The days are so long!
On Sunday we attended worship with a Christian community that Santosh has "planted" in New Delhi. We arrived ahead of the local folks. We sang some awaiting there arrival. When everyone arrived, we had a short service of word and table. Both Hindi and English hymns were sung. Santosh shared a really helpful perspective at the end of the worship as we began fellowship time. We are illiterate in Hindi -- not the Indians illiterate in English. Very helpful reframing, especially in the context of worship. I pulled the iPad out to take some pictures. The fun part was the ability to show the children the photos as they were taken. The girls were curious but reserved. The boys- not reserved. I gave it to two boys who were probably 12. They didn't need any instruction...clearly technology is something of a universal language. The little girls noticed my painted toes during worship - one saw them, poked another who poked another. Suddenly the Word was not so important. One little girl had a fantastic set of anklets on and was pleased I had noticed. Girl talk is also universal.
We then hopped back on the bus for the long drive to Agra. Much of the trip was on a very wide toll road, complete with rest areas with restaurants. Lunch at the rest area included hot spicy samosas and a type of flat bread with vegetables. in contrast to our American sodas, the fountain drinks were very small. Even the machine-made chai was wonderful! The countryside was planted in small plots, many the plots were various heights because they seem to harvest layers of clay for bricks. There would be stacks from 10 brick kilns visible at any time. Camels, donkeys and oxen worked in the fields. Geordie explained that these farms relied on bonded labor. Round grass huts or low brick buildings served as homes.
Agra sits on a large river and is an ancient city. The guide said that the city might be as much as 5000 years old. We toured Agra Fort, a beautiful set of fortified castles built by mogul kings. The area produces a red stone that carves well, and so the architectural details were intricate and beautiful. This area also specializes in white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones including lapis. There were parts of the castle adorned with flowers and vines. There was a summer residence with a water central cooling system and a winter residence with central heat -- both built 500 years ago. It was sunset getting cold fast. Upon exiting the fort we were overrun by men and boys hawking souvenirs. They were aggressive--pushy and close.
We then stopped at a state run crafts store where we bought silk, wool, and local marble. With some rupees spent, it was time to find our hotel -- a warm haven after a chilly day of sightseeing. The highlight of the evening was a spontaneous soirée with surprise musical talent in our midst. Good times. Sleep beckoned. On Monday, the Tajmahal!