Thursday, February 24, 2011

South Asia Diaries - Delhi

Delhi. Beautiful, refreshing, Delhi.

The ongoing World Cup and today's SA-WI match in Delhi reminded me to post about our time there.

So we were in Kolkata, with three days break between some wedding events. Quickly, we decided to visit Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. We would fly to all three places. Our flight from Kolkata to Delhi was supposed to leave at 6.30 am in the morning.

Taking a taxi in the middle of the night (4 am) in Kolkata was surreal. The driver sped through all the red lights (and actually stopped at a green one! - just to see if there was someone speeding the other way). Once at the Kolkata airport (which is nothing short of a fish market), we found that our flight was delayed to 10.30 am! Resigned to wait, we saw some passengers being signed on to a 7.30 flight. Those were the ones who shouted, while we were the polite ones! Well, they ain't seen a Bengali. All my Candian-ness disappeared and the Bangladeshi came to the fore. Some harsh words later, we were boarding an 8 am flight. All this meant of course our arrival was delayed, and so our plans (we were in Delhi for that day) had to be curtailed.

Delhi was amazing. Where Kolkata was dirty, Delhi was clean. Where Kolkata was polluted, Delhi's air was fresh. Kolkata was smoggy and sticky, Delhi was cold and clear. And where Kolkata was still in the 18th century, Delhi was the new India - a rising superpower. The airport took my breath away. It could rival any Western airport. It was big, clean, flashy, and modern. And this was a domestic terminal!

After a quick change in the hotel, we were out. We took Delhi's metro system (which beats TTC hands down ten times over) everywhere. Our first stop was the famous Qutub Minar.

The first sight of Qutub Minar

Amongst the ruins near the Qutub Minar

Some of these structures were over 3000 years old.

There were people there, as it was noon when we were exploring the place (which made for some challenging picture taking with the sun's harsh light) but it was still cold and foggy. And the guides and locals spoke a very accented rustic version of Hindi - and they were quite polite and helpful.

Islamic calligraphy at the base of the Qutub Minar

Reminded me of the Roman Forum with all the ruins nearby

The Qutub Minar

The whole complex was once part of a bigger structure (you can see the arches of a palace) but now only ruins remained. The Qutub Minar was very red - something unique to the soil in Delhi - as can be seen by the Red Fort as well.

And then I turned my attention to the famous Iron Pillar (from the time of Ashoka!) that is still standing, and still not rusted. Here was something that was from 400 AD!

The Qutub Minar and the Iron Pillar

There was a plaque, explaining the specialness of the Iron Pillar:
"Constructed during 400 AD, and had a phosphorus content that created a protective film, making it a rustless wonder. Weighing about 6000 kg and made of corrosion free wrought iron, the pillar is a metallurgical marvel of ancient India and is unique. Even the most technologically advanced centuries could not have produced such a column of wrought iron before 1851 AD, which India had already made 1600 years ago."
Modest, these Indians.

There is a lot to explore in that site, and you can easily take up a lot of time there, especially considering the work. For example, these calligraphy works were carved onto individual pieces of stone, which fit together to make a giant structure!

Tomb of a Mughal leader

I have to say a few words about Delhi's metro. It's just amazing. It's clean. It ran on time. People didn't spit on it. There was ample security. It went everywhere, and was fast. You could traverse the whole city on it. It was electronic, and people used a smart card system to pay for it. It was cheap. It was amazing that this was there in India!

The rest of the day we visited Red Fort (picture below), and drove by Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid. We didn't stop at the last two as it was getting dark, and the area is not considered a good or safe area (and ironically that's the Muslim area of Delhi!). So far ours was a crime incident free travel through India and I wasn't about to risk that for a few pictures.

Red Fort (Lal Quilla)

India Gate

We couldn't get near the India Gate (it was close to Republic Day and they were practicing the parade and so there were security concerns). This was as close as we got!

So this was our brief trip to Delhi. The next (early) morning, we would leave for Agra (and the Taj Mahal).


Azra said...

Wow... amazing pics as usual. I especially love the Islamic Calligraphy. I wish I owned a home with walls engraved like that :)

Suroor said...

I really want to visit India and you are inspiring me :)

ibucketbot said...

Was just checking out bangladeshi blogs until i entered your blog. Trust me, i cant get myself out from reading your posts. I am really enjoying reading your articles of your journey. Waiting for the next post on the majestic Taj Mahal!!
Have a safe journey!!

Misha said...

Wonderful pictures, as always. I love visiting historical places and reading about them. Sounds like you had fun!

Lat said...

Amazing pics and info! I think I've seen the Qutub Minar in documentaries.It's really mind is blowing to see all that artwork and the technical design of it all.And I'm glad that Delhi was cleaner and impressed you with her metro system.I'm impressed too!

Thank you for sharing and now can't wait for Agra!!

'liya said...

I would love to go to Delhi, can't wait for your next post though :D

Musa said...

Nice report
I found Delhi fascinating, but clean? Not IMO, unless you consider the India Gate Area, and Chanakyapuri where all the embassies are.
And I visited right after the CWG.

Delhi has a very small time window in which temperatures are comfotable; November to Mid-December, and late January to late February.
Btw, did you try the legendary Karim's?

Nadia said...

Your Qutub Minar pictures turned out great despite the harsh light.

I love Delhi too.

Nadia said...

Your Qutub Minar pictures turned out great despite the harsh light.

I love Delhi too.

Safiyyah said...

Great shots Mezba,

TManiac said...

wow mezba! Delhi has its own stateoftheart metro system? It really is a sign of marvel that india's really progressin ahead. U cud've taken more pics of delhi's metro systeem so that we know how's it better than TTC!

Nabeel's Cosmos said...

Oh man, I never thought Qutub Minar looked that mystical.

Nabeel's Cosmos said...

I also like the picture of the Lal Qila .. however, would have loved to see the actual red blocks more clearly.

mezba said...

@Azra, thanks. Ah, such a home, with calligraphy - they don't build them like they used to, alas!

@Suroor, you should visit India. And then Canada. Actually, skip India. Come directly here.

@ibucketbot, thanks. I am back home now.

@Misha, me too, I love visiting olden places and then photographing them. Oh we had lots of fun. India is not a dull place :-P

@Lat, and to think, all this was made over 400 years ago, and some over thousands of years ago.

@Liya, an India visit sounds like in order, and I am sure V would agree! Delhi is a great place to visit, and ideally you need 2 days.

@Nadia, I would love to visit Delhi again.

@Safiyyah, thanks!

@TManiac, Delhi has a very advanced metro system that's really much, much better than the TTC.

Photography wasn't allowed on board, but I put one on Facebook.

@Nabeel, I have more pictures on Facebook.