We moved over to the Taj Diplomatic Enclave hotel early yesterday afternoon, our “home” in Delhi for the next three days. Check in was a little hectic as a huge international conference was taking place, and the lobby was filled with high-ranking military officers from all over the world (which was the reason we were at the Maurya last night – all rooms were booked at the Taj). The Taj is as elegant as the Maurya, maybe more so, and we were greeted personally by the manager, and after being shown to our room a waiter showed up with fresh coffee and cookies to help us get settled.
A little while later we met the other couple on our tour, Amy and Phil (from California) and hit it right off with them – they are going to be great travel partners! They will be continuing on with Easy Tours after Jaipur to visit another two cities, including Mumbai, before leaving India. We also met our tour guide, Luke, who has been with Easy Tours for 14 years. He suggested that since we had a free afternoon we go out to lunch and then visit the Gandhi Smriti (memorial) where Gandhi spent his last days and where he was assassinated and died.
We headed over for lunch to Lutyen’s restaurant, home of the best tandoori chicken in Delhi, and named after the architect who designed all the government buildings in 1912, during the height of the British Raj. On the way to the restaurat we passed by many embassies (including the U.S. embassy) and other famous government buildings, and also caught a glimpse of the Delhi Gate, where British royalty and viceroys were feted (and which we will visit today). Along with the very delicious tandoori chicken we also enjoyed fresh garlic naan, rice and dal (lentils), a fabulous and filling lunch!
Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life at Birla House, living simply and minimally in one room. On January 30, 1948, at around 5:00 p.m. in the evening, he walked through the double doors of the house with his nieces and down the path to the Birla Gardens for his evening prayer meeting. Shortly after stepping into the garden he was greeted by a Hindu terrorist, Godse, who then shot Gandhi three times at close range. Gandhi’s last words were “oh God” and he died instantly.
The memorial was very simple and very moving. The doors that Gandhi walked through are left open as they were the day he died. Footsteps mark his last walk down the path, and a memorial stone marks where he died. The room he lived in has been left as it was that day, and his few possessions are collected in a display case in the room. There are also displays in the house and outside highlighting Gandhi’s work for Indian independence and for non-violence and peace.
Today our official tour begins with visits to several sites around the city, including the India Gate and Viceroy’s palace, a Sikh temple, and Gandhi’s cremation site. We started our day off though with a sumptuous breakfast at the buffet provided by the hotel where there was almost too much to choose from.
The short tour yesterday along with lunch was a wonderful introduction to Delhi and a great way for us to become acquainted with our travel partners and our guide. Besides viewing the famous sites today, we’re also looking forward to seeing more of the city as we drive through it, and learning more about Delhi’s history from Luke.