India Day 4

There may be a reason white girls my age don’t wear kurtas back home but at the moment I can’t think of one because I look #stylin. This is how the day begins– with knee length lime green paisley and red stripes. We all don our kurtas and scarves for a later trip to the more conservative Old Delhi, and to be honest, we kind of rock them. I don’t know how they did it, but the generous Roshni ladies managed to match five or six insanely busy patterns together in a unique and beautiful blend for each of us.

At the IIC, we start the day off right with some Yoga. The second item of the morning is skits written and presented by both groups; Roshni and Castilleja. Both skits are centered around women working, learning and managing families. As expected, the Roshni skit is wonderfully crafted. It follows the story of one under-appreciated young housewife who switches bodies with her husband for a day. Hilarity ensues when we watched the bewildered husband try to deal with the nagging stepmother and the needy children. The skit takes on a more serious, touching tone when the couple is restored to their own bodies and both the husband and the stepfather learn to respect and appreciate the housewife’s hard work. Our skit is well received,  and can be explained best as a series of vignettes representing the diversity of opportunities for women in America.

After the skits, we are surprised by a visit from the Ford Foundation’s Kavita Ramdas. Kavita is the former President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. Read more about her at her Wiki page! She gives a brief, incredibly eloquent speech on the importance of feminism in both of our countries, and answers a few questions. All the girls leave the presentation feeling inspired and empowered by her passion.

Then we are off to New Delhi! We are all exceedingly excited about the trip because it had just been un-canceled. First step: RICKSHAW RIDE!

We are told beforehand that the rickshaw ride is a “roller coaster” and “absolutely frickin terrifying.” It turns out to be neither of those things (we average about 2 mph), but do not think for a second that it is a disappointment. The rickshaw ride turns out to be the absolute best possible way to truly experience Old Delhi. We are undeniably in the thick of it. At some points, the streets are so narrow that you are rubbing elbows with strangers. In other areas, the streets are wide and packed full of life– women in bright, flashy saris and motorcycles and street vendors and little kids and everyone is shouting and honking and laughing and you almost don’t know where to direct your eyes but you don’t want to miss a moment of it. At times, the traffic is so tightly packed that our rickshaw driver is cutting the front wheel at almost 90 degree angles to fit between cars. Meg is my rickshaw buddy, and at least twice a minute we turn to one another to say, “I wish we could eat the street food!” Everything smells so good! And of course, the whole scene is lit in the hazy orange and gold light of the Delhi smog and framed by the loops and swoops of telephone wires hanging across alleyways. To best honest, I’d have loved another half hour of it, but I’m pretty sure our driver would have passed out.

From the rickshaw ride, we go to the Jama Masjid mosque. After about a hundred years of scarf adjustment, our hair is adequately covered and we remove our shoes and walk into the courtyard. Massive, red stone arches stand over four entry gates. The largest and most elaborate is the entrance used only by the Emperor.

A sort of hush falls over our whole group when we move through such an obviously holy place. Sock-clad feet fall quietly. No one is in a rush to disturb the serenity of such an ancient sanctuary. And, of course, we are rendered breathless by the beauty of the mosque. At one point, we approach the Emperor’s entrance at a new angle, and beside me, Gabby breathes out, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Before us, the sun is a perfect circle of orange flame peeking out from behind the domed roof of a tower. It’s like any Indian movie you’ve ever seen, but infinitely more spectacular.

No matter how enchanting, the mosque is small potatoes compared with what comes next. Next, we visit the largest Hindu temple in the world, Akshardham. Unfortunately, photos of any kind are banned, so I cannot share any with you. But one look at the outside, and I feel like an Indian princess, although I am not noble and very white. The temple has that effect on you.

The inside of the temple defies description. To try would be a travesty. Parents, friends, I apologize for the shortcomings of the English language. Please ask your daughters/sisters about it when they return; I am confident they will remember it.

Finally, we drive back to the guest house at 8:00. We have a quick dinner and head to bed. No one is tempted to stay up late (except me, finishing this dang blog), because we arise at 5:45 tomorrow to get ready for Agra and the TAJ MAHAL!!!

Phrases of the day:

(concerning feminism)

“Know when to be Kali and when to be Parvati.”

(concerning the rickshaw rides)

“We’re probably going to die.”

(Concerning the temple)

“Holy crap.”

photo 3 (1)yoga! (Take this opportunity to play Spot Your Child!)
photo 2 (1)
photo 1 (1)Emily and Colby enjoy lunch with the Roshni girls
photo 4 (1)Kavita Ramdas!!! (third from left)
photo 5 (1)unflattering picture of the mosque (again, no photos inside)

Sophie, signing off!

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Showing 4 comments
  • Spencer Keene

    Hi sweetheart. We aren’t certain you received my comment so I will try again..I just read and reread the wonderful comments of your journey. This is to McKenna. You will find enlightening depths in your yoga. I used to teach it. Along with the serenity. You will find the connection between mind and body. So many questions we’ have for you. Guess we will just have to come down and visit since we will miss you in 2 weeks.

    Oh, I must say the comment about the rickshaw…”we’re going to die”. Just cracked me up. Love you, Memaw

  • Spencer Keene

    Well, sorry we missed most of your trip!

    Hope you have had a wonderful time and we look forward to hearing all about it.

    Love you,


  • Jill Keene

    McKenna, Pepaw and I feel awful to not have written yet. We love you so much. We understand we won’t see you this visit. Are you checking out Columbia.

    You are in such a beautiful place. Are you learning a form of yoga. I taught it for some time. It is so peaceful and a balance between body and mind. We can’t wait to see and hear all you have to tell us

    So much love to you. Memaw & Pepaw

  • Sue

    Awesome descriptions! Another great piece, Karly!

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