“Yes-yes, come-come”


That was the Sister of Charity when I called to see if I could go out again to volunteer for awhile the orphanage. If you ask me some day, I’ll tell you about the nuns, children, and  workers I met at Jeevan Jyoti, but no photos of any of them (impossible, really, at so many levels)

GETTING THERE: The hotel doorman hailed a tuk-tuk this time, and after clattering around and through colonial Connaught Place for 10 minutes, my driver pulled over, hopped out, and brought in a man who looked old enough to be his father, saying,  “My cousin Ma’m. Same price.” I never saw that driver again. 

Anyhow, I did  what I  often do here:  morphed into Queen Victoria, who in another context is [probably inaccurately] credited with saying, I closed eyes and thought of England.  


Driver #2 asking directions

This  fruit and vegetable seller was our 2nd stop for directions; the 3rd was a car labeled “Tourist Police,” and the 4th occurred after I noticed that the sign reading “Mother Teresa’s” (where we’d turned RIGHT ) had had an arrow pointing LEFT. 


Once back in Connaught Place, and anxious to put off packing, I walked again through some of CP, eventually stopping for dinner at United Coffee House (great chandeliers).


Old Delhi and New: 3 Videos and Some Comments


One morning my guide took me to Old Delhi. I don’t think he realized I was videotaping as we rode along in the rickshaw. Consequently, as I began talking, he began narrating, with the result a sort of kirtan, the call-and-response chant so familiar from prayer in the temple of Shantivanam and the refectory of Ananda!

This area of Old Delhi specializes in items for weddings,: everything from sweets and garlands of flowers, to beads, sequins, and wedding saris
Footnote for Wordsmiths: read a few sentences in that wedding saris link. In both its style and its very UNWestern approach to subject matter, it echoes India Times and other newspapers, pamphlets and booklets I read in waiting rooms and airports, or picked up from the bookracks of nearly every temple (Shantivnamam not withstanding), or temple complex I visited.

…and THE NEW:

During my days in Delhi I had an expert driver, one who defied the odds for accidents in Delhi, maneuvering us through several significant traffic jams.

A few days ago, he dropped me at The Connaught Hotel for lunch. Like so many other times since arriving in India, I felt at first that the situation was familiar – after all, I was staying somewhere on Connaught Place, wasn’t I? But I looked around and realized I had been dropped someplace I didn’t know, not at all. I also remembered that Connaught Place was made up of 3 “rings” (streets), and that I was phoneless (long story); I had no idea where my driver had gone, but I really hoped I’d be able to find him if I ever emerged from this place, because I had plans for us for the afternoon.

When I say, “He dropped me,” understand that it would never have occurred to this longsuffering man to have had lunch here with me. Although I never stopped feeling guilty about it, after a few days I had ceased wondering at the way it all worked: he would stop the car at lunchtime, open my door and hand me my cane, just before folding his hands in the prayer position and inclining his head, as he stepped back into the car. This is the same driver who slept in his car the night I was in the guesthouse in Agra, tsk-tsking to myself about yet another “Indian shower”.

So there I was in front of The Connaught, staring at two gargantuan glass doors, when what always seemed to happen, happened: a lovely Indian came to my rescue. This time it was a doorman dressed in what looked to me like a Sikh turban and Tennis Court OathDavid – style knee-length pants and long stockings; he wore a sword on his side and white gloves on his hands – I noticed these when he held the door open for me as he motioned for me to enter. When he asked me a question I couldn’t understand, I nodded; when he subsequently gestured to the left, I turned quickly down a long hallway, ducking into the first bathroom I found. I spent approximately 1.5 seconds inside – urinals – before walking on and finding the right door.

Lunch was a long and serene affair, almost as if my driver – he always selected the lunch spots – knew I’d need to be prepared for what lay ahead; after the oasis that was the Connaught, I told him I hoped to visit Karol Bagh Market, to look for spices, at Roopak’s. He nodded his head. Rule #3: a head nod can mean anything.We ended up in a traffic jam for 25 minutes, and why this Job of a man didn’t just turn around and tell me it was a stupid idea at an extremely stupid time of day, I don’t know. I shot these few seconds of video as we left the traffic jam:

Once we got near the market, we parked, another process still full of mystery to me. In the half dozen times last week when we were searching for a place to park, I never actually saw what I would have considered a parking space; however, the driver did. Sometimes he would let me out before pulling into a slot, for there would be only a 6-inch space between him and the other car; dividing 6 by 2, it was clear that neither of us could have squeezed out of the parked car. This afternoon, however, there were a good 5 inches on either side. We got out, words and slips of paper were exchanged between the driver and two men lounging against the other double-deep parked cars, and we set off.
Did I know the address for the Reepok’s Spice Shop?
Yes: 6/9 Ajmal Khan Rd. Did he recognize the street?
He nodded. Rule #3: A nod could mean anything, anything at all. I realize I am repeating myself here, but ask me, sometime, to explain the nod, e.g. with regard to my Delhi mobile.
We set off down the street. After four blocks, I could tell that the man he stopped to talk with was neither colleague nor cousin, but a stranger who did the left-right-left-right head wag (as vs. the head nod); he then gestured up the street with his elbow. Another 10 minutes of walking – I gave up looking for the street name – and another stranger questioned, another elbow pointed, which I decided meant, “Just up the street.” Looking back, I realize it could also have meant, “Ask somebody else up the street.”
Really, I thought, just cut your losses, grab a rickshaw, and get back to the car.

But we walked on through Karol Bagh Market, and eventually my patient, persistent driver told me we were on Ajmal Khan; a few more minutes, a little more false hope (twice, I saw “Reeboks” and thought it was “Roopak’s”…), but eventually, we arrived at Roopak’s. Like so much else, it was a shock!

I was expecting bins of dried spices like the ones grown and used with such ease and abandon at Ananda. I thought I would find Imli (tamarind), Jaiphal (nutmeg), lots of Dhania (coriander seed), and of course, Jeera (cumin). But no! The guides I’d read had talked about “packaged for carrying” but I never dreamt that meant tidy plastic cylindrical containers looking much like the ones you pick up at Cosco or Cub.

Here is yet another video of another drive, this one in a rickshaw, which we took (2 kms) back to where the car had been parked. I dedicated this video clip to Teresa and Chris: a 39-second spin, out of Karl Bagh Market!

At the end: the Pearl of great price

I’m sure Garrison Keillor would agree: getting up before sunrise, in order to see this white marble-and-precious-stone creation, the most famous building in the world, was A Pretty Good Thing to do on my last day in India.

Under the Indian Sun: Some [of the many] Lessons in PERSPECTIVE

After a visit to the Red Fort, and then to the Lahore Gate - the stuff of history - I visited Rajghat. Knowing that Barack and Michelle Obama would be pleased, but also wanting to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi myself, I headed towards this simple platform, where he was cremated, and where some others were already filing past the guard and the eternal flame, paying respect.

Then suddenly, and for reasons as yet unclear, a uniformed guard informed us that the park was about to close. After a 15-minute look around, my guide took me down some stairs and into what looked to me like a park, but was actually a CAR park. And as I glanced up…


Republic Day Celebrations, which had begun a few days ago after Mass at Shantivanam with the hoisting of the small white-orange-green flag up a swaying bamboo pole, were ending here in Delhi. The Uniforms were preparing for a military parade in Rajghat, and I won’t even begin to comment on the irony, both of that sort of parade, and that sort of squad, near Gandhi’s grave, except to recall that Our Theme is PERSPECTIVE

Doesn’t it look as if I’m taking in the side angle of Humayun’s Tomb?

The truth is, I'm catching my breath after the trek up those steep stairs to the terrace.

Sometimes, it helps to get Up Close and Personal:

I’m checking out the restoration work on the Qutab Minar. At over 70m high, it is the world’s largest minaret. Or is it the world’s largest brick minaret (or does it matter)?

And finally, of course…you knew this was coming…DISTANCE!

HUMAYUN’s TOMB: early Mughal

Worth the trip up, and no, I didn't take a photograph of the 2nd Mughal ruler's 2nd wife's tomb, or even of his tomb, though I realized this fact: there are plenty of Muslim tombs, but of course, no Hindu ones. But I digress. This forerunner of the Taj Mahal is built of red sandstone as well as white marble.

TWENTY-EIGHT. Who needs StairMaster now?

A couple of the 30 acres making up the complex

For Peggy S. (and all your students @ MSB!): the tomb of the emperor's favorite Barber. Yes.

Old Delhi: rabbit-warren of medieval streets and alleys

This Rickshawalla took me through the narrow, winding streets ("crowded" does not begin to cover it) He could show Lance Armstrong a few moves, especially when it comes to elbowing-out the competition. He looks fragile. Trust me, he is not fragile.

Look up, see how little sunlight, how many wires.

Shopowners are not the only upstairs inhabitants

The shops in this area specialize
in wedding accessories, from henna for the bride's hands, through sequins and beads and silk, to... sweets!

I did say "CHAOTIC"? It may simply be be my Western Eyes. In fact, I am beginning to think much of what I sense, opinions I'm forming here, are the result of my American-centricity. Inevitable, I realize, but I really do see how startlingly Other I am.

Always, of course, there is this

...and this!

Jamma Mosque

25,000 people, men in the courtyard, women off to the side in the arcades, fit here for prayer.

I went for the mosque, I stayed for the rugs (which were just being laid, for the Friday noon Call to Prayer)

Koran - copies for anybody's use. The Imam was about to enter (read, as a woman, I had to get out), so I can't be sure, but assume...I wouldn't have been able to read any of those copies, even if I'd had all morning.