Bhawna and Vikram run a bed and breakfast in Delhi, called Tej Abode in Greater Kailash II, in south area of Delhi.
GKII is a prominent neighborhood, or colony, like the inhabitant called the different zones, that was developed in the early 60’s and it’s near one of the most famous market places of the city. The “market place” is not exacly what I had in mind: my idea of it was an open space with different vendors selling their goods, like the one in my town that is held every Saturday, or the farmers market in Union Square in New York. Here is just an area where you can find several kinds of stores, not a mall, but just lots and lots of commercial activities. The one in GKII is known for its restaurants and for its spas, where with less than $40, about 2000 rupees, you can get a nice deep tissue massage or whatever massage you may want.
Check! Done! I could not miss this opportunity.
As per the restaurants, we did not eat out too much as the staff at Tej Abode is able to prepare delicious homemade food and since I’m a lover of Indian cuisine, I could not ask for anything better. Meats, vegetables, breads and desserts: I had them all and even if a lot of people alerted me about the danger of food , drinks and air (Do not eat! Do not drink! Do not breathe!), I can proudly say I didn’t have any problems, surprising everybody around me and earning the nickname of “Stomach of Steel”.
On the evening of my arrival, we go to visit the “Sacred Shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Aulia Mehboob-E-Elahi” (I had to copy the name, could not memorize it!), one of the most ancient mosques in India, as being Thursday, the Muslims are preparing to celebrate their holy day, which is Friday. We leave the shoes at the entrance, cover the head with a shawl and walk through the alleys that lead to the main square, where cantors are singing sacred chants (or at least that’s what I think they are!). A gentleman with a very important aspect greets us at the entrance. I realize he is important for sure because at his command, some people move over to make some room for us in the center of the square so we can have a better and more comfortable viewing of the celebrations. Bhawna explains to me that Vik’s mother used to come here quite often even if she was not a Muslim. The thing that surprises me is in fact the presence of people of all religions that come here to pray and they say it’s a very normal thing since a sacred place is always sacred, not matter what your beliefs are. Surprising I think and very forward-thinking! At the end of the chants, the Sufi Priest, the same gentlemen that welcomed us, offers us some tea and proudly tells me this is one the oldest mosques in all India and to show all his pride, he invites us to a have a closer view of the inside, within certain limits, as Bhwana and I, as women, are not allowed to enter. The colors around me, whether of the building or the people, especially the women in their bright saris, are delightful for the eyes. This is the time I regret I did not take a photography class and I try to do the best I can with what I know and I take as many pictures as possible, hoping that something good will come out. When we are leaving the mosque, the vendors from the food stands try to catch our attention, while I find myself surrounded by homeless people, mostly women with an infant in their arms or children poorly dressed. I remember what my Indian friends told me back in New York : do not let them get to you or they will multiply. So, I have to pretend I’m strong and indifferent and carry on.
We stop to get some food to take back home. Let’s say the Health Department would have a lot of work to do in here, but who cares, it’s an experience I need to do. I keep trying to get some shots, with as much discretion as I can, as I do not want to piss anybody off. I guess I will never be a good poker player since few minutes later, people start asking me to take pictures of them. Go figure! And I was so worried about it.
It’s time to go back home. Actually, I have no idea what time it is. My watch is still on New York time and here is ten and a half hours ahead. It’s the half hour that messes up my calculation. But I’m in vacation, the temperature outside is very pleasant and I could not ask for anything better at this point.