Day 2: The Red Fort and Delhi Traffic

Good evening all,

I will spend today (Day 3) touring the Lotus Temple, the Birla Temple, the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, the Crafts Museum, the Mahatma Gandhi Smriti and the National Museum.  Also, I will probably go to India Gate for the light show tonight.  I have only two full days left in Delhi before I move on to Amritsar.  Little hint:  4 days in Delhi is nowhere near enough and also too much at the same time.

So, back to Day 2:  The Red Fort and Delhi traffic.  Oh the traffic.  Let’s start there.

In the back of Shiv’s car – nicest driver ever in the craziest traffic

I have ever experienced.

One of the benefits of my very gypsy life is that I adapt really quickly to things and that, surprisingly even for me, includes the traffic in Delhi.  There’s only one word to describe it.  That word is… insane.

Here are a couple of videos, on my YouTube Channel:

http://youtu.be/yf00zs1nz4E

http://youtu.be/TQTAVhPoS18

http://youtu.be/TbAtdoRCUwA

http://youtu.be/JBa0C37N2xY

The ‘rules’ seem to go like this:

– Never, ever signal a change in lanes.  In fact, you might as well just disable the signal lights all together because you will never use them.  Not ever.

– Never perform a shoulder check or use rear view or side view mirrors.  Side view mirrors will just get torn off your vehicle so, fold them in.  Shoulder checks are for wusses apparently.

– If someone cuts you off, honk your horn.

– If a traffic light changes, honk your horn.

– If someone is behind you, honk your horn.

– If someone is in front of you, honk your horn.

– If there is a pedestrian walking right in front of you, from out of nowhere, don’t brake just honk your horn.  Apparently the honking of horns is the last thing many pedestrians hear before they die or end up maimed.

– If it is daylight, honk your horn

– If it is night, honk your horn.  In fact, you should just disable the ability to turn that horn off.  Rig something to keep that baby pressed down.  That way you don’t have to use precious gray matter to think about all the horn honking rules – you are covered.

– The lines in the road that mark lanes in most of the world are just pretty decorations.  Ignore them and make brand new lanes where ever you might fit.  Consider it a personal challenge.

– Red lights are just guidelines.  If you think you can make it through side long traffic in a tiny little gap, then do it.  Frogger has nothing on Delhi drivers.

– If you’re a passenger and queasy in the least, read a book and never, ever look up.

– Helmets are the law in Delhi if you are rising a motorcycle, scooter or any other sort of uncovered conveyance.  Unless you’re a Sikh male or female, then you can forego the helmet.  In any other conveyance, you may lose the helmet and you may have any body part you wish hanging outside the vehicle.  This is especially true for one tuk tuk driver who had both left limbs airing out in traffic, on a major road, in heavy traffic.

– Cows have the right of way – always.  Thankfully they don’t seem to like traffic and take up spots in meridians and on sidewalks.

– A cow giving birth shuts down the road.  There’s nothing you can do about it, you just have to wait until the blessed event is complete.

I’ll post more videos to the YouTube Channel as I collect them.

In the meantime, the Red Fort.  I had the impression that my private guide did not really want to go to the Red Fort, as it involves a very long walk from the parking area about a kilometre from the Lahore Gate (the main entrance to the Fort) and the place is massive, so involves a lot of walking once inside.  He kept saying “It’s up to you, it’s a long walk.  There is not much left standing in there.  The British destroyed everything”  Dude, I paid you to take me there so unless you get hit by a car (which is likely), you are taking me to the Red Fort.  Period.  Besides, the colonial power always destroys stuff – that is part of the history of colonization.  He finally caved when I ignored his complaining.  😀

Lahore Gate at the Red Fort, Delhi

I was without my good camera, as I said in my previous post so the picture quality is not great.  My apologies.

Shah Jahan moved the capital from Agra to Delhi in 1638.  He called the city Shahjahanabad and that was the seventh city on the same site.  There are two main gates remaining, the Delhi gate and the Lahori Gate.  Inside most of the palaces and buildings were destroyed by the British but there remains the public hearing hall, the private hearing hall and part of the Emperor’s palace.  Construction began in 1639 and took 9 years.

