Wednesday, October 19, 2011

India Day #4 Nizamuddin Basti and Crafts Museum

Today was another busy and interesting day. It is hard to remember all the things that happened and even harder to put them all into a blog. But I do find that writing a travel blog is a good way to reflect - at least a little bit - on what we are experiencing. Otherwise I think the whole experience would just wash over us and disappear.

Today we thought we were sufficiently over our jetlag to get up earlier. We had toast, fruit and corn flakes mixed with yogurt punctually at 8 am.. The service in b19 is excellent. There are so many people taking care of us - cooking, cleaning, guarding the gate, gardening, bringing in the food and keeping everything organized - but there are always strange variations on the food we have ordered. No milk for the cornflakes - use yogurt. It's actually delicious.

The weather was much the same today as the previous few days - cool (maybe 24) in the morning and evening, much warmer during the day and cold enough to turn off the ceiling fan and pull up the blanket in the middle of the night - sort of Arizona weather. After all we are in the middle of a huge plane which is drying out after the rainy season - so it makes sense.

After breakfast, we went to Nizamuddin Baste - which is a Muslim community within Delhi not very far away from where we are staying. The baste (community) grew up in the middle ages around the tomb of Nizamuddin an important India Sufi saint. We had arranged a walking tour through the Hope Project - a German aid project started by Sufis living in Germany. Our guide was a young Sufi man who is studying tourism here in Delhi. We were dropped by our tuk-tuk in a very broken down area and we set off on foot over the broken, torn up alleyways in search of the Hope Project. There were people everywhere and lots of little shops and stalls but it was so run down and broken that it made the Khan Market look very upscale in comparison. After a few false turns we found the Hope Project office. It reminded me a lot of the credit unions where Mike worked in the Philippines - busy people trying to help poor people and especially women to become self-sufficient. For example, women sew clothing in their homes which is sold through the project. I bought two cotton tops which were very colourful and well made - total cost $10.00.

Our guide took through twisting alleys around a huge mosque to a number of mausoleums and to a museum dedicated to a famous Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib. The highlight was a visit to Nizamuddin's tomb which is an importatn Sufi shrine. The entrance way was a narrow alley with shops on both sides selling brilliantly coloured blankets, red roses (sort of like a Hawaiin leas), white candies and sticks of incense. These were not tourist goods - but were sold to the pilgrims going to the shrine. The shrine was in a sort of tent in the middle of a square.
- gaily decorated. We had to take off our shoes to enter and I put my red scarf over my head. Mike and our guide went inside the shrine and made the offering, while I waited outside with other women. It was a remarkable experience. Our young guide stressed that the Sufi religion is all about peace and love. It is the mystic branch of Islam and honours all religions.

When the tour was over we took a tuk-tuk back to beautiful b19 in its posh neighbourhood - not very far away but worlds apart.

We had showers, washed our sweaty clothes (which we usually only do before dinner) and ate our lunch in our room. I wore one of the tops I had brought - bright magenta and nice and cool.

Then we set off in another tuk-tuk for the Crafts Museum. This museum is close to Purana Qila which we went to a couple of days ago. The traffic was much worse than in the morning - but we made it one piece.

Surrounding the Crafts Museum is a huge craft market selling all sorts of amazing stuff. The crafts are made by people throughout India working in cooperative groups - clothing, shawls, toys, shoes, pottery, statues, jewelry, wall hangings - all beautifully displayed and looking very tempting. The musical group in the photo were palying music and there was also an elaborate puppet show going on.

The museum itself was quite large and full of interesting crafts from all over India. The theme was the camel in art - so there was quite a bit about camels. After a couple of hours we were exhausted and went out to the road to find another tuk-tuk to take us home. It had only coast 50 rupees to get there so we knew it shouldn't be too much more to get home (for some reason it always costs more to go home!) However, neither of the two young drivers at the entrance recognized our address (printed on a card which we always show) so they said it would cost 200 rupees and there was a bit of haggling. Eventually one of them agreed to 100 rupees and we set off in the right direction. He actually didn't know the way to b19 and had to stop to ask another older driver where to go. Despite not knowing where he was going, he drove like a fiend! I think they always drive like fiends if you've haggled with them! It's not that the traffic is going terribly fast - but it goes along at a good clip with everyone trying to edge into any available space between other vehicles. There's a mix of brand new mercedes, huge old beaten-up buses, lots of motorbikes and motor scooter, bicycles, peddle rickshaws, and tons of other tuk-tuks all honking politely and driving along within inches of each other. Thank goodness the main roads have big dividers (often planted with roses) so at least we're all going in the same direction.

After a cup of tea we went for a walk around the neighbourhood - now we see why there is so much noise of trains tooting - we're right near the train station! It was beginning to get cool and lots of other people were out and about - people of all ages walking down the side streets, playing in the small parks and playgrounds as the sun was setting. A monkey sauntered by. Dogs lay dozing on the road and birds - including pigeons and green parakeets - flew everywhere. Even with the boys setting off fire-crackers, the chanting from the top of the mosque, the sound of the trains and the distant honking of horns, it seemed sort of peaceful and familiar.

Tomorrow we move to the Radisson Blu in another part of Delhi and meet up with our Road Scholar Tour. A new part of our adventure will begin.

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