India 2012…Part 2

The ITC Maurya Hotel has truly pleasant staff, but the best part of all is the excellent food in the dining room, which is open 24 hours a day. I quickly adapted to an almost vegetarian diet, really enjoying the Indian fleshless meals. Although I am neither a soy nor cottage cheese fan, the cooked varieties offered, along with various grains and daal, (lentils cooked with various spices) really satisfied both my hunger, and my taste buds. Coupled with the Naan, all sorts of salads and desserts, every meal was a gastronomic experience.

My personal highlight of Delhi was spending an evening at the home of one of my friend’s and colleague’s brother. He drove to the hotel with his driver, and waited for me in the lobby. Not finding me there, he asked at the front desk for me, but only had the name Michael Broad, and they couldn’t find me. So, one of those modern day wonders occurred. From the lobby of the hotel, Chander used his cell to call my Calgary based cell, which I answered a hundred metres away from where the call originated, in my hotel room. Amazing technology. So we went to his house where I was treated to an amazing evening. He lives in a nice neighbourhood, in a large, multi generational home, Chander and his wife sharing the ground floor, where there was also a beautiful guest room, dining room, huge sitting room and kitchen. The next floor accommodates his son, daughter in law and their children, while the top floor accommodates the staff, three housemaids and a Nepali cook. The cook has been with them for twenty five years, so really part of the family although he goes home annually to Nepal, to his own wife and children. Clearly, they are good to their domestic staff.

Anyway, for me, it was tremendous to see how a well to do Indian family lives. One has to experience life to appreciate life, and that especially applies to others lives. A great evening with fabulous Indian hospitality

The first official day of the Greaves Tour we were picked up in a luxury air conditioned bus, and spent the first half of the day touring around Delhi. The very modern and clean diplomatic quarter, the Presidential and Prime Ministerial residences, (the former the Vice Regal residence built by the British Colonial authorities) and the government offices, all of red sandstone and 1920’s vintage. The other end of the mall from the Presidential Palace is the magnificent Indian Arch built to celebrate the 90,000 Indian troops who died fighting with the allies in the first world war, and with the British in the first Afghan war. A beautiful Arch that rivals the Arc de Triumph in style.

Then we drove into Old Delhi, which apparently is the seventh city built on the site, and dates back to the 1500’s. After a brief tour we parked the bus, and took a cycle rickshaw ride through the central streets and alleys of the town. Nothing I could write could possibly describe the sights, sounds, smells, colours, and sheer glorious confusion of these streets. Often no more than 2 metres wide, and often less, there were pedestrians, cars, cycles, motorcycles and various animals jostling for position with traders sitting outside their tiny stores, The overhead wiring for electricity and phones would need a genius to figure out what is what. Incredibly, in the heat and confusion, the area was a proliferation of smiling happy faces, with only a few dour grumps around.

Religiously, like much of India the area is mixed. We took a break, which with our weight I am sure the drivers needed, at the central mosque, and then returned to the vehicle park where we picked up the bus again.

I have been in a lot of markets and souks and old cities. Never have I experienced one quite so joyously confused as old Delhi’s. A wonderful spot, and probably one of the highlights of our trip.

We then were driven to the Gandhi Museum, which is a combination shrine to him, his ways and his life, as well as a monument to the Indian Independence struggle. Being the house where he spent the last 144 days of his life, as well as the spot where he was assassinated, it is a very moving site and monument to a great man who tried to promote a message of love, peace and religious tolerance. I was particularly touched by his sanity during the Indian Independence days, when he pleaded with people not to let religion divide them, but to be tolerant and caring of all. One particular quote stuck with me.

“I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are. No doubt there are differences of degree but the object of these religions is peace.”

It would be wonderful if we all could remember this today, even when a few so called Muslims are attempting to bomb us to hell.
I could have personally spent all day at the museum, but as with any group, we travel at median speed, so back on the bus, and off to the Taj palace for lunch. A lovely hotel, with excellent food and drinks, where we ate in the Chinese restaurant. Delicious, but I would prefer to eat Indian every day I am here. The hotel has a wonderful style and service, with delightful rooms, although  I would stay again at the ITC Maurya.

Back to our hotel, and a workout in the excellent gym. No time for the spa, which looked very inviting, but after catching up with emails, we dined in the  Bukhara restaurant in the hotel. This is very authentic central Asian, as the name suggests, and the food and company was great. One note, Indians tend to eat very late, so by getting to the restaurant by 8.00 we could have a reservation, but later than that and we wouldn’t get one.

After a thrilling day, off to bed.