Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Day 2 in New Delhi, India

We started off the day with a visit to the Mahatma Gandhi’s Memorial. A bit of an oxymoron because in Hinduism there is no grave, there is never a reliquary. A Hindu life ends when the ashes of the burial fires are put into the river. There are no ashes at Gandhi’s Memorial; there is nothing at all of Gandhi, just a small quote posted near the entrance, “A word uttered from a pure heart never goes in vain”.
Large Picture of Ghandi

Raj Ghat, Gandhi's Memorial
People wanted a place to recognize that he lived, a place to pay their respects to this great man who in 1947 helped to negotiate India’s independence from Great Britain. World renown, Gandhi is the epitome of passive resistance but oddly his life ended in violence when he was shot. The new Indian Government relented to International pressure and erected this Memorial. People from all over the world come just pay homage to Mahatma. They all leave their shoes near the entrance and walk towards the center of the memorial to contemplate a unique, gentle soul. The word Mahatma has the meaning of “Great Soul”, which some translate into the word Saint. The area around the memorial is like a garden and is peaceful, even though it is a very touristy place.
Entrance to the Memorial


The Jama Masjid
 The Jama Masjid was next on our schedule. It is the largest Mosque in India and was the last grand building built by Shah Jahan. I want to remember the name Shah Jahan because he was a prolific builder and is best remembered as the builder of the Taj Mahal.
Women's Cover-ups

Men's Skirt
Inside the Mosque

The Jama Masjid Mosque’s plaza can hold 25,000 devotees but I was disappointed when we entered. To my eyes it is just a huge open space, where people can pray. In the middle of summer (45 C) the unsheltered plaza would be very hot to kneel on. Sure there are a few shaded side buildings but not grand enough to allow shelter for all 25,000. Shah Jahan never saw the finished Mosque; I believe he would have not liked it. Besides the vendors outside, the charges for taking photos, the requirement to remove all shoes and the requirement for all women to wear cover-ups (even if they already had long sleeves) and the men to wear skirts if they were wearing shorts, all irritated me. I found it to be a tourist trap, way over-rated.
Narrow Streets in Old Delhi
Chaotic Wiring
Shopping Even by Superman
 The highlight of the day was probably our rickshaw ride within the old Delhi, the part built as the capital of the Muslim India New Delhi, built between the 17th and  19th  Century. They call this section of New Delhi today the 7th city. It is a maze of very narrow, small streets, alleys and backyards. Not wide enough for trucks, just wide enough for 2 rickshaws to pass each other when there is room. Most everything is hauled about by porters who carry stuff on their heads, pull stuff along on carts, bikes or double up to carry large items. It is mayhem if you are in the middle of it. Stores line the side of the ‘road’. Electric wires are strung in a chaotic array that no person can follow or decipher, or God forbid, need to fix. All of the impressions are overwhelming. Yet, in the middle of it all I noticed people just sitting on the door stoop, reading a book or enjoying a ‘quiet’ cup of tea. I saw older women doing their daily food shopping, oblivious to the cacophony of life about them. From the safety of the rickshaw I experienced a life I know nothing about. A life I cannot imagine for myself. Yet people smiled, spoke a myriad of languages, acted out transactions, and helped each other. A bike stuck on a high incline was pushed by passers-by to help the poor chap with his load. Nothing was said; just a helping push was all it took for him to get going. It seem like chaos to me but in the end all of it worked out. Our rickshaw got stuck a few times, no issue, the man biking for us got off the bike, pushed us along, got back on the bike and off we went again. All we had to do is just sit and relax. We could have even bought stuff sitting in the rickshaw but we were overwhelmed with the newness of it all.
Beautiful Silk Carpets

People in India are smart. I noticed in India most people speak at least 3 languages. All speak the language of the town or area they grew up in. Grow up in the Punjab and you speak Punjabi or Urdu. Your Home town is in Rajasthan? You most likely speak Hindi but you would be given Sanskrit, etc. All speak Hindi, the official (TV, Movies, and Government) language and then English to various degrees, the language of business. People are smart in India. Business is done with a cup of tea and a certain trust and certainly with a long term relationship in mind. Any denomination or currency is OK, even though the exchange rate might vary in the business's favor.
Explaining the Weaving Process
More Samples
How do I know about this business set up? I bought a silk carpet! Handmade in Kashmir, it took 3 people 2 years to make it. All the silk is organically dyed using natural dyes and all the colors match and are from one dye lot. At 6x9 feet, it fits anyplace. With a little care the carpet will last hundreds of years. 
My Silk Carpet
Signing My Name On My Carpet

Lunch Time View
Our lunch was in a Chinese restaurant this day. It felt weird eating Chinese food in India. But I must add the place had a great view looking at New Delhi from up high.

Here are a few more things I learned about India.

Namaste:  you gently fold your hands in front of you like in a prayer, slightly bow your head and you say: “Namaste”. It is a courtesy greeting or farewell, at any time of the day.

Caste system: Modern India abolished the caste system; it is against the law to discriminate because of your station in life. The old ways die hard however. Laborers are still on the low end of society. Education is paramount and allows access to higher or upper stations in life. People pay lots of attention to the school one attends or to the job one practices.

Arranged marriages:  are still common practices. Love marriages are OK “if” the family approves and the horoscopes are compatible. Indian life without the approval and/or support of the extended family is ‘unthinkable’. Family and the support structure of it are paramount. Astrology helps finding mates.

Hinduism:  70% are Hindus.    -   18 % Muslims.    -   2% Christians.   -   10 % Others
The way of life for most people in India is Hinduism. Each Hindu person has (must have) 5 people in his/her life:  1) Priest   2) Goldsmith (Jeweler)   3) Hairdresser   4) Astrologer   5) Wash-person.  All of these 5 are essential to a Hindu life.

Prithy said good bye to us, she is only the Delhi guide, but we certainly learned a lot from her.  Thank you, Prithy! Namaste!

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