A Tale of India: Day One in Delhi (5/24/14)

We landed at 9 AM this morning, about forty-five minutes late, our first introduction to Indian Standard Time. After immigration and walking thru Customs, we were looking for Anil, my cousin who had helped me arrange this trip. Thru a row of place cards, none carried our name.

Contemplating whether we should get a phone first, we both decided that we look for Anil first as he could help guide us with regards to the phone. Derek stayed in, as I walked outside past the guards. Anil immediately recognized me. After hellos, I went back inside to grab Derek when I was immediate stopped by the guards outside, their hands clenching their shot guns or AK-47s. At each door, the same story. While I could not understand them nor they me, the clenching of their guns and their firm head shakes clearly told me of their “opinion” on the matter. I could see Derek thru the tinted windows, but could not get his attention as he was too far away and not looking in my direction. Even with Anil talking to the guards could not sway them; and that if I wanted to get back inside, that I would need to purchase another ticket. This was not a good way to start. Finally, Derek saw me jumping up & down, arms flailing. With a smile, he walked thru the doors, the Indian guards with their guns still firmly held, their faces stone.

After calling my mother, our first order of business was securing a phone which was a good lesson in Indian politics and business. Apparently, one needs a proper & specific government issued ID, then buy the phone, wait 24 hrs for it to activate (but for us 48 hrs because Sunday being a holiday), after which we can then buy minutes. The country was in high alert with the new prime minister being sworn in within a couple days. Lesson learned.

We were hungry, and was able to get a restaurant atop the phone stores to open thirty minutes early to eat a fantastic opening meal with buttered roti, rice, fish fry, lamb kabobs, butter chicken, and mixed vegetables. (In looking back at the entire trip, this was just the start to an amazing culinary experience.)

After cleaning up at the hotel, we decided to make the best of the rest of the afternoon sightseeing. Admittedly exhausted, we powered thru, knowing it would help us acclimate to the time change.

Qutab Minar is the tallest man-made structure without the use of machines, also a part of the collection of World Heritage sites. Built 1100 years ago by the Mughal Empire, it stands a gargantuan 25+ stories – not unlike the redwoods I’ve seen in California, quite impressive in its build and beauty, and in trying to figure out how it was built in the first place. The stonework on it and the structures surrounding it are quite intricate. We stood out like a sore thumb amidst the Punjabis, Gujarattis, and other Indians on vacation. I relished in my difference; Derek was becoming somewhat of a superstar.

Lotus Temple is an homage to the B’hai faith, with temple locations in Sidney and north of Chicago (to which I used to bike years ago). A massive structure in the shape of a lotus, an engineering beauty, with the number nine symbolized throughout its structure.

Government Sector of Delhi is quite beautiful and orderly, originally designed and laid out by the British. One could see the green gardens adorned with massive trees, all the different embassies, roundabouts, and a view of the India Gate honoring the Indian and British soldiers who valiantly fought during WWII. We couldn’t park and find our way to it, due to the area sectioned off for the swearing in ceremony of the new Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, who came up from poverty to a becoming a well known figure; he and his family were, years ago, selling tea as a peddler in railway stations.

Derek – tall, Cauasian and good-looking, clad in a blue muscle shirt, shorts, sneakers, ballcap and camera – was an instant superstar. As we walked thru the crowds of peoples, smartphones and cameras were taking snaps of India’s newest acting sensation by way of the States. Some were even more daring.

“Take a picture with me,” three teenagers commanded Derek.

“You are charming!” a boy in his early twenties smiled.

I knew I should have worn a muscle shirt.

We closed out the day graced by the hospitality of my cousin’s home, his wife and mother had prepared a wide variety of Indian dishes – Kerala fish fry, spiced paneer cubes, a chicken dish with gravy, yogurt with sliced shallots & peppers, mango pickle, pappadum and fried rice. For dessert we had rice cakes followed by ice cream the kids picked out and bought. We had some good family time with mild conversation and looking thru photo albums, before making our way back to the hotel, ready for sleep.

Our day would start early, driving to Jaipur, the Pink City.

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