Saturday, August 15, 2009
Reunion and Farewell
The last full day I have had in Delhi was yesterday. Maulin and Tara had really long layovers before their flights to NJ/Bangalore, respectively. So they took a cab to my hotel and we hugged and talked all about our weeks alone, wherever we were. Apparently Maulin's family took him in and kept him locked away in their houses of Gujarat, while Tara experienced Mount Everest and Katmandhu in Nepal with plenty of stories to share. I, of course, told them about my interesting travels.
So we ate a nice little meal at some nearby shop, Sudh. It is one of those places you pick up your meal from a counter, but again my whiteness singled me out in the crowd. Some man took my order for me, and served me my food at the table without me barely having to me. Meanwhile, Tara and Maulin were told to get their meals themselves, it was self-serve after all. It is slightly discomforting, having these special services all of the time, but I'm not sure how to stop this all.
Tara had an earlier flight to catch, leaving Maulin and I plenty of time to hail a cab and go to the relatively new, hand-made, massive and awesome Akshardham Temple. The line to get into the temple was simple because we were not allowed to bring in any purses/bags/electronics, so we waited for 30 minutes in line to drop off our things. We also had to go through a security check, where ladies and gents were separated into opposite sides. I am still not sure why it seems that there is a disproportionate amount of men at all temples or sites in India than there are women, but I got through quickly and had to wait for Maulin for about half an hour - I have had to do this for him at almost all of the places we have visited. While I waited for him, I was stared at by all of the waiting women and a few men. I was still the only white woman around. But for some reason Maulin couldn't locate me in the crowd, as I stared at him coming out of security. "You must be blending in!" I doubt it.
The temple was still a bit under construction, but it was still a sight to see. There are massive manicured lawns and gardens that surruond the temple area, full of statues of historical Indian figures. Pools of water hug the temple on three of its sides. And the carvings are incredible. The entire place is hand-carved pink sandstone, with intricately detailed images of deities. Life-size elephant carvings are on the bottom of the temple, and we gawked at the unbelievable craftsmanship and labor put into the temple. It didn't feel like a religious site, but it was still an amazing place with quite a lot going on. Maulin and I pointed and oohed and ahhed for about an hour, looking up at the soft stone and the stories etched into every square inch.
The site was really crowded, so we didn't manage to see any of the exhibits, but we did manage to inch our ways into a prayer service. We were given directions from a kind worker while we sat in the back, placing the water in our palms, mumbling some Hindi after the orator, and pouring water on the swami/deity that we were praying to. I received a bindi and a bracelet to wear for protection and good luck - or so I gathered. It was an interesting experience, and at the end we were given a nice box with a sweet in it for Maulin and I to munch on as we exited the temple. Maulin approved of his cap to the Indian trip, and I agree; that temple was a great way to finish a long voyage.
We had a calm last night together in a restaurant. Sadly, we had managed to find the only restaurant in the area where all of the white people eat. So were surrounded in this nice restaurant with tables of 16-peopled white parties, as we took a simple meal with some send-off wine for Maulin. He left me around 9pm for his morning flight, and I am left here alone for another 20 hours in Delhi before my flight.
I woke up today to have breakfast with the tourist guys, and tiredly attempted to respond to the nice men about whatever they were talking about. One wants to go out to coffee with me, but I'm not sure if I'm up for more travel than I will have to make tonight already. I checked out of the hotel, and am going to hopefully relax most of my remaining day here in the office before I get into a cab to go to the airport.
I would do more while I'm here, but it's Independence Day in India, and most things are closed. Many people are roaming around the main streets, and I would rather not get caught in a crowd before having to make a plane. There will be traffic, I'm sure. It's raining, too.
I'd rather take it easy and reflect on the last 6 weeks while in India. I know I'll have a lot to say later.