Sightseeing in Delhi

Day 1

My daughter, Lily woke me up, jumping, she was excited about this exotic land called India and was practicing some traditional dance moves – ‘Kathakali’ I think they call it, that she saw on a tv show last night, while I was getting ready. We had a quick breakfast, baked beans, toast with jam with some orange juice and were already out of our hotel, ITC Maurya. Breakfast was included in the package we got so my only regret was not pigging out more on that scrumptious buffet but Lily was all for beginning the tour so we left with our ‘tour escort’ for the day, Arun, who was waiting for us in the lobby.

Lilly began bombarding him with question from the go, which were as personal as “Why are you balding?” and as relevant as “How old is Delh?” He did take answer them all patiently enough.

Something we did later learn and I’d like to mention this first is, that approximately 400,000 children live and work on the streets of Delhi. In most cases, their families are too poor to provide for them, they have run away from abusive home environments or they are orphans. If you’ve

There are programs and NGOs working hard to provide street children education and increase their employment opportunities but due to immediate need for survival of their loved ones, they resort to begging and are a familiar sight at traffic lights in the capital.

I was forewarned of this and was carrying around a packet of ‘Tiger Biscuits’ to share with them. Some took it willingly and some rejected it outright. I was overwhelmed at first but in the end, satisfied at how I dealt with the situation. Practice makes perfect. Ignorance isn’t always an answer.

So we made our first stop on our customized sightseeing itinerary at Chandni Chowk. Took a stroll through the busiest place I have ever seen in my entire life. A rainbow of colors, smells, sounds and spices. It was kind of fun bartering with some street vendors. Arun helped out. They see foreigners and quote us something exorbitantly overpriced. Don’t be afraid to assertively say no, jokingly clutch your chest in shock when the price is revealed and walk away. We did end up buying a small wooden statue and a cashmere scarf after some polite haggling. Lilly was absorbing everything and also tried her bit in the end. What a cutie!

So, the first monument we came across and perhaps the most magnificent was The Red Fort, located just a walk away from this bazaar. At the height of Mugal power in India, it was a sprawling fortress complex with an array of palaces and grand structures, lush courtyards and cascading waterholes; Red Fort today is only a shadow of its majestic past but still a sight to behold.

We also paid a visit to the Masjid-i-Jahan Numa, commonly known as the Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) Masjid-i-Jahan Numa means “mosque commanding a view of the world, ” whereas the name Jama Masjid is a reference to the weekly congregation observed on Friday (the yaum al-jum’a) at the mosque. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed in the year 1656 AD, the Jarna Masjid is the best-known and largest mosque in India; its courtyard can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers. The mosque houses several relics in a niche in the north gate, including a priceless copy of the Qur’an written on deer skin. These were all fascinate sights to behold; to witness people’s deep and unwavering connection with their religion amidst such chaos.

Afterwards, we had lunch at a nearby located fine dining restaurant ‘Chor Bizarre’, inside Hotel Broadway. There was a fine lamb dish called goshtaba I gorged on. The restaurant, I later learned, surprisingly is originally from London.

A 10 minute drive later, we arrived at Jantar Mantar in Janpath. An astronomical observatory used during the Mughal era. Now, a place where couples go when they can’t get a room apparently. Lily had fun running from structure to the next.

We took a walk down to Connaught Place, a slightly upscale market in the heart of Delhi. The architecture of the buildings constructed in a circular pattern designed in traditional orthodox British style was interesting. On Arun’s recommendation, we had milkshakes from ‘Keventers’, it was nice and very cheap. The milkshake shop on a corner is one of the oldest and most famous establishments in Delhi.

Lily got tired and we soon made our way back to the hotel. There were still one more day to go and Arun told us when we said our goodbyes and that we’d seen nothing yet.

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