A Very Dilli Day Indeed

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

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So today we went to the opening day of the Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (The President’s House). The President’s House was actually built as the Viceroy’s Palace,  which is by the way the largest house of any head of state in the world. It was completed in 1945, just in time for Indian independence, funny how things work out, yes? Anyway, the Mughal gardens are open to the public for only one month during the year.

We arrived at gate 35 to greet a huge unorganized crowd, not an uncommon sight here. Once we entered the security staging area there were various unlabeled lines and no one seemed to know what was going on. A half muffled voice over some loudspeakers announced that nothing electronic was allowed on the premises—and you were only allowed a small wallet. Finally we figured out that you had to first get your bag x-rayed and then you would be given a paper pass to check it into the cloak room. Because everyone figured this out late (and half of the people were already in line for the cloak room) there was a mad dash for the xray… there was no line to speak of just a huge crush of people throwing their bags at the poor security guards. It was chaos, some men and women held their bags up high in hopes that the man at the xray would pick theirs out of the crowd, others took their chances tossing bags in the general direction of the x-ray whilst yelling “Let’s GO India!!!” Meanwhile their companions awaited them in the cloak room line. Once the bags were retrieved from the xray they ran back towards the cloak room line hands up in the air waving victoriously. The cloak room line waiters received them with huge smiles and congratulatory hugs upon their return. All the while the man in a sweater vest, holding the big walkie-talkie who was clearly supposed to be managing the whole thing looked on as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Ahhhh India… I’m happy Owen had a good sense of humor about the whole thing.

Since we weren’t allowed cameras, there are no images to show you. The image above are the gardens as they were being laid out. Despite the chaos at the entrance, it was a leisurely stroll through the garden. The trees are much larger and fuller now and trimmed to look like mushrooms. There were huge dinner plate dahlias, phlox, african daisies, marigolds, pansies and lilies in bloom, the sweet peas will probably hit their stride in a couple of weeks. We decided that we’d wash it all down with some chaat at Legends of India, a restaurant in CP—wandering around aimlessly for close to an hour we were finally told that it was closed. We grabbed a biryani and some Dhaba mutton at Hind Baluchi instead—good, but not great.

Feeling dusty and tired, we debarked from our tuk tuk in front of the gate for Hauz Khas village. We were let off behind a white Mercedes-Benz with its trunk open. In front of the trunk stood a short woman, greying hair tied back neatly in a pony tail, wearing a quilted black puffer and a big diamond pendant. A couple of young men, who were clearly her employees accompanied her. They were all doling out dog food, milk and cooked livers to several of our local mutts. I’ve taken a shining to the neighborhood dogs, so O and I approached her. I forgot to ask her what her name was, though I will surely get it next time. The only reason I forgot to ask her name is as soon as we asked about what she was doing she launched into a 15 minute lecture about social responsibility, and how humans will always forget the good things you do for them, but dogs never will… she doesn’t do it for the praise, just the dogs… she went on and on, and on and on. She was lovely, but she did like to talk. She told us that the dogs that I’ve been naming—already have names! The white retriever looking one with the broken leg is Baba, the noble tiny fox like one is Paro. The woman told us that Paro had ovarian cancer and she paid for both the tumor to be removed and for 7 weeks of chemotherapy! Paro is a real sweetheart actually, always accepting pets and never begging for food. We never did figure out what the names were of the inseparable couple that Owen and I love the most. We call them Eddie (below, left) and Joe (below, right)—they’re always looking after each other and playing games, happy and oblivious to everyone around them. I will post a photo of them together soon. Apparently all of the dogs in the neighborhood have been neutered or spayed and vaccinated… something that puts my mind at ease for multiple reasons.

I feel like I got to see two very different sides of the city today—but each slice offered a new and more intimate view of Delhi. This vast city which seemed to me impenetrable chaos at first, is slowly revealing its own order.

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