat car window while at a red light and knocked on the window to beg.  They come right up, knock, and show you the saddest face.  Some point to their mouths, some point to their outstretched hand.  We asked our guide if it would be ok to give kids candy, and he said yes (though he recommended that we unwrap it before giving it to him so he couldn't re-sell it).  We rolled down our window and handed him a wrapped lollipop.  Heck, if the kid wanted to sell it, let him have at it!  Any tiny amount of money he could get for it would be better used by him than me.  He smiled as he took it, then pointed in the general direction of his friend/brother who was also begging.  We handed him one for his mate and rolled up the window.  Well, wouldn't you know it, before the light turned green his mate showed up and tapped on the window, too!  Word had gotten out that we had treats, but kid number one had NOT shared the extra lollipop with kid number two!  Little stinker!!  So we gave kid number two one and rolled up the window.  This resulted in a sad face from him, and a gesture that clearly read, "Hey!  Why did you give my BROTHER two and I only get ONE??  What am I - chopped liver???".  Luckily the light turned and off we went!

There is a big fountain at the India Gate.  It was filled with local kids, splashing, frolicing, and cooling off.  It was so lovely, but so sad at the same time.  They live in a place where it is so hot, yet no one has air conditioning.  Some of their homes do not have running water.  Some of them probably were kids from the shanty towns that are set up all around.  There most certainly is not a community swimming pool.  And so they splash in a public fountain (filled with dirty water). 

They know no different, so they are loving every minute of it.  But in my heart I would prefer to invite them all back to our hotel and have a party - at least one evening of their childhoods filled with clean, cool water and smiles (and lollipops!).

Helping a friend up

Big fountain outside of India Gate  - cooling down on a hot summer day.
The disparity between the "have"s and the "have not"s is so evident in India.  I know it is a problem
in every country, but it just seems so CLEAR here.  It makes me sad.  Don't get me wrong, I am so
glad I am here and can experience all of this.  But it sure makes you pause and reflect on how much you have - clean running water, a roof over your head, a working vehicle and money to put gas in it...

We were so EXHAUSTED from sight seeing in the heat for 9 hours, so opted to stay in, swim (and feel guilty about the opulent surroundings...), and go to bed early.  While swimming we met a man who is a political journalist for India 24/7 - a cable news channel.  He lives near the hotel and has a membership to come swim and use the exercise facility.  We are going to tune in and watch for him, though we now learned that the channel is in Hindi so we won't understand his reporting :) .  He (and
several other Indian people we have met) asked us about DONALD TRUMP when he learned where we were from.  It is mortifying to me that TRUMP is "representing" America.  I do my best to quickly explain that not everyone in America thinks Trump would make a good president, and all of the people who have talked to us about him wholeheartedly agree :). 

That't it from India.  Tomorrow we have to have breakfast at 6:30 am and be ready to leave at 7:15 am to catch "India's FASTEST train" (it's new!) to Agra and see the Taj Mahal.  Exotic!

2 comments:

Kirsten Ghatasheh said...

Wow. So cool!! Thanks for sharing!!

Kirsten Ghatasheh said...

Wow. So cool!! Thanks for sharing!!