I cheated again! I was originally planning on taking trains from Mumbai through Rajasthan and ending in Delhi, but there weren’t any direct trains to sensible places, everything was over 24 hours and long booked and I wasn’t going to waste 2 days doing nothing like I did in Bhubaneswar. I’m a smarter and more desperate traveler than I was a month ago. I also decided to fly directly to Delhi since my friend was leaving the following week! Oops.
I arrived late at night to meet my friend Kunal. We were in the Mendicants, my a cappella group, together at Stanford and it was great getting to see him again. I’ll give full disclosure here. With an income not dissimilar from the upper middle class/lower upper class in the United States, you can get a lot more in India. He lives in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Delhi and his driver picked me up from the airport. My stay in Delhi was a welcome luxurious change from the DIY stress I’ve been living with for the past few months.
More honesty. I spent 6 days at Kunal’s house, leaving on the morning of the 7th. I spent 3 of those days (not consecutively) doing absolutely nothing. What a joy to sleep in! And I woke up to prepared meals! It was such wonderful hospitality and I can’t think Kunal and his family enough.
That means the rest of this post is really cobbled together from just 2 days out and about in Delhi. A lot of people told me how dirty, busy, loud, and congested Delhi was. I knew I had to go not only because my friend lived there, but because my flight out was from there! Fortunately, I got to deftly avoid a lot of the dirty and loud so I found Delhi to be very enjoyable.
The first place that I actually visited was called the Qutb Minar. This giant collection of ruins was really fun to walk around and explore. The complex was filled with all sorts of temples, mausoleums (mausolea?), and failed projects of egotism and grandeur. As the incredibly corny audio-guide informed me, the Qutb Minar has many stories and it’s kind of true! One silly British lord added a cupola to the top of the tower. The next lord thought it looked ridiculous and had them take it down. Another crazy Shah wanted to build another tower next to the Qutb Minar that was EVEN TALLER, but it crumbled and now only stands at about 12 feet.
I then rode on the very lovely and air-conditioned Delhi metro to Chandni Chowk, one of the busiest and most colorful neighborhoods of Delhi. It’s a mad market of people, dangerous electrical wires – my favorite photography subject -, motorcycles, shops with all sorts of wares, and all of it is in tiny tiny cramped roads. If you don’t get lost in the labyrinth, which I did multiple times, you might find your way to the Jama Masjid.
The Jama Masjid is about 400 years old, built by everyone’s favorite ruler of India, Shah Jahan. It’s the most famous mosque in India and for good reason. The beautiful sandstone building towers over the city and you feel a sense of serenity as soon as you arrived. I felt a lot of the Indian tourists were treating the giant plaza in front as a park, casually sitting by the fountains, relaxing, and taking in the grandiose building. I wish I had been there on Eid, the Muslim festival that ends Ramadan, but alas. And my pictures of this aren’t too impressive, either.
I walked around the market a little more and eventually made my way to Old Delhi’s small patch of gentrification, Connaught Place. It’s a stylish shopping plaza in a giant circle surrounding a quaint, yet busy park. I ate some street food and returned home, tired after the long day.
The next time I made it out into Delhi, I really only had two things on my checklist, the Red Fort and Humayun’s tomb. I’ll be upfront when I say that I think I’m starting to have fort or tomb fatigue. The Red Fort is certainly big, and red, but once inside, it was basically just a large park with lots of gorgeous ruins. Since I was in full super lazy mode, I thought of the bed waiting back for me at my friend’s house and made my way through the Red Fort pretty quickly. Humayun’s Tomb is also impressive, as the red sandstone version of the Taj Mahal, if you will (and I will!), but there just isn’t too much to see. It’s big. It’s pretty. I was there at sunset. But I just didn’t have the energy to transport myself back to ancient times and imagine the full beauty.
I did do one extremely fun thing during my stay in Delhi – I went to a wedding! Kind of. I only made it to the Sangeet, which is kind of like the wedding reception, except that it happens 2 days before the wedding itself. It was a lot of fun getting to look at everyone in their formal attire and I’m not sure on how common this is, but all of the close friends and family of the bride and groom each put on a dance number! I ate delicious food and got to join in all of the fun. How do I look?
Thanks again to Kunal and his family for their wonderful hospitality. I had a great time in Delhi and I hope they enjoy their vacation (they’re in China right now!).