A small part of the Emperor’s palace.  The whole ceiling was, at one time, covered in gold.  A subsequent Mughal

Emperor removed the gold and replaced it with silver.  The British then removed the silver leaving mostly

bare sandstone carved roofs.  What you see here are small remnants of the gold layer that once covered

the entire ceiling of the palace.

As we were walking into the Red Fort through the Lahori Gate, a man seemed to suddenly develop an interest in me.  Before he noticed me, he appeared to be any other relaxes visitor.  Then his facial expression seemed to change to anger.  He turned about and began to follow me.  I turned slightly toward the threat, intending to let him know that I was watching.  My guide turned full on toward the man and other men suddenly surrounded me, cutting off any access the angry man would have had.  He glared at them, said nothing and turned back around.  What his plans were I’ll never know but they were not welcoming or peaceful and it made me very happy to have a guide with me.  It also gave me a lot of hope that other men also stood up to this fellow.

More ornate carvings this time from inside the Emperor’s

bedroom, where you can still see the gold on one of the columns

Anyhow, on to the tour.  The first area you get to inside the fort is Chatta Chowk.  This is a market for the ladies of the court.  One day a week, the men were forbidden from entering the area so that the ladies could shop from merchants who arrived from all over the world.  Today, it is still a little market.  I picked up a couple of interesting small paintings there.

These marble inlay panels are everywhere.  They

used to be inlaid with precious gems.  However, the British

had the precious gems removed and replaced most of them

with semi-precious stones.  So this panel would have contained

emeralds, rubys and topaz.  Now it contains some garnet, some

amber and other semi-precious stone that I don’t recognize.

You then move into beautiful gardens and a fountain that was a bit of genius engineering.  Using a water lift system, water was drawn up from the river to a tower which was then used to provide water to all of the buildings inside the fort and the fountain.  It was then drained back into the river upstream, conserving as much water as possible and returning it to the river.

Ceiling in the Emperor’s Palace, once covered in

gold and then in silver.  Some of the silver and gold remain

but most was removed by a subsequent Emperor and then the

colonial British.

The whole park was covered in pigeons, green parrots and what they call a squirrel but is tiny and looks more like a chipmunk.  The squirrels in India would be no match for our bad-ass, street smart, mangy Toronto Grey squirrels.  Poor little things would be a light snack for our squirrels.  The green parrots however, are just amazing and for the most part completely ignore the presence of people.  I got so close to one and I had no idea it was even there until it flew up 8 inches from my face.

Beautiful, intricately carved columns at the Emperor’s

Private rooms in his palace at the Red Fort

The grounds of the Red Fort, like many of the other monuments in India are covered in a date palm with a bark that I have never seen before – it looks like silver coiled wire but more on that in another post.

I was glad to learn that the Red Fort is a UNESCO heritage site, so effort will be made to restore and protect what remains of it.  It must have been glorious in its day and it is too bad that subsequent occupants have destroyed so much of it.  At one time, the British used the Fort as an army base, so in the middle of all of this Mughal architecture are three or four massive buildings with a English architecture that stands out – all army barracks, now out of use.

The back wall behind the Emperor’s throne inside

the public meeting hall at the Red Fort,  Like the others,

the precious stones in this inlay have been taken and replaced

with semi-precious stones.  Also, it’s really hard to see but

there are words inscribed in this work which belong to an ancient

and now dead language.  These are the last examples of the language

on the planet.

My guide and I talked about the Delhi bus rape during our tour of the Red Fort.  I wanted his impression, after my little run in with Angry Guy, of how safe or not Delhi was becoming for women.  I can tell you that there are hotline numbers on almost all commercial vehicles now.  He says that the police are more present as well and that most companies have hired extra security in problem areas.  Dark places are being lit more often and unfortunately, the homeless are being ousted to give people a “sense” of more security.  Like that has ever done anything but displace the displaced.

I find it comforting that the poor young woman who lost her life almost two years ago inspired so much change in India.  I hope that progress continues but in an enlightened and intelligent way that does not threaten the homeless or otherwise disadvantaged.

I also find it interesting that some of my friends swear that that particular case was a Bangladeshi illegal immigration problem.  It wasn’t.  All of the men convicted were born in India and were not Bangladeshi at all.  Sort of points directly at another problem, no?

Until tomorrow all – when we’ll talk about Gandhi.  I hope you all have a wonderful day!

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