Monday 20 April 2015
Highlights: The Paharganj slums, the children’s refuge, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sikh Temple, Jamaica Masijd (Great Mosque).
The first full day of the tour turned out to be eye opening. Before we started I woke up at 5.30 am local time, which is really 10 am In Australia so I used the time to walk around the local area and backtracked to the shopping district I saw last night. I saw the $15 million USA dollar residence which became a handy reference for the later visit to the Delhi slums.
We meet the to other group members, Yani and Sonia, who are from the USA after moving from South Korea. Our private bus ride of 35 minutes took us to the slum area in central Delhi, Paharganj. We then meet up with a former street kid, Noor, from the G Adventure supported children charity the Salaam Baalak Trust. The trust looks after street kids aged between 6 and 18. If they have parents they try to get them back together, if they are orphan’s they look after them until they can find a better situation. A number of former residents ex street kids now hold degrees.
The poverty of the situation can be overwhelming. There were rats in many places enjoying the sunlight. The refuge/house we visited is just for boys but they look after girls elsewhere. The children seemed happy and wanted to practise English with us. This is one of the reasons I travel with G Adventure you don’t just visit somewhere and take photos they also help charities and the underprivileged.
Walking around Paharganj I got to witness a couple of cows walking wherever they wanted. People even feed them since there is no grass in the area. To see people giving away food to cows in an area of such poverty was surreal. You also have to watch out for auto and cycle rickshaws, almost got run over a few times!
Next up was a visit to old Delhi. Our CEO Manu took us around a lot of back streets, he even organised so sweet coffee from a street vendor but warned us this was the only one in India to try street food. Watching the coffee being made I understand why no orgasms could live in that heat.
Next up was a visit to the Sikh temple of Gurdwara Sis Ganj established in 1783. Manu provided us with some basic understanding of Sihk beliefs and practices in particular the belief of one God incorporating all religions with a god figure. You must walk in the temple with bare feet and your head covered in a cloth. The temple provides free food to anyone who wants it as core principle is to be selfless.
The last stop in Delhi was the Jamaica Masijd or the ‘Great Mosque’. As I was wearing long short I only needed to wear a covering cloth for my legs. All the women regardless of coverings had to wear a full body (not head) covering. We once again had to go shoeless but this time as it was outside in 38+ temperatures it was a bit more difficult as the ground was very hot. The court yard here is massive and can be filled with 25,000 worshippers. We left just as they start the ‘call to prayer’ chats.
The long road to Agra was to be the rest of the day taking well over 5 hours in our air conditioned (thank god) private bus. In one day I saw the richest 1% and the poorest 1% and that’s not just for India I mean the world. They live so close together.
India has made massive progress in lifting the extreme poor up but still 20% of there population still live with basically nothing. The prospective this kind of poverty gives you when you think about the riches we live in is hard to ignore the inequality. It makes you understand the term ‘first world’ problems when we whinge and complain over nothing and appreciate the many advantages I’ve been born into.