Big Gora Learns Hindi

Big Gora Learns Hindi

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mujhe Dilli yaad aa raha hai

मुझे दिल्ली याद आ रहा है. [I'm remembering Delhi.]
Four years ago this week, my wife and I arrived in Delhi and began exploring. On this particular day of 2012, we visited Chandni Chowk, definitely a highlight of the trip.
We marveled at the sensory intensity of the place: tightly packed, fast-moving crowds, twisting narrow lanes, a new packed little shop every few feet, something amazing to see everywhere you looked, calls to prayer, Hindi film songs over tinny speakers, chatting, street foods of all kinds, mosques, shrines, holy portraits, and insane electrical wiring! Like tourists, as I suppose we inescapably are, we rented a bicycle rickshaw manned by a polite young man speaking pretty good English.
He took us through, and around, and (I later realized) by arrangement, took us to a particular spice shop in the heart of the district. The shop was as packed and, well, spicy as you can possibly imagine and then some. We couldn't help buying something or other there, to take back to friends at home. At the end of our jaunt, our guide photographed me in the driver's seat.
These are some of my favorite photos, and memories, of my whole life. Add this one to the list, from our first full day in Dilli, of Bridget at a stone window of the Qutub Minar.
On Chandni Chowk day, we also visited the Jamma Masjid--the Friday Mosque--which stands right at the district's edge. What an inexpressibly gorgeous place it is. Just look...
I feel sickened, pretty much daily, here in the States, at hearing ignorant bigots angrily spewing their misinformation about Muslims. Dilli has a considerable Muslim population, particularly in this part of the city. We talked (or clumsily pantomimed) to many Muslim people right on their own turf, the Masjid for example, and they were helpful, sweet, welcoming, adorable, generous in every case in every moment. One man who, I gather, could not speak led us around the place. Somehow, between our questions--he seemed to understand our English pretty well--and his signs and nonverbal utterances, he gave us a guided tour. I was a little surprised by the way he threw his arm around Bridget for this photo, but it seemed companionable and not the least bit improper.
He dropped us off at a quiet corner of the Masjid where religious relics were kept. The man inside this little alcove showed us the prophet Mohammed's (peace be upon him) sandals and prayer beads, and a Koran many centuries old. These kind people, in short, showed us their dearest treasures, with smiles and respect.
Just for fun, notice how relatively huge the Big Gora is in this setting. Our rickshaw-wallah and guide are Bridget's size, which is over a foot shorter than me, and I had to bend almost double to see the holy relics.
My chest hurts, remembering all this. I want to go back and stay.