Monday, March 23, 2015

Quila-i-Mubarak: The Blessed Fort (Part 3)



Truly blessed at The Blessed Fort
Indeed, I am truly blessed. And humbled.

God knows I'm an orphan child - without anyone to rely on in this world. Like water, I continue to flow. With no destination in mind, just free flowing to where the crowds lead. At the entrance of the Red Fort, I was just in time to be joined by a group of foreign businessmen who happens to have an extra pair of tickets ...... for me! I don't know anyone of them, but one of them seemed to know me! I was only a lone traveller in this exotic land and stumbled across another traveller who offered me a free entry into India's largest monument. I was truly blessed. Thankful to God for bestowing me with his rich blessings, taking me to places I've never been before. These must be the fruits of my faith in the Almighty.

The Lahori Gate
The stark difference from being in such close proximity to other exotic creatures to suddenly having huge expanse of spaces to walk upon was truly a relief to the senses. This was once the place for ancient royalties - for kings, princes, princesses and their harem. The Lahori Gate was truly remarkable to see - its red sandstone still looks so red today. Upon entry, I was greeted by the bazaar where trinkets of all kinds were sold. I remembered purchasing an embroidered rug earlier at the "Museum of Textile" at the Kailash district. I suspected the trader there might have cheated me and tried to enquire and compare the prices here instead. It's almost the same price. But I remembered Ali at The Metro informing me that I could get the rug for 400 rupees lesser.




The Museum
I continued serenading further into the corridor from the Lahori Gate. The high ceilings above finally gave way to the open skies. The air becomes slightly hotter for the afternoon sun was shining mercilessly down. Quickly, I was led by the hot breeze turning left towards the Museum where the air seem cooler. The whole history of India's independence from the British Empire can be found displayed in this museum. Large portraits of the many Indian heroes and heroines can be found along the hallways including the famous Gandhi. For me, I was more interested in the pre-history before the fight for Independence, when the king Shah Jahan built this magnificent palace.


Diwan-i-Aam
I walked through the long entryway towards a pavillion housing the marbled grave of the emperor. It's the grandest tomb I've ever seen with its carved stone lid on top of the giant marbled case where the body of the emperor is resting. It is further protected by a giant glass case where at the top lies an ornately carved marble cottage. Higher above lies the ceiling with the half-moon crescent motifs indicative of the emperors' Islamic heritage. It's time to leave the Diwan-i-Aam and enter the Imperial enclosure.



The Imperial Enclosure
Here must be where the royalties relax and just let loose after all the strict public addressings were made at Diwan-i-Aam. I can hear birds chirping and flying across the crystal blue sky. I could see the Khas Mahal and Rang Mahal ahead of me. I walked towards it, enjoying the cool air. Along the way, a couple of locals asked me to be in their pictures. I found this to be a little strange, but agreed anyway. I supposed I must be as exotic as any of the beautiful monuments there and meant to be photographed too and be kept in their collections. I noticed also many tiny squirrels squrrying around up and down into the trees.


Can you spot the two tiny squirrels?
I followed quietly one of the squirrels into one of the trees and two more quickly appeared. These two were looking at me intently as I neared them. It was not afraid or easily frightened by my presence. They might have thought I was one of the Imperial princes coming to feed or hide it inside my golden imperial robe to be brought back as some amusement for the royal harem. I left these squirrels alone in their mischief. I was too entranced to be gazing into the Life-Bestowing Garden (Hayat Bakhsh Bagh).



A peek inside the forbidden pavillion
The reservoirs are now dried. But imagine what a beautiful garden this must be in the ancient times. The Zafar Mahal at the centre stands beautifully in between the two white pavillions of Savon and Bhadon. I was tempted to jump into the imaginary waters of my mind and frolicked with the birds. But it seems everywhere is dry. The hot sun above was shining at its zenith and I need to find some shades to cool off before I leave.




The Shahi Burj
The green grass looked so calming even in the absence of any water reservoir. The Emperor's study room (Shahi Burj) and its pavillions were surrounding me. Being on the grass was enough for me to absorb all the Emperor's secret and magical knowledge in building this magnificent palace of his. I laid my tired head on the soft ground and listened to its grass whispering words of ancient wisdom, carried by the wind into my ear. The wind was blowing gently at first but soon turned into a sudden gush. Like the wind, I too, have to fly into its direction ... wherever it may blows.


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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chandhi Chowk - Close Collision (Part 2)


A close collision of vehicles and human traffic.





Transcendence.

This is the topmost feeling a visitor could ever hope for when setting foot for the first   time time in a land as ancient as Delhi. Cities like Berlin, New York and Tokyo are driven 100% by capitalism. But Old Delhi is a different city altogether.


