Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday: Delhi... And dealing with jet lag

After a late morning we began our first of a few days of an in-country orientation and adjustment to the culture, the heat, and the time zone. 

It should be said first that today was our first day with extensive driving in India - traffic was light at the late hour we were picked up from the airport. A new experience for most of the team, it took a bit of adjustment to trust that all would be ok! Our driver here for the first two days is Ravi, and he says you only need three things to be a good driver in India: 

  1. A Good Horn
  2. Good Brakes
  3. And... Good Luck!
Later on we will try to post a video to try and show you what it's like to drive here.

We began at the Red Fort, which was built under Mogul rule in the 16th century. Picking out highlights of all the information, the group thought the most interesting were all the different technologies set in place and put to work (including cooling methods, preparing hot baths, and strategic entrances to everything. The team also talked extensively here about British Colonialism, both its destructive ignorance as they demolished royal, historical palaces to make way for military barracks to support their efforts; and how pivotal the Fort was in announcing independence from Britain - an important image of the ruling power returning to Delhi. 

 
 

From the Red Fort we made our way to the Lotus Temple - a very new site in Delhi compared to so much of the centuries' worth of history. The Lotus Temple is a Baha'i Temple, built specifically to be an open place of welcome and worship/meditation for all people regardless of their practicing faith. 

Our time here in particular gave opportunity for our guide, Jogeshwar (Joge - yo-gee), to explain more to the group about both the Hindu and Baha'i faith traditions. Most notable to the group was the seeming emphasis on tolerance and coexistence. The team discussed later that this reflected back on our time at the Red Fort - how Kings who were remembered as the greatest were those who upheld a variety religions outside of their own (in this case Islam), and those Kings who hadn't been as popular or seen as significantly successful had been more oppressive towards other religions. 

Another challenge from our discussions after our time at the Lotus Temple was concerning our faith in action. A few in the team described their observation of religion here so far to be that people are more concerned with living out their faith than identifying it or dividing into groups. After Joge's descriptions of the different religions, we were also challenged to practice more confidently sharing about the major principles of our faith. And, to also avoid describing our faith by what it is not - which is very easy to do as many are polarized right now. 

Anyhow, we have a picture of the exterior of the beautiful structure, but the inside was treated as sacred space so words will have to do. The building was cooled by air naturally flowing past pools on the exterior and through vents in the floor and cycling hot air out through the top. Inside, the walls were left plain with no pictures, sculptures or text so that persons of every religion might be able to enter into meaningful meditation and worship there. We were able to stay for a short moment, taking in with those around us the wonder of the place, and the silence with one another. It was a highlight of the day. 

 

After visiting these two places, we made the approximately 4 hour drive to Agra - it felt like we were battling our eyes to stay open. In order to get to bed sooner, we decided to eat at our hotel's restaurant. This turned out to be a great decision! They fed us on the rooftop family-style - with a few different curry dishes and ice cream for dessert. It was the perfect way to end a short, but very tiring day. 

Off to bed early as we will head to the Taj Mahal at 6am to beat the crowds and the heat. Looking forward to it!