Sunday, July 1, 2012

Delhi Delights

It was my first time to visit New Delhi. (Yes, there is an 'Old' Delhi.) I've been to India twice before, but always visiting Mumbai. A business trip afforded me the chance to see a childhood dream - the Taj Mahal.

It is another 4.5 hours away from New Delhi. Quite a ride but all worth it when I finally came to behold the beauty of the monument/mausoleum in the late afternoon. The temperature was still in the late 30's, but certainly much better than the mid-40's of the mid-afternoon! And there were less people by 530pm (it's summer so sun sets late, past 6pm) and monument closes by 630pm.

The beauty of the Taj Mahal comes from the symmetry and the use of optical illusions in so many ways. For example, this archway makes the edifice seem to actually grow in size as one moves away from it! Amazing!

And those zigzagging columns on the corners look like they are uneven from afar when these are actually smooth surfaces. And none of that floral-Arabic detail is painted on, mind you! These are all etches on the surface, with the different colored semi-precious stones to achieve the color. (Think Lapiz Lazuli, Star of India gemstones!)

Another delightful surprise in New Delhi was my visit to the "Kingdom of Dreams". Ok, so the name of the place is quite kitschy but the entire complex is so impressive, with each and every surface made up of carvings and color and lightbulbs.

It is actually a theater with a restaurant building beside it. And we got to watch this amazing musical which could only be truly Indian in theme and style, "Zangoora". Too bad I couldn't take pictures while the two-hour musical was ongoing. But I assure you, the show is breathtaking.

Production-wise, the show did not spare any expense. Aside from the multi-level LED stage backdrop, even the sides of the theatre had LCD screens that changed with the scenery. And there were hanging cables everywhere, allowing the cast to come from literally everywhere (top, down, side) to dazzle the audiences.

And true to form, the show is the embodiment of the Bollywood style of music and dancing. According to my Indian hosts, the musical incorporated popular Bollywood songs and just a few original numbers. Bollywood came to life on stage, with all of its color, and terpsichorean skill! I certainly appreciate all that is Indian in that show, particularly the Indian male.

But of course, the lead star is a gypsy king, a gorgeous, hunky Indian who could move like Jagger. He was really handsome, chiselled in that particularly Indian way. And the rest of the cast was ABS-olutely impressive, too! All the male dancers had abs on display, something not lost to the pink viewer! They definitely catered to all the sexes there! Whenever in New Delhi, I strongly suggest watching this!

My hosts treated me to a classic Indian icon - the Snake Charmer. This is actually banned in India now, due to the SPCA (animal cruelty guys). But with the right connections in the Delhi ghettoes, you can still find them. The cobra was certainly quite scary but not menacing, since it was quite small in size. Fascinating, nevertheless, for the deaf snakes really just respond to the charmer's movements.

This India trip was incredible and delightful and even nostalgic, as I came face to face with two Indian childhood fantasies - the Taj Mahal and the Snake Charmer.

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