Once I've visted Old Delhi, I'm never ever going to be the same again. It's like the sounds and sights I've watched in movies suddenly came real with it's sudden burst of reality drowning me with its moving colors. This is the real India I came to fall in love with in the first place. Not it's stars and movies. But it's raw authenticity and extreme realism. All my petty problems and prejudices against other human beings suddenly vanishes together with the dusts and fumes of the vehicles passing by. And the vehicles come in all shapes and sizes too, same like its people. The roads are twice the size smaller than the ones in Tokyo. In very strange ways, the limited spaces seem to cram everything together in one square foot. And within that one square foot, I've discovered rubbish, spits, roadside vendors and folks rushing by like birds on some kind of exodus - travelling from one spot to another. And everything is connected so intricately, yet messily sometimes but always in a picture perfect moment. There's really no other place like Old Delhi. A place so ancient, I dare not spend the nights there! Just like Georgetown, Penang - haunted by its ghosts and spirits. Its people, especially those young men waiting at their trishaws waiting for customers, have that deep voided expression that I could fill colours in if I wanted, but refused to. Their looks are adorned with hardship but one that is by their own reckoning.


The chaotic lines of wires that connects the city.
I wish I could talk to them and hear their stories - which I'm definite it's way far better than any Bollywood movie could ever portray. They are such a mystery to me and I to them. But as men, a kinship is undeniable. These trishaw men have to cycle through the bustling streets of Delhi, competing against those buses and cars - how do they do it? It's the big against the small. They have to or they'll have no money to survive. An Indian friend told me it's because of their own ignorance that caused their current hardship. But I found that hard to believe. Nobody is born into this world expecting to live like this. Most, if not all, are without parents or families to rely on. Solo loners navigating this sea of people without any attachments or commitments. Perhaps they may even be happier cycling a trishaw than working in a corrupted government office! Nobody knows. Not even me. But the not-knowing of what the future holds is way better for me. This is because then you lose all perceived control of your live and finally just live one day at a time. This is how poverty seems so meaningful to people living with it. They don't want to know what happens next. They just let it happen. Like little creatures at the bottom of the jungle floor. And I am like them, a small foreign creature finding my way in this maze of masala. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

And like bliss, I become the water that flows with it. Throngs of people coming out from the train station, up to the streets that's housing even more people! My eyes cannot seem to focus on the people but instead become fixated on the old buildings lining the bustling streets. And the streets are still in construction at the time I arrived. Even on a working day, people are still moving endlessly like a river. Unlike in a more developed cosmopolitan city like KL, we have specific times when the shopping malls will be lesser traffic. But here in Old Delhi, specifically Chowdhi Chonk - scores of people moving about in their business without the concerns of any timetable. As I looked up and towards the end of the street, I spotted a dark red building that looked so familiar. My mind and body was too tired to be walking aimlessly and suddenly determined to walk towards that red building. As I walked, the road was so uneven and rocky. At one moment, I have to ducked under some wires and the next moment a worker would be carrying a giant sack of sand across me. Hurdles are meant to be crossed when you have a place in mind. And so I prodded on, even though my throat was beginning to feel patchy.


The Ice-cream street vendor
Like clockwork, I stopped by a man selling like what it seems to be ice-cream! I cannot stop myself to buy one - and there's no problem about choosing which flavors. There's only one - and it's the most delicious ice-cream I've ever tasted in my entire life! The ice-cream came in the shape of long phallic size, almost 8-inches. It is held by a sturdy stick. When I bite into it, the cold doesn't hurt my teeth at all! Instead, all the flavours were thick and almost chewable!  I can taste butter, thick syrup, condensed Indian milk and corns. I can't read Hindi, so I asked a friend I make in the plane and asked him about the name of the ice-cream. It's called Khoyakulfi. In the extreme state of ecstasy of tasting this phallic-shaped ice-cream, suddenly the whole tasty cream came off from the stick and fell onto the ground!  The Indian men watching me tasting the ice-cream gave me a sympathetic howl. I quickly picked it up and finished it off anyway!


Stray dog with one ear
When I first came across the ice-cream seller, a stray dog was already watching me by the side. It then followed me to the side when I first tasted that glorious ice-cream. The look  and fur of the stray dog looked so similar to my other childhood pet dog. I felt a sudden surge of affection for this poor dog and observed it's cute face. It has lost the top part of it's left doggy ear! Oh my gosh! I almost cried and nearly wanted to share my Khoyakulfi with it. But why was this poor dog so fixated on me? Did it mistaken me as it's long-lost master? I really wanted to ask this dog why is it following me. If only dogs could talk. Or I can talk in it's language. When I tried losing myself from it's fixation on me, it tried finding me frantically! I was hiding behind the passing civilians, and there it was prancing up and down the street looking...FOR ME! I gave it a pat on the head and wished it'll have a good life.


