Good Old Delhi

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This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, October 26, 2004 was originally posted on October 28, 2004.

DAY 374:  Centuries ago when the British came and butchered the people of India, there was an immediate resentment and a rebellion built up within the British-governed Indian society.  This was to be expected of course; I mean, what do you expect when a Western superpower forces a governmental system upon a country in order to regulate the taking of its natural resources?  (Sounds familiar, huh?)

The British gradually spread their Western influence in India over the 18th and 19th centuries by instating things like railways and industrial factories, and by getting rid of other things, two mentioned in the history section of my Let’s Go guide:  “sati, in which widows burned themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres, and thugi, in which devotees of the goddess Kali committed ritual robbery and murder.”  The British forced English into the school systems in order homogenize the new society, and even put Indian soldiers in their military forces.  This proved to be a mistake in 1857 when, with secretly built-up antipathy for the British authority, the Indian soldiers used their guns against their superiors to recapture Delhi in the name of the former glory of India.

Needless to say, the incident was an eye-opener for the British and they tightened the way things were run in the country; eventually they took Delhi back.  While arguably the most noteworthy revolt, The Mutiny of 1857 wasn’t the only insurgence with bloodshed against the British; for centuries there were continual violent uprisings throughout the country, all of which made the British realize the Indians could be a force to be reckoned with.  To make a long story short, the force was formidable and headstrong, and with it and the non-violent examples set by Mahatma Gandhi, India eventually became independent in 1947. 


THE PHYSICAL REPRESENTATION of the military force in India is the Lal Quila or Red Fort, one of two “must sees” in the Old Delhi district of town.  The fort was built in 1648 by order of emperor Shah Jahan of the Mughal empire during the golden era of India — the era when the Mughals also built the great Taj Mahal in Agra — and has held the Indian military until the end of 2003 when the fort was completely handed over to the Ministry of Tourism for a tourist attraction and national historical monument.  There was of course a long period of time when the British used the Red Fort as their own base of military operations, but that time is long gone, and for future generations the Red Fort will be an architectural symbol of Indian soldiers and the former Mughal empire as long as the Indian Ministry of Tourism has anything to do about it.  They are not ignorant of history though, as within the Red Fort are two museums, one impressive one being the Sanghralaya Museum, which chronicles in great detail, the centuries-long revolution since the arrival of the first British tea ships in the 17th century.

The compound of the Red Fort was a huge expanse of fields and buildings surrounded by an impressive display of red ramparts, whose main Lahore Gate allowed visitors in to see the sights inside.  Passed the Chatta Chowk bazaar of touristy souvenir shops, I saw the palaces and halls within including:  the Diwan-I-Am (Hall of Public Audience), where the Mughal emperors in the imperial throne held their big stately ceremonies (they took the throne from here); the Khas Mahal, the living quarters of the Mughal emperor (picture above); and the Moti-Masjid, the small “Pearl Mosque” where the emperors prayed.  The surrounding fields were once used for military training, but nowadays were used as a peaceful oasis for Delhi citizens to escape the crowded chaos outside the red fortification walls.


LIKE THE RED FORT, I too had made a transition from old to new times, better from worse; that morning I had checked out of the Camran Lodge, the cheap hotel built into an old dilapidated mosque, that despite its views on the roof, might as well have been condemned.  I shopped around all morning in the Main Bazar area for another recommended place to stay and eventually chose the popular Anoop Hotel down the road.  The only class of room available was the higher end one for the outrageously expensive price of about six American dollars (say that respectfully sarcastically), but I paid it anyway.  Never mind that the money got me a room with a private bathroom, A/C and a television with cable TV, it got me something that all the cheaper places were lacking:  clean sheets (a plus since I had lost my sleep sack somewhere between Japan and Nepal).


THE OTHER MUST-SEE IN OLD DELHI was the Jama Masjid, also built by order of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and is now the largest active mosque in India.  At the entrance I was instructed to pay the camera fee and leave my sandals at the gate.  I did as told but suspected a scam coming when I returned.

The interior courtyard of the mosque was tremendous, where I gathered many worshippers could pray at the same time.  The time I was there prayer wasn’t in session and I walked around with other Indians and a handful of tourists, passed the pigeons and the central cleansing fountain, all as the sun was beginning its descent to the horizon.  Tourists had to clear before the next prayer call, so I left after a couple of snapshots and went to get my sandals.  As predicted, my sandals were not in the pile I had left them.

“Where are your sandals?” the tout asked.

The other “beggar/shoe watchman” pulled up a blanket to show me that he had kept them “hidden” for safekeeping.  They asked for 20 rupees (about 40 cents) for their service, which I didn’t argue paying; in a poor country like India, I knew the people could use 40 cents more than I me.  I’d wasted more than that on skill cranes trying to get stupid stuffed toys, it might as well go to someone who would use it for food, even if they did try and pull a scam to get the money.  This was the second scam of marginal money of the day; the first was at the Red Fort when a “teacher” hounded me for a “donation” for the “school” she “represented.”  I gave her a buck and hoped she wouldn’t spend it all in one place.


ON THE WAY BACK the hour-long walk from Old Delhi to my hotel in Pahar Ganj, I walked through a crowded market and down the main thoroughfares jammed with motor rickshaws, taxi, bicycles, people and cows (they’re everywhere).  The legends I had heard about Delhi’s pollution were true, from the thick smog in the air to the burning garbage in the street.  All of it collectively made the walk seem a lot longer than an hour — that and the weird lingering pain I had in my left leg from an insect bite I got in Kathmandu that didn’t seem to go away.  The only thing on my mind as I tried to get back to my room was closing the night off with some Indian food.

“Have you eaten here before?” I asked a couple at the Anoop Hotel’s humble rooftop restaurant.

“Yeah,” answered the guy.

“Is it true that there’s no Indian food on the menu here?”  The menu was divided into two sections:  continental and Thai of all things.

“Yeah.”

I stood up and left to find an Indian place on the Main Bazar.  “I’ll get my Thai food in Thailand.”

So no Indian food at the Anoop Hotel after my big tiring day touring around Old Delhi — but at least they had clean sheets.






Next entry: American Leftovers and Indian Flair

Previous entry: On The Way To Delhi




Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Good Old Delhi”

  • MARKYT / MOELICIOUS / DUAINE / OOGY:  “I have heard the stories of the Thugi cult.  I thought the stories were made-up to frighten children.  Later I learned the Thugi cult was once real and did of unspeakable things.  I’m ashamed of what happened here so many years ago, but I can assure you this will never happen again in my kingdom.” 

    Count the other “Temple of Doom” references in this entry.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  12:17 PM


  • just when i’m tryin to catch up, here comes another entry! now i have two to go(after seriously reading probably 20 or more in the last two days)

    Posted by Alyson  on  10/28  at  12:25 PM


  • yay, i’m caught up!  two days of hard work paid off.

    Posted by Alyson  on  10/28  at  01:30 PM


  • alright, so i did the math. i’ve been reading this blog for about 6 hours tonight to catch up. and i’m still up . . .

    Posted by Alyson  on  10/28  at  01:34 PM


  • I’m totally out of the loop! I think I’d better rent the Indiana Jones trilogy this weekend…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  06:28 PM


  • I like the way your pics frame the views outside the rooms in the Red Fort - nicely done. smile

    Foreshadowing… ooooh…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  06:28 PM


  • “If I’ve offended you, then I am sorry.

    ...Ah, dessert

    ....Chilled monkey brains…”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  06:41 PM


  • TDOT:  You mean you don’t already know “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” by heart, line for line, complete with all orchestral score cues?  wink

    FYI:  In this entry there are as many intended references to IJATTOD as there are Sankara stones before two were “lost and dispersed in wars by theives like you.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  06:47 PM


  • Erik: Remember I was born in the cuttoff year of 1981, so I’m not all the way cool.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  07:13 PM


  • TD0T:  If you recall, I said there were exceptions to the “1981er” rule; you and Sebastian amongst them.

    Now get to the video store and study those movies!  There’ll be a quiz at the welcome back party… wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  07:38 PM


  • Clues I left for Erik and others… first commentary on last entry, a play of screen lies.  If cheapness is in your heart, read and reminisce.  Also, if direction I must give, germans have good site for Indiana Jones.

    ERIK:  I thought the palace was abandoned after the Mutiny of 1857.  What gives?

    (FYI, the Shaman in TOD didn’t speak the english language… he played parrot with Speilberg who was ad-libbing off camera.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  08:43 PM


  • O num Shiva, O num Shiva, O num Shiva

    Posted by HeatherB  on  10/28  at  09:09 PM


  • You all crack me up! Go Indie!

    Nice pics as usual erik! Did that cow belong to anyone? Just roamed the streets, scavenged, and fend off the dogs? sad….

    ps. Totally off topic, ep3 poster is out and teaser premieres next week with Pixar’s The Incredibles.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/29  at  09:45 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
American Leftovers and Indian Flair

Previous entry:
On The Way To Delhi




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