Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
31Trip End Feb 08, 2009
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First stop was Jama Majid, an old mosque. My driver actually went with me on the rickshaw to the site and continued with me on to the neighboring Red Fort (where rulers lived for centuries and then was taken over by the British when they occupied).
I should note: the weather has been really weird and totally different from what I expected. India is actually cold in the morning. Its about 55 degrees in the am and eve and only goes up to about 65F during the day (!). Its been quite foggy too - particulalry in the morning (which is a seasonal thing). As a result, there was this delightful, yet spooky quality visiting places in the morning. I didn't dare scale the steps on Jama Majid - it was rather eerie but powerful. A beautiful building but someone post apocalyptic eerie energy with the number of poor people settled about. I'm sure it would have been quite different and vibrant had I gone 2 hrs later. But there's something special about that morning light... (plus, there's fewer tourists) ;)
After only photographic the steps of the mosque (no way I was going to traipse up them that time of day) the driver came with me to the Red Fort - the palace of the Mughal ruler and later the seat of the British govts presence in India.
This was followed by a trip to the last place Gandhi stayed for the last 144 days of his life before getting shot nearby. It was amazing to see his 'worldly possessions' when he died - two forks, two knives, two spoons (all were one in wood and the other in metal), a bowl, walking stick and a watch. It was interesting where my head went on that one - I started to think about how Gandhi stands up as a "brand" (its identity, reasons to believe, core equity, etc) and how he'll stand up historically. That was just weird (too much chai maybe?)
Then, on to the National Museum - which wasn't super interesting other than randomly stumbling on the relics of the Buddha (!?!). These small pieces were placed in this gorgeous golden urn designed by the Thai govt. While I was there, some monks did their ritual clockwise walk around it to pay homage.
Next, the Railway Museum, which has about 30 trains from India's railway history (rail travel started in the country in 1855). The cars had such elegance and power - it really exuded a wonderfully romantic vision of British colonialism and elegance. A few show engines had wheels 60" in diameter and looked straight out of the movies! The big issue with trains in the country - which must have been, and still is, a huge mess - is the 30 odd different train track gauges used across the country. I had this flashback to this paper I did in my AP US History class in HS about how the North won the Civil War basically because of their having a unified track system (thereby allowing goods to transfer easily across the land). in contrast, the South, much like India, had this random hodgepodge of local entrepreneurs who built their own rail systems and purposely used diff sized tracks to have a proprietary monopoly. It effectively choked the distribution system and fumbled their unified front against the yanks. To that end, its amazing how that India (I guess, come to think of it., much like now) could be so innovative yet backwards looking at the same time.
For my final destination, I went to that enlightened place in Delhi you've all heard about that's one of the signature features of India worldwide: The International Toilet Museum. Given my 250 Pepto Tabs (of which I'm taking 8 per day as a preventative measure), I thought it was only fitting to truly get to the intellectual heart of India's re-known sewage and septic practices. The museum isn't that big, but has a terrific history of sanitation, toilet design, and toilet innovation (the next hundred years... dum..dum...dum...) ;) It turns out that India has the oldest history with formalized toileting, dating back to 2500BC. A big bummer acknowledged by my (strangely enthusiastic) tour guide was how these precious archaeological locales were annoyingly severed from India's history when the country was arbitrarily divided to form Pakistan. DOH!!!
And of course, the big question that I know you're wondering about is 'what did THEIR toilets look like'?!?! 1) They didn't flush and 2) some brilliant person thought of putting the latch on the outside of the door and not putting one on the inside. Their attention to toilet innovation really stumbled on that one. Personally, I felt it really undermined the country's history and put a large mark of poo on their sense of septic honor.
Tomorrow, I'm on to Agra for New Years with the Taj Mahal. I'm going via train so I'm fully busting out my dark black sunglasses and fully pulling down my shmata tube "Buff" thing from REI that works like a charm to cover my hair. I now look like a Utili-Nun ready for action!! ;)
Don't forget to click on the pics (the top only displays three of em)