At the court of Red Fort
The last hurdle was crossing the main road where the red building finally came into its full viewing glory. It's the famous Red Fort! Giant, majestic and with quite some history. I walked across the road and immediately upon reaching the other side, a few trishaw and auto drivers began to persuade me to take their service. I smiled and continued walking on until I reached the perfect spot to take a picture.

To be continued..."Inside The Red Fort"


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Friday, March 20, 2015

First Destination Upon Arrival in Delhi - Kailash Colony (Part 1)

Here's my driver Hassan reenacting his placard holding
stance at the airport after he peed.


India is indeed incredible. It's a nation that often finds the best to outdo it's past achievements. They already have the world's largest population with a young relative age of 27. They also have the world's second tallest minaret - Qutub Minar.

Now they want Southeast Asia's tallest building too -KLCC.

Everyone I know who's been there described the country as one-of-a kind and often encourages me to go too. But for me to travel to a foreign place, I have to leave it with some form of an imprint. Let's call it an exchange for I am not the sort that goes to faraway places without giving and taking something out from it. You can call me the more active traveller versus the passive. When an opportunity opens for me to act in a commercial shoot in New Delhi, without any hesitation, I did all I possibly could to make it a smooth reality - from the ridiculous amount of work in getting the visa myself (my agent just sleeps at home) to the renewing of my passport. It's a lot of work when the schedule changed at the last minute, rendering all the money spent for the express visa unnecessary. I've tried to keep my cool. There's a million other things to worry about. But I've learned a few important lessons along the way.

When travelling alone, travel in style.
Just arrive at Indira Gandhi
International Airport.
When the ticket was finally ready, I packed only the necessary stuff to fit in my traveller's bag. I spent the night at KLIA to leap forward the queue of many travellers that time. This was going to be my first trip to India, and I want to be ready to take in all the sights and sounds I possibly could. At the airport, I discovered the wi-fi connection to be non-useful and that breaks down my communication with the production crew there. My mind was busy taking in all the new sights and sounds, and the other part was feeling the jetlagged-ness. I called the production crew using the old-style telephone stand. There's an assistant sitting by the telephone stands to help me dial the number. Finally, I've reached the production crew and he told me a driver had been designated for me. He was carrying a placard bearing my name - Krish Law. I don't know whether this was an unintentional mistake or a local humor trying to Indianize my stage name.

Setting up a tent in the slum area.
All the waiting aside, finally got into the sedan where the driver sped through the many crooked and bumpy roads zig-zagging towards my destination (in which I still have no idea where about). At first when I enquired the driver where he was taking me, he told me it was to the shooting location! I couldn't believe this after barely an hour out from the plane, I have to start working! My mind began the prepatory process of readying my body language and facial expression for the shoot that was about to happen. After the driver make a call, he then changed his answer and told me that we're heading to the hotel instead. I took a sigh of relief for I cannot do anything else but lay flat on the bed for maybe just an hour to retinker my tired brain and body. The roads were bumpy and vehicles were speeding through outside like they were on a race. A constant stream of loud car honking were heard outside, further assaulting my poor tired senses. Suddenly, the driver stopped the sedan at a dusty and bushy part of a side road. There were no brick buildings around and he told me he needed to pee! Apparently, public urination is a norm here in New Delhi! I could try to sympathise with him because there's no public toilets around in this patch of dusty and isolated spot of land. When nature calls, a man has to do what a man has to do.

Tailors working in the "Textile Museum"
After he's done with his business, we drove into a series of slum areas. Almost entirely you will see folks setting up colorful tents besides the road or large clusters of wooden and aluminium ceilings being constructed to house the poor. The cars and other vehicles on the road are very agressive. The constant honking and cutting through each other on the road are what it seems. Vehicles' blaring its horns has become the signature symphony for Delhi as we got closer to the centre of Greater Kailas. The hotel where I'm staying turned out not to be the Hyatt but The Allure instead. I was somewhat disappointed because of the change of hotel accomodation after much high expectation but my jet-laggedness left me in a hurried state to drop off everything immediately to shower and get some snooze. I was grilling the hotel attendant Jana with questions -from getting me the charger parts needed to recharge my devices to the way the shower handler turns to release water. It's all foreign to me! I could not charge all my electronic devices with the Malaysian type charge plugs. It just wouldn't fit in the Indian electric sockets.  Thankfully, the attendant Jana was patient and soft-spoken to attend all my queries and needs. I'll give him a 5-star.

