Day 2: Humayun’s Tomb, Being Hard of Hearing and Awesome Drivers

Good morning everyone,

I’m traveling to Amritsar this morning, so I scheduled this post about Humayun’s Tomb ahead of time.  Yesterday, I spent much of the morning in my hotel room dealing with a horrendous headache.  It’s too bad too because it was the first day we had sunlight instead of fog in the morning.

Above is a date palm that can be found everywhere around the monuments in Delhi.  It is hard to tell from this photograph but the bark looks like coiled silver wire.  I’ll try to get a better one when I get to Lodi Gardens.

Front entrance to the tomb grounds

Anyhow, on to Humayun’s Tomb.  What an amazing sight!  If you’re going to come to Delhi, do not miss this or the Qutab Minar.  If you only have limited time, these are the two you want to see.

Humayun’s Tomb was built before the Taj Mahal in Delhi and was the inspiration for that structure.  Instead of a tomb built for a wife by a husband, this is a tomb built by a wife for a husband.  It was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife in 1569 or 1570 and is one of the oldest examples of Mughal architecture in Delhi.

This obnoxious man would not move

so that others could take pictures.  It

turns out that he is a guide who was

taking pictures with cameras belonging

to several clients.  Bizarre.

On the grounds there is even a tomb complex from a Suri Dynasty leader who previously fought against the Mughals.  It is a UNESCO world heritage site and is really quite outstanding.  Again, this was Day 2 so I apologize for the camera phone pictures.

There are pools and channels set out in four by four patterns surrounding the tomb (in the background in the picture on the left, along with obnoxious 5 camera guy).  These, I am told represent the Muslim concepts of the things that flow in heaven – air, water, wine and … I forget the fourth.  Oops.  Forgive me, I was a little too gobsmacked by this place to pay close attention to my guide.

This is one of the main fountains before you enter the tomb complex.  Humayun is not the only person entombed here, but his wife who commissioned the work, and several important members of his family are also entombed here.  As are, I am told, some freedom fighters who fought in the struggle for independence from British rule.

The tomb complex is one of the first sandstone and marble complexes of its type in the subcontinent.  Keep in mind that sandstone had to be hauled overland about 180 kilometres and the marbles was hauled overland about 200 kilometres and you can appreciate what a feat this was for the time.  All of it is intricately carved as well.  All. of. it.    To the left, you will see a view of the entry gate from the top of the stairs.  Can we just talk about the stairway for a moment.  The people who used this place had to have been 8 feet tall.  Each step in the stairway is unusually tall, probably about 150% of a normal step.  I cannot begin to imagine how they carried equipment and material onto the base using that stairway.

You can really see how hazy Delhi has been since my arrival in this picture.  The constant thin fog doesn’t do much for lighting in the photographs.  Neither does the camera phone.  Sorry.

Have you noticed the massive dome at the top of the tomb?  Well… this is the ceiling below that dome.  It is intricately laid out in precious stone inlay in beautiful white marble.  This beautiful piece of craftsmanship is about 9 metres off the ground.  How the workman did it is beyond me but being so high off the ground might be one of the reasons that this artwork is still intact and not destroyed by subsequent rulers or the British.

This is a shot that shows the perfect symmetry of the tomb complex.  It shows this sort of symmetry on each side of the complex and not only from one centre point.  It really is a fantastic example of Mughal architecture.

The last three days I’ve had a driver named Shiv.  He’s a very nice man from Bihar.  His family is still there but he’s in Delhi because that is where the work is available.  Shiv has learned English on the job as a driver over about four years.  He has a very heavy accent which I found difficult on day one.  He has been pretty patient with me though, so I’ve figured it out now.  If there is one thing Shiv is, it is patient.  He’s also been really fantastic about being honest, making recommendations about safety and what to see, what not to see in Delhi, and helping me arrange for various things like airport rides, site tickets.  He’s also ensured that I am paying a fair price and ensuring that I can take advantage of the same day tickets that get you into multiple sites.  He’s also let me know how much to tip people and what the important things should cost me without the markup sometimes given to foreigners.  He’s also very professional and very polite.

Hiring a driver doesn’t cost a lot – way less than renting a car or taking taxis everywhere and only slightly more than the metro.  They are knowledgeable and helpful and most of them are working in Delhi and supporting families from elsewhere or have qualifications that mean this is the type of job they can get.  It worked out really well for me.  If you’re going to do it, use the travel desk at your hotel rather than one of the 4000 tour/driver/ticket companies that disguise themselves as “tourist information offices” all over Delhi.  You can often skip the guide too, though they have their benefits.  Get a good book like Lonely Planet or look the site up on India Tourism and you’ll learn just as much as with a guide.  If you’re going to hire a private guide, make sure they are authorized guides, otherwise they will not be allowed to come into the sites with you.  Also, check ahead of time because some places offer free volunteer guides – like the National Museum.

Being hard of hearing has been a real challenge in India but I’m learning to adapt.  I’m wearing a lighter form of head cover for one and I lean in to conversations closer than I’ve been comfortable with before.  There’s a lot of background noise here that interferes with my ability to hear anything so I just have to tell people that I’m deaf so that they will speak up and speak directly to me so that I can see their lips.  Most Indian people that I’ve met, besides having an amazing variety of accents, are soft spoken.  That makes it even more difficult.  However, when asked most have been agreeable to speaking a little louder and a little slower.

People here have been really very kind about it, which surprises me not in the least.  Other than the many shady hawkers, Angry Guy, and some men in one of the parks, people here seem to go out of their way to be very kind.

See you all from Amritsar!!  I may be gone a day or two while I see what the communication situation is from there but be prepared for more pictures when I come back online.

Peace and Love all

– Preet



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