It’s fun to wake up, enjoy the view, get ready and go downstairs to get breakfast. There is Indian food, British/American food and even cold cuts and stuff for the Germans. Breads for each taste. I have stopped eating egg dishes, because I discovered that the made-to-order omelettes contain no yolk. So I turned to hard boiled eggs. When I opened one, the yolk was almost white, so I said: No thank you. I will stick to Indian breakfast.
That morning at breakfast I saw something funny: the Cafeteria has some nice floral and other decorations. One of them was a large vase filled with apples and then built into a tree. I saw an old man (western) go there and pick two apples and put them in his pocket.
Nobody saw it except myself and another lady, and we both had a chuckle about it. I do think the man was slightly deranged, dementia or such, because he was quite doddery (is that a word?). I really think that he thought he is picking apples from an apple tree.
At 10:30 my taxi driver picked me up.
This might be an appropriate place to explain Delhi traffic to you:
it is the craziest, wildest, most disorderly traffic you can ever imagine. Believe me, I can judge, since I lived and drove in Germany (where there is no speed limit) and in Lebanon, (were there were no rules.) This traffic here in Delhi outdoes everything you have ever seen. First of all, it’s always gridlock. The way you move forward is: you have steel nerves and push the next guy out of his lane, by ignoring him and turning into his lane, while simultaneously honking the horn and flashing the lights. Result: who blinks first loses. The one with the stronger nerves, who doesn’t flinch, is the winner. He moves FAST two feet ahead, when repeating the procedure. If you are in the left lane (of four lanes), and you wish to turn right, you close your eyes and just go, not looking at the cars that are coming at you from your right. It works, – amazingly. I have yet to see even a scrape happening.
Indians are extremely polite and helpful and it is a pleasure to have them help you. The driver I have had for a few days now, Shamzi, is an absolute jewel. When I was looking for BofA the other day, we had information in what building they were located. He dropped me in front of the door and said he will be right there when I come back out. Well, it was the wrong building after all, and I had to back track a few hundred yards, to the area where we had come from. Of course he was right at the door, but I signaled him to tell him that I was going back a ways. What did he do? He backed the car down the main road to keep up with me and not lose sight of me. Then got out and walked me to the elevator of that building, to make sure that I got there.
I think I mentioned earlier to you that the hotel staff thinks I should not go out on my own to dinner in the evening, even with a driver. So the first couple of evenings I ate at the hotel. It was getting old, though. Then I decided I am quite safe with Shamzi, who used to be military and is a big guy. He picks me up in the hotel lobby, drives me to a restaurant, drives right up to the door, takes me physically to the door and then waits outside, not moving an inch, until I come back out, and then he takes me back. It’s like having a body guard.
Another topic: I should also mention about India, especially about Delhi and New Delhi, that all religions live together here peacefully.
The majority of Indians are Hindus. About 20% are Moslems. But Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity and Jainism also flourish. Temples of all Religions are everywhere, and from what I can observe, each religion respects the others.
My driver is a Sikh. Sikhs have to have long hair and cover their head (recognizable by their turban) at all times. Besides wearing a silver bracelet, carrying a small sword, a comb and wearing long underwear. My driver is a young man, has cut hair, wears no turban, but only a wool cap occasionally. He told me that his wife is mad at him for not following the religious rules.
Well, this long explanation is leading somewhere: he offered to take me to his Temple, which is the largest Sikh Temple in Delhi. I felt very privileged to be invited there. It happened to be January 1, and everyone was there to pray. Shamzi had been there already earlier that morning to pray for the new year.
The temple was extremely crowded. It is very very beautiful, all white marble. We had to go to a special room to take off our shoes and leave them there. Then I had to cover my head, because we were heading into the Temple and we joined the crowds lining up to get in. After about 10 minutes in the midst of all these bodies, I got a touch of claustrophobia and said: let’s go in another day, I need to get out of this crowd.
Then came the surprise to me: he took me to the communal kitchen. It is the largest kitchen I ever saw. The pots (vats?) were half as high as a human and just as wide. I saw bread being made by hand by groups of people sitting on the floor around a low table, rice being cooked, soup cooked, and bread also being made in a huge automatic bread machine. I took some videos while I walked on my naked feet on some spilled flour or barley or other things.
I don’t know if I can post some videos, if I can, I will do it. They are not very good, though.
Why they have such a large kitchen? Because they feed about 500-700 people every 30-45 minutes. These people sit orderly and patiently in rows on long runners, until the dining area is cleared from the last group, cleaned up and then they can go in and seat themselves orderly again, waiting to be served. It’s not only poor people, it’s everyone. Someone comes from the kitchen then with a bucket full of rice, let’s say, and a long ladle and goes along the rows, ladling out rice. Same with the other foods. If you are an orthodox Sikh, you go there and help in the kitchen occasionally and also donate a bit of money every now and then, that’s how this Temple is able to feed all these people. You can come as often as you like and eat, as long as you give back to the community. Of course there are drug addicts and such abusing this system, but it does seem to work.
It was highly interesting for me to see so many people being such strong believers, helping their community and doing good for others.