Three thirty in the morning. Far too early for anyone to be up, yet there we were taking our bags down to the taxi and bidding farewell to a few of the RSO children and staff. We made our way to the airport and prepared for our flight to Delhi. After buying the little kids some cookies from an overpriced Australian cookie stall in the airport we were on our way. For the first time in my life I took a bus across the tarmac to the airplane. The bus was full, bouncy, and the Hare Krishna sitting next to me smelled like he suffered from incontinence. Of course I didn’t notice it much. I was half asleep. We entered the Air Deccan plane to find to our surprise that the seats were unassigned. We managed to get a few seats close to each other and dodged the bullet of sitting next to any, let’s say, ‘intimidating’ Indian men. When we did sit down, my mom noticed that the seats were leaning at an acute angle; in other words, they pushed our noses toward our knees rather than our heads toward the row behind us. This also was quite odd, but we’ve learned to expect oddness and outright contradiction in this country. I looked around and saw that a majority of the passengers were having trouble buckling the airline seat belt. And I always thought those movies where the lady shows you how to buckle were useless…guess I was wrong. I slept for most of the flight by putting down the food tray and laying my head on it (which the flight attendants didn’t think was a problem during take off).
We got off the plane and on to another bus. After a relatively painless bus ride and baggage claim we exited the airport and looked for Praveen, the travel agent with whom we booked our tour de India, who was supposed to be picking us up. We found him and received a warm welcome to India, complete with flower necklaces that made me feel, somewhat demasculinized. We got in Praveen’s spacious car and he gave us the schedule for the day. First we hit the hotel and checked in. Everyone was starving so we decided to make a quick run to the local McDonald’s before we went sightseeing. The McDonald’s menu was very different from that in America, mainly because of the whole no beef part. This disappointed McKane greatly, as he was looking forward to a double cheeseburger. He refused to eat anything for a while, but after some coaxing he got a chicken burger. After being stared at in McDonald’s for a good thirty minutes, we headed off to the first site of the day, the Lotus Temple, a site Kieran had chosen out of the DK India guidebook. This is one of the main temples of the Bahai religion. After Kieran and Asher broke the ‘No Talking Rule’ inside the temple, we quickly made our way out.
Following this Praveen took us for a bike rickshaw ride through the winding, frantic streets of Old Delhi. The ride was bumpy, and I had absolutely no room since the entirety of the rickshaw was being taken up by a person who will remain unnamed at this time. When we arrived at the Jami Masjid mosque, we were swarmed by salespeople, as we would soon learn was par for the course in India.
After taking a picture with two nice Pakistani tourists, we went into the mosque. Here I learned a valuable lesson: if you are heading to a mosque, wear long pants, or else you’ll have to wear a traditional Indian dress. Yes, it is a male dress. We went into the mosque and to the delight of the younger kids there was a horde of pigeons eating bird feed off the ground. They charged them and the swarm erupted into the sky turning the area around us black for a moment. They did this repeatedly until we exited the mosque.
Ecstatic about getting my dress off, I headed out with the others on the bikes to the Red Fort. We first made a run through the marketplace a.k.a. packed streets with stalls catering to tourists. We finally made it to the fort and after almost falling off the rickshaw repeatedly, I was glad to be through with the bikes. Yet the car was no better. As we moved through traffic, we were constantly harassed by beggars. They were innumerable. At every turn some woman would spring up with a hired child and pound on the window.
The sheer amount of poverty in the city is incredible. After cutting in and out of traffic we made our way to a popular dinner spot for ex-pats in the embassy area. Here we had a not so good Chinese meal with Praveen. Afterwards we shopped around a little and bought some cakes and cereal for our breakfast. We made our way back to the hotel and got ready for bed. There was a bump in the road when we discovered Mom, McKane, and I had lice. We spent the rest of the night plucking lice and nits from our hair and trying to find out what bug or small animal had decided to relieve itself under the pillow on our bed. Maybe it was the Indian Easter bunny.