There are a hundred different ways to experience being mobbed in India, but this is perhaps the most pleasant!
Overwhelmed is probably the understatement of the year when it comes to first-time visitors to India. We knew we would be challenged after talking to more seasoned travellers. But now that we are actually experiencing the country, we’ve had to take a few deep breaths!
We sailed through China and SE Asia, but India is a whole different ball game. Not only is the traffic insane with all manner of vehicles making their way down the street, livestock is thrown into the mix along with extreme poverty. Young children come to your window begging for money while cars zoom all around.
Walking down the street involves a gauntlet of vendors and beggars. Garbage and dust is everywhere, and being aware of your belongings at all times is essential.
The air pollution is heavy, and New Delhi has just voted in the same measures as Chinese cities to try to cut the smog. Cars will be allowed to drive based on plate numbers – even numbers on certain days and odd numbers on others.
We spent our first full day in New Delhi exploring a number of places including the Red Fort. The fort was the residence of Mughal emperors for more than 200 years as well the ceremonial and political centre of Indian government.
The fort was spectacular from the outside, but it was sad to see how British forces had systematically plundered the inside when they took control of India in 1857. Everything had been stripped, from furniture and jewels to paintings and even mirrors. The gardens and living quarters had been destroyed to make way for barracks.
Despite its history, the architecture is stunning and the buildings are beautiful. Ongoing restoration has occurred over the years, and it will be an incredible place if eventually complete.
In the afternoon, our guide suggested a calmer spot to take the kids. We visited Lodi Gardens, which is a 90-acre public park that contains several tombs and architectural features from an Afghan dynasty that ruled northern India and Punjab around the 15th-century.
When we arrived, hundreds of school girls were walking towards the main tomb, so we took a side pathway to get away from the storm. While the happy chatter of school girls is a pleasant sound, we were looking for a peaceful walk.
We eventually circled around, and came across the students playing in a large field. Sophie and Claire also spotted girls playing on an adjacent outdoor gym. Intrigued by the equipment, they decided to take a turn.
As soon as they entered the gym, they were immediately mobbed by a number of curious grade nine girls. Some spoke English well, and the girls loved answering their questions. They eventually ended up playing an Indian version of tag together.
After leaving the park we visited Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial as well as the former residence of Indira Gandhi. I found myself trying to explain (and remember) 20th century Indian history in the simplest form (not sure how well I did!). But I was proud that Sophie remembered Mahatma Gandhi as the person who said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
The highlight of the day was visiting the family of our guide and eating a delicious home cooked meal. Sophie had fun doing hairstyles with our guide’s daughter, and discussing music and online games.
Travelling can be overwhelming at times, but connecting with locals is how to stay sane. Getting to know a few people helps you understand the environment and makes you much more comfortable with it. We are excited to explore Rajasthan over the next two weeks, starting with the Taj Mahal!