"The Jewel in the Crown" Delhi by topoftheworl

Delhi Travel Guide: 1,724 reviews and 4,288 photos

"A poor man looks for food. A rich man looks for an appetite."

I have a love/hate relationship with India.

It is tough to see so much grandeur and so much poverty, inhabiting the same space: the haves have too much and the have nots are dying for a piece of bread.

India, was once, a great civilization, It was there that the concept of zero, null, was born. It made the advent of modern math possible.

It was incredibly rich. The British ruled for three hundred years, befire circumstances, not Gandhi, forced them to leave. They called it the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire.

It is a country of contradictions, and of vast chaos. Nothing in this country is as it is anywhere else in the world.

Its contributions to philosophy are phenomenal. When you read the ancient scriptures of the vedas, they strike you as innately sensible and practical, yet the
level of corruption in present day India will make a capo say, mama mia!

NEW DELHI

Pronounced New Deli, it is one of the largest Indian cities. It is the capital of India and is located at the center of north India. When I arrived at Indira Gandhi International, the first thing that hit me was the stench. The Customs officer was resplendent in his red turban and full beard. I gave him a slight bow, indicating that every one is a rajah, a king, in this country. He laughed, garrulously, and waved me through.

I saw a sign, "Welcome to India." They need to add a line there that says, WATCH OUT!

I stepped out, and there were hordes of people, Thousands and thousands. It's two AM, what are the people doing here, I asked the Japanese big shot, I had
befriended, en route from Tokyo. Toppo-san, replied my new friend, this is India, NOTHING here is the same. I glanced up at the moon, it looked the same. Convinced I
was still on Earth, I followed his uniformed chauffeur to a privileged parking area where lay in wait, a black Lincoln. An american gas guzzler? In India? Hai, said
the mustached chauffeur, as he held the door open for me. Arigato, I replied, as I climbed in.

I had a room at a hotel close to the airport. I figured, if I am going to to get there after 18 to 23 hrs from SF, I would like to hit the bed, right away. I was wrong. It was 11 AM in San Fran, and I was wide awake. I did what I always do whenever I check into a place with room service: check out the room, amenities,
break out the scotch, and peruse the menu.

Club Sandwiches... Club Sandwiches?

BRRINNNG... good morning, said a pleasant girl type, albeit, in a sing-song accent.

How can I assist you? Assist, not help. Victim mentalities are missing from this land. Karma reigns.

Hi, I just checked in and... Yes, I know Mr. W, welcome to the (whatever).

Club sandwiches? Turkey? I hate turkey. "Lamb," I was informed. An inane thought ran through my mind: Mary had a little lamb, I had a little chicken. "Is your name Mary?" No, sir, it is Mirja. What do you recommend? "Well. sir, our breads are not upto the
standards of the SF sourdough, but if..."
"Good girl," I complimented her.
'Sir? Sorry. Perhaps you would like the Biryani...?' What's that? A rice pilaf with lamb and saffron. Saffron?

Bring it ON!

Minutes later, there is a knock on my door. A trolley, silver domed dishes, VOILA At 3 AM local time. It was good. Lunch time for me, remember?

The next morning I made my way into town, about 25 km. from the airport. Beware the cabbie when in India, and always get what they refer to as a 'pre-paid' taxi. You pay the fare before you leave and save yourself from being taken in.

This country will change you forever. Sensing that change, I checked into a hotel called the Oberoi Intercontinental. Expensive, but worth every penny.

About twelve floors tall, when built in 1968, it was New Delhi's first skyscraper, and a luxury hotel par excellence. A business contact me a 33% discount, so I did not have to pay the three hundred dollar tab. It is a grand hotel, has five restaurants, a big pool, garden cafe and a spa. The lobby is ornate. When I checked in they gave a nondescript room.

"This will not do," I politely informed the desk
"Mr. W, I am afraid its the only room we have at the moment."
"Please call the bell desk for my baggage, and a taxi."
"Anything wrong, sir?"
"No."
"A taxi?"
"Yes, I am checking into the Maurya Sheraton, I am sure they will have a better room."
"Do you have a reservation there, sir?"
"No, can you make me one?"
"I am afraid I can't do that, sir."
"Can you send for my baggage and a cab?"
"Yes, sir."
"Please, I will be at the gift shop."

