New Delhi

We’ve now had 3 days in Delhi. So much happens every day here that we hardly have any time for ourselves or to sit down and process what we’ve seen and learned. Things should be a bit less relentless once we leave Delhi, as our program isn’t quite as packed in the other cities we visit.

Uploading pictures takes excruciatingly long, so I’ll try and post a few pictures of each place and then post all of them when I get home.

We arrived at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning (getting here took about 31 hours), and we started our program with two lectures that same afternoon, followed by a reception at USEFI – United States Education Foundation in India, which administers the Fulbright program here. It was so hard to stay awake during the lectures. At the reception, I met many interesting people from the Delhi community, both Indians and people from the international community.

The weather hasn’t been too bad. It is quite hot, but the bigger issue is the humidity. So far, we’ve spent a lot of time indoors in air conditioning, so it hasn’t been too bad.

Sunday we went on a guided tour of the National Museum with Dr. Shobita Punja – a well-known historian and one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, both physically and in the way she teaches. She’s an effortless storyteller and doesn’t hesitate to provide perceptive and very personal commentary on the works and the museum. She told us stories about the Buddha and from the Ramayana, gave us all a new understanding of Hinduism, and pointed out pieces that I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. The National Museum has the largest collection in the world from the Indus Civilization, now known as the Harappan Civilization from about 3,000 B.C. There were 1,000 cities in this civilization, all carefully planned, with drainage systems, and all made with bricks of exactly the same size! Furthermore, there is no indication of a ruler, or at least no physical evidence that suggests that they deified a ruler in the way that other civilizations have. I guess most of you don’t want to hear about all the details. I can share some pictures and more info with you history teachers later if you want.

Another interesting feature of the museum is that they have some of the Buddha’s bones on display in the museum, taken by the British from a stuppa and added to a museum. These are, obviously, very holy to Buddhists, and there was a monk praying in the corner. As Shobita pointed out, there is something very wrong about it being on display in a museum, and us walking around with our shoes on and gawking at everything without and reverence.

When we go out, there is so much here that feels like Asia as I have already experienced it, in both Russia and Thailand – the feel of the roads and the markets, the cramped streets, the smells, even the formatting of signs on the shops, but there are obviously many differences as well. It is so very old here, with architecture from the Mughuls in the 16th and 17th centuries appearing unexpectedly as you round a corner. And the extravagant color of saris everywhere.

We leave tomorrow for an overnight trip to Agra and a visit to the Taj Mahal. I’ll do my best to write soon.

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