Saturday, June 25, 2011

Panipuri, Chandni Chowk and Delhi

I check-in at the hotel at 12. We were greeted with a juice and water and left luggage. We did not have wifi or signal in the phone, and so we used the Google offline maps and left for Connaught Place. We ended up on a bridge with a side road for pedestrians that really was not necessary to climb. The environment around was particularly sordid. I had the feeling of being introduced to one of our slums.

We retraced our steps and hooked the correct route, dodging a cow in a side street. It was an open, wide street, in Delhi. Connaught Place is a kind of Central Park, not very colorful. It has a structure in a circle, with concentric streets. There were some men doing gymnastics in the landscaped area. The landscaping is generally poor.

Those flowers that are offered in the temples are sold in large clusters in the streets. The earth looks dry with little grass and above is a perpetually foggy sky. There are also no large decorative structures. From there we took the street that led us to the most important Sikh temple in Delhi, the best visit of the day.

The place is impressive, with a portal in the marble entrance with the same type of stone inlays of the Taj Majal. It is an oasis that quiets the omnipresent speakers and the bustle that was growing in the street. There were not many foreigners. In fact I do not remember having crossed any.

More than a temple, it is a real complex in a very large estate that includes the lake, the temple proper, exterior galleries. Some posters carved in black marble explained in English the story of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. We take off our shoes, wash our feet and cover our heads with small and colorful handkerchiefs that were in a basket, for that purpose.

We were not doing it all right since shoes not only have to be removed but also leave them on the outside, that is, not worth carrying them in their hands. A woman intercepted us indicating the office we had seen under the entrance gallery, passing the entrance to the temple. There a kind of guru instructed us about the differences between Sikhism and Hinduism and the principles of the former.

There he provided us with better handkerchiefs and keep our shoes. One of the slogans is not to take photographs. Out of respect, and fear that the prohibition to photograph was one of the many phrases lost in translation, we avoid photos inside the temple, which we walked in the clockwise direction. It also has a small pond for ablutions, like that of Amritsar, although in this case we do not see just people in the water. They also have a small Sikh museum that we visited.

Part of the extensive facilities is in the process of restoration, with scaffolding. In the outskirts, with the beautiful artificial lake surrounded by arcades, I used my new objective that allowed me to approach my subjects without bothering, at the expense of a greater angle.

Leaving the temple, some stalls offered free food. We search with our maps for a nearby destination to arrive at noon. We return to the hotel and check-in and we headed to the Jantar Mantar, a set of structures related to astronomy.

The Jantar Mantar, which was on our side, was effectively closed until noon. Passing the entrance to the Jantar Mantar the street ended at Janpath Road. On this avenue was the official tourism office and we tried to spot it to get maps on paper. In theory it was on the way back to the hotel.

Before seeing it, another helpdesk intends us to alert us about the true location of the official government agency, to get to which we had to go through one of the inner streets. I had already read about this situation so we desisted to follow it and a few meters above the avenue, voila!

The real one appeared, where almost without looking at us or asking us anything, an employee interrupted his probable web browsing to give us the maps we asked for. Evidently he was a government employee with no interest in selling us anything, nor helping us.

After leaving, another man tried to guide us to the real agency, which we would finally see the next day. With the maps in hand and tired we retraced our way to the hotel. It was another landscape completely different from that morning, with a hotbed of people and motorcycles, street stalls, streets full of vehicles of all kinds and horns, more horns.

We tried to buy some fruit but we were discouraged by the price that they asked for a kilo of apples. Then we take the Delhi Metro to go to the hotel. The metro pleasantly surprises us. It is very efficient and easy to use. The wagons are quite new and the trip is very comfortable, except for the purchase of the ticket, for which we have to make an endless queue.

The check-in brought some relief. The hotel met all expectations. We have a hot shower and restorative nap until 3:00 pm. It was hard to break the inertia of the dream but at about 4 we were ready to take a tour that would allow us to take advantage of the little that remained of the day.

The recommendation of the manager of the tour desk of the hotel led us to a taxi to take us to the Red Fort, the Chandni Chowk and the Jama Masjid. The truth is that the guy stayed in the Red Fort parking lot during the whole excursion. We considered that it was not worth entering the Red Fort.

As Agra Fort was superior, we limited ourselves to go around the perimeter, and we crossed to Chandni Chowk. The market, especially because it was getting dark, was not a pleasant experience. On the way we passed by clothes stalls stacked on the street in endless succession. Our next stop is the Jama Masjid. It is the largest mosque in India built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. They also say that it is a copy of the Agra mosque, but it reminds us of Fatehpur Sikri.

We took a few pictures and decided to end the trip. We were struck by the size of the panipuri or the golgappa, a classic street food of India. The fried balls, the size between a tennis ball and a ping-pong ball. We ask for one to try. The seller took one of the balls, which were hollow, and filled it with a broth he had in a pot. Although it had a certain sweetness, it was still as spicy as Indian food can be.

It was not before 6 when we found our driver, resting in the car. We head to India Gate. Although at night it closes, it was one of the points that had to be seen in Delhi. It was full of people (like everywhere), with families posing and taking selfies at every corner. We made our own and enjoyed, as we could, the view.

Upon leaving we see the Rashtrapati Bhavan which is impressive. There are a lot of food stalls, and so we tried a sweet called gajak. On the way back to the hotel, the driver suggests us to go for shopping (or something like that) and we said yes. The next stop was on a regular street, in front of a pashmina business with huge elephants in front. I had read about this behavior of taxi drivers and guides.

We took the opportunity to try several things that we had pending. We have the famous badam milk, which is very good. We also bought a butter cookie that we have seen in several stalls and a sweet sandwich. To finish, we tried a sweet called rasmalai. We go around and go straight to the restaurant on the terrace of the hotel.

The last floor of the hotel has a terrace, roofed but open on the sides and a closed area with windows, more narrow, with few tables and access from the kitchen. It was cool, noisy, wet and smelly and so we settled on one of the tables against the far wall. A very solicitous young man approached us and we placed our orders. We have the dinner to the full and go to sleep.

Panipuri images


Prasanthi Viswanadh said... looks yummy.....tempting fooooood in this world....

kalaiselvisblog said...

it looks enticing buddy... i 2 love dis snack...

Kalyan Panja
Kalyan Panja is a photographer and a travel writer sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words