USA Today is 75 rupees, about two dollars, and it is eight pages of mostly ads, I found. The usual array of magazines, knick-knacks, gifts, rugs from Kashmir, all
priced at one for the price of three.

"Mr. W?" I turn to find a Sikh gentleman, well dressed in a dark suit and an resplendant tie. Sikhism is a religion in the Punjab, a state not far from the city of Delhi. All sikh men have a common middle name, Singh. It means lion. The women have one too, Kaur. I do not know what that means. Sikhism, had an interesting beginning. Much of the Punjab was lost when Pakistan was carved out west of India, by the British in 1947. For centuries India has been ruled by invaders from the west, coming through the Khyber Pass, in the Himalayas, in search of warmer climes and arable lands. It started with the Aryans, a germanic tribe, Later Alexander and then the Mughals. Tired of these recurring conquests, and the slow response from the throne 700 miles away, the people of the Punjab, Punj, Five and Jab, River, the land of the five rivers, decided a thousand or so years ago, to protect themselves. It was decided by the local guru, Guru Nanak, the guru who is named for nanak, god, that the firstborn of each household would be turned over to the guru, and be trained in the art of war. Eventually, it became a mainstream religion in the area, and whole families adopted the doctrine of sikhism.

It's teachings are, the way I understand them, simple. In the parlance of our times, the message is, look, buds, smarter people than you or I, have tried to figure this world out. They couldn't. So, don't worry about who created heaven and earth, and what the stars in their constellations indicate. What matters to you is you and your family. Work hard, protect and feed yourself and your family, and live a hard working honest life.

No eternal damnation, no hellfire, and no brimstone. Just the here and now. What a wonderful religion, I thought. I hate brimstone, anyway. They are a fierce and brave race. Generous, garrulous and hard drinkers. All the world over, a shot of liquor is two fingers. In Punjab, it is also two fingers, except that the second and third fingers are folded in and the measure is the distance between the index finger and the pinkie!

"Mr. W, I understand you are not happy with your room?"
"I was assigned a room..."
"I understand sir. Perhaps, you can look at some other rooms that were freed up this morning?"
Rooms, now? "Sure."
"I recommend 307, sir, one of our finest rooms..."
"Very well, Mr. Singh, I will take it on your recommendation, can you arrange for my baggage to be transferred there?"
"The room is being cleaned up sir, perhaps you can have a spot of breakfast in our sunny breakfast lounge?"
Sunny? This guy was GOOD.
"The hotel will be happy to pick up the tab."
"That is very gracious, Mr. Singh"
"It is our pleasure, sir."

He turned around to leave. In my best Colombo accent,
"Er, Mr. Singh?"
"Sir?"
"About breakfast..."
"Breakfast today, sir?" He could see it coming, I give him that.
"Mr. Singh, breakfast is included in the cost of the room...?"
"very well, Mr. W, I will see to it that breakfast for one is included."
'Mr. Singh, I will be having breakfast with an associate each of the three days I am here."
"Surely they will pick up the tab, sir."
" Mr. Singh, I will not let the price of a breakfast, affect our talks."
"I will see what I can do, sir." Once again he turned to leave.

"Mr. Singh?" He turned around sharply, a warrior not ready to cede any more territory.
"Sir?" Polite, stone eyes, steel in his voice.
"Extra towels, please?"
He relaxed, his face crinkling into a grin that took twenty years, and the last twenty minutes, off his face.
"Certainly, sir, our pleasure."

I had made another friend.

I love the Sikhs.

OOH... err

I guess you want to know travel stuff about this place. Located in the northen heart of India, ND is its capital city. There is a Delhi, also referred to as Old Delhi, and a New Delhi. The New grew from the Old. Old Delhi is a crowded, noisy teem of humanity, gagging for breath. New Delhi, is a city of wide boulevards, tree lined streets, shopping malls, and great restaurants.

Delhi, the capital of the country, for at least 500 years, was founded by the Mogul Emperor, Babar. More about the dynasty on the Bangalore page: They built the Taj Mahal. Today, it is a good way for the tourist to see what most of the rest of the country is like. It is worth one visit. Just one. Two, if you go to that old Oberoi hotel for a Monte Cristo. It is art on a plate. You have to thru and past OD and to the University area, to get there.

New Delhi, is of much more recent construct. Early 20th century. Hmm... was it Lutyens BRB, some fact checking... Yep, it was. Please go on to the next section, dear reader, it is midnight in NY, and i am distracted. Will finish this later.

