Saturday, April 19, 2008

A day in Old Delhi... all I need.

I experienced India in a whole to way today. My explorations took me into Old Delhi. The location of the most history as well as the most despair.

My friend from work, Ganesh, took me into Old Delhi. Our first experience was trying to park his car. We pulled down the street where the supposed parking lots were. It was nothing but a collage of cars, trucks, buses, rickshaws, motorcycles, pedestrians, and little wheeled sales stands. There was absolutely no order to it at all. About 40 minutes later we were able to make a U turn and get out. We were able to pay some security guards at the Red Fort to let us park the car behind their gate. Somethings are impossible in India, others just take about 50 Rupees.

We walked over to Jama Masjid Mosque, the largest mosque in India. It took some guts and timing to cross the street from where we parked. You then walk through and entry about 30 feet wide and proceed down a long walkway that leads up to the mosque. At the time it was all a little too much to handle, but now it is all sinking in. It's almost 2 am and I am overwhelmed just thinking about it. On the right was a stand selling Biryani, a rice dish. Look straight ahead and the first man you see is blind, the second almost completely crippled. Both begging. There is a little break to let it set in. Then you start to see it all. Beggars of all kinds. Cripples, children, elderly, blind, strung-out, amputee's, dwarfs, widows, etc, etc, etc. A pile of feces, most likely human, sets right before the next food stand. Just after that another man relieving himself. On the right there is vendor after vendor peddling their goods. Ganesh was a great help in keeping a quick pace and putting himself between me and those who would approach. Being white is like strapping a huge magnet to your body and walking through Home Depot.
Looking back at the long walk from the street up to the mosque.

After about 200 yards later there is the gate of the mosque. There is about a 25 foot set of stone steps leading up to the entrance itself. These steps are also cluttered with beggars. This whole procession was the definition of sensory overload.
The steps leading up to the mosque.

Get to the gate, remove your shoes, pay 200 Rupees to bring in your camera, and you are ready to see the mosque itself. It really is another one of the amazing architectural sites in Delhi. But the process to get there has greatly blurred my memory of it. It was fascinating to see the men praying in this wide open courtyard. At times it is filled with hundreds, if not thousands. The towers have speakers to project the call to prayer.

After you have seen the mosque there is only one way out... The way you came in. Again, it's hard to put into words. I feel like I saw the dregs of a society. After we left I almost felt unaffected and uncaring. In hindsight I realize that my subconscious muted my thoughts and emotions during that walk. It was my defense mechanism. Witnessing this degenerate attempt to subsist was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. It felt intense, corrupt, and sad. History and faith being swallowed up by desperation and corruption.
Pickup cricket.

After that we took an auto rickshaw to the entrance of the Red Fort. It is an impressive structure. All out of red stone. Built by one of the old kings to stand as protection, a capitol for his kingdom, and also a mark of strength. We walked in to see a light and sound show but the mosquito's were too bad. The show was underwhelming, and all in Hindi, so we bailed. We took a cycle rickshaw back to the car and grabbed some dinner.
Red Fort w/Moon.

The cycle rickshaw. This guy pedaled hard!

There were rays of light through the cloudiness of what I saw today. Ganesh was a great host, guide, and friend. I really felt like I was seeing India, and not just the nice hotel, office, or shopping. I also felt like I was hanging out with a friend. A good feeling when you feel very far away from everything. I'm really grateful for the people I have met and the friends I have made. They have absolutely made my trip!

It was an intense day. All in all I am so glad I saw what I did. You can't put a price on perspective. You also can't write or photograph it. Hope this post did a decent job of telling the story of how I spent this April 19.


robyn said...

you did a great job matt. very sobering... and fascinating to say the least.
once you've lived abroad you have a whole new appreciation for america, uh?

Anonymous said...

some of this looks familair. even though i did go to indonesia, not india... the people look simulair and muslim people as a whole. mosques, call to prayer... got to love that every morning! Cool stuff. What a neat experience!

Stephanie Kaye said...

Nice post Matt! I love the elephant pic. I can't wait to see your face on FRIDAY!!!!