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Delhi – Welcome To India

March 27, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Someone once told me to enjoy visiting India you must embrace the chaos and dive in and if you can’t do that, then you’re better off to jump right back on the plane that brought you there. To prepare ourselves for the madness we read and researched as much as we could hoping more information would help us better manage through the next two weeks. But after only a short twenty minutes outside the airport doors I quickly realized the fact that in a meer one sentence I had been given the best possible advice one could have when traveling India.

India is the seventh largest country in terms of area, and home to over a billion people making it second only in population size to the massive China. The overpopulated country has more than a million millionaires, yet most of the country lives on less than two dollars a day, with thirty five percent of the people being below the poverty line. Around eighty percent of the population is Hindu, and the majority of the remaining twenty percent is Muslim.

Our experiences in India began in the county’s capital city, Delhi. Considered to be one of the oldest existing cities in the world, it has been said Delhi was built and destroyed eleven times. The city is split in two areas, one part being Old Dehli and the other New Delhi, known as the official capital of India. The city holds a rich historical heritage filled with monuments, but only few people, found in old Delhi, still reside here to represent the Muslim traditions for which the monuments were built. During the Partition a majority of the Muslim population migrated to Pakistan.

As we made our way around the city of Delhi, we found ourselves speechless trying to grasp everything happening around us. When we were told to jump in the chaos, we imagined being thrown in with millions of people trying to shove their ways through the streets to get where they are going, but we had no idea chaos in this big city would include cows in the streets and monkeys in the telephone wires. Cows, cars, monkeys, and people all take the same route to get somewhere, it is true madness. The poverty of this country reaches a a level in which I have never witnessed in my life. The scale of the poverty is evident with rows of tin roof huts lining the streets, making a whelp form in your throat each time you see them. Even the large cities of india are not modernized, the culture is evident everywhere you go. The streets are filled with a variation of bright colors as women walk down the streets wearing the customary sari wrapped around their heads extending to their toes. The color of the sari represents social status and marital status as well. A newly married woman will wear a brightly decorated sari and cover the majority of her face, while a single woman will wear a sari only wrapped around her head exposing her face, and the Muslim women are always in black.

During our sightseeing time in Delhi a dew of the key places we visited were Hamuyan’s Tomb, Qutab Minar, India Gate, and Ghandi’s memorial. One of the three World Heritage Sights in Delhi, Hamyuan’s Tomb is the tomb of the second Mughal emperor. Built in 1562, this tomb is the beginning of Mughal architecture is said to be the prototype for the Taj Mahal. The symmetry of the structure along with the geometrical and arabesque patterns are the beginning to the legacy of the Indo- Islamic Architecture found throughout India.

Qutab Minar is by far one of the most famous monuments found in Delhi. Found in the first city quarters of Delhi, the red sandstone Qutab Minar is known to be the tallest stone tower in the world. The first Muslim ruler of India commenced the construction of this monument in 1193 with hopes to gain power and trust over the people. However, he only completed the base before dying and the tower was continued on by his successor then finally completed in 1368 by the next Muslim ruler of Delhi building the fifth and final story.

Another interesting place we visited was Gandhi’s Memorial. Known as the father of India, Gandhi was said to be one of the most respected political leaders of the twentieth century. Along with many other creditable acts he is widely known for leading the people of India to their independence from Britain without the use of the single weapon. He developed a method of action based upon the principles of courage, nonviolence, and truth called Satyagraha. He believed the way people behave is more important than what they achieve. After India was finally granted their independence in 1947 riots soon became rampant throughout the country between the Hindu and Muslim people, and in 1948 Gandhi was killed by a Hindu fanatic who opposed his program for peace and acceptance of all people and religions. I found his memorial to be facinating with it’s simplicity, unlike all of the other elaborate memorials commonly found throughout India. I felt the simple design perfectly represents Gandhi’s relationships and sacrifices he made for the common people.

After a long day of sightseeing we decided to dive into some authentic India food. Of course we had a list of the many dishes we “must try” while traveling through India but we decided we would begin with the most popular dishes of chicken tikka masala and spiced chicken kabob. Chicken tikka masala is mildly Indian spiced and contains a slightly creamy marsala sauce accompanied with juicy chicken. The dish is served with Indian yogurt made with cucumbers and purple onions, a side of small whole purple onions to be eaten like an apple, and lastly a side of white rice. Naan is the essential Indian bread that no meal is complete without. The oven baked flat bread can actually be used to eat the food instead of relying on flatware. It’s similar to the well known pita bread, but surprisingly it’s even better. Needless to say, we were licking our fingers by the end of the meal… Our first bit of India food and surprisingly we were hooked.

Now for the really fun stuff. In case you weren’t already aware, India is known to have some of the finest textiles and gems in the world. So with this being said, there was no question whether or not I was going to spend at least a couple hours exploring these amazing goods. To begin what i like to call investment shopping we headed out for the most well known and trusted rug emporiums and gem wholesalers in Delhi. Of course I loved the jewelry, but I had read Delhi was the place to shop for a rug and gems would be better to see in places toward the end of our trip. I had never done this sort of shopping, at least without my parents, so it was definitely an experience to remember. With in seconds of entering the rug emporium we were placed in a seat, offered tea, and given a demonstration of how their rugs were made. Then they proceeded to roll out rugs of all different material and sizes. Once we picked the size and material we were interested in they put the rest up and then before I could blink there were at least twenty five rugs rolled out before me all different colors and patterns but in the exact size I had chosen only seconds before. Shocked and in amazement I sat there for about a minute before they asked me if there was any pattern I would like to see more or less of. Thankfully I have the gift of being able to pick an average of two or three in a slue of a hundred items no matter what they happen to be in usually only a couple of minutes… Otherwise Tyler might have never agreed to shop with me again. So after standing up to look at them I walked around and quickly eliminated most of them picking two I thought were just gorgeous. Considering I don’t even have a house yet I thought even though I will never find a rug this quality at this price again unless I revisit India it may not be a smart purchase. Then I remembered the tip “to begin decorating a room you should start with the rug”, so I decided it was an investment I would be ignorant not to make. To top off the good deal the shipping was free as well! Interestingly enough, the government of India funds shipping for their rugs to encourage the sell of them in their country. I think every country should consider this for their most well known products.

Well that’s it for Delhi, it sure was an amazing start to our time in India. Next stop… Udaipur!

Alvida,

T+C

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