Tag: India (Page 2 of 2)

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.


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!

India – Day One: Delhi

I haven’t mentioned this on my blog (though everyone I know has heard about this for months) but I decided to take a trip to India! And since so many people have asked me to keep them up-to-date on my trip, I thought the easiest thing to do would be to keep a diary via my blog.

Here we go….

I don’t ever remember traveling by plane where I left one one day and arrived two days later, but that’s what happened. I departed on February 3rd and arrived on the 5th! Course the 11-1/2 hour time difference and the fact that I took off from Chicago in the evening and landed in Delhi at 2:30 am also added to the appearance of a very long trip. Still, door-to-door it was about 26 hours…..

I flew on Emirates – Chicago to Dubai, Dubai to Delhi. I never thought I’d get the chance to fly on Emirates, which is supposed to be one of the best airlines in the world. I will say, the plane to Dubai was pretty fancy. The plane to Delhi was an older version and definitely not as nice. If I hadn’t flown business class I don’t know how I, a plus-sized woman, could have possibly handled the flight. Even in business class it wasn’t comfortable enough to sleep.

I read recently that the best way to get better service on planes is to bring your flight attendant(s) a treat so I brought a small package of Betty Jane’s Gremlins (the best candy in the world) and gave them to my lovely attendant. Honestly, I think she would have been as sweet and helpful even if I hadn’t given her a gift, but she seemed sincerely delighted that I brought them for her. She told me at the end of the trip that she had kept them all for herself and eaten the entire package over the course of the trip! And boy, she did dote on me. I tried to help the guy next to me and say that they were from him too but he was not the friendliest guy. Reap what you sow baby! And my flight attendant was French, she knew the best wines to recommend! Fantastique!

My favorite thing about the plane (to Dubai) was the stars on the ceiling while we were (supposed to be) sleeping…

I was met at the gate in Delhi by a very helpful woman from the tour company who got me through immigration. Since I was so tired (more accurately spacey, ) I can’t say enough how grateful I was to have her assistance.

Despite my haze, I noticed right away the amazing sculptures above the immigration area. You really can’t miss them as you come down the escalators. GORGEOUS They are called mudras and here is what they mean.

SO tired. By the time I checked in at my hotel (had a cup of tea) and got to sleep it was 5 am.

The tour company left me a couple gifts including a wonderful little dancing Ganesha.

I learned the story of Ganesha from reading this collection of myths and legends by Madhur Jeffrey (one of my favorite people in the whole world.) I’m so lucky to have a beautiful, large hardcover version of the book – sadly it’s out of print, at least in the US – but you can still get a small paperback version. Or you can always see what they have at the library!

For some strange reason I only slept for three hours. I made arrangements to have a wake-up call for 11 am the night before. I wanted to make sure I didn’t sleep the entire day away and to try to get onto this time zone. Guess I didn’t need it. BUT I forgot for a bit and was just finishing up in the shower when the front desk called. Apparently they were worried because at about 11:10 there was a knock on the door. As I scrambled to finish dressing another knock. I answered to find three very worried looking people standing there. They said that they were concerned when I didn’t answer my wake up call. I felt badly to have caused them trouble but at the same time, boy do I feel safe!

I went to the concierge to ask where I could get some postcards because for once I’m going to be gone long enough that maybe people will get them before I get home. Maybe. She said the hotel will provide them. I said – are you sure, I need about 15. They’ll be waiting in your room. Fancy schmancy. (And they were on the desk when I came back from lunch.)

A few photos of the interior of the hotel…

This is one part of the ceiling in the lobby.

Lunch was AMAZING. I had Mulligatawny Soup with rice (they are giving me the recipe!) and spiced paneer in egg paratha. Plus – chaaaaaaaiiiiiiiii! I’m in HEAVEN!

Now I’m back in my room writing postcards, reading “The City of Djinn” (it’s delightful!), looking at an incredible view, and thinking about a nap. Having dinner this evening with my first group of travel mates.

Hopefully I won’t fall asleep in my soup (wouldn’t be the first time…)

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