The Auto driver
After all is done, I quickly jumped into the shower. I encountered some technical problems in the shower for the steel water releaser wasn't releasing any water at all.  I called the reception again and he showed me the correct direction in pulling the steel ledge. After some playful tinkering, the hot water is finally out relaxing my tired body. Suddenly in the middle of my shower, I received a call in my room! The reception told me to move into another room to share with another person! My expectations were further crushed to witness such abrupt changes again and agaim but my body was too weak to do anything. So I said OK, bathed and quickly laid my tired head to snooze until the attendant comes to alert me about the move into another room. I complained about these disruptive changes to the crew but he assured me it will only be one night. The other point he mentioned was I'm sharing the room with another fellow actor! I hated this arangement for I wasn't under the impression I was going to share a room with a complete stranger in the first place!

I am most insecure of my belongings and what happens when this stranger opens the door when I'm in the middle of changing into my underwear? He already took the room key with him and the hotel has only one. So everytime I want to go out to explore the street, I have to leave a note at the reception. Blady inconvenient. But I was too jetlagged to think anymore and so I slept for awhile and dream. I hope the other mystety actor sharing the room with me would be Amitabh Bachan. That way, I could befriend him and let him introduce me to his illustrious friends in Bollywood. If he refused, then I would strapped both of his hands with my leather belt at the bedpost and used some sadomasochistic force to extract the secret formula for his successful career as a Bollywood superstar. "Tell me, Amitabh Bachan, is it because of your height and fair skin that make you so successful?"

The M-Market
As the day dragged on and I slept, I've noticed how precious these daylight hours were and I should get up and explored the district of Kailash Colony. I've passed through the hotel entrance before this and noticed the metal-detector stand for everyone coming into the hotel. I felt a sudden grip of insecurity for this is a new place to me and I might need some advice on the danger level here. These metal detectors stands were everywhere - at the airport too. I asked if it's safe enough for me to walk around and it turns out to be no problem. It's a strange feeling being the ONLY oriental guy walking along these streets. People were looking at me strangely. But I have my trench coat on and pulled up my hoody. I've passed through many ornatedly-designed houses with names like Mehtas, Kapoors and Khans at the entrance. Some of these beautiful stone houses were turned into commercial centres for beauty and skin cares or for dental and general healthcare. It really was an entrepreneurial strip of road here. The rows of beautiful and really top-class architecture of these houses leave me such a nice feeling. Unfortunately, the constant loud honking of vehicles on the road makes this beauty kind of painful. But the truth is anywhere in the world, no place is perfect.

The Hindu Temple of Krishna
I continued to walk and unexpectedly turned into the M-Marketplace. I've asked a production crew about that place, and she told me it's a high-end place to shop. There's a nice and balanced designated green area like playgrounds and parks along this district. This Kailash Colony seems to be the place for all the upper-class of society. On the last day of my trip here, I hired an Auto driver to take me around to any places of interest here. The Auto driver was the one to initiate this sort of sight-seeing and he offered to take to 3 places for 100 Rupees. The first place he took was this Hindu temple. Shoes were not permitted inside the temple. I walked around and enjoy looking at the many paintings of the god Krishna. Strangely enough, I remembered my driver identifying me as Krish instead of Kris. I walked to the centre court and saw the lovely statue of the God surrounded by water. Next off, the Auto driver took me to a museum of Indian textiles. Now this sounds a bit dodgy to me because the place he took me was actually a place for tourist to buy soveniers. I looked around and found a cashmere scarf for men, a diamond ring and a floor carpet with very ornately-designed stones and metals embroidery. On the way to my last destination, I asked the Auto driver how much he's paid to bring tourists to that "museum".

The last place he took me before he dropped me off at The Metro was a protected monument park. He told me it's a great place to visit but I quickly stopped him and said I have had enough of parks and also his cheating and conniving ways to suck money out from my breasts. I am not the Goddess Durga with her long large breasts where milk and honey flows for everyone to enjoy! But he was persistent and told me it's the best place for history and the park contained a very ancient stone where his God has written some holy words on the stone. I relented and accepted it for I merely just wanted to show him that I'm no fool to his trickery.  The park wasn't exactly big but have beautiful trees surrounding this rock hill. At the top is where the ancient stone was.......encased in an iron cage! How can anyone go near to the rock to read what it says? Never mind, consider this my good deed for the day. I'm already tired of New Delhi and can't wait to visit the Old Delhi next.

To be continued...



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