We left Dubai on the 12th of December, to embark on our Indian adventure
. First stop-New Delhi. Our arrival was delayed by 5 hours due to fog in Delhi, which is a common problem during this time of year. So, at 2 a.m. we happily exited the airport and walked into a chaotic haze of people, cars and trucks. What we naively thought would be a quiet ride to the airport, turned into 45 minutes literally stuck in traffic and surrounded by honking horns. Our hotel, The Manor, was an oasis of peace and modern ambience with the best chamomile tea we've ever had. I can still taste it. It is a beautiful hotel in the southern part of the city about 25 minutes away from the center, away from the chaos.
After sleeping away most of the following day, we mustered the energy to visit the Red Fort and Chandni Chowk, an insane street market packed to capacity with everything from sari shops to food stands. We later learned that that many of our new Indian friends do not visit this market. That evening, our friend Shibani invited us to a wedding party. Shibani lives in Miami but spent visits her very cool and hospitable family in India each year. December it turned out was wedding season with 36,000 weddings in one day. Yes, craziness. Shibani's friends were getting married that week so we had the good fortune to tag along to one of the many pre-wedding parties and the actual wedding.
The wedding party was beautiful
. It was more elaborate than any wedding we had been to. Not only were the decorations over the top, as well as the food, but there was a huge stage with choreographed acts performing all night. From belly dancers, Indian dances and various singers to men in black leather outfits dancing and doing splits. It was a truly unique experience.
The following we day we had lunch with Shibani and her grandmothers at a delicious local eatery called Sagar Ratna in the Defence Colony neighborhood. The food was delicious, dosas, roti desserts. We loved it all-the spicier the better, well at least for Christina. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon visiting Gurdwara Temple, a Sikh Temple. Shibani's grandmother talked with us about the Sikh religion. It was a really special day. That night we had the big wedding. What to wear, given that Christina left all her traveling saris in Miami and Uddy's black suit was home also. Uddy could get away with black pants and his sport coat, but Christina was facing fashion crisis. Shibani had many saris to choose from; however, none fit. So eventually, Christina went with an elegant, black salwar kameez, the long blouse with balloon-like pants. It was great.
We weren't sure we could handle another night of extreme drinking.
Thankfully, Hindu weddings do not serve alcohol, perhaps this is why everyone drinks like crazy for 10 days prior to the big event. The wedding ceremony was gorgeous. The entire place was flowing with red and cream-colored silk, thousands of orchid bouquets, fireworks, explosions of flower petals into the air-it felt like we were at a coronation ceremony. We wanted to stay for the actual ceremony where the couple walk around a fire seven times. This is done when the priest, after consultation with the moon and stars-something like this-announces that the moment has arrived. Well, it was close to 2:00 a.m. and no such announcement had been made. We weren't sure we could do a third time down the buffet line while waiting; so with tired eyes we left.
The next few days in Delhi were spent sight-seeing, shopping, drinks at the Imperial and visiting a few cool bars/restaurants with Shibani. (Olive, Laid Backwaters) She was a great host. We even moved into her grandparent's house/more like a palace, across the street from Lodhi Gardens for two nights. It was so fun to hang out with her family and enjoy a typical Indian breakfast with them the two mornings we were there. They were such gracious hosts and her grandmother's roti was delish.
India was an experience that definitely challenged all of our senses. At times, it was so overwhelmingly stressful that we didn't think we'd make it to Kerala. The constant noise coupled with the begging and crowds took some time to get accustomed to. Christina was ready to bail around Agra. The surrounding abject poverty and pollution can make it difficult at times to enjoy India's rich architectural and cultural history. But we ended up enjoying most of the trip, in large part to the friendly and hospitable Indian people we met throughout our trip. From the owners and employees of the small heritage homes we stayed in to the touk touk drivers, some of whom have contacted us since we left. Also, in Delhi we were fortunate to have our friend Shibani and her family. And, in Mumbai, we had a super time with BJ and his girlfriend Sonali, whom we met while at the Ngorongoro Crater.