New Delhi, Delhi, India
I was bound and determined to make my last day in India a fulfilling one so I was up very early to make sure all of my stuff was packed and ready for International airline travel, all of my arrangements for a late checkout (flight didn’t leave until 3 am) with transport to the airport had been made, and my lucky travel Scooby Doo underwear was ready to go.
Then I returned to one of the rooftop restaurants for a breakfast of sambhar vada, a dosa, some cuurd and a bucket of chai.
I had decided that I would skip a few of the really high profile tourist attractions like the Red Fort and the Lotus Temple because they were a little far away from where I was situated and I didn’t feel like taking chances with unscrupulous autorickshaw or taxi drivers and end up in a store called Sanjay and Son’s Silks, Sarees and Sambar (So soft and savory).
Instead I chose to pick some lesser known attractions that were close to Main Bazaar and walk to them.
The National Museum was just a short jaunt away. The largest collection of Indian history and art in the country, this impressive institution houses many ancient works as well as modern art. The 12th century dancing Shiva is particularly impressive.
Another short walk took me to the Jantar Mantar, an astrological observatory built in 1725 that includes a huge and very accurate sundial along with various other instruments used to measure distances and placements in the heavens.
But it was while walking in Central Park later, in the city’s core, where I would have the most profound experience of the day.
Central Park is a fairly large city park full of greenery and pathways where the people of New Delhi relax and picnic over top of the Palika Bazar. It’s fairly busy with the hustle and bustle along the pathways by office workers, shoppers going to Connaught Circus, and the vendors who want to sell to them.
As I walked down one of the paths nibbling on a pakora that I bought from a stand, I heard a tiny whine from below me.
Under one of the cement sidewalk stones that covered a storm drain, a small furball was using an old sneaker as a pillow as the traffic from a hundred people walked on the path over him.
I sat and watched him for a bit as he yawned and made himself comfortable unconcerned with the city that zoomed over and around him. It was this juxtaposition that ended up having the biggest impact on me that day. Just as the slums that surrounded the million dollar condominiums in Mumbai, this little guy represented the spirit of this country to me. Life will continue on it’s own path no matter what you throw at it, be it the family’s existence in a corrugated aluminum shack at the base of a construction site, or a tiny stray puppy taking a nap while the hordes of New Delhi travel overtop. I left the area, content with the feeling that I had seen a small glimpse into the meaning of India.
I returned to Main Bazaar and picked out a restaurant to be my final meal in Delhi, a nice thali with some chana masala and naan with yet another cup of chai.
I left Main Bazaar and Old Delhi by cab later that night, and I was still thinking of the puppy and his Goldstar brand running shoe pillow, as I looked out the window at the traffic clogging the highway to the airport.
I reached Indira Gandhi International Airport with some time to spend my last remaining rupees on a snack, some bottled water, and a few last minute gifts that I could stuff into my backpack.
At midnight, the five day festival of Pancha Ganapati started, celebrating Lord Genesha as the guardian of Culture and patron of the arts. I waited at gate 182 for my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt that would surely be filled with efficient flight attendants and meals of schnitzel and sauerkraut, but my mind was still on the puppy under the sidewalk.
My flight was called and I walked into the glass and steel bridge that led to the Boeing 747, and took my last breaths of the smokey Asian air that I had been breathing for the last 2 months. And as if India was waving me goodbye, I watched as celebratory fireworks were exploding high in the New Delhi air marking the Elephant God’s holiday. So long India, thanks for the great time. I’m sure we’ll meet again.