Today was amazing!! Four of us stayed at Hotel Broadway in Delhi last night. I slept on a little cot and felt very lucky to even have somewhere to sleep. It is wedding season in India right now and just about every hotel was booked! We woke up this morning and hired a driver for the day. It cost 1500 rupee for 12 hours with him. That is less than 9 dollars per person for the whole day. Unreal. We started by going to a new Hindu temple in the city called Akshardham Temple. The temple has something like 20,000 deities carved in it. The place is so large that we never could have seen or done everything it had to offer. It was impressive but felt much more touristy than truly spiritual. It had food courts, gift shops, etc. It was interesting to learn the story of one of the deities though! Next we stopped by the Lotus Temple, a Bahai house of worship. This temple is BEAUTIFUL... from the outside. The line was WAY to long for us to go in. We admired it from outside for awhile though.
I want to take a break here to talk about bathrooms. The lotus temple is also where I used my favorite toilet yet. It was a squatter, which I have come to love by the way. Squatting just seems to be a natural position for doing your business. I don’t mind that aspect of toilets here, it’s the smell that gets to me. 99% of them don’t actually flush, you have to pour water down to ‘flush.’ The ground surrounding the toilet is always wet, leaving you to fear that you are stepping in urine. I think this is actually water from the dripping faucets, but who knows. This squatty potty outside the temple was different though. It had an automatic flusher. You do your usual squat then as you stand, your bum tells the sensor to flush!! What?!?! East meets West in the best way possible.
Moving on. We next visited Humayun’s Tomb. There are something like 120, maybe more, graves here. There are handfuls of large beautiful tombs. The main mausoleum looked a lot like the Taj Mahal. Turns out that it was a precurser to the Taj and was built years before! This mausoleum construction was initiated by a woman who was grieving the loss of her husband whereas the Taj is vice versa. Walking around all of these sites makes you wonder what people think of American architecture. I feel like it pales in comparison to what I’ve seen in the few countries I’ve been to. This could also be because I grew up in America so I’m used to our buildings! I almost fell off of a balcony here. I really did. One of the nurses I was with almost had a heart attack seeing me trip nearly over the edge. Eeek.
After that we went to what was my favorite site of the day and perhaps the most meaningful of the week. We visited Gandhi Smriti, the place where M.K. Gandhi was assassinated. This is where he had been living for 144 days prior to his death. The memorial takes you through the room where he slept, and then you can follow his last footsteps. The night he was killed he was walking to the his evening prayer meeting when, long story short, he was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist. There is a small pillar in the spot he stood. As I stood there myself, I couldn’t stop myself from welling up with tears. It was a very humbling experience to be in the very spot where Mahatma Gandhi became a true martyr. He lived an awe-inspiring life; he was a minimalist, spiritualist, humanitarian, purist, and non-violent activist who was killed point blank with a gun. Reflecting back on my feelings as I stood there still gives me chills. I have enjoyed reading his teachings for many years and I am so thankful that I was able to visit his Smriti.
Our last stop of the day was originally supposed to be at a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet that is in Connaught Place. When we arrived there was a huge crowd and according to the hours posted, lunch wasn’t being served. We decided on McDonald’s instead. Mark this in the history books folks. I ate a full meal at McDonalds for the first time in who knows how many years. Before you go call the presses let it be known that the meal was vegetarian. One thing I have come to love about India is that every single place offers a plethora (if not a majority) of veg meals. I ate a veggie sandwich and fries, so good! As we were eating the weather went from hot and sweaty to a deluge of rain. How unpredictable! This didn’t stop us from doing our last little bit of shopping though. At 530 we headed back to the hotel and dried off. At 8pm our driver picked us up again and off to the airport it was. I am typing this while sitting on the plane. I can’t believe I am already headed home, I am not ready to leave this country. I fell in love with it while I was here and I know I will find myself back here, hopefully sooner than later.