Letter From New York 03 26 15 Second Day in India, at Humayun’s Tomb

It is said that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. I must either be a mad dog or an Englishman as I was out in the noonday sun in Delhi. It was a lazy morning and I slept in later than I intended; I couldn’t seem to roust myself from sleep. After a leisurely cup of coffee and some email work, my friend, Raja, sent his driver Emmanuel for me to take me out sightseeing.

Emmanuel doesn’t have much English. An Indian native, he is a 7th Day Adventist. He did understand Qutub Minar and we drove there through the noonday traffic. Once I had purchased my ticket, I was approached by a guide who would take me through the site; the cost was 300 Rupees, about $5. I thought: why not.? His name was, I think, Parbal.

Qutub Minar is the site of Delhi’s oldest mosque. Qutub Minar is the minaret built to call the faithful to prayer. It is a magnificent edifice and a World Heritage Site. Built of red sandstone and marble, it towers to 73 meters. Its construction started in the late 12th century and was finished in the mid 14th century. The entire complex was amazing and Parbal took me through it, step by step for about 90 minutes.

There is an iron pillar in the midst of the complex. It predates the Qutub Minar and it was said that if you held your arms around it backwards, your wish would be granted. It is now fenced off. I was annoyed. I have a couple of wishes I’d like granted.

From there, I went to Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was a 16th Century Mughal Emperor who inherited a kingdom, lost it and then got it back with help from the Persians. While not a good military strategist, he was a very good man, which earned him the title of “Perfect Man” among the Mughals.

He had several rascally brothers who kept betraying him and he kept forgiving them, several times over in the course of his lifetime. By the end of his life, he had recovered his empire and expanded it. His son was Akbar the Great.

It was the first garden tomb in India, surrounded as it is by acres of gardens, threaded through with narrow water channels and dotted here and there with fountains. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1993 and has since then undergone much restoration. It was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.

I visited it twenty years ago and attest that it is definitely in better shape than it was then.

As Emmanuel drove me through the streets of Delhi, I realized another change in the city. There are fewer homeless crowding the boulevards. Twenty years ago when you left the manicured gardens of the Oberoi Hotel, you were immediately thrust onto a boulevard crowded with rough tents and hundreds of people living there. Not so today.

Stopping for a bite to eat in a little brasserie, I watched a bit of the big Cricket match, not that I could make much sense of it. Everyone else was enraptured by the proceedings, not caring about anything else.

But while I was sleeping and touring, the world kept ticking on.

The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia rebels in Yemen and have amassed 150,000 troops to be used if they need them. The paper left at my door here at the India International Center, had a front-page report about the Yemeni President fleeing his home.

In a confusing and disturbing report, it appears one pilot was locked out of the cockpit at the time of the Germanwings crash in the Alps. The voice recorder reveals the pilot knocking on the door lightly and then pounding on it and then trying to break it down.

The military is going to charge Bowe Bergdahl with desertion, bringing, once again, into question the prisoner exchange that secured his release.

The US has now been asked by Iraq to send airstrikes in support of the effort to liberate Tikrit, where the offensive has stalled. It started doing so while I was asleep last night.

In Mosul, continuing their winning ways, IS stoned to death a couple in their 20’s for adultery and beheaded three young men because they were nephews of an opponent. Residents of Mosul are urging the Iraqi government to rescue them.

The sun is beginning to set outside the window of my room. A soft light is signaling the beginning of the end of the day. In awhile, my friend Raja will come and we will go off to dinner.

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