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Reprising Delhi

Started: 2016-01-03 19:56:53

Submitted: 2016-01-03 08:53:59

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator explores Delhi

I woke up early in my hotel room in New Delhi, feeling well-rested after sleeping all night, but still early with respect to my new time zone. (It felt a little like I'd gone the wrong way around the world, and my body clock thought I was several hours ahead in Beijing.) Calvin and I headed down to breakfast, then Bethany joined us as we were finishing eating. After eating, I left Calvin with Bethany while I headed out in search of an ATM, having neglected to pick up cash on my trip through the airport, and withdrew rupees at nearby Khan Market to fund my adventures in India.

Back at the hotel, we hired the taxi driver waiting in the courtyard for a day of sight-seeing, who turned out to be the same driver who took us to the zoo the day before. Our first stop was the Red Fort, which I'd driven around on my last trip to Delhi but hadn't visited.

Our driver dropped us off at the parking lot on the south side of the fort, and waved us vaguely northwards in the general direction of the entrance, suggesting that we could hire a cycle rickshaw to take us to the main gate and also through the surrounding neighborhoods. We were interested principally in the fort, so we passed up the opportunity and set out on foot, walking along the path on the outside of the moat surrounding the fort. It was sunny, though a little hazy, and still cool; the visibility was low enough that the red sandstone walls faded magically into the distance.

Outer walls and moat of the Red Fort
Outer walls and moat of the Red Fort

Calvin attracted the attention of some young men who asked to pose with him for pictures. Calvin actually posed in at least one picture, which I expect delighted the guy he was posing with.

Calvin poses for a picture outside the Red Fort in Delhi
Calvin poses for a picture outside the Red Fort in Delhi

We picked up our (expensive foreigner) tickets and walked past several sandbag-laden machine gun nests and through a security checkpoint on our way into the fort. This dumped us into the throat of a noisy bazaar, with stalls and shops set up on both sides of the second gate, apparently an echo of the fort's original configuration. We pressed through the scrum, walked past giant groups of identically-uniformed school children, and passed through the ornate ceremonial gate, decorated in the best Mughal fashions, toward the region of the fort used by the Mughal emperors for official state business.

School group in front of the ceremonial gate at the Red Fort
School group in front of the ceremonial gate at the Red Fort

We poked around the public audience hall, which looked quite similar to the public audience hall at Agra Fort. We continued to the private audience hall, and the emperor's private quarters, and the private quarters for his household and harem. On the back side of the mosque designated specifically for the harem we encountered another group of young men wanting their pictures taken with Calvin, and Bethany, and occasionally me. Calvin ended up being passed from person to person as they shouted "Just one more!" and grinned at their friends' smartphones.

Hall of Public Audience at the Red Fort
Hall of Public Audience at the Red Fort

We were able, at some length, to wrest our way out of the scrum and made our way into the garden to the north, where we could see small canals and waterways that would cool the palace and the gardens. Calvin amused himself jumping over the canals, and Bethany taught him to make action-shot photos with him jumping over the scenery. (It turned out my camera's rapid-fire fully-automatic sport mode was better at capturing the right moment than Bethany's new point-and-shoot camera, but she still got some amusing pictures.)

Calvin reviews pictures on Aunt Bethany's camera inside the Red Fort
Calvin reviews pictures on Aunt Bethany's camera inside the Red Fort

On our way out of the fort we visited a museum displaying various military artifacts from the medieval, early modern, and modern period, including a wide selection of swords, daggers, muskets, and rifles; and a final gallery showing an assortment of artifacts from the British Indian Army in the first half of the twentieth century.

With our military and Mughal history lessons satisfied, we headed back to the parking lot and tried to find our driver. I texted and called his numbers on his business card to no avail, and I couldn't find him when I walked carefully through the parking lot trying to find him. I eventually located his car, one of the few black cars in the parking lot, but he was nowhere to be found, until we realized that he had set himself up on the street outside of the parking lot, within sight of where he had dropped us off, and we'd come up the back way into the parking lot and missed him.

Our next stop was Rajghat, the memorial at Gandhi's cremation site, which was the one site that I saw on my last visit to Delhi that I wanted to visit again. I thought Bethany would appreciate the simple black marble slab emblazoned with Gandhi's last words, and I was correct. Calvin didn't seem to get as much out of it, though he does tend to surprise me with what he understands.

Our driver took us to a little monument off a side alley in New Delhi called Agrasen Ki Baoli, which turned out to be a deep step well, much narrower than it was wide or deep, dug into the ground. It was packed with people, mostly hanging out; some were painting the well, and others just seemed to be hanging out with their friends. (Willy told me later that it was recently featured in a Bollywood movie, which increased its popularity.) We climbed down to the bottom of the steps, through the arches at the bottom, and looked into the cistern itself, which was now dry but would have held water when it was built. It was a fascinating place and I was glad our driver took us there.

Step well Ugrasen ki Baoli
Step well Ugrasen ki Baoli

Our next stop was lunch, at a little square off an alley in New Delhi surrounded by restaurants representing various cuisines. We went for an East Asian restaurant on the theory that they'd probably have some noodle that Calvin would eat, which proved correct.

Our last tourist stop of the day was the National Railway Museum, which Willy specifically recommended for me and Calvin. I bought a ticket that let us ride around the grounds on a little narrow-gauge toy train, which was an amusing way to see the various engines and rolling stock scattered around the open-air museum. (Willy specifically wanted me to take Calvin on the train; he was too self-conscious to ride by himself without a child in tow.)

Calvin and Aunt Bethany ride the toy train at the National Railway Museum in Delhi
Calvin and Aunt Bethany ride the toy train at the National Railway Museum in Delhi

Calvin was more interested in running around and playing than looking at the engines themselves, so I left him with Bethany watching the garden railway while I looked at the various rail equipment. I was especially interested in the steam engine that was only equipped with a pressure vessel for storing steam, not a firebox and a boiler for creating its own steam, which was intended for use for short-haul trips shunting cargo around flammable materials, especially jute.

Calvin runs ahead of Aunt Bethany through the trains at the National Railway Museum in Delhi
Calvin runs ahead of Aunt Bethany through the trains at the National Railway Museum in Delhi

We left the museum around 17:00 and headed back to the hotel, where we tried not to fall asleep while waiting to eat supper. When we were hungry, and it was a more-reasonable supper time, we ate in the hotel's restaurant again. I put Calvin to bed and packed for an early-morning train departure to Agra the next morning, then went to bed myself.

For more photos from my day in Delhi, see Photos on 2015-12-22.
Whoa! Now we can always know exactly where we are at every
moment...and still have no clue what is going on.
- Willy, upon learning about Ted's GPS acquisition, 11 November 2003