Let me just say I LOVE IT HERE! Amritsar, that is! We arrived late last night, exhausted from a full first day of activities in Delhi, went straight to bed and woke up to Amritsar! Yoga was wonderful this morning. It helps to know everyone better, their needs, their abilities on the yoga realm. We practiced in the air conditioned Banquet Room overlooking the outdoor swimming pool. Followed by a hearty breakfast and an adventurous walk outdoors with Don in search of PANI water! Amritsar is fairly clean (compared to Delhi), and slightly cooler (compared to Delhi) with a pleasant breeze that plays with the hem of the skirt. The highlight of this morning was meeting a beautiful woman with a bag full of bread and other scraps. She was out feeding all the street dogs. She showed us her business cards, one of which had her photo ID and said, Kirin Singh, Friend of the Animals. I instantly felt a strong connection to her. We found a man to translate for us so that we could chat with her. And our morning proceeded like this, one interesting person after another.
Back to yesterday, our first full day in India. I didn’t get to the hotel before 1:30 am, checked in and was in bed at 2 am. Up 4 hours later to teach yoga from 7-8:30 am. On the ROOF TOP. Supposedly morning is cooler. 5 minutes into the yoga session, we were all sweating profusely. Someone thought the rooftop would be a good place for our first session? BTB Better than Bikram’s. Hot, however, wonderful to hear birdsong, music in the distance, little motorbikes spinning by, auto rickshaw horns piping up, the start of a new day.
“NAMASTE Ladies and Don!” (Arvind, our guide officially greets us on the AC tour bus) Don, bolstered by his daily 10 cups of coffee , is quite happy and comfortable among the women of the group. He and Arvind have bonded. We have a great group ! Real troupers.
“That’s the thing about India. You learn about what it means to sweat.” Kelley tells us right off the bat.
And sweat we do as we make our way to the Jama Masjid (the Friday Mosque). Arvind explains that all of Delhi is preparing for the Commonwealth Games to be hosted here in Delhi. The whole city is industriously laying down pipes, putting in new roads, new buildings coming up. There is even a new subway. The whole city, he explains is a dusty mess because of the preparations for the games. The city is filled with traffic jams and there is more chaos than ever. Delhi is thriving, bustling, bursting with heat and energy! Commonwealth Games or not, it seems to me, I encountered the same traffic, piles of “rubble”, chaos last time I was here.
Street vendors: “Postcards. You like? Just look! Very good price. Just look. Very nice. Looking free. You like?”
Jama Masjid actually has a slight breeze. It is a quiet oasis in the turmoil of Delhi. We learn that the daughter of Shah Jahan designed this mosque. She and her father were considered architectural rebels! Instead of one minaret, she wanted TWO for aesthetic balance. This had never been done before. The main gate faces WEST to Mecca. The actual architect was the son of the man who designed the Taj Mahal. This mosque is huge and can accommodate 40,000 people which it does at the major holidays like Ede.
In order to enter, all the ladies in our group (that means our whole group except Don and Arvind) had to wear these robes that covered us from neck to feet. The material seemed like nylon and did NOT breath. Drip Drip. Sweat Sweat. I was never so happy to take off clothing as I was to strip myself loose of that horrible garment/robe!
Back to the air conditioned bus and fresh cold water. We pass the Chole Bazaar which translates to Thief Basaar. It is filled with stolen goods resold! The bazaar is in a 17th century neighborhood. If you have the misfortune of having your motor part stolen, come to this market and if you are lucky enough to find the stolen part, you can buy it back! We pass rows and rows of motor parts, tires, stolen car parts, chickens, books, fruit, goat heads (seriously), toys, watches, tailors, jewelry makers, bolts of cloth, more chickens. The eyes grow dizzy just looking.
Arvind explains it is “illegal and unlawful” to give money to the beggars. New rule. Giving to beggars, he explains, encourages maiming of children (a child with a missing leg can fetch more than a child with two), child slavery, corporate businesses scamming to make profits off beggars. Got it. Loud and clear. So I sort of gasped when Don gave a full 100 rupies to a little girl begging with a sick child in her arms. He has a heart of gold and he couldn’t help himself. It is nearly impossible NOT to give.
The bus brings us to the Red Fort, once a residence for people in power as well as the judicial center where criminals were judged and punishments by beheading carried out in the grassy park-like area that I had been admiring.
Before entering the Red Fort, we wait in the shade of the Bodhi tree (ficus spiritualis) while some folks use the public restrooms. Hot, hotter, hotter. How hot can it get, I am thinking to myself. I feel a bit dizzy so I add some Emergency C to my water. It helps. 110? 114? I have no idea. Someone in our group nearly faints. It is frightening to see her so pale. Thankfully we have a doctor in our group. She has us help Chris lie down under the bodhi tree and we stay close. Doc Karin takes over and I think to myself, “This could have been me!” I feel so bad for Chris but she regains her strength and we proceed to the Red Fort!
Lunch! We feel like plants that have been watered after a long drought. The hotel/restaurant where we have lunch is clean and air conditioned. The food (dal, raita, coriander chutney, rice, cauliflower and potato curry, and papadams and naan ) delicious. The toilets are the kind of place you can stay in for hours! I have never seen everyone so excited to see such clean proper bathrooms.
Arvind says: “We have 40 minutes for lunch so please eat quickly!”
We obey and snarf down our food.
Arvind was quite impressed!
We still had to rush to catch our train to Amritsar. Arrival, our bags loaded on a trolley, pulled by two men with Don and Arvind following. We ladies take the short cut to Platform I. The men take the long way because the trolley cannot go by stairs. Our train arrives. Where are the men? There they are! Don and Arvind, gentle souls that they are, are shouting and shoving people out of their way in the crowded Delhi train station, sweating up a storm, trying to get to us, to get our luggage to us, to get on the train to Amritsar. I cannot believe my eyes! Stuff movies are made of. We make our train safe and sound!
Train slows down…Amritsar?
Fran: “Arvind, are we here?”
Arvind: “We are ALWAYS here!”
Going to join the others in the hotel pool. This computer is here at the hotel and it is cool and pleasant. Our tour/outing begins in an hour.