Delhi: Day One

July 26th, 2015

Sunday morning, we decamped from SECMOL with heavy hearts and many wonderful memories of our time in Ladakh. We were escorted to the airport by three of our closest friends, Stenzin, Chuskit, and Nikki, who wished us well as the sun rose over the mountains. Then we flew to Delhi, where we were greeted by our guide Rajendra, who helped us navigate the chaos and humidity of the city, which was a bit of a shock coming from the desert stillness of Ladakh. After a cafe lunch in the National Crafts Museum, we set out to see a bit of the city. We began with a stroll around India Gate (picture a more architecturally austere Arc de Triomphe), a monument to those Indian citizens who lost their lives in the two world wars and various conflicts and wars since. A breeze kept us relatively comfortable, and we enjoyed the park-like atmosphere full of families and couples out for the afternoon in the city.

Later we met Rohit Sharma, a young Indian PhD student of spirituality and sustainability studies at Delhi University, who spent the next three hours giving us a very detailed tour of Humayun’s tomb (a palatial family burial monument from the city’s greatest Mughal ruler, who also commissioned the Taj Mahal for his deceased wife) and a tour of Old Delhi by bicycle rickshaw. As our drivers navigated the crowded streets, we took in the Red Fort (former Mughal fortified residences), the Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India – spectacular!), and the neighborhood’s sprawling markets, both formal and informal. Rohit led us through a Hindu temple, where gurus sat cross-legged in alcoves adorned as shrines to honor a handful of the hundreds of Hindu gods and goddesses, offering blessings and chanting prayers for the crowds of devotees. The atmosphere was much different than that of any Buddhist temples (called ‘gompas’) that we visited in Ladakh. This temple was more frenetic and intense, though not any more or less spiritual, and the level of interaction between people made it feel alive and accessible, even for foreigners. From there, we made our way through rambling side streets to Karim’s, a hole in the wall restaurant famous for kebabs, kati rolls, and other halal delights. Later, we returned to our hotel exhausted yet happy, ready for a good night’s rest and our second day in the city.

— Sarah & Jonathan