Delhi can best be described by contrast to Calcutta. Although there is an old Delhi, and it continues to get older, it is surrounded by New Delhi, which is in large part younger than World War I, or II for that matter. The streets are too wide, the traffic is accommodated, there are 100 trees for every person, it is clean, quiet and what a reasonably young, reasonably developed international capital should look like. It is green, with huge parks and green belts, even perhaps tropical, but not jungly-slightly less steamy. The slums are there, but mostly off the streets and sidewalks, and they “fit” rather than overflow.
It seems that India’s number one product is education. There must be money in it – because from pre-schools to engineering and management schools, their advertising dominates the billboards, power polls, building walls and newspapers. They also spring out of the slums and rice paddies or desert filed like mushrooms.
It may all work (education) but I must say the problem – solving critical thinkers are not in the tourist industry–Paige says that frequently she felt that the lights were on but no one was home. My favorite exchange became this: “Hello sir, may I help you? Yes, I’d like to…. . Oh I’m sorry sir, that is impossible but would you like to do it my way?”
We tried to get a train out of Delhi, at great effort and discouragement, to ultimately find the first opening 12 days hence – even on the roof top.
A driver we had to Jaipur told us that the military and police are utterly corrupt—-he said it has gone beyond the blood to the bones. His claim was that one must pay a bribe of 250,000 rupees to get in the military and 300,000 to become a cop. The additional 50,000 rupees for the police is because they not only enjoy cushy pay, benefits and retirement, but can exact bribes too.
I think Indian english is the most difficult language to understand. This is because Indian english has become a real, new foreign language. Whereas most people speaking pidgin english or ESL say english words with a somewhat similar sound, to us the Indian English was just a true foreign language – like Russian or Basque – and spoken rapidly and long-winded too – because they think we understand. Not!
Other than the out-sized, graceful government buildings – the only building of note is the Red Fort – built by a Mughal ruler in the 1600’s.
We saw the Taj Mahal in Agra. Don’t be afraid to miss it. There are too many wonderful experiences in India to waste a day doing it. Google it – the photos are better than the reality.
On to Rajasthan – which shouldn’t be missed. From here to the western border, and north to the foothills, it gets dry like the Anerican west–one can imagine highway 99 to Fresno, or Boise, or Baja. But water turns it green. The area has a muslim/arabic feel – camels, elephants, horses, burros and Brahmas are all beasts of burden – common sights along side tractors and trucks.
Jaipur is an old town, and the old town is fascinating – dusty and hot – where the Moghul Muslims ruled as autocratically as any other kind religious despots. The observatory in town, and the Amber Fort out of town, in Amber–took as many slaves, years and as much of the subject’s money and yield as did 10 Notre Dames, St. Petersburgs or Versailles. And they are just as magnificent to behold.
Finally to the Punjab up in the northest, home to the Sikh people, the Sikh religion and it’s home the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is visited by 80,000 to 200,000 people a day, from 3 a.m to 11 p.m., and more than 10,000 are fed daily, free. It is spectacular and hair-rasing in it’s impact.
An Indian differentiated the religions to us thusly – Buddhists are pacifists, Sikhs never start but always retaliate and win, Muslims initiate murder as part of their theology and Christians are schitzophrenic – turn the other cheek and an eye for an eye. Whatever – it served to make his point. Sikhs preach liberty or death–and apparently everyone is armed – the women carry 6 in. knives exposed on their waistbands.
Amritsar is a city not to be missed – it encompasses much of the mystery and history of India. It also adjoins the Grand Trunk Road, which is the longest and oldest road in India, running through Calcutta to Bangladesh (which used to be India) to Lahore, Pakistan (which used to be India). It was this road which we took to witness the absurdly theatrical dual flag lowering ceremony with India and Pakistan.
I took something from the ceremony – my belief that there are exceptions to the claim that one must bribe one’s way into the Indian Army. I think that if one is over 6′ 5″ and fit – he gets in for free – and is assigned to the Pakistani border guard contingent. These 20 guys looked more like an NBA team than the Heat. But of course so did the 20 guys on the Pakistan side – which is probably why neither country can get basketball going as a sport—the only tall guys are guarding the border!
Internet service is bad – so photos will follow later…