Delhi page 3 of 3
The next day we went to buy train tickets. As soon as we left our hotel we were invited by a friendly smiling Indian to take a ride in his autoriksja. He looked vaguely familiar (but for us all Indians look a bit the same I'm afraid...) and indeed, it happened to be the same man that took us to the Red Fort yesterday and tried to take us to the Jama Masjid! I remembered now that we told him the name of the hotel where we stayed. According to our LP travel guide Indians always want to know everything, but sometimes this is not only pure curiosity! So we took a ride to the train station and after reserving our train tickets (which took only 1 hour, much less than we apprehended), we sneaky left the train station on the opposite side and took a 'pre-paid taxi' (you still have to pay, but much less than when you do the bargaining yourself!) to the Qutab Minar complex.
The Qutab Minar complex, south of Delhi, is much older than the Red Fort and the Jama Mashid. Jac is reading in our LP bible for some details. The complex dates from around 1200, the onset of Muslim rule in India. The complex is named after the 73-meter high tower; a tower of victory that was started after Qutab-ud-din Abak defeated the last Hindu kingdoms. The tower is slightly tilted, a bit like the tower of Pisa in Italy. The buildings are made from red sandstone and white marble, and are really beautifully decorated, mostly with inscriptions from the Koran. The mosque, Quwatul-ul-Islam Masjid, the first mosque of India, was built of the remains from the destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. Except for tourists, again mainly Indian, the complex was also very interesting for a lot of parakeets, who tried to read the inscriptions from quite close-by!
At the end of the day we visited the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, close to Connaught Place. The Jantar Mantar is a group of pink painted astronomic instruments, looking more like modern artwork than like scientific devices dating from the 17th century! Maharaja Jai Singh II builds this observatory in 1725. This Maharaja built also observatories in Jaipur and Varanasi. The buildings in Jaipur are quite well preserved, see the Jaipur pages for pictures. Afterwards we went to eat on Connaught Place. The restaurant was very expensive for Indian standards and they even served red wine, quite extraordinary for the Hindu India. I think we really enjoyed the wine, because we seem to have circled Connaught Place twice before taking the right turn! We blamed the begging children, who haunted us all along our two turns.
We see a lot of people sleeping on the street, just like the sacred cows! People arent worth anything here, you just have to manage by yourself, nobody else will help you. But people who live on the street still have their dignity: sometimes they make a kind of open tent to sleep under, they built a small fire to cook something and brush there teeth as soon as they wake up! I have respect for people who go on brushing their teeth when everything else stops; it is a kind of clinging to sanity which touches the heart. I worry about the cold in the winters, even in India it can be cold. But the riksja drivers tell me that temperatures below zero are no problem for people living on the street, it are the very high (above 40 degrees Celsius) temperatures in summer that make victims. A riksja driver further explains this while making impressive movements with his arms: 'This is because you can put on clothes to stay warm, but when it is that hot there is nothing you can do.'.
Early in the morning - but almost to late to catch our train in the unbelievable traffic jam at 5.30 hours in front of (and inside) the train station - we left Delhi en route to Jaipur!