After spending a week in Delhi, we were finally given the chance to tour the city and learn more about its history and culture. We had a whirlwind of activities planned! To start our morning, we rode in a rickshaw through Old Delhi stopping at a 400 year old spice market; the biggest in Asia. The rickshaw ride gave us the opportunity to explore the city from the ground level and experience high volumes of people and shops along the narrow roads.
Our next stop was Jama Maszid, one of the largest mosques in India. To enter the mosque we had to remove our shoes and put on bright colored polka dotted coverups to ensure the modesty of tourists. Within the walls of the mosque we learned about its essential elements, including separate areas for men and women to pray and a pool of water in the center for washing. While touring around the mosque we quickly realized that our group was one of the only groups of tourists there, causing us to stand out greatly. The more outgoing onlookers asked to take pictures with us while the shyer ones quickly snapped candids from afar. It was quite an overwhelming, yet flattering experience. Following our 20 minutes of fame we were craving food from our homeland and found ourselves at a McDonald’s only to find the menu to be completely different. Some popular choices were the McVeg and a Paneer Pocket.
After our meal, we geared up in our maize and blue to take our best group picture yet in front of the India gate. The towering gate which slightly resembled the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was built as a memorial for the Indian soldiers that fought and died in World War I. Little did we know that our matching t-shirts and Michigan flag would once again become the main attraction as we posed in front of the gate. Although we have been traveling around the country for two weeks, today in particular we really felt like we stuck out of the crowd.
To continue our tour we headed to the Gandhi memorial and learned about his dedication to India and the transformative impact he had on the people. We also visited his house where he spent his final days before his murder in his garden. His house had been turned into a museum which is free to the public. The walls are lined with powerful quotations as well as personal accounts of his life and death. It was amazing to see how one individual could inspire and lead a large country like India by promoting peace and non violent protest.
To bring our voyage around Delhi to a close we headed to Sarojini Nagar, a huge and extremely crowded market, to purchase gifts and souvenirs. The colors, smells, and people were overwhelming at times but exploring this populous place gave us all a real taste of casual shopping in the city. After a hot hour and a half we retreated to our bus with our purchases and returned to our hotel exhausted, but satisfied with our historical and cultural immersion experience. We swiftly went to bed with Norma’s voice ringing in our ears “8am tomorrow morning!”