Visiting Delhi

Thursday, May 24, 2018
Delhi, Delhi, India
This morning we enjoyed an excellent breakfast buffet before meeting a driver whose services David Baker has been using for years. He goes by the name of Jasbir, and is quite a pleasant competent driver. He arrived in a six seat crossover type vehicle, at 8:30 in order to take us to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian President’s residence. It was originally built by the British as the Government House or the Viceroy’s residence during the time of the British Empire rule of India. 
We had to have reserved a tour in advance and security was tight when we arrived. Jasbir parked outside the wall and we made our way through an initial ID check before being allowed to enter the walled compound. Once inside at the registration area, our passports were crosschecked against the reservation and we had to go through a metal detector and pat down. A guide, whom we often had trouble understanding- our ears aren’t used to Indian English yet – led us through impressive room after room, including the large room right under the dome at the center of the complex. It was all built to impress and it did precisely that.
The guide emphasized how rooms are used by the Indian government now, which is understandable. I would have appreciated hearing more about the British period, but perhaps not much is known about that now.
After finishing the tour, we regained the van and drove around the permiter, the grounds cover more than 300 acres, to another gate where we again parked so we could view the museum of the residence. There were displays about all of India’s presidents and some artwork that dated from the time of the various Viceroys that ruled during the period sometimes called the Raj. A particularly well versed guide with more easily understood (to us) English showed us around and gave excellent explanations of various exhibits.
This took us to about noon. We then drove to Birla House (now known as Gandhi Smriti), where Mohandas Gandhi spent his last months living simply with a wealthy family in rooms in their mansion in central Delhi. It was also the place where he was assassinated on 30 January 1948. Concrete footsteps follow the path from his rooms to a place where was going to pray and address a crowd of followers and well-wishers. The steps lead to a small memorial on the spot where he was shot. It was thought provoking. Gandhi is of course revered in India as the father of its independence.
We then drove on to a bookstore Mr. Baker often visits, where one can have books bound in leather for only about the equivalent of $10.00. I bought a Jim Corbet omnibus, and put placed it in the queue to have it rebound. We hope to visit the Jim Corbet Tiger Reserve later during our visits in India.
Then we drove to the Red Fort, the main residence of the Mughal dynasty emperors from 1639 to 1856, when the British took over. The Mughals were a Muslim dynasty with Turco-Mongol roots that came from Central Asia, which intermarried greatly with Indian Rajput and Persian bloodlines. The Fort is quite famous for its scale and the beauty of the red sandstone used to construct it. After paying the entry fee David hired a guide for us and we walked through the main entrance. Many of the structures inside, the residences and mosques and so on had been pillaged or were heavily damages and are being restored. Still the visit was quite fascinating. There were very few westerners visible among the visitors. This is an extremely hot season in Delhi, it was over 100 F, and so many tourists choose to come at other times.
The heat and humidity took what was left of our energy, so after our visit we regained the air conditioning and had a brief drive around Connaught Square, a prime shopping are of New Delhi (New Delhi was laid out by the British, next to Delhi, when they moved the capital of the British Raj from Calcutta to Delhi).
It was well used, educational day, and a tiring one. Now tomorrow we shall drive north east to our next stop.

Comments

Mary
2018-05-26

Thanks for the photos which give a sense of great size and power. Your comments are a prod to check up on some history. It must be enjoyable to have Mr. Baker there to share his experiences of where to go. Even the news here has mentioned the heat in that part of the world. Thanks again for the historical notes.

2022-01-27