New Delhi and Agra| June 28, 2009
Since the last post I have travelled roughly 5,000 kilometers and visited three very different locales. I was presented with an opportunity to visit New Delhi when the head of the office was called there to attend a conference hosted by the Asian Human Rights Commission. I was visiting the head of the office's home for a dinner (tandori chicken) and he received a phone call. He talked in Bengali for several minutes as I sat and enjoyed the food. Afterwards, he inquired if I wanted to go to New Delhi. I replied, why not and next thing I knew, less than 24 hours later, I was on a plane heading to New Delhi. The flight took off at 7 AM, which meant a 4:30 AM wake up time, an hour cab ride, and then the tedium of airport check-in and security.
I arrived in New Delhi at about 9 AM. The first thing that occurred after we stepped out of the airport was the cab driver attempted to rip myself and my boss in cab fare. One thing to note is that in India the cab drives and merchants do not only try to rip off foreigners. They also try to rip off other Indians who come from different states. Therefore in New Delhi, the various porters and drivers attempted to scam my Bengali co-worker just as much as myself. It seems, however, that the New Delhi Police are much better at trying to protect tourist interest. Upon hearing the cost, a local police officer stopped the driver and ticketed him. The conference did not begin until the next day, so I decided to take advantage of my free time.
About 350 KM away from New Delhi is Agra. And, within Agra is India's most famous building and it's "largest tribute to love," the Taj Mahul. The moment was built by a local ruler after the death of his wife. They were only married for twenty years, and during that time she gave birth to fourteen children and died while in labor for the fourteenth. In addition to the Taj Mahul I visited Agra Fort, which is India's largest Mogul fort. However, the trip itself was sort of cheapened by the hordes of merchants trying to sell me their overpriced tourist goods.
I returned to New Delhi at about 10 PM. I was glad I made the trip, however, I vowed never to go to Agra again. It's one of those, one time is enough, sort of places. The next day the conference began. The topic was discussing the Anti-Torture Bill and making amendments for its proposal for the India Parliament. I quickly made friends with two other interns, who were India law students were working for the Asian Human Rights Commission for the summer. The conference itself though seemed a bit inane. The group consisted of human rights advocates and lawyers. The two sides did not agree on anything. The human rights people wanted to purpose an idealistic agenda that no politician anywhere in the world would ever agree too. The lawyers were completely worried about the practicality of the manner. In the end, I could not help but feel like while the conference was certainly insightful to me, very little good would result from the proposal. In addition, I grew wearisome of the bickering.
The next day, I decided I would see New Delhi instead of returning to the conference. I saw the various sites ranging from the Parliament Building, High Court, Quatr Minar, Red Fort and Rahg Ghatt. In addition, I visited the "Tibet House," where the Dahli Lama stayed immediately after his exile from Tibet. It was a whirl-wind tour and I probably missed a great number of sites within New Dehli.
Upon returning to Kolkata I only had a day to prepare for my next journey. The primary part of my project with IBJ is a case documentation and analysis project. The cases that IBJ in particular is interested in are near the Bangladesh border and concern the atrocities against the local villagers by the police and border security force.
I will make another post shortly to describe some of the events that took place during that trip.