INDIAN RAILWAYS

The British, in their passion for organization, started laying track in the last quarter of the Eighteenth century. Today, trains access virtually any city, town
and village in India.

Trains vary by the priorities allotted to them. They are rarely, except for a few exemptions, on time, or even clean. People are herded in like cattle, with hawkers selling the ubiquitous tea, snacks and magazines. Beggars, fortune tellers and carpet makers, you name it, I can find you a few. One thing trains are not, are dull. Every journey is an adventure.

There are five classes and no, it has nothing to do with castes, which also add up to five. There is no third class. Long ago, the politicians abolished it, claiming that no indian should travel third class. After a while there, you see the wisdom of such
decisions.

If you stick to the air-conditioned cars, whether first class, second class chair car or sleeper, you will be fine. Never go second class.

HOLI

Pronounced, HO-LEE. The essential message is: Spring
has SPRUNG! 'Ai-ye-jhoomm-ke-basant. Jhoomo rung-runng mei.' 'Spring just waltzed in. Dance with its colors!'

To a country that is largrely an agro-economy, with a a billion people to feed, an excellent education network, and an absolutety corrupt political system, such conventions are important to hold on to.

Later, I will tell you about thw joys os eating mangoes in the rain .

Hey, you ever live in Nu Yawk? I lived in Loang I'lund, loang time ago.

Holi: What a great festival. Colored food dyes, mixed with water, shot out of incereasingly so, technical devices. People. Faces splashed with color in a multitude of hues. Three Embraces amongst each, to express the coming of 'Basant.'

THE MONSOON

August 1, five years ago.

The skies are dark with pregnant resonances Slowly and laboriously the Rain begins to fall.It is not a new rain, It passed over this terrain in July. When it got here, initially, the heat, was as high as 124F, or 44C. That evaporated the moisture and drove the clouds higher and sent them hurtling into the Himalayas in Nepal. Now, after their summer holiday in the mountains, the clouds are back. They tease for a few days. The topic du jour is, will it rain today? God, I hope so. Humidity is very high, close to 90%.

And then the mighty clouds rumble with thunder, and unleash their love on the parched soil: There is dancing in the streets. Urchins in streets, roll old, discarded bicycle tire tubes thru the puddles, singing songs from racial memory.

For the first few days, you see steam rising from the gound. Then the temperature drops considerably, and the rains get heavier. The people sigh in relief. All is well again, in this land of contradictions. Once the melee starts, its time to go up on the terrace, armed with a wicker basket of mangoes, squat down in the rain, and devour them, with your bare hands. It is an incredibly sensous ritual.

  • Intro Written Sep 11, 2002
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Reviews (7)

Comments (82)

  • goutammitra's Profile Photo
    Nov 19, 2007 at 9:25 AM

    Thanks for your wishes. Interesting narration of Delhi. I will come back for more.

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    Jan 23, 2006 at 12:39 PM

    Interesting commentary... colorful and imaginative! Thanks for sharing your visit to India--enjoyed it very much!! My best to you in 2006.

  • BluBluBlu's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2006 at 3:04 AM

    LOL! Great opening page! Blu

  • ombre's Profile Photo
    May 17, 2005 at 9:38 AM

    cool page toppy . what kind of fruit do you give the beggars ?

  • BerniShand's Profile Photo
    Jun 6, 2004 at 11:29 AM

    sad to say that Monte Christos werent on the menu at the Oberoi Maidens last November, but they did give us a large chocolate cake for an anniversary gift !

  • Sharrie's Profile Photo
    Feb 22, 2004 at 1:41 AM

    LOL... Most delightful intro I've read up to date! You made me laugh! I'm looking forward to Delhi ;-)

  • songlines's Profile Photo
    Jan 24, 2004 at 12:18 PM

    Hi Topoftheworl, thanks for posting a reply to my question about Ashrams. I went and had a look at your photos and comments about India and liked them very much. Thanks

  • awayhome's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2004 at 9:55 AM

    there are intesting place. I wish to go there some day. good page=)))

  • Jewels's Profile Photo
    Oct 22, 2003 at 1:46 AM

    It's sad about the poor kids being exploited - I'll keep away from the Indian tapas I think! Great info thanks Kris :o)

  • salinhopt's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2003 at 6:50 PM

    I simply loved the page and the pics! Good work! :)

topoftheworl

“"... to shut up and listen..."”

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