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amyeberg in cmc08abroad

Whenever I make a new quasi-friend at LSR, one of the first things she asks me is what I've seen in Delhi, and I always have to say that I haven't seen much. The thing is, most weekends we've been traveling, and when we don't travel we give ourselves a weekend off from traveling. I've been living in this city for almost two months now, but I've barely done any touristing in it. Luckily, our teachers are striking all this week, so I have plenty of time to see the city. So this weekend, to try to change that, Lisa, Mary, Andrea, Kate, and I headed up to Old Delhi. Technically, everyone but me didn't have to "head" anywhere, since the neighborhood they live in is in Old Delhi. For the real experience, though, you have to go to Chandni Chowk, which is the main street in that part of town. It's a crazy experience. Old Delhi is falling apart at the seams and everywhere else, and it's completely packed with people and noise. It's a lot different from the wide clean roads, trees, and glitzy shops of South Delhi.
My travel guide (thanks Carl) outlined a walk that hits most of Old Delhi's main sights, so we basically followed that path. We started out at the Jain temple, but then it turned out it didn't open until 6 pm, oops. Travel guides aren't perfect. So we headed down Chandni Chowk, avoiding hawkers and cycle rickshaws, until we got to Sisganj Gurdwara, which is a Sikh temple and shrine. I think it commemorates the martyrdom of an important figure in the Sikh religion. In order to enter their gurdwaras, you have to have your head covered, so I reminded everyone to bring scarves. Of course I left mine at home because I was too busy reminding everyone else, I rule. While I was waiting outside, a man gave me a small piece of cloth; if you forgot to bring your own, they have head coverings ready for you, it turns out. I went in but didn't stay for long. It was very ornate, with lots of marble and chandeliers and fancy furniture.
After the Sikh temple, we walked a little further down Chandni Chowk to Gali Paranthe Wali. A gali is a lane or an alley (very narrow, crowded, and windy, but people still try to ride motorcycles through them), a parantha is a delicious filled pancake, and a wali basically means someone who sells something. All together, it means heaven. The parantha shop we chose has been open in this spot in Chandni Chowk for five generations and 100 years--there's a reason it's called "Old Delhi." We ate our paranthas (cheese, onion, or banana) and then kept walking in the galis. We went into Kinari Bazaar, which is a gali with all the trimmings needed for fancy weddings. This means about a million different kinds of sequins, beads, tinsel, and bangles, as well as ornately decorated sarees. There was a tiny cul-de-sac off this gali that had a (closed) Jain temple and beautifully painted homes. We hit the gems and silver area and then made it back out onto Chandni Chowk. The galis are quite the maze, and it can get a little claustrophobic after a while.
Lisa and I hadn't had our fill of Old Delhi yet, so we headed toward the Jama Masjid. Fodor's tells me that this is India's largest mosque and that it was completed in 1656 under Shah Jahan. That means it's roughly contemporary with the Taj Mahal. It was beautiful--essentially a giant courtyard with lovely gates and a prayer hall--but the most striking thing about it was how peaceful it was, especially with Chandni Chowk right outside. It was full of people, but at the same time it was an incredibly calm place. We walked around the circumference for a while. There's a tall tower that you can go up, but since you have to be accompanied by a man, we'll have to save that for another time. After we left the Jama Masjid, we realized it was getting late.
In fact, it was past 6:00, so we made our way back to the Jain temple. The Jain religion is notable for its strict adherence to nonviolence, so the most remarkable thing about this temple is that it has a hospital. It's an unusual hospital, though--its name is the Charity Birds Hospital, and the name says exactly what it means. It's a hospital for birds and small animals. There are only a few cages, but it's just precious. After touring the hospital, we went into the Jain temple proper, which was beautiful. Since Jains are restricted from any lines of work that might cause them to harm animals, a lot of them have done very well for themselves as merchants and in other similar jobs. They can afford to make their temples very nice, and this one was full of statues of the tirthankaras and brightly colored, gold outlined paintings. After our adventures, we were starving, so we took the Metro to Connaught Place for some South Indian food. It's a lot different from North Indian food, but just as delicious.
Sunday was another day for seeing more of Delhi, so Andrea, Mary, and I went to the National Museum. It mostly has collections of artifacts from ancient Indian civilizations as well as lots of Hindu and Buddhist statues and paintings. While we were in the Buddhist art room, some Buddhist nuns were chanting and paying respect to the relics of the Buddha that the museum has. Then we went to Big Chill with Lisa and ate spinach lasagna and cheescake.
I'm on the American Embassy's mailing list, and one of their events was a ceremony to remember September 11. I was curious, so Lisa, Mary, Aaina (from Rutgers program) and I went to the embassy last night to see. Security was tight, and they only let in American citizens--even spouses of Americans couldn't get in. It was quite a short ceremony, but I thought it was very nice, although some may disagree. The ambassador to India talked for a few minutes about how lots of Americans died, but people from foreign countries also died too, and how we shouldn't let our determination turn into hate for other people. Of course there was some rhetoric about terrorism and evil too, but it was a lot more moderate than some of the usual speeches.
Um...then Aaina and I went to Big Chill again and had fettuccine. Man I love Big Chill.

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October 2006

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