India: Delirious and Delighted in Delhi

November 27th, 2011 · Lisa · Travel · Comments
The morning after I arrived in Delhi I received a phone call from Mayank (from India Habitat Centre). His voice greeted me with such a sense of warmth and excitement. He was waiting outside my host’s flat with a car to whisk me off for a tour of Delhi.
I could definitely get used to this kind of welcome.
We drove through Delhi’s busy streets and past the gateway demarcating our entrance into Old Delhi. At the red steps of Jama Masjid we jumped out of the car and climbed to the entrance. Removing our footwear and tying on a “modest” cape, allowed us to step inside the cities largest Mosque. It is used today as a place of worship for more than two thousand Muslims. We wandered through the archways and marvelled at the marble and sandstone structure.

From Jama Masjid you can look down into the busy streets of Old Delhi, with the Red Fort in the background. Early on this Thursday morning the crowds were setting up their market stalls: getting ready for a busy day of trade.

We strolled into the chaotic streets of Chandni Chowk. A marketplace that has been bustling for over 300 years. Navigating the narrow alleys really make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time – at least until you see the ads for Coca Cola and Nike. There are specific streets for purchasing all of the different things your heart desires (fried bread, saris, silver, hardware, etc). We wandered along the street selling all of the necessary wedding accoutrements for a lavish Indian affair (including the groom’s turbans shown stacked in the photo above). For a brief moment of refuge we tucked into a Jain Temple: a beautiful, serene building constructed of white marble and painted in gold. It was quiet and peaceful even with the noisy market just steps away.

On another street in Chandni Chowk called  Khari Baoli we found India’s largest wholesale spice market. Shop after shop had huge displays of dried fruits, nuts, spices and teas. I loved pointing out the ingredients I’d never seen before and having my trusted guide, Mayank, provide a detailed answer (or google the picture for a perfect response).

Before heading to the India Habitat Centre for lunch we left Old Delhi and stopped in the heart of New Delhi to see the India Gate. It is a large monument built as a memorial to the 90,000 soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the Indian Empire. There were lots of visitors, piling out of buses for a glimpse of the glowing flame and the walls inscribed with names of departed soldiers.

Over a lovely lunch at the Oriental Octupus I met Chef Manish and Shanna, two fantastic people who made my stay in Delhi a true delight. We went over our plan for the next few days, reviewed the recipes and discussed demo strategy.

With that out of the way I was ready for a little more sightseeing. Shanna took me shopping at Dilli Hut , an outdoor craft bizarre, and for a tranquil traipse through the Baha’i House of Worship.

I returned to Mala’s place (you have to check our her work with Mystic Asia) that night for a quiet evening. We welcomed Nandita who had just arrived from Mumbai and went to bed early. At 6:30 Friday morning, the three of us pulled on our shoes for a stroll to Humayun’s Tomb (top right in the collage above). It is a very close to the Mala’s home and the neighbourhood gets free walker’s passes to use the space early, before it opens to tourists. In the misty morning light we walked along the gardens surrounding the tomb, passing Mala’s friends, wandering dogs and a couple of peaceful peacocks. We sat on the stairs and spoke about our ideas, interest and hopes for the future. It was a wonderful way to start the day.

Soon after our stroll I was back at India Habitat Centre, enjoying a lovely India buffet at Delhi O Delhi. I figured I needed to eat a little more Indian food before I caught my flight to Thailand. That afternoon I worked with the chefs in the kitchen, sharing raw food recipes and techniques for hours.

Before I closed my eyes for the night I went with Nandita to a dinner meeting of local animal activists. It was wonderful to hear the initiatives underway here to improve the lives of animals. I mostly sat quietly and listened, after a long, busy day I just wanted to soak up their enthusiasm and passion.

Friday night I slipped into sleep the second my head hit the pillow.

Delhi is delightfully exhausting.

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