I had opted to hire a taxi from the friendly neighborhood taxi operator. There are many of them with offices under a big tree, located conveniently among various societies in the locality I live, i.e., I.P Extension in Patparganj. Hiring a taxi on a full day basis is the cost and time effective way of seeing Delhi. The normal charges are Rs.500/- for 80 km within 12 hours (8 am to 8 pm). Extra kilometers will be charged at Rs.5/- per km. If you hire a taxi from the Paharganj, it may cost you 100 bucks more.
As I am familiar with locations of the tourist spots in Delhi, we headed straight to Lotus temple or the Bahai temple. I was surprised to be greeted by a fairly strong crowd even in the heat of a north Indian summer. Most of the tourist appears to be from Southern part of India. So they might not be feeling the heat at all even though it was in high 30s with sapping humidity. But we felt the heat quite a bit, as we had to stand in a long queue to enter the monument. For my mother it was the only new thing, as it did not exist 20 years back. Honestly speaking, I find nothing spectacular about the structure. The Akshardham temple is much better piece of engineering, architecture and craftsmanship. Though there is no entry fee, the parking charges for car is a fat Rs.25/-, even if you park on the road. The contractor is probably talking advantage of the zone system of parking and is charging rates of the adjoining Nehru Place areas.. The parking fees for all other tourist places are Rs.15/- at the most. If you have time constraint, better visit the Akshardham temple rather than this.
We then headed to the Qutub Minar. It was a photo opportunity for me. I tried with certain things and came up with some good shots. Even in ruins, the place has a charm. I have now graduated from the point and shoot photography to some more serious one taking care of composition and exposure.
My aim was to show my mother the places, which are not covered, in a typical Delhi darshan. So I told the driver to take us to the Chanakyapuri area for a nice view of the embassies lining the Shanti path. We then had a detour of the Willingdon Crescent and saw the Salt March Monument, picture of which is on the Rs.500/- currency notes. The taxi moved ahead to the Gole Dakkhana that proudly displays the first PIN no of the nation, i.e., 110001. Then we reached the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, which probably is the largest Gurudwara in Delhi. All these were seen while traveling. We could have gone to the Birla temple, which is located nearby, but avoided it as we had seen it earlier. Instead we moved on to the Red Fort.
A heavy dose of security awaited visitors to the Red Fort. I felt pity for the policemen who were frisking people. Imagine checking bodies of people all day – hands up and down. Their hands and arms must be in terrible pains by evening. It must be really tough. All the policemen might like to stand in the street than doing this exercise, which do not yield anything. Out on the street every time they raise their hands on a truck and tempos, money rains.
The extra security has made even buying tickets a tough job. There were long queues. The large crowd may be because of the day being a Sunday. Nowadays one has a buy a full ticket paying Rs.11/-. This price actually includes several entry tickets. There are 3 tickets for entering 3 different museums. These were optional earlier. Nowadays, whether you visit them or not, you will have to pay. I remember the days, when I use to buy a Rs.2/- ticket to get into the Red Fort. I had studied my engineering in Gujarat. While traveling from Guwahati to Ahmedabad, I had to travel through Delhi and used to get a lot of time to kill. The train track to Ahmedabad being a meter gauge line during that time, most of the trains started from Old Delhi station. So, Red Fort was the best spot to kill time. Find a nice place under a tree in the lawns and then sleep. Believe me, I have been to the Red Fort so many times only to sleep in the lawns. However, this time I had visited it probably after 8 years or so. The place has changed a lot. There are security men everywhere, which in one way is good as many Indians enjoys defacing our precious history by writing their names on the walls. No one can do this now in Red Fort. The authorities have also closed many areas for visitors by