My Trip to Delhi, Agra, and Shimla
By: : Jennifer Kumar

Well my class went by train. The train from Chennai to Delhi is called Tamil Nadu express, it took 2 nights and one day.

We had an accomidation at my classmate's house,in Janak Puri, Delhi. Actually they live on top of a church since her father is a pastor, so the boys slept in the church, the girls in the house. They have a small, 4 room flat. In India you find this type of ospitality. They allowed 13 girls to sleep in their 2 bedrooms, while they (mother, father and 3 daughters) slept in the small living room on the floor. Needless to say even us girls were tight for space, sleeping almost on top of each other. And, I was still not use to the affection girls show to each other in India, I felt a bit odd when I woke up very close to one girl who had put her arm around me in the night.

Actually the trip was not supposed to be for joy, we were supposed to visit social work agencies in each place. But we were supposed to visit 10, we got only to 8.

Delhi is NOT like Chennai at all. It is clean, the roads are very wide, hardly any beggars, and no pavement dwellers, you can actually walk on the sidewalks, and that is safer than walking on the roads. Cows still exist in the center of the road, but the city keeps all that waste cleaned up daily. The main roads are planned well and not really regulated by lights, more roundtanas are there. I must explain a bit more, there ARE places like the above described in Delhi, but the areas which are near the tourist and government areas are those which are those described above.

But in the rush, morning and evening beware the traffic jams make a regular 15 minute trip into a 2 hour waiting game! At least in Chennai, the traffic keeps moving, but I guess that is cause in Delhi, more adhere to the traffic rules. And also the standard of living is much higher in Delhi, which means many more cars are there on the roads! Less of cycles and mopeds and motorcycles, more of cars, hence the traffic piles up more than in Chennai.

You can get all Western things in Delhi. At the railway station I saw the first vending machine in India, full of Cadbury chocolates! They also have McDonalds in every corner of town and a restraunt called Whimpy Burger. Of course, you find Pizza Hut and Dominoes. (Again if they keep that 15 minutes or free rule.. I wonder!) And all designer clothing shops are in midtown by the Palika Bazaar (the largest underground bazaar). You can get United Colors of Benneton, Levis, etc. It seems Lee jeans are also a big thing in India!!

As for dressing, in North you see more of salvaar kamiz rather than sari. If you see sari, it is worn with the pullu (free end) coming over the chest. And more are covering their head with their dupetta! See me in a sari wrapped in Northern style compared to Southern style. It is odd to see the old women wearing salvaar since in Chennai, elder women only wear sari. And you see more modernly dressed women, in jeans, tight jeans, tight shirts and mini skirts and short skirts, and tank tops. A rare sight on Indian women in Chennai.

As for religion, in Chennai you see temples everywhere, but in Delhi, the religious diverisity is more, more Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, etc. Hindus are still majority, but less noticable than in Chennai. And also due to the fact at least the parts of Delhi my class travelled, less frequency of temples also.

Talking about temples, the North Indian style temple is much different from the southern version. Even the smallest road side temples in south have a small decorated goparam, but in north they are undecorated and usually have a colored flag on top to symobize it. I saw temples that looked like mosques and temples that were just a small tent made of blankets with a few pictures of Gods inside. Very ornate temples were not very prominent in Delhi, but one great statue of Hanuman (monkey god) I saw as an entry to a temple.

Delhi is quite a modern city and very different from Chennai, and of course language, which is Hindi. No one speaks Tamil there;)! And also at least in Chennai if you don't know Tamil, most will know and speak English to you. But in Delhi (most northern places) I came to know even if they know English (which they usually do) they refuse to speak to you in anything but Hindi.

For parts of our tour, our class went by Delhi public buses in Delhi. Though it was not as crowded as Chennai, but the crowd is different. One, less of women, and two the men. Women be careful of Northern men. I thought it was just me cause I am a foreigner, but it is not only me, also my classmates had a problem with the men on the bus. Though in most cases Westerners find the bus crowded as compared to any bus in our places, Delhi busses really are less crowded then Chennai busses, which means that there is room to leave space between the people, at least 6 inches in Delhi bus, and 2 or so in Chennai bus. But in Delhi busses, I came to find, though the men may have even more than 6 inches to spare, they WON'T. They will press themselves unnecesarrily against you, even if you turn and give them a dirty look they try and get even closer to you. So, don't travel without a man if you are a woman. Luckily I had my male classmate come and stand in between me and that man, so yes, there was extra space for that man to move away. This same thing happened to my Indian female classmates also. Whereas in Chennai, if the man on the bus even bumps into me, he would normally look at me appoligetically. (There are exceptions, but I have fortunately not had to deal with those yet!) And in Delhi, especially after 9 or so at night it is even less safe for women to travel alone on bus. There is a big alcohol problem in Delhi, and we came to realize this one night as we had to take the bus to the train station at 9pm one night. Most of the men stick and sweat the smell of all types of alcohol.

