India – Day Two: Delhi

This morning we started the day with a hearty and delicious breakfast. Regine, tour guide extraordinaire, explained that over the years she‘s found that while traveling, having three full meals every day is too much. Travel tip: consider eating a substantial breakfast, a midday snack, and dinner OR a light breakfast and light dinner with a large midday meal (if for example, you have a fancy lunch planned.) It will make everyone feel better. I whole-heartedly agree.

Yesterday when I ate lunch (that delicious Mulligatawny soup that I keep raving about and that I ordered again for dinner) the chef, Abhinav Rustagi, was so flattered he agreed to share his recipe. He emailed it to me! Yippee. When I return home I am going to keep making it until I get it right.

The same ADORABLE server (Ahmed) was working who had been in the restaurant the day before so he had the chef come out to meet me.

[Side note: If any of you have ever seen ‘Last Holiday’ with Queen Latifah it was pretty much like that scene from the movie, only I wasn’t dressed in a gorgeous evening gown and I don’t look like Queen Latifah.]

The Chef asked me what I would like for breakfast and whether I would be interested in having some Indian food. I said I was open to anything and I would let him make whatever he liked for me.

He brought me out a Mysore Masala DOSA – pinch me! It was SO good. He served it with Sambar and two sauces to dip into – one was coconut based the other was tomato and mustard based. I adore coconut so I thought I’d prefer that but the tomato and mustard sauce was out of this world.

Sorry, couldn’t get a photo of the dosa uneaten – it was so good I plum forgot. But you can see the beautiful sauces, which are actually above the paratha on the right.

Next he brought me Aaloo Pyaaj Gobhi Parathas – a fried flat bread stuffed with potato (aaloo), onions (pyaaj), and cauliflower (gobhi.) Sigh, heaven.

We finished breakfast and headed to our first destination of the day – the India Gate. Our tour company in India, Travel Scope, coordinating with the American tour company, Mindful Journeys, and arranged for us to have a bus, even though there was only 7 women. This way we would all be comfortable. (I suspect it is primarily for me since all the women are slight in size.)

Meet (from left to right) Bupi, our “house mother” (he keeps us safe getting on and off the bus, we must always listen to Bupi,) Suki, our driver, and Rohit, our guide.

Now, here’s a secret, if you are a white person, particular a very white, white-haired, plus-sized woman with pink highlights in your white hair and you want to feel like a rock star – get your butt to India. I tell you, it’s amazing how many people will ask to take their photo with you, especially in tourist spots.

Our driver parked our tour bus in the same area that had many other buses, buses filled with the cutest middle-school and high school aged girls you’ve ever seen. At first we just waved at them and at one point we asked if we could take a photo of them but then their teacher let them go and they sort of swarmed around us. That is when the smartphones came out. I think I had my photo taken more times in 5 minutes than I’ve had my photo taken in 5 years.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Rohit Gehlot
Video courtesy of Mr. Rohit Gehlot
The girls loved having their photos taken

The India Gate is a war memorial built to honor the members of the British Indian Army who lost their lives in the First World War and also those who died in the third Anglo-Afghan War. Approximately 13,300 names are etched onto the gate, though the total number of lives lost is closer to 70,000.

Looking through the arch you can see a canopy that was built in 1936 as a tribute to King George V, who had just died. The canopy was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the Gate which was inaugurated in 1931. Lutyens was the main architect of the city of New Delhi. If you want to read about something fascinating look up Lutyens Delhi!
Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the flame of the immortal soldier
(India’s tomb of the unknown soldier.) It was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 26 January 1972, the twenty-third Indian Republic Day.
At one point automobiles were allowed through the gate but now traffic is no longer allowed through.
A very imposing looking SWAT officer keeps things safe.
All Women Police

Indian street food which I’ll admit I did not try – these are called pani puri or in English “water balls.” They are a fried dough that is puffed up so it’s hollow, I think similar to a mini-poori if you have ever had one of those, and then it’s filled with flavored water (tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion or chickpeas.)



On to the Gurdwara!

Here we all are! When you enter a Sikh place of worship (a Gurdwara) you need to cover your head. Some of us did not have scarves along but for the tourists they sell these scarves that have the name of the Gurdwara printed on them – a nice memento from the visit. Sikh men already have their heads covered because many of them wear turbans, and the Sikh women wear beautiful decorative silk embroidered versions of these scarves.
Everyone who works in the Gurdwara is a volunteer. When you arrive you need to remove your shoes and socks and hand them over to the people who will take care of them during your visit. I think you can tell which foot is mine. Yes, the big puffy one. But Mary-Ann and I have the same silver polish. I love Marie-France’s red polish – my favorite!
It’s not allowed (and frankly rude) to take photos inside the Gurdwara but I did snap one picture before we entered. While inside I sat and prayed/meditated while listening to the music. It is a beautiful place and would be so easy to sit there for hours.
After prayer people are asked to join in a meal. We watched as volunteers prepared the food. They feed about 15,000 people a DAY at the Gurdwara Bangra Sahib and that is only one place! They invite anyone to eat – rich, poor, young, old, any religion, any caste, from anywhere. ALL people are welcome.
Just make sure you don’t leave anything on your tray. No wasting of food!
We got to go back into the kitchen, again, all volunteers.
Here this machine takes balls of dough and flattens them into pancakes so they can be fried or cooked.
These are GIGANTIC vats of dal makhani – yum!!!
And WOW!
I LOVED this person. Nothing more distinguished than an older Sikh gentleman. He and his family had donated a machine to help cook the bread more quickly. They were visiting to see how it worked.
Here’s how the bread is currently being cooked – cannot make chipathis (or are they roti?) fast enough.

After the Gurdwara we returned for a brief rest at the hotel. I found these things in my room. Isn’t this delightful? Who doesn’t love fresh flowers surrounding your Ganesha? And the guy who cleans my room (I met him) was so proud of his work. He straightened up all my things. I almost didn’t want to touch anything and mess it up!

Next we left to go see something that, if you are ever in Delhi, you must visit – Gandhi Smriti – the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s Martyrdom.

It is a place that is both serene and upsetting (which seems fitting, since I always describe India as a country of extremes.)

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January, 1948. He was 78 years-old. There is so much written about him I could spend weeks reading opinions on why he was assassinated and what he accomplished and whether or not he really was a saint, but for me, I choose to stick with the positive impression of this great man.

Gandhi spent the last part of his life at Birla House. Some might ask why a person who promoted a simple life would live in such a lavish and large home, but he did so because he wanted to have the space to have LOTS of visitors. If he had lived in a small hut it would have been impossible for hundreds of people to pray with him.

On his last day he walked from Birla House to go for his afternoon prayer. They have marked the exact path he took with cement footsteps.

Here is where the assassination took place.
They have constructed a canopy over the spot.

https://youtu.be/fZXjnot1vsY

Above is a brief video explaining what happened. Here is another brief biography on Gandhiji.

This cheeky monkey walked right between me and our tour guide. We were standing about two feet apart! There were monkeys everywhere. One of my travel mates said that they eat the garbage, I saw one of the monkeys with a bag of chips. We saw them scaling the walls of one of the government buildings. She said that they eat the garbage (corruption) in government/politics too. We definitely need to get some monkeys in the US!
Can you see the monkeys in flight on the middle left?
We ended our day shopping at Khan Market. It was fabulous and of course I found the bookstore. Believe it or not I didn’t buy anything (at the bookstore) though! I am trying to pace myself AND I’m waiting to buy heavier things toward the second half of the trip.
When I returned to my room, there was a foot bath waiting!
You have got to love Taj Hotels!

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