A memorable foray into chaos
Nearly a week has passed since we said our good-byes and departed for India and I can say in the most positive way possible that it feels like a month. We have seen and done so much in the short time since our arrival here that it is difficult to know where to begin. The last few days have been spent at the very comfortable Park Hotel near Connaught Circle in New Delhi while I attended sessions at the US-India Educational Foundation complex as part of my orientation. In addition to the seven of us who are part of the teacher exchange, there were about 30 Fulbright Student Scholars, mostly recent college grads who are fanning out across India conducting research in a variety of subjects and topics. I was not alone among the teachers in feeling a little bit old among such a youthful bunch but none of us were ready to trade places with any of them.
Because a few days have passed since we’ve had a chance to post, I’m not quite sure where to begin. In a few hours from now, we’ll be checking out of the hotel for the start of our four day journey to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and on to Jaipur before returning to New Delhi in order to catch our flight to Trivandrum. The program orientation program wrapped up yesterday at lunch so we used the afternoon to visit Old Delhi (as opposed to New Delhi, the British built capital where we have been spending most of our time). The primary focus for the trip was a visit to a mosque and to the Red Fort, but I can’t think of a more applicable application of the saying “it’s not the destination but he journey that counts”. Kuldeep, our very cool and reliable driver, let us off outside of the Old Delhi area and hooked us up with a couple of cycle rickshaw drivers to move us around. We got a few pictures with a snake-charmer and his cobras out before boarding of bicycle chariots and entered the fray. I had read about how busy and chaotic the streets of Delhi could be but I never could have imagined the crush of humanity and its vehicles that completely filled the streets and flowed ever so slowly in what appeared at first to be a chaotic frenzy.
Our drivers were pros and dodged and weaved with the best of them. Our first stop was the Jama Masjid mosque which required a walk through a busy market in our approach to the mosque complex. I confess to having some discomfort visiting as a tourist places being actively being used by people for religious ritual but aside from the casual stares that we receive everywhere we go, no one overtly seemed to mind.
Our next stop was the Red Fort, a huge complex with a rich history that I’m not going to get into here. Compared to other places we had see in Delhi, I found it to be a bit underwhelming – the heat, humidity and a lack of water with us didn’t enhance the experience.
Before returning to Kuldeep’s car, we overruled the girls’ protests and forged on ahead to the spice market where we encountered traffic that defies description. While a picture is worth a thousands words, nothing beats video - ride along with us during a relatively calm stretch of the road!
Scenes from Old Delhi
Having had a taste of Old Delhi, we were ready to move on to Agra.