We disembark from the rickshaw near Connaught Place, and wander off along the wide, clean streets lined with grand white buildings. The cycle rickshaw ride was fun but none of us are sorry to get off. Coming into New Delhi is like emerging into an entirely different place. There is very little traffic around, and no cows at all, or any other animal. No cycle rickshaws either, only the green and yellow autos, and the standard cars and motorbikes.
We wander the broad and empty streets, just looking around, and hunting for an ATM. People on the street repeatedly tell us: ‘The mall is shut; it is Sunday’, and ‘The shops are closed, today is Sunday.’ To which we reply that we know, and are not shopping. It becomes quite comical, with every person who speaks to us telling us exactly the same thing. They seem confused and uncomprehending that we have no desire to go shopping. ‘Is it so strange just to walk around somewhere?’, I begin to wonder.
Eventually I get into the high security basement of an HSBC to use an ATM. The place – a massive HSBC complex – is deserted, except for several armed security guards, who are all very welcoming.
We make our way back along the roads and through a pristine, sparkling clean and deserted subway. This is a stark contrast with Mumbai’s subways that I know around Churchgate and Mahalakshmi, which are very well used, and, to be honest, filthy – but heaving with life. Down in Mumbai’s southern subways, there are many stalls selling clothes, gadgets, food and drink. At the Churchgate rail station subway you can even get hot meals and passport photographs done, as well as printing and other services.
On emerging from the subway, we are followed by a street child. I give him all the change I have, but it is not enough, and, after refusing my offer of a bottle of water, he follows us all the way to Jantar Mantar. Once we reach there, an Indian girl sees the four of us and tells him off in Hindi, and the boy leaves.
Jantar Mantar is a large open-air observatory, consisting of 13 pieces of architecture that function as astronomical instruments. It was built around 1724 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur. The instruments were used to predict the movements of the Sun, moon, stars and planets, and for compiling astronomical tables.
The Samrat Yantra served as a giant sundial for measuring time, and could tell the time correctly to half a second.
The Jai Prakash Yantra was able to tell the time and the sign of the zodiac.
The Ram Yantra could measure the position of stars based on the latitude and the longitude on the earth.
The Mishra Yantra was able to indicate when it was noon in various cities across the world.
The instruments can no longer be used for their original purposes due to the high buildings all around, but New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar is significant in the history of astronomy.
More on Jantar Mantar, Delhi, and Jaipur: http://phil-indianmemories.blogspot.in/search?q=jantar+mantar
After exploring the observatory, we walk towards Connaught Place, stopping for ice cream and drinks. In the middle of Connaught Place lies Central Park, a large public open green space.