A Hasty Departure

I realized that I rushed you out of Delhi a little quickly, completely forgetting to mention a few of the places we visited while we were there. Backtracking, here is a taste of the sightseeing in Delhi:

The Presidential Palace, where we saw the motorcade for visiting Malaysian president zip in, observe some sort of cannon and gun salute and then zip right out. This 15 minute show (which we weren't allowed anywhere near anyway) meant a lot of being shuffled around by Indian guards, being yelled at in a language we didn't understand, and our squat "tough grandma" tour guide openly disobeying and arguing with the guards...who had big guns. She wasn't the only one and the guards seemed pretty complaisant about this, as though it was routine. Another cultural learning, in the U.S. we'd rarely argue with a cop, much less one with a ready rifle. Then onto Qutub Minar - a tall tower, supposedly built to call the devout for prayer at an adjoining mosque, however in my reading it was pointed out that anyone standing on top would never be heard! I think it was about showing off, late 1100s style, which is confirmed when it's also billed as a Mughal victory tower. ("Mughal" was one of our favorite new words learned during our trip.) We wandered the mosque complex, intriguing by its intricate carvings and glory in decay. Most Muslim, but some also Hindu, recycled from other temples.
The partner Iron Pillar is, "...one of the world's foremost metallurgical curiosities" I thought for a moment about my metallurgist Dad who probably would have had some trivia to share about this monument. It used to be considered good luck to put your arms around the pillar, standing with your back pressed against it, but with everyone's sweaty backs rubbing up against its monument, the government put up a fence to avert corrosion. Although the fencing off of monuments was notably rare in India. Or, our visit was timely, as there were many places where, after standing inches away from carved details and inlaid marble, I wondered if this might be more cautiously protected in future years. I was putting my dirty fingers on the Taj Mahal! And my fingers were probably amongst the cleanest!

Today, the only folks allowed to snuggle up to the two tall monuments in Delhi are the feral dogs.There are many stray dogs wandering India. It was a contrast to see dogs just kind of ignored in the streets, as cars navigate around them and people walk by without any notice. The dogs themselves barely register passersby, unlike our neighborhood streets where any dog on a leash will perk up to another human who might have some treat or ear scratching to offer. Indians do keep dogs as pets, but the vast majority that we saw were these mongrels, poking around in the trash for food, lounging in shady nooks, cavorting about in the evenings with each other.

We preceded President Obama in his Delhi sightseeing by visiting Humayan's Tomb. Workers were busily scrubbing stones, patching pavement, and manicuring lawns for his arrival. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site, and dates to 1570, later inspiring the design of the Taj Mahal.Here was the beginning of our lessons on how symbolism we know today, like swastikas and Stars of David, had far earlier meanings. This isn't a Jewish memorial, but all over are overlapping triangles. Though a tour guide advised it was about man and woman (each a triangle) coming together, Wikipedia suggests, "The hexagram is a mandala symbol, called satkona yantra or sadkona yantra, found on ancient South Indian Hindu temples symbolizing the perfect meditative state of balance achieved between Man and God, and if maintained, results in nirvana" Finally, the Bahai Lotus Temple, which we'd cajoled our tour guide into adding onto our day. (Something we might have later regretted, spending over an hour in Delhi traffic jams.) However, the white marble interior of this temple was quiet and cool, a welcome respite from the day's adventures. We must have become so relaxed that we nearly walked back to the car without our shoes, becoming so accustomed to bare and stocking feet from our temple visits.Our bossy and impatient tour guide yelled to our friend, "Tushar! Your shoes!"
Our Cinderella moment in an enchanted land, complete with evil stepmother. (Sort of.)

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