India, Part 2: New Delhi
A City of Contrast
Our attempt to venture out on our own the first couple of days had proved fruitless. The following day, my sister and I joined our organized tour group. We had a full day visiting the tourist sites. Our first stop was the Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site, marked by a black marble memorial platform with an eternal flame. Green and expansive gardens surrounded the memorial area. It felt as if we were so far away from the normal hustle and bustle of the city. Besides, we were the first group of tourists there. There were few local visitors: schoolchildren, women covered in black from head to toe, and men in white garb paying respect to the “Father of the Nation".
|The meditative atmosphere inside the Jamma Mosque in sharp contrast to the bustle a few feet below|
We visited the Humayun's Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where, again, a great contrast to the Old Delhi. We had to walk for miles to reach the tomb, rather the palace that houses the tomb(s). Made of pink marble, the architecture was very impressive.
We walked barefoot with the worshippers at the Lakshmi Temple and toured the kitchen and dining hall. It was a humongous kitchen where at the end of the row of pots, I saw the biggest pan ever; it took three men to stir the pan with stirrer as big as a boat paddle. I thought there was some sort of festivities because there was a crowd eating at the dining hall. However, I heard that the kitchen was open to the public 24/7.
New Delhi is a city that looks beautifully designed architecturally, with expansive streets lined by trees, but it is not practical for the foot, ox cart, and rickshaw traffic. You have to take the bus or taxi to explore the parliament area. Ironically, tour buses were not allowed to park in the area, so that our bus just drove around in order for us to admire the old government buildings from the outside.
I may not know much about the history and politics of the region, but I saw the grandiose past that's in sharp contrast to the reality of the present, enough to say that New Delhi is a city of contrast. Yes, I enjoyed and admired the architecture, the magnificent tombs that were built like palaces, but also having seen the extreme poverty where kids scoured for food in the middle of the streets, made me react with feelings of helplessness and anger.