As crop fires burn throughout the Punjab right now, a crescent of dense smoke, visible from outer space, hovers over Delhi.
It’s a bit disorienting to move from a place where we dealt with incredible pollution all the time to a place where it’s a mostly seasonal thing. Expats in China tend to take a very “if I don’t think about it, it can’t affect me” approach to the pollution there. We had no reliable data on air quality in Chengdu and so made our decisions to go outdoors based on a highly unscientific “how many city blocks can you see?” equation. By the end of our tour, we rarely stayed indoors on bad air days–there were just too many of them. We would have gone stir-crazy staying inside all the time.
In contrast, Delhi’s pollution is mostly a winter-time phenomenon. 8 months out of the year we enjoy relatively normal big-developing-city pollution levels–making these last few pre-winter days feel all the more dramatic. It’s true, this is a very polluted, incredibly dusty place, but somehow it’s still different-more organic, less scary– than in China.
Perhaps I should have kept Will indoors all day long yesterday, but I didn’t find that out until after our little outing. I told myself and approximately everyone I knew that I was going to see Jantar Mantar the day after Halloween. So we had to go, and we did. Fog be darned.
Five years ago I went to Jaipur and saw the big beautiful Jantar Mantar there. The giant geometric statues randomly dotting the huge flat marble platform looked to me like a giant’s jungle gym. The whole thing fascinated me.
Of course, these statues are neither random nor purely decorative. They were, and still are, some of the most precise instruments from the ancient world. Astronomers used them to calculate and predict the celestial and lunar calendars and to keep time. The sun-dials at Jantar Mantar are accurate not just to the hour or the minute, but all the way down to the second–a fact that blows my mind every time I see them.
The New Delhi Jantar Mantar lacks some of the pizazz of the one in Jaipur, but what it lacks in polish it makes up for in stairs. Lots of stairs. When your sightseeing with a toddler, stairs are a very bit, exciting deal.
So are all of the tiny, toddler-sized tunnels through which a Mama cannot easily follow. I panicked for just a second, at the thought of chasing Will,with my broken toe, through all of those little wormholes. Thank goodness though for separation anxiety! Will, being the good samaritan that he is, was also kind enough to collect all sorts of treasures for me from his exploration of the sun dial.
We met some tourists, some local kids hanging out and one older gentlemen who asked me if I was Indian and then either did not understand or did not care that I couldn’t understand his Hindi. He did however, want a photo:
Jantar Mantar is a fairly quick stop as far as Delhi tourist attractions go. Within about 30 minutes we were back in the car. Poor Will spent a lot of time in the car yesterday as his aunt and I went on a wild goose-chase through horrendous traffic to find a nature-themed mela going on across town. The two hours we spent in the car were not ideal but the mela was amazing–not an adjective I think I’ll use when describing many melas in the future. We’ll hopefully go back for more pictures (and more Christmas shopping!) this weekend.