After a little lie in we got up in enough time for the free breakfast at the hostel, which consisted of bread, jam, curry, rice, watermelon and masala chia. I still couldn't get my head around eating curry for breakfast, so opted for some toast and watermelon, but the curry seemed to be a hit with Rob and the other travellers. Over breakfast we made a bit of a plan to visit Lodi Gardens, the Indian Gate, the Bangla Sahib Gudwara and then just walk around New Delhi.
After a few stops on the metro and trying to cross some more crazy roads with vehicles coming at us in all directions, we made it Lodi Gardens. It was so peaceful. There were not any cars, or horns and was such a contrast from Old Delhi we had seen the day before. Lodi Gardens was originally named after Lady Willingdon, who was the wife of a British Resident and had two villages cleared in 1936 to landscape the park to remind her of home...seems a bit harsh but it was lovely and there were a lot of locals having picnics and relaxing, so I suppose it has gone some good.
Today the Lodi Gardens are named after the Lodi-era tombs, which can be found scattered across the park, including the 15th Century Bara Gumbad tomb and mosque, and the tombs of Sirkander Lodi and Mohammed Shah. The park also contains the Athpula bridge which crosses the lake and dates from the Emperor Akbar's reign. The site is now protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
When we were walking around the park, we noticed that there were a lot of couples hiding in the trees kissing and it was a bit awkward, but later learnt that Lodi gardens is a common place for new couples to go to 'get to know each other'. I suppose the locals need time away from constant noise and chaos as well.
During our walk around the park, it was the first time having children coming up to us begging. We didn't really know what to do, as a few people had told us not to give the children any money. I read up on the subject before we left for India and what I read was heartbreaking. I learnt that a type of mafia basically run a business using the children as bait and when you see adults on the streets with children, they may not even be their own. Children can actually be rented by the day to increase their chances of getting more money. The children will usually be made to look more scruffy and unkept and even drugged to make the adult beggars work easier and to pull on the heart strings of public. I found it extremely difficult to read that after the children are drugged, the beggars will sometimes walk the streets with the children under intense heat and horrible conditions, after which they can sleep for days because of the concoction of drugs that they have been given and can even die. Children are even kidnapped and intentionally deformed and hurt to help their business grow and flourish. The whole thing is sickening and I find it hard to stomach that adults will poach young children and take away their childhood or even kill them, to make more money.
Giving money to beggars will not help them but will keep them on the street and they will not try to become self sufficient and attempt to make a better live for themselves. So, in summary, I had decided not to give money to the beggars before I left, as I didn't want to contribute to the horrific 'business' in any way shape or form. However, when you are approached by the beggars it takes a lot of self discipline to say no and walk away and I found the whole thing quite upsetting. As bad as it sounds, the more it happened, the easier it was to apologise and say no, as you appreciate the size of the problem and that you can’t help everyone. I know it is a depressing topic to think about but it is part of life in India, so I don't think it should be ignored.
On a more positive note, we continued our walk through the gardens and next walked to the India Gate. The India Gate is a war memorial which is located on the ‘ceremonial axis’ of New Delhi. It was built in memory of 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in the period 1914–21 in the First World War. There are 13,300 servicemen's names, including some soldiers and officers from the UK, inscribed on the gate.
There was a long path approaching the gate and it was so busy. There was a mass of people and the sides of the path were full of vendors, selling anything and everything, from corn, balloons, kids toys, photography services and sunglasses. Rob had lost his sunglasses just before we left the UK, so he enquired how much the glasses would be..."600 Rupees Sir", which is about £7, so obviously we said no and carried on walking. The guy kept following offering us a discount and after some intense negotiation Rob was the proud owner of a new pair of 'Ray Bans' for 100 Rupees (£1.16) and they looked surprisingly good for the price!
We walked through the crowds and managed to see the India Gate through the smog. I think it was worth a visit but we only stayed about 15 minutes because of the sheer amount of people. It is similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in that once you have taken a few photos, there is not much more to do.
We then decided to check out the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, as I had heard it was worth a visit. It is one of the most prominent Sikh Gurdwaras in Delhi, based in Connaught Place and is also known for having a pool inside its complex, known as the 'Sarovar'.
Bangla Sahib to India Gate is under 2 miles and is around a 35 minute walk, which is more or less in a straight line. The majority of the walk is on Ashoka Road and is very easy to find. The other options you have to get from Bangla Sahib to India Gate is to get a taxi, uber, rickshaw or public bus. By car the journey should not take more than 5 minutes and around 30 minutes by bus. Personally, I think that the best way to get between the Bangla Sahib and the India Gate is to walk and it will save you a few pennies and to enable you to see more of the local area.
Before you are allowed to enter Bangla Sahib there are few rules, firstly, you have to give your shoes to a lady behind the counter and get a token so you can get them back, and also cover your head. We got our token and picked out a shiny headscarf were ready to go. We were just about to walk in and a guy (I can't remember his name) started talking to us and was giving us some tips and said he was happy to show us around. He gave us some background information on the Gudwara and showed us the main part go the temple, which was full of gold and colours from different materials which were placed around the main room. We walked around, watching people pray and then walked to the Sarovar, which was full of fish and families walking around.
The guy then said we could go and have a look around in the kitchen where food for thousands of people is made. The food is all free and anyone is welcome to have some food, from the rich to the poor. The kitchen was boiling and huge and was buzzing with people cooking curry in the largest pans you have ever seen! I will never forget the intense smell of spices and fresh bread.
In the heat of the kitchen there were women sat on little wooden stools making chapattis. After we had wandered around for about 5 minutes, a women who was making chapattis asked if I wanted to go and sit next to her and she would show me how they make them, so of course I said yes.
After leaving the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib we tried to find the Janta Mantra but we were too late and it was closed. On our walk we got talking to a guy called Sachin, who loved football and wanted to be an English teacher. He had lived in Delhi all of his life but wanted to get a passport so he could travel and his dream was to teach English, in Japan. His English was great and he really appreciated the chance to practice while talking to us. While we were chatting we told him we were going to Agra by train the following day and he told us that the trains were either cancelled or delayed by up to 17 hours, because of the smog. Sachin told us that he could take us to the tourism information and they may be able to help and he walked out of his way to take us there, before heading off to the pub to meet his friends. We showed the train ticket to the man at the tourism place and he said that we would have an issue getting to Agra using the train and offered to book us a driver. He said the driver would cost something crazy like 10000 rupees which was over £100. I had already seen in the hostel that they were doing day trips to Agra for 2000 rupees each, so knew he was trying to con us. We said no and then made a few phone calls and he dropped the price significantly, but by this point we had lost trust in the guy and we walked out.
We got back to the hostel and they also told us that we might have problems with the trains. We didn't want to spend the following day sat at the train station, so booked onto their tour to Agra, leaving at 5am.
It was already quite late by this point and the hostel cafe had shut so we ordered in some Indian style Chinese food which was so spicy I could only manage a bit of it (much to Rob's delight). We packed our bag ready for our 4:30am alarm. I was excited to finally see the Taj Mahal.
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