The first four and a half weeks of my trip all had one purpose. To be in Delhi to meet The Sheila when she arrived from the US. We then get to spend a couple of weeks travelling together before heading home,
My timing had been perfect, I managed to arrive in Delhi on the 12th, determined that the hotel was of adequate standard for entry into India and re-entry into relationship, I even booked a car and driver to get to and from the airport. The incredibleness of Google technology* – did you know you can just type a flight number into search and it will give you the arrival time? – informed me that the plane was 30 minutes early and I arrived at the airport and was in position at the arrivals barrier just after the plane landed . *Conditions apply, as you will see^.
Why is it that India (and other places) try to make life so hard for people. Planes full of passengers are arriving and everyone needs to go through customs and immigration and then out to the world, usually with someone waiting to meet them. Instead of a single exit door where it is impossible to miss the arrivee, adding to the excitement of welcoming your loved one there is the tension of three exit doors and a desperate hope that you are standing at the right one. After watching for a few minutes I notice that 80% of people come out of one door so I find myself a spot and wait. And wait. And wait. After an hour of waiting I am not the slightest bit anxious (kidding), after 90 minutes I ask someone who comes out how long it takes to get through and he said about 30 minutes. I keep reminding myself “India time” but am going through scenarios of what to do next.
Of course, there is more than one happy ending that night and eventually, having had to deal with a malfunctioning fingerprint scanner, The Sheila emerged to something rare in India, a public display of affection. The ride home wasn’t too crazy (it was 2300hrs), the hotel was deemed perfect. Off to a great start.
Next day it was time to be tourists, in a different way for me a) I am not alone any more and b) where I am happy to rough it and be adventurous, The Sheila is likely to not be quite the same. I have a day planned, show her the baoli I have discovered and a temple I have heard about. I have used Google maps to work out the buses to catch, what can possibly go wrong~? There is sufficient awe at architecture, fear at getting on and off buses that don’t quite come to a full stop and admonishment for walking along the road like the rest of the population, but fun is being had.
Off to the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib Sikh shrine (not quite the right word) I heard about from a couple of Americans the previous day. I have the bus stop name, we are approaching and the vagueness of whether the conductor and people meant “this stop” or “next stop” meant we miss the stop. Meh, not far to walk back. Serendipity time #1 for The Sheila.
We get off the bus and there is a line of people being handed a plate of food. I suggest we get some, “no it is for poor people” Sheila has already figured out. Some people notice our reluctance and invite us to have some food. A plate of curry and a couple of too hot to hold puris and we are ushered to the only two chairs (they kick a couple of guys off) and while I am kind of used to Honoured Guest status, Sheila gets initiated.
Best I could figure out was this was something to do with a current festival Navratri and the food was not for the poor, it was for everyone and it was really tasty. Again there is a request for a posing for photos, lots of laughter and we walk off shaking our heads in disbelief at our good fortune missing our bus stop.
There are lots of temples and shrines in India. I mean LOTS. Just about every block will have a temple of some sort and there are smaller shrines all over the place. Approaching we can hear chanting and we take off our shoes a long way from the doors because no one else is wearing shoes. Up the stairs, I cover my head with provided ‘bandana’ and into a not huge space where the floor is covered by a soft carpet. No words are adequate and like most of these places, the photos don’t do justice. A steady stream of pilgrims come in and kneels before the shrine (you read the links above, right?) to do devotion. Meanwhile there is this small group of musicians alternating with a preacher every five minutes. We sat for quite a while, I found the place mesmerising, trying to work out the subtleties of the rituals (I didn’t), people watching and observing the protocols of the “guards”, bit they weren’t really guarding, it appeared more ceremonial.
Dammit, if someone can figure an easy way to upload videos I will add it here…grrr…
On the way out of the grounds there was quite a bit of coming and going from a hall. We asked what was going on, a wedding! If you ask to go in and look is it technically gate-crashing? We were invited to have our photo taken with the bride and groom and it seemed so bizarre we said no. I now regret breaking my “say yes” rule.
Again I am a few days behind and am considering declaring blog bankruptcy i.e. just skip a few days to catch up. But so much happens. I will instead use more photos than words.
^ We had spent the day hopping around on buses and crossed town, heading back a bus that Google maps and the sign at the bus stop said existed didn’t. Beware the mythical 536! We were a bit stuck, people tried to help us, a storm came through, we caught a bus in the wrong direction at a big intersection, got caught in Delhi rush hour traffic (why is it called rush hour when it is so slow?) and after taking 3 hours to complete a 45min trip we collapsed in our hotel.
While Sheila relaxed in a warm bath, I did a food run for Rs50 ($1) of street momos that was almost too much for us both to eat. Am I a good husband or what?
Not finished. More to write. 7℅ battery left. Publish!