New Delhi, so named by the British to separate it from the “old” Delhi they disliked for its confusing streets and unrelenting Indian-ness. New Delhi, with enormous 20th century palaces and government complexes, English gardens in the middle of the largest roundabout in the world–a series of interlocking traffic circles that spin buses, cars, scooters, bicycles, 3-wheeled motorized rickshas with their guardian gods pasted to the dashboards as if a centrifugal force were flinging objects in and out of orbits.
The amazingly preserved sandstone and marble of Qutb Minar and the surrounding Mehrauli Archaeological Park are beautiful but the first thing we noticed were the parakeets, bright green, red-beaked and chattering, screaming, occasionally racing in small groups from the top of a wall to a tree to the nooks between the unmortared stones of the temples, towers, wells, tombs, celebration halls, and mosque ruins. Who built what? Could this be Mugdal if there are carvings of chains and bells, which only the Hindus included in their holy buildings? Endless puzzles of attribution and meaning.
We went on to Humayun’s tomb, which President Obama came to visit in 2009, having turned down the Taj Mahal because of the disruption of closing it down for several days to accommodate security concerns. Humayun’s Tomb is considered a precursor to the Taj, with the oldest surviving bulbous hollow arch construction. Before Obama’s visit this exquisite and massive, building, with its elegant gates and gardens, had few Indian visitors, but after news reports of the Obama tour it has become very popular and additional restoration has continued. It’s so elegant, with such a pleasing proportion, it seems impossible it could ever have been overlooked. Hundreds of kites, raptors similar to falcons, were riding the thermals at such altitudes that the highest of them almost disappeared.
Next: A step well and the Sikh Temple