Arriving in Indira Gandhi International Airport, we disembarked from our day-long journey into the balmy air of Delhi. The first sight we saw as we stepped out of the airport was a wonderful three letters: KFC. (Fernando immediately wanted to go.) Aboard the bus and adorned in our marigold necklaces, Max discovered the staple of our 9 months: Bisleri (with added minerals!). We snacked on spicy nut crackers on our way to the Wood Castle, a humble hotel in the neighborhood of Karol Bagh. We promptly fell asleep in our jetlagged states.
Our first day in Delhi was a whirlwind. We explored the stunning Lodi Gardens, which predated the Mughul conquest of North India, and headed to our first taste of true Indian food, a canteen called Andra Pradesh Bhavan. Our thalis (plates with lots of food) were filled to the brim with new delicacies: poppadum, sambar, raasam, dal, paneer, raita, aloo, curd, and some halwa. (The names are still unknown to most.) The reward was high for taking a dive into this cuisine. The explosion of tastes and textures had Max raving for an entire day. We headed off to the upper class Khan Market for some shopping. Exploring the fabrics and colors in the embroidery of FabIndia, the girls bought their first kurtas. We finished the day off with a dinner at the famous South Indian Sarvannah Bhavan, which ironically is also only ten minutes from Princeton.
The next day, we saw our first look at religious life in India, heading to a huge elaborate Guardawara, the place of Sikh worship. An elder of the community explained the beliefs and practices of the thirty-million strong Sikh people. Decorated in ornate white marble and gold plating, we walked around the temple and got lost in the chants of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text. Exiting the temple, we saw one of the most amazing sights, a huge pool in the middle of the heat-filled Delhi meant to cleanse and purify. We then headed to Humayun’s Tomb, a sixteenth-century resting place that was the predecessor of the Taj Mahal. Our adventures included examining Fernando’s knee sweat, saving Sijbren from falling into a water fountain (thanks Dani!), and hiding from the monsoon in ant-filled alcoves. We had lunch at Haldiram’s, in the center of the city, exploring the staples of Delhi street food. (The Dal Makhani was great! – Pia)
Leaving the Wood Castle behind, we headed to the train station, which was a journey in itself. Redefining our understanding of a traffic jam, our taxi driver transformed a one-way street into a two lane road, while the local police helped us in this blatant violation of traffic laws. We finally got to the train station, where we hauled our luggage up and down a seemingly endless platform to our 3rd class sleeper car. Boarding the train, we shoved our bigger-than-body bags anywhere there was space. Seeped with sweat, we collapsed on the hard bunks for a thirteen-hour ride. Full of bonding, babies, and bum guns, the ride was quite eventful. Learning how to dress a bed on a shaking coach, navigate a moving squatty potty in the middle of the night, and staying up until two in the morning talking, we will never forget our first of many train rides.
At last, we arrived in Udaipur.