India & Sri Lanka - Fall 2013 travel blog

Rudolph Valentino

at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib

feeding the masses

enjoying a free lunch

food prep

food prep

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib panorama

making bread

holy man

Qutab complex

Qutab complex

Qutab complex

Qutab Minar

Qutab complex

some of our fans

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free lunch

The last members of our group didn't arrive here until 1am, so we got off to a later start today to give them a chance to sleep. After the meet and greet, we boarded the bus for a day of touring.

There were seven Delhi's located more or less on the same site where the capital city is today, the earliest created in 300BC. Legends would lead one to believe that there has been some sort of Delhi here for 5,000 years. The newest Delhi was created by the British and feels like a planned city with wide boulevards, parks, and tree lined streets. Many imposing government buildings are located there.

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, a Sikh temple is also imposing and we all had to wear head scarves to go inside as well as take off our shoes. We sat cross legged on the floor inside the temple, watching a stream of worshippers come and go and listening to a musical trio playing something that looked like an accordion, as well stringed ones we did not recognize. Sometimes one of them sang. it all had a peaceful, tranquil effect. Outside the beautiful building was reflected in a huge pool, there for worshippers to perform ablutions before they went inside.

Sikhism is an offshoot of Hinduism and began as a rebellion against the caste system and the lowly role of women. These days Sikh men are easily recognized by their turbans. They never cut any of their body hair and wear silver bracelets and carry small daggers. This temple feeds anyone who comes a free lunch every day, paid for by contributions from the congregation. It is understood that you cannot come for lunch every day; even so they feed about 10,000/day and many more on major holidays. It felt a bit weird to be showing up at a soup kitchen, but we were welcomed to sit on the strips of mats on the floor. We were given metal plates and cups and volunteers moved up and down the rows efficiently providing rice, bread, and veggie stew. The menu is determined by what is donated. It was all incredibly well organized; the dishes were collected on our way out and we could see the next batch of hundreds of people waiting to come after us. We toured the kitchen, where much of the cooking was done by hand, but they were trying out a new bread making machine. A large group sat on the floor preparing mountains of vegetables.

Then we went to the home where Gandhi was assassinated. As we walked around this tranquil spot, we could see two men furtively trying to work some of us into their photographs. Krishnan confronted them in a friendly way and discovered that they were tourists from Bangladesh who were looking to get photos of themselves with some white women. Since we are always looking to take photos of them, we were happy to comply.

We got the same sort of reaction when we went to the Qutub complex. which was being visited by school groups and families. I thought this was just a phenomenon of southern India, but everyone wants to touch us, shakes hands, and get a photo taken with white faces. It's going to be quite a comedown when we get home when we will return to being ordinary nobodies.

The Qutub Complex reminded us a bit of the Roman Forum. It is a collection of ruins, some restored, from the first Delhi built here. Officials had begun restoring the complex, but once it became a UNESCO site, they were told to stop. The sandstone buildings glowed in the rays of the setting sun. The huge tower was especially impressive, girdled with carvings ordered by the Mughal invaders from Persia, and made by their Indian subjects.

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