When people ask me where I’ve been in India, I always gave the same answer: “Andhra Pradesh, East Godavari, Mori. Some people tell me, “Oh, you haven’t seen the ‘REAL’ India…” E. Godavari locals will disagree, and say that THEIR home village is the "real" India. I doubt that all Indians will agree on what is the ‘REAL’ India. This large country contains 1.2 billion people, 29 states, and 23 official languages. India is vastly diverse in culture, religion, food, language, music, fashion, and climate.
Up until last month, my only experience in India was here in this semi-rural, agricultural, coastal district. By visiting only one small village, I had only seen a TINY snapshot of this country. Carly and I had a wonderful opportunity meet up with a few members of the American mission team and visit Delhi (and surrounding cities) for 6 days.
Delhi Day 1 - 5/24
Carly and I enjoyed a smooth travel from Mori to Delhi. We drove in the middle of the night from our village to the Vijayawada airport. Since there was no traffic and our driver sped up to 110 km/hr, we arrived 2 hours early! Sitting in an empty airport at 6am, we figured, “Well…I guess let’s just hang and have some coffee.” We enjoyed some delicious (yet overpriced) idly and froze in the A/C.
After an easy flight and some good conversation, we joyfully connected with the team in Delhi. Pastor Gerry, Pastor Kay, Matt, Rachel, Rose, and Anna were smiling and excited, even after 20 hours of travel. I couldn’t wait for adventures with our new “Sticky Team.” That evening, we settled into our hotel and had traditional North Indian food. We did some shopping, and I practiced my bargaining skills in Hindi – “Bhaiya, bahut zyada hai! Kum kariye!” (“Brother, it is too expensive! Make it less!”) I helped Pastor Kay bargain a dress down to less than half the price. Score!
Delhi Day 2 - 5/25
I woke up excited and well rested, ready for the day. On on our drive to the Jama Masjid (Mosque), we passed the India Gate, Parliament house, President’s house, and ministry district. The Jama Masjid of Delhi is one of the largest mosques in India.
Some days, over 25,000 people come to worship. I walked around quickly to avoid my bare feet being fried by the hot marble, and I admired the beautiful black marble inscription of the Quran on the walls of the building.
We then took a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, the oldest and largest market in Old Delhi. In a quick stop to a famous spice shop, my nose was tickled by the wonderful smells of cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, saffron, and teas from all over India.
The highlight of this day was our visit to the Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Bangla Sahid. In this place, people come to worship, eat, bathe, and fellowship. Containing one of the largest kitchen’s in Delhi, this temple feeds 10,000 people every day for free! The cooks are volunteers, and the supplies are all given as donations. I ate the temple food and it was AMAZING. So fresh, so comforting, so healthy… Sikhs are welcoming to all, and one does not have to be a sikh to worship, eat, or volunteer at the temple. This temple also has a large bathing pool and an ever-flowing freshwater stream for people to drink.
Our Sikh tour guide proudly shared his religion with us, and explained the “5 K’s” that every pious Sikh should have:
1. Kesh - Uncut hair. Both men and women will keep their hair long, and the men will wrap their hair in a turban and tuck in their beard.
2. Kanga - Wooden comb
3. Kara - Iron bracelet to serve as a reminder that one should have peace and strength.
4. Kirpan - A knife for protection.
5. Kachera - A special type of undergarment.
Later, we visited an amazing shop where they showed us hand-woven rugs made of silk, wool, and cashmere. The beautiful pictures speak for themselves.
For many, Delhi is the “real” India… A bustling city with life, history, art, and technology. The epicenter of India. It was enlightening to step into two different places of worship. I must visit here again…especially for the food!