We also made two trips, one to Agra (Taj Mahal) and Shimla.

We took a chartered bus to Agra, so no problem there! Some road side sights were interesting... instead of seeing bullock carts, we saw camel carts!! And lots of monkey are in these parts. The ride from Delhi to Agra is about 5 hours.

We saw Agra fort and of course Taj Mahal. To me it did not seem real. No one understands me when I say that, but that is how I felt. There are photographers there who take your picture where you stand by the pool and hold your right hand into the air as though you dropped something they would snap the photo and it comes out looking like you are holding the Taj up with your hand. (sometime I will try and scan this photo) But I am weird, I know. I am not usually enthralled by wonders like others Though I have seen the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls,also, I prefer the falls in Ithaca (New York) the best!

Then in Shimla... Shimla is a hill station. There you notice one thing right off, it is COLD! It got only to about 70 in the day time, and the sun did not come out til 3, and at night it must have got down to 40. And still there it is not common to have hot water heaters! Many a day we did not take baths! ;(

And the second thing is the atmosphere of the place. It looks so foreign, buildings look European (This place was once the summer capital of the British empire.) and made of wood (It would be an oddity to find any building in Chennai constructed of wood.) and lots of churches, everywhere. Hill stations are the best place for conversions, and they even tried it with me there. In the accomidation we stayed was a church and daily I wear bindi, so the preacher came to me and tried to 'convert me.' Anyhow I don't mind if others believe as they like, why can't they also respect my beliefs?? I would never try to force my religious beliefs on others. I am not hurting anyone. However, There is a fine line between conversion and personally accepting a new faith on your own accord (in India in regards to Christianity).
Though the funny thing in the Shimla railway station there was one sign, "The God of Hindus, is the same as the God of Muslim and the God of Christianity." Something like that. I really liked that sign so I stood next to it wrapped up in sweater, hat, and socks and had a photo!

In Shimla you can get some things really cheap, like shawls. I got one nice wool shawl for only 120 Rupees (less than 3 dollars) and another from a Tibetian (lots of Tibetians live there) shop as you see in US, for only 65 rupees (less than 1.50) And those special Indian hats like Jawaharlal Nehru used to wear for only 20 rupees (less than 50 cents) and apples =- one kilogram for 20 rupees. Also since it is a hilly place, wooden items are also very cheap and nicely crafted.

One more thing about Shimla is MONKEYS! There are SO many monkeys everywhere! Even in the YMCA, there is one sign saying BEWARE OF MONKEYS! They even have a guard dog outside to scare off the monkeys!

But one must beware of also travelling by train in North India. The trains are much more dirty, unsafe. There are two types of tickets one can get on an Indian train (as far as I know) for second class. One is reserved seat (bearth for sleeping also) and open. Open means you can ride the train, but you really don't have any seat. Mostly these people come on and sit like vagrants. But there is a third ticket, an invisible ticket! :) that means there are many passangers riding without tickets! How? Well Indian trains usually have open doors and many compartments and few conductors to check tickets, so it is hard to keep track of everyone riding. These people are the real vagrants. If you travel alone becareful of you belongings and your seat. If you have no one to save it for you if you have to get up for any reason, these non ticket holders will surely steal it claiming it as their own. And they easily get roudy. Especially if you can't speak to them in their language. They refused to listen to the women students being women, and refused to comply quickly with the men students since they did not speak proper Hindi.

Trains in south India are not so bad. I have not had such an experience on trains travelling exculsively in south India. (but that doesn't not mean it does not happen)

We did do some sightseeing in Delhi. One fort Red Fort, and the best thing was the Ba'hai temple or Lotus temple. It is a magnificent structure that looks like a lotus. This was something that took my breath away and filled me with such a tremendous joy. I really was moved by this structure. It is so beautiful. There are only 6 Ba'hai temples in the world, each has a different structure (there is one in Chicago)

Well on the way back there was a flood in one state (Andhra Pradesh) which the train is supposed to go, so we had to take a long way back. And boy was it LONG, it took 55 hours!

Actually the train started 13 hours late than departure and even tried to call to Chennai to tell the concerned, but there was a telecom strike, so only 5 minutes before the train left I got the line!!

Now I have don't mostly everything.. go across a county by car (USA), by bus (USA), by train (India) and around the world by plane. Should I finish by going around the world by boat? I am not such a good swimmer, so maybe I will pass that one! But I have now seen most major cities, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi (not Calcutta) and I can say I like most Chennai and Hyderabad.

This trip was a part of my MA Social Work course. I studied at Madras Christian College in Tambaram, Chennai, India. The dates of travel was 21 August 2000 to 2 September 2000.

Detailed Daily Diary of Delhi, Agra, Shimla
This page has been visited times since September 16, 2000. Revised December 2007.

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