Delhi - Tomb of Doom

Trip Start Feb 23, 2009
Trip End Mar 18, 2009

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Monday, March 2, 2009

    Punita called early, with good news and bad news. The good news: she didn't have to work that day at her publishing job, so she could go touring with us. The bad news: the two things I wanted to do that day (garden where Gandhi was shot, and the Red Fort) were closed that day since it was Monday.

    But she had a great idea of something else to do; a 1565 prototype to the Taj Mahal called Humayun's Tomb, right in the middle of Delhi. (We had considered doing the long trek to the real Taj Mahal that day, which we had loved seeing on a previous trip, but we felt fatigued and wanted to take advantage of Punita's availability.) The scale of the structure and the gardens was very similar to the Taj. Perhaps because there was an entrance fee (how did Punita end up paying for us again?), there weren't many people around the gardens and the tomb of the mogul emperor, and we snuck into some of the creepy dark chambers with roofs covered with sleeping bats. Also, up on the highest arches, Miles spotted a couple massive beehives that were 4 to 6 feet across. Miles got a lot of dramatic pictures from within the tomb, which is something not allowed at the Taj.

    Punita had a different driver this day, Ganesh, and she was continually frustrated that the young man would mumble and not turn the direction she asked him to. Many times he'd simply not respond to her. She'd been using him for the previous two weeks, but 5 of those days he called in sick, and two of them he had other things to do. We were spoiled by most of our drivers, who were smiley and helpful even if they didn't speak English. Ganesh (reluctantly, it seemed) drove us to a Centre Stage Mall in the Noida suburb for lunch and shopping for traditional Indian clothes for Jae. Although I think Miles bought more clothes than Jae. I started to take a video inside the mall's 5-story tall atrium, but I was stopped by security, which I found a bit surprising, but it's also the only mall I've been in where you were searched and sent thru a metal detector before entry.

    We also spent a couple hours trying to get our ATM cards to work and trying to recharge the minutes on the local phones we had bought in Mumbai. (Miles' international texting had exhausted his minutes after 4 days.) It turned out to be complicated to add minutes in Delhi to the phones we had bought in Mumbai, and we could never have done it without Punita's translation and assistance in getting to multiple cellphone card vendors. (The trick was that we had to add 505 rupees for the system to be happy, if we put in 500 it always got rejected. Don't ask why. The usual answer is "it's India.") All of this was done on a dimly lit streetcorner near the Khan Market with crowds of experts gathering to offer their advice, while Jae and Miles and I stood watching Punita deal with it for about an hour.

    We had hoped to catch a bit of a dance performance at a nearby Indian Cultural Center, but the cellphone hassles took so long that when we arrived, it had just ended. The Center had a hotel for performers attached, and a fancy resturant that Punita had access to because of her social caché, so we ate an elegant meal there. No cell phones allowed, but when Punita urgently had to make a call, she found a way to pretend like she was talking into her cloth napkin without drawing too much attention. Nothing suspicious about that!

    Oh, and since it was a private club, there was no way for us to pay for it...Punita did. We owe her about a billion rupees now, which if my calculations are correct, is about $1.27.
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