For our last field visit, we went to Delhi, Varanasi, and Bhopal—all in Northern India. Our final course is called Religion, Culture, and Society in India. Since my time in India is now very limited (15 days) and because there is still so much to be done I will be writing one post for each destination and publishing them across my last couple weeks here. Also, I don’t want to spend too much of my time writing blog posts, so these will be extremely superficial posts—I hope they are better than nothing.
Here’s what went on in Delhi:
We took a flight from Bangalore to Delhi—take off made me a little anxious, but somehow we managed to stay up in the air. We stayed in a hostel for the few days we were in Delhi, specifically New Delhi.
Here are my first thoughts about Delhi:
· “Am I in still in India?”
· “It smells like urine.” (Not the entire city—some parts more than others.)
· “It’s so clean here!” (In terms of litter.)
· “But the air is so bad.”
We (meaning all of us) went out to find a restaurant for dinner. Twelve of us ended up at a place called Le’ Shamrock, or something. Just as you’d imagine, all the servers wore bright green polo shirts. The restaurant was pretty upscale—cheap by American standards, expensive by Indian standards. It was fairly dark inside with a few small gold-ish lights. Rather than sitting in booths or at tables we sat on leather couches and stools around small tables. I ordered a pasta dish, which ended up costing about $6 USD. Very tasty.
We walked to The American Center from our hostel. On our way, we were approached by a man who asked where we were from—a common occurrence. When we explained that we were from the US he said, “Say hi to Obama.” It made me chuckle. Eventually, we reached The American Center, which was a large cement building covered by a giant green net. Turns out that the net is used to prevent windows from breaking when/if people throw rocks at the building. Heart-warming really. We met with a man named Peter who is a Foreign Service representative who has been in Delhi for a couple years now. He gave us a tour of the building and then talked to us about US/ India relations and the details of his job. The rest of the day was used for sight-seeing. After a stressful metro ride and a rickshaw ride, we made it to the Gandhi Smirti museum. We saw the footsteps leading up to the site where Gandhi was assassinated as well as read panels of information about Gandhi and his views of various issues such as ashrams, nonviolence, women’s rights, village life, and property. After a much less stressful metro ride back to Connaught Place we ate lunch at a South Indian restaurant and then did some shopping at the government emporium stores. We almost literally shopped until we dropped. A small group of us ate dinner at the restaurant in the hostel, which was interesting to say the least.
|The site of Gandhi's assassination|
|A mural depicting Gandhi's life|
November 23: The day of the Taj Mahal.
My alarm sounded at 4:00a and I rolled out of bed and helped others put on their saris. (I chose not to wear my sari for various reasons.) At 4:45a we walked from our hostel to the railway station. It was about a 30-minute walk. It was “cold,” dark, smoggy, and early enough that most of the people living on the street were still asleep. We took a train to Agra, which was about two hours. The Taj is a mausoleum that was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife who died after giving birth to their 14th child. We went to the Taj early enough that it wasn’t too busy. We had a tour guide take us through and tell us about it. Then we broke off into small groups for the remainder of our time there. The Taj was pretty cool, but it wasn’t the most amazing or inspiring thing I’ve seen this semester.
|The Taj from a rooftop restaurant|
|In front of the Taj|
|And some more fort|
|Engraving in the fort|
A much needed quiet morning and afternoon after a long day yesterday. A group of us went out for lunch at a local joint that we just happened upon—the food was amazing. There was also a nearby ice cream place, so I had some lichi ice cream desert. The day turned stressful as we were trying to get to the train station for our train to Varanasi. The plan was to take public buses to the station. One bus came and as many people as possible got on. Those of us remaining waited for more buses to come, but they never did. Running low on time and giving up on the buses, it was decided that we would take rickshaws instead. However, none of the rickshaws wanted to go all the way to the station because they feared they would get stuck in traffic because of the ongoing Sikh Festival. We started walking toward the station weaving through on-coming traffic. Eventually a rickshaw was found, which fit about half us. As they were getting in and sorting things out, a man approached the rest of us and started talking to us—he was clearly intoxicated. He eventually staggered off and we began walking again. Soon enough, another rickshaw was found. I got in with two other girls. The driver was still negotiating money with his previous customers and it was getting fairly heated from what I could tell. As this was going on, the drunk man reappeared. Finally, we started moving. I was pretty stressed out at this point: three young foreign women in India trying to get to the train station to meet the rest of the group during a festival with no phones. Then as we were on our way there was a small collision right next to us and a bus that got a little to close for comfort. By some miracle, we made it to the train station and were able to find the rest of the group.
Posts on Varanasi and Bhopal are in the works.