Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air (literally)

Farewell Delhi, you will surely be missed. As my family and I drive out of the city and onto Agra to see the Taj Mahal, I’m going to take a minute to reflect on the capital city of India. While my time here was too short (a mere two nights) I can already tell I really like this place. Being the capital, it is clearly given first access to amenities– things like good roads, grassy areas (you mean there are trees in major Indian cities?), and even a metro! While there was still the abundance of cars, motorcycles, mopeds, auto rickshaws, bicycles, tractors, horse drawn carriages, and the traffic associated with all of them, I could walk around the city and actually breath. There is a lot of history here with old mosques, forts, and markets sprinkled throughout the city. We visited some of the sights like Humuyan’s Tomb and a famous minaret with the oldest iron pole in the world that scientist can’t explain why it hasn’t rusted yet (sad that the pole was my favorite part?). I enjoyed just driving around the city, trying to get a feel for the place. While I had no sense of where we actually were, we drove around New Delhi, and circled the parliament. The government buildings are vast structures with a clear history in the British colonial era and the areas surrounding them were spacious and green.

Humuyan's Tomb, I just like whatever Ben is doing here

The Qutat Minar

We spent Christmas Eve doing what Jews do best, eating Chinese food. We ate at this really nice restaurant in our hotel and were surprised by hotel staff carolers in the middle of our meal. Wearing Santa hats, they serenaded us with classics like Jingle Bells and Dashing Through the Snow, singing with distinct accents and not quite getting all of the words right. It was awesome, especially when I realized that probably no one in the whole restaurant celebrated Christmas (we had some Israelis sitting next to us and everyone else was Indian).

My highlight of the city though was spending the day with Nurit for our work-related meeting. We got up really early to meet our boss at his Delhi home in a surrounding city called Noida. After grabbing coffee and pastries in the empty hotel lobby we took a cab to his place and from there drove to his school in a rural area. The kids were off for break but we toured the building, spoke to the teachers, and huddled together in the office drinking chai. Delhi is freezing by the way. While I kind of always giggle at the South Indians in Hyderabad who start wearing sweaters and jackets when it is anything below 80 degrees, here it is absolutely legit. Manish treated us to some breakfast at an Indian fast food chain where although I don’t know exactly what I was eating, it was definitely tasty. We finished off the meal with one of the more interesting foods I’ve tried here so far- some sort of nutty ice cream topped with squishy yellow noodles. I though it was weird at first and put my spoon down, but who am I kidding, I ate it all. Nurit and I then tried out Delhi’s new metro to meet up with a friend of hers in a touristy market area called Pahar ganj. The metro is really fast and really clean. If it weren’t for some of the women wearing saris or kurtas around us, it felt like I could have been anywhere in Europe of the US. Actually I take that back, the Delhi metro is much nicer than the DC metro. Anyways, we spent the rest of the day checking out some markets, sipping chai with friends, and overeating delicious paneer butter masala and malai kofta for lunch. This whole over eating thing seems to be a reoccurring theme for me on this trip but as Nurit’s friend Johnty explained to me, Hindus believe that food is God and it cannot go to waste. So really, I’m just trying to do my part.
Nurit and I discover the metro

Well I guess to sum it all up, I wish Delhi and I had more time together. I liked her grassy areas and her bustling markets, her tasty food, and her character. Delhi strikes me as a city with immense potential. It a place where the old world and new world meet and a place where the feeling of India’s growth and “emerging world power” attitude feels palpable.

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