Day #2: Always Up
Today we set foot in India for the first time. I was devastated from the lack of sleep and the cold was getting worst. I couldn't feel the excitement, I was in zombie mode. But rationally, I knew I wanted to be here in India. Jessica seemed quiet, tired, attentive and a bit destabilized with the arrival. We grabbed our backpacks and the adventure started.
Our first contact with India was Rajender, the loyal assistant of the still unknown and mysterious Mr. Jan. We met outside the airport and he took us to Jan's apartment, which seemed located in a posh area of New Delhi. The apartment is spacious and comfortable with a basic decoration. Mr.Rajender was dressed with an impeccable white/grey cotton shirt matching his trousers. I couldn't stop myself to comment how nice and classy his Indian outfit was. I wanted one just like that. He smiled with my comment. Rajender had everything planned for us: breakfast and a driver waiting to take us to visit New Delhi. I was amazed by this welcoming reception that all came from Mr. Jan's behalf which Jess and I impatiently waited to meet if we had the chance. After a short rest and breakfast, we met our driver for the next two days: Vijay Kumar. He also looked very well dressed and with great manners. It was easier to communicate with him. At that precise moment, I was felling my cold was reaching its maximum peak but I could relax because Vijay had a plan for us and everything was moving for the day to be great.
There we were in the middle of an endless anthill of beeping cars, rickshaws and cycles crossing from every direction. In India, traffic rules seem to be broken. Everyone tries to move their way forward at their own will. I have never seen such perfect organised chaos. Moreover, it was rush hour but the lack of light and stop signs helped this infernal circulation to be functional.
We started our sightseeing with two main monuments related to their Islamic culture. First, Alai Darwaza and Qutub Minar. Then, the tombs of the second Mughal of India: Humayun. This was our first taste of the beautiful architecture in India. Ticket prices were expensive knowing that indians payed 20x less than a foreigner. Nevertheless, we were happy to be here and we were able to find peace amongst the gardens of Humayun.
Vijay was a talkative and respectful man always trying everything to please us and make this first day perfect. He helped us get an Indian SIM card and took us to a local restaurant. It looked amazing and genuine but sadly my tastebuds weren't working yet due to the cold. I was feeling better and Jess looked clam and happy. We started to feel a bit more organised and with mobile connection we could plan the next days.
After lunch, Vijay and us had a great conversation about the different religions in India. This led us to give a particular attention to Sikhism. In the meantime, we visited the India Gate. Sikhism is a religion without a figurative God, like Christianism or Hinduism. God is everywhere, in everything. They believe in the sacred teachings that were delivered by ten different gurus throughout history. Sikhism was in major conflicts with Islamic religions, where thousands of Sikhs were persecuted for not adopting their belief for Alah. This a great chat where Jess and I got the chance to know a bit more about the diversity and complexity of India's culture.
That's when Vijay surprised us with the visit to the biggest Sikh Temple in Delhi. This was a place for Sikhs to worship the sacred teachings with their chantings. We had to take our shoes off, cover our hair and follow a number of rituals. I was amazed by the huge feeling of acceptance from Sikhs in their sacred space. Everyone seemed in peace and glad to have us around. We were welcomed to wash our hands and feet before climbing the small stairs to the temple. We were also invited to drink their sacred water, witness their chantings and taste their holy food from offerings made to the temple. Everything was touched with love and worship as if it would wash your sins and purify your soul. Suddenly, Jess and I could feel what it was to be an Indian Sikh. It was magic, genuine and welcoming.
Last but not least, Vijay secretly invited us to visit the temple's kitchen. He explained that every day for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner more than 5000 people were fed. I didn't understand the magnitude of this operation until I got there. It was something that I had never seen before. Everyone was in peace and all the instruments were monstrous and unknown to my eyes. They even had a machine to make and bake naan bread in a chain line. Quickly, we were invited to join a group of Indian cooks to make naan by hand around a long and low wooden table. Hundreds of balls of naan dough were there to be rolled. Without a word, they shared their tools and showed us how to do it. There we were, Jess and I, like two kids finding a bit of purpose on this first day. After a rough start, we were happy of being in this fascinating kitchen making food for five thousand people. We could see Sikhs lining up, waiting for their meal and a bit of comfort. No one doubted of our presence and they always shared their space with compassion.
Thank you India for this first day! Tomorrow, we are going into an adventure through the streets of Old Delhi.
PS: On the way back home Mr. Vijay took us to a fabric bazaar where I was able to satisfy my desire to dress like an Indian.