Ravenous (at least I was) we went to Lazeez Affaire for a late lunch, our first meal as a group. Happily, everyone was ready for an Indian feast and so we ordered chicken tikka, pieces of the tenderest grilled chicken, and paneer tikka, slabs of grilled paneer stuffed with green cilantro paste, butter chicken, various kinds of naan, rice, paneer in a tomato sauce, paneer with spinach, all wonderful. Our guide suggested we visit a small step well and a temple to conclude the day.
A step well is a in fact a water well, but instead of a shaft with a mechanism to raise the water, like a pail on a rope, there are stone steps leading down to the surface of the water. Sounds unremarkable if a little odd.
This is the Ugrasen ki Baoli (baoli is Hindi for step well). After driving down a narrow city alley-ish street which was bordered on both sides with linens drying on racks made of criss-crossed bamboo, and walking through an unremarkable, small stone doorway, we were standing above an very deep chamber dug into the ground like an inside out, upside down building, ever narrower as it gets deeper. Groups of teenagers sat on the steps above as if this were a perfectly obvious place to hang out and gossip. It was beautiful and somewhat shocking to see this mysteriously engineered step well juxtaposed with the skyscrapers of modern Delhi just beyond the ancient walls that line the well itself.
Our final adventure of the day was the most moving, as we visited the very large, bustling Gurdwara Sikh temple. First stop, the tourist room where we removed shoes and socks and head scarves were provided to those in our group who didn’t have them. Outside to wash hands and walk through a shallow trough of water, and then up the marble steps and across the plaza to the temple, where three men chanted to a tabla and two harmoniums and worshippers strolled, or bowed, or sat cross legged on the floor where large monitors displayed in Hindi and English the words of the chants. A man inside the altar area had a large video camera, feeding a continuous live broadcast. (http://www.dsgmc.in/ ) The chanting, the overwhelming spirituality in the temple, the smells and opulence of the setting were attractive and hypnotic. It was very difficult to leave.
We toured the dining area, where every day, morning to evening, everyone who sits down in the dining room (cross-legged, in small family groups or large lines) is fed, and then into the kitchen where immense caldrons of a potato curry stew were bubbling and a shifting group of children, men, and women sat in front of long trays of flour, rolling out balls of dough into thin disks which they stacked on wooden platters. Periodically a young man swooped away the ready chapatis and replaced them with an empty platter–and groups of mostly men were tossing the disks on a huge flat griddle. As soon as they were sufficiently charred a man with a long pole flipped them onto a more open charcoal grill where they immediately puffed up, and then were slid into baskets to be served in the adjacent dining area.Of course I (wearing the blue scarf) had to join the rolling group for a few minutes.