It’s crazy to think our time in India is up already. This morning we headed to the kitchen cafe where we hid on our first day from the crazy streets of Paharganj. Today it was scary in a different way, wind picking up and blowing and banging at the corrugated iron cover of the restaurant. It was a pretty cool pre-storm display, but I have to admit I was a little nervous when the waiters started collecting loose items off of tables and heading inside for shelter. The wind turned out to be good for us, waking us up after another humid night and we were then ready for our last day of sightseeing in Delhi.
We headed first to Gandhi Smitri where Mahatma Ganghi spent his final days and was assassinated. We managed to successfully barter the autorickshaw driver down to the Lonely Planet price, and even avoided a detour trip to a ‘government tourist office’. I’ve learnt that my teacher voice works wonders in these situations. A quick ‘I don’t think so; if you can’t take us where we asked to go then we can find another rickshaw’ is actually all we needed to say and the driver silently took us straight there (albeit a slightly winding route, past several signs for the place, in an attempt to ask more money for the long journey – luckily we’ve got our bearings of the city now and had none of it). The memorial and house were really interesting, the imprints of Gandhi’s final steps were particularly poignant, although the information about his life was presented in a nonsensical order which made it a little difficult to follow.
I’m glad I watched the film biopic again recently and played tour guide for Rob, which he always loves! Inside the house though it got a little weird. There is a new modern multimedia display upstairs, where each room had about five attendants and we seemed to be the only tourists looking around. There were lots of abstract and odd instalments, a lot of which were meant to be interactive, but we got told off or shown how to do it properly every time we tried to get involved. It was all a bit too weird to be honest, and we couldn’t really make the connection between kaleidoscope-Gandhi or glowing-eyes-Gandhi with the intended message of the place
. We made a hasty exit.
After finally finding an honest driver who was using his meter (and not trying to charge us over 3 times the actual price – we’ve learnt to just walk away, if they are going to lower the price then they’ll normally call after you), we headed south to the Bahá’í (Lotus) temple.
It is absolutely massive, far bigger than I had expected anyway and stunningly beautiful. Considering they started building it thirty years ago, it doesn’t look at all dated (or worse, like something from the 80s). We removed our shoes and queued up silently outside in the most organised fashion that we have seen anywhere in India, even some of the locals couldn’t cope with it and opted to leave! They explained a bit about the Bahá’í faith, which was very interesting, and about how they want to unite all religions, before we went and sat inside. They understandably don’t allow photos inside, so I will try and describe it for you. The petals of the lotus flower are sort of hollow, so that inside, there is one central, peaked dome, surrounded by a ring of smaller, thinner hollows, which created an amazing feeling of space. When prayers from each of the major faiths were read and sung, the sound filled the whole room, and you couldn’t help but look up as if following it. We both agreed that it was a very calming experience, and it was nice to step outside afterwards, feeling still and peacefull, and I went to sit overlooking one of the pools around the temple while Rob took some amazing photos of the marble petals against the sky.
We have just had our final meal in India, going back again to our favourite, Sam’s Cafe. Unfortunately the meal turned out to be a nice metaphor for our time here; hard work (Rob’s chicken was on the bone, my paneer covered in a really disgusting batter) but tasty, and you can’t tell if you like it… or if it’s going to make you ill later! We feel like we’ve accomplished something in the last few weeks though, and are definitely ready to face anything that the rest of our trip throws at us. The real excitement of knowing that this hasn’t just been a holiday, and we won’t be flying home tomorrow is starting to sink in. On to Kathmandu!
Nic & Rob xxxx