Sightseeing in Delhi

Dear friends and family,

Thanks for the all the supportive messages and greetings. They're great to get when you're on the road.

Ready for our cooking class. Noorul is the travel agent/owner of Grand Trip Planner, and Faheen, his wife, is the cooking teacher. Faheen had a background in science, but cooking was her passion. Noorul is a former IT guy who quit his job to start a travel service. When Faheen either quit her job or couldn’t find a job she liked, I wasn’t quite sure, Noorul started a web site for her so she could try her hand at her true interest and passion, cooking, and it’s been blockbusters ever since. Also she is very happy she can take care of her small son at home. I heard this and quite a bit more from Faheen whose English is really quite good.

Faheen explaining some of the many spices used in Indian cooking.

Faheen's small kitchen

Really, you have to admire these two young people who quit their secure careers and started their own businesses. Faheen is so enthused about all her successes: she has given cooking classes out of her small apartment to international chefs, is going to be featured in a regular radio program, wants to take baking classes in Italy and France. Recently her visa was turned down, and she lost money on her tickets and reservations. The family is Muslim, and Italy is nervous about granting visas. 

Frying onions in mustard oil on the left, paratha cooking on the right. Making the parathas (and hearing Faheen's story) was probably my favorite part.

Our vegetarian meal: an absolutely delicious cauliflower and potato dish, parathas, roti, daal, rice pulao, chai. We found out we had been making our chai in exactly 100% wrong order. The table is set for 3, not 4. We could not convince Faheen to eat with us. Her husband Noorul came and ate with us, but she would not. It seemed so strange in an otherwise so confident and forward-thinking young woman. It's all a real education for us. This family is Muslim, although they did not stop to pray when the call to prayer was sung; our driver is Hindu, who today was telling us about the untouchable caste as we had asked him; the guides have been Hindu, and an antique dealer we met yesterday was Jain, the most pacifist religion of all, literally wouldn't hurt a fly religion.

Noorul, Faheen's husband, seems a decent, hard-working guy. His little travel agency put together a great trip for us at the last moment. I was about to cancel the trip as I was too busy to plan anything or make any arrangements.

Staggered home, very jet-lagged, and awoke the next morning ready for sightseeing.

Young street performers, dancing literally in the street, the crazy, wild, free-for-all streets of Delhi.

It never hurts to ask for more, I guess.

The truly spectacular Qutab Minar, the tallest all-stone tower in the world, at least according to our guide. This is a survivor from an earlier civilization in Delhi.

Qutub Minar with airplane

It struck me as so otherworldly; as in civilizations from another planet, sci-fi, Middle Earth.

The flutes of the columns are rounded and angled alternately. It's obviously been restored; I think that actually adds to the strange aura. It does not look at all contemporary. The calligraphy is Muslim-Mughal and some of the motifs are Hindu and Buddhist.

Don is very pleased with his new camera RX1RII (Sony); captures great detail. This is the actual detail found in the photograph above.

Green parrots perched on the ruins at Qutab Minar.

You'll be seeing a lot more pictures of us together (maybe not an improvement) as we often have a guide and a driver in tow. We could truthfully do without the guides so far, although they've been nice fellows. The driver is essential, unless you are really good at bargaining for taxis and driving through a true expression of chaos theory where the butterfly is thrown into the storm and somehow survives unscathed. Don't even think about driving yourself in India. 

Our guide tells us, with just a hint of rancour, that the columns were confiscated from older Hindu temples and used by the first Muslim emperor of Delhi, Qutab-ud-din Aibak, in 1200.

These ladies from Assam (NE India, famous for tea) wanted to have their picture taken with me, so Don took one also. 

Crowding around to look at the above picture.

This iron column is over 1400 years old. It dates from the 400's. Mysteriously, it has almost no rust over its long life. Scientists are not sure why.

Humayan's Tomb, built in this Mughal emperor's honor through a consolidated effort of a couple or few of his widows.

I love these structured gardens, parterre, Indian style or Mughal style. I also love totally unstructured gardens.

Our guide, Khashi, took this photo. He's really pretty good.

Humayan's marble sarcophagus

The beautiful carved stone screening in the windows, from the inside.

And from the outside.

Down twisting streets to Agrasen ki Baoli, a stepwell or baoli, designed to collect water in days past. Fascinating to think this could fill with water; the people would go down the over 100 steps to the water level. It seems like it must have been a mammoth project, but these stepwells are scattered throughout India.

Fine moustache specimen

Our new friend, Meeta Sandeep, a designer and owner of People Tree which makes hand-blocked fabrics, using traditional techniques and natural dyes. We met her through Sarah Khan. Just finished a fabulous meal at Gulati's. Unfortunately, none of the pictures of the food turned out, which won't disappoint some of you.

Love from India,

Era and Don