Delhi – 2nd time around

I returned to Delhi for a second time, following a brief return to the UK to attend a family funeral. It was probably a good thing I had to break my ‘travels’ as it would have been easy to stay in Rishikesh where it felt familiar and easy. I’d gotten to used to it so leaving and starting my journey around Rajasthan where I would have to make daily decisions, planning, booking, on the move the whole time and the whole gamma of emotions and fears that can become a part of traveling somewhere so different, might have felt too big a task. Easier to stay put – especially somewhere like Rishikesh!  And then before the week back with my family was up I was suddenly a bit fearful of returning to India. I’d gotten too comfortable at my brother’s!

However coming back to Delhi and staying in a different area, right by a metro station as well as having spent 2 months in India by now, it was actually good to be back and didn’t feel quite so astonishing. Although this time I did pay way over for the taxi to the hostel (having said that, we travelled further and got caught in a stinker of deadlock traffic). I tried arguing and being assertive and even the hostel security guy came over to see what was going on but in the end I just paid up. I was knackered and just wanted to get my new bed already! Am sure they sense that…

Anyway the hostel, GoStops, was excellent. They have a shared kitchen (perfect for ‘fussy’ eaters like me), a lovely rooftop terrace, three doggies and two cats (who kept the cockroaches at bay I noticed) as well as a good schedule of activities and a good common room area to hang out, chill out and socialise. It was also a few hundred yards from what became my favourite restaurant (Bhaja Govindam) at the end of the block. I think I ate they every day and the food was delicious.

But being back in Delhi a second time around was much more enjoyable than the first. I felt more accustomed to the Indian ways and didn’t notice the intense stares quite as much. I was more relaxed and open to getting out there and experiencing things and found myself having little chats with randoms along the way. One of the funniest was sitting next to an older man on the metro for some time, each of us reading our little books on faith and spiritualism before both putting them away and him suddenly asking me which country I’m from. Turns out he has never been to England but had visitors from England come to stay with him. They were from Bristol, my hometown – which he wasn’t aware of. How coincidental! He told me their names but I didn’t know them 😀 But what a small world. I also enjoyed the kinship I made with a woman and her little children. I’d moved out of my seat to another opposite so her daughter could sit next to her and she seemed so appreciative of it. We all waved to each other many times as they left the train. So cute. Generally I was finding people to be intrigued and friendly, helpful a lot of the time. Was really nice. A bit weirded out by a boy of about 12 or so who said ‘hi baby’ to me as we passed each other but you know, he’s just trying out his English I’m sure!

Being right next to a metro station was a dream though! I got myself a 3-day travel card for Rs500 (appx £6) and took myself off to shop for a new camera and go on a temple tour. I chose a few select places that I was drawn to investigate and had a brilliant day of it:

ISKCON Temple
A bright, energising Vaishnav (one of the major traditions within Hinduism) temple set in a park near the Lotus Temple. Anyone can visit, it’s free and offers a schedule of darsan, puja, aarti etc. I had a chat with a guy on the way into the main temple hall and ended up acquiring two books in return for a donation. Although my initial donation was apparently not enough 😀 There is also a restaurant onsite which is renowned for good food but alas it was closed at the time I was there, so snacks it was instead which I ate in the park on the way to the Lotus Temple.

Lotus Temple
What an extremely beautiful building this is! I couldn’t wait to see this lotus-shaped temple in real life and was so happy that the skies were blue for it (although the camera picked up the haze/pollution a bit and I do think sunset or sunrise would be even prettier). I was visiting on a Sunday so it was very busy but the queues constantly moved so it didn’t take long to get in. Inside is minimally decorated (pure white marble and wood) with just two vases of flowers at the front. In keeping with the Bahai faith, there are no deities or depictions from any religions and is therefore open to all who are seeking peace and calm or wishing to do silent prayers. Just walking in and sitting down promoted wellbeing for me. Lots of emotions and questions popped up in my mind but it was still also grounding and reassuring. Time for reflection away from the busy streets.

Akshardam Temple
My word this place totally got to me! What a beautiful, stunning piece of architecture and the interior main temple hall – wow! I visited at around 3:30/4:00pm when the sun was lowering and all the colours of the Indian saris moving around were just brilliant against the white floors and dark red walls. Unfortunately you can only take in limited possessions (money, passport, water) so no cameras and no mobile phones – was quite happy about that last one but not having a camera in such a photogenic spot was tough going! So many photo opportunities missed… gahhhhh. But it meant I was more present, looked at things more intensely and thought about what I was looking at or reading more than I would if I was running around with the camera trying to get the best viewpoints and all that. But yes, this place stirred some emotions in me. And so did the people there. There was this beautiful unspoken unity going on. Quite precious, very uplifting and yet humbling.

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Delhi Yoga and Vegan Food Festival 
Of course I had to go to this – yoga AND vegan? Vegan AND yoga?! I was in paradise (again).

Was quite a long journey out to west Delhi but totally worth it. A lovely bunch of people, great food and a comprehensive programme of yoga sessions, meditation classes and talks on veganism, cooking etc. I timed my lunch wrong and stuffed myself with a gorgeous Thali (had been craving one for a while but had struggled to find a vegan one anywhere so far) and then went to a meditation class where I passed the yoga sessions and immediately knew I wanted to do some. I didn’t have a yoga mat (required) and hadn’t worn my yoga pants, but knew the cropped trousers and T-shirt I was in would be fine. So after letting the Thali digest I joined one of the last classes of the day, an Introduction to Power Yoga and wondered if I’d done the right thing when I realised I was surrounded by all the instructors I’d seen earlier doing impossibly advanced asanas on the lawn…. How difficult would this class be? It was titled ‘an intro to….’ so I just hoped it would be ok. And it was. In fact it was great to be doing some proper yoga again. I’d not been able to do much since arriving in Delhi as the visiting yoga teacher at the hostel was away/not enough sign up for classes and I was sharing a dorm with a guy who liked to doze around in bed all morning  and I didn’t feel comfortable practicing in front of him, or anyone really for that matter.

So yes, was a good day of vegan food, interesting conversations, yoga and meditation. I do like finding likeminded souls – especially in a different country! It was great that this kind of festival came to Delhi. There is a lot of uncovering going on at the moment regarding the brutal dairy industry that seems to be as prevalent here (where cows are sacred) as it is in places like Europe/UK. Which is very disappointing and saddening. So bringing awareness, like these festivals do, is desperately needed so changes can be made.

All in all my time in Delhi was really good.I met some brilliant people, both international travellers in the hostel and random locals who were happy to have little chats and make me feel very welcome.

Thank you Delhi Part Two!

And now begins my real travelling… 3 weeks out of Delhi towards Agra (stopping at Mathura briefly on the way) then Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur…… can’t wait!

Next stop: Mathura