Delhi Extremes

By UrbanAnthropod, May 2, 2010 1:04 pm

Delhi is a land of extremes. Generally, this statement probably holds true for the entire subcontinent. I only passed through Delhi. As mentioned before, there’s a major international airport there. Continuously inhabited since the 6th century, it has it’s share of history.

India as a whole had been unseasonably hot. Arriving in Delhi at 8PM provided no relief from the heat. It was still in the mid-90s! We arrived fro an overnight stay at a 5 star hotel near Connaught Place. Being late, I didn’t have time to go out and explore. The overnight flight was draining, as expected, and it was time to clean up before hitting the bed.

Shanty town Jet-lag or something hit me. I was up at 5 AM. When daylight began peeking through the curtains, I opened them to take in the view. I was warned ahead of time that the division between poverty and extravagance was great. The division is great, but the geography is not! The extreme contrast of my hotel room and that of the shanty town just outside demonstrated this. Throughout the trip in India, we’d see this again and again. The disparity was an assault on the senses despite being prepared for it.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, we made our way to a Hindu temple – Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple. Lakshmi Narayan Temple or the Birla Temple Immediately after descending from the bus, a deluge of hawkers and beggars greeted us. No matter how much you prepare yourself for the known aggressiveness of the hawkers, it still catches you off guard. The same goes doubly true for the beggars. The temple was brightly decorated and clean. The grandness of the structures within the grounds were impressive. (No photography was allowed so there are no pictures)

Red Fort We then proceeded on through Old Delhi by bus. The tour of Old Delhi was simply a drive through that continued to demonstrate the extremes of Delhi. While other cities of prolonged habitation show layers of constructions, Old Delhi was partitioned off to one corner while the the rest of Delhi seemingly sprung up around it. The Red Fort was a large structure that I couldn’t appreciate fully from the bus.

The National Capital Territory is a bustling metropolis with government building inspired by Washington. Light traffic Yellow and green auto-rickshaws and buses can be seen transiting people throughout the city. Despite the use of compressed natural gas, the haze and pollution seems persistent.

While the bus was simply a vehicle to get us out of Delhi, we did see some important monuments. Most importantly, we were let off to visit the memorial for Mohandis Gandhi. In a cleanly manicured setting free of the clutter that made up the rest of Delhi, sat a burning flame marking the location of his cremation. Raj Ghat is a memorial of black marble with the inscription of Gandhi’s last words, “Oh, God”. Of all the things we could see in Delhi, this one was the most sobering.
Gandhi Memorial

The rest of the whirlwind bus tour through Delhi included drive-by’s of India Gate (a memorial for Indian soldiers fighting for the British) and the architectural marvel of the Lotus Temple.
India Gate
Lotus Temple

This city of extremes was different from any other city I’ve visited before. Monuments erected by a foreign imperial power were transformed into symbols of unity. The extreme heat didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the local people as much as it sapped my energy when leaving the comfort of the bus. That’s not to say that the locals didn’t look for ways to cool down themselves.
Delhi Dog
Water Boys

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Cenotaphs Our time through Delhi was brief. We had lunch at a restaurant in Delhi where I had the best possible dish in India. Ironically, it was an appetizer and it happened to be french fries! The fries were served in a spicy sauce. And despite being bathed in this sauce, the fries maintained a super-crispiness. We moved on towards Agra on a long and slow road. I missed several things on our first pass. I did not visit the Qutub complex, Akshardham Temple or Jama Masjid. More importantly, we did not visit the complex of Humayun’s tomb. Though we did manage to work it in really quickly on our return for the airport! I’ll leave that for another post.

Maybe this is all I needed to see of Delhi. Or maybe I didn’t see enough. I never thought I’d make my way to India to begin with. I was always turned off by the crowds and the heat. While my last experience might’ve made me swear it off entirely, we’ll never know until it happens. I might make it back one day. But most likely not.

Kitsch I couldn’t ignore

One last photo from the road to Agra. We stopped off at a hotel on the road which *HAD* to have a souvenir store. And they sold the best authentic Indian wares!
Indian kitsch


For a brief overview of some of the sites I witnessed in Delhi, download this KMZ file for viewing in Google Earth.

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