D is for Delhi and Duxford
Delhi, India (September 1987)
Naive that we were, we had assumed we'd be able to stay in the airport retiring rooms overnight so we could get our bearings...but they were full, of course. So we hopped in a pre-paid taxi and rode into the city. After trying a few places listed in our guidebook, we finally allowed the taxi driver to take us to HIS hotel, Hotel Bright, which was a complete and total dump. Clearly, it's changed since 1987!! It was filthy, with dirty sheets and no screens in the windows, and incredibly noisy. The toilets were on the other side of the room. It was a horrible first night--people were pounding on our door in the middle of the night and shouting in the hallway, and Mike got eaten alive by mosquitos. Not a good start!
|At the fort|
The next few nights we stayed in a better, more expensive hotel, and we realized that traveling in India would not be as inexpensive as we initially thought. On our first day, we went for a walk in the park and sat down to read the paper...but soon hordes of men descended, trying to clean our ears, polish our shoes, and give us massages. I wanted nothing to do with all that, but Mike wasn't as firm, and soon he had a guy cleaning his ears, much to my disgust! I kept warning him in Japanese that it wasn't very clean, but he was noncommital and let the guy carry on, while another guy came up to massage his legs! Meanwhile, I was trying to read my paper and ignoring them. One guy kept telling me how dirty my shoes were, while another kept peering into my ears, saying "Just a look, ma'am." Mike ended up paying 50 rupees to the ear cleaner! (Sucker!!) I still tease him about the ear cleaning, 26 years later! That was just one incident of being cheated in India, I'm afraid. We were blatant targets, naive foreigners.
|Mike inside the fort|
Then we went to the Qutab Minar, a mosque complex built at the onset of Muslim rule in India, on the very site where there was once a Hindu temple. It had a 73-meter-high tower of victory that had been finished in 1193, but it was closed because 45 children had died by stampede on a school trip several years before. This was followed by the very modern B'Hai House of Worship, which is in the shape of a lotus and surrounded by reflecting pools. I noted that it was, without
exception, the cleanest place we had yet to be in India.
We ended the day with a visit to the Raj Ghat, a large, beautiful park now used as a VIP mausoleum. We saw the cremation mound of Nehru and a memorial to Indira Gandhi...and finally the austere cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, a simple slab of marble on which was carved his last words, "Oh God," in Hindi.
|Memorial to Mahatma Gandhi|
(on the site of his cremation)
We returned to Delhi at the end of our month in India and spent one night in a modern tourist hotel--it was the last night we had together before separating for four months...Mike was headed back to England and I was going home to Oregon. By this time we were engaged and knew we would reunite in Oregon in the New Year, but it was a very bittersweet time. I flew out one day before Mike did, and spent one night in Hong Kong on my own before heading back to Portland...and at the Delhi airport, a horrible guard would not let him come to the gate to say goodbye. (These were the days when people were able to say goodbye at the airport gates.) So our last parting was being separated by this mean man! Not a pleasant memory, as I was sobbing because I was being separated from my fiancee, who I wouldn't see for several months.
I feel ambivalent about India. Traveling there was such an amazing experience, and I have many wonderful memories, but it was a hard one as well. I would not have been as brave as Jill, traveling through India and even scarier, Pakistan, all on my own. I felt much more secure being with a man. I read this morning that India's tourism is being hit hard because of the recent high-profile rapes there, especially the one that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old woman. According to that article, a Swiss woman was recently gang raped and a British woman jumped out of her Agra hotel room window because she feared that the hotel manager was going to attack her. Violence against women has always been prevalent in India--one only has to read about the acid attacks, dowries, divorces, female infanticide, glorification of male children, and shunning of widows to realize that--but it's finally getting more press.
I love reading about India in fiction and nonfiction (the biography of Indira Gandhi, last year's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons to name a few), and watching films that take place in India. I love Indian food. I'm a bit of an Indiophile. I am so glad I got to visit there in my early 20s. But I'm not in a hurry to return there, and the recent violent attacks against women are not making me any more eager.
Duxford, England (Summer 2004)
A few years ago we visited the Imperial War Museums in Duxford, not too far from Cambridge. I'm not much of a war buff, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this visit! It is set on the grounds of the former WWI and WWII airfield and has over 200 aircraft in addition to tanks, military vehicles, and boats. Worth visiting if you are in the area!
|Chris (age 8) with his cousin Mark (age 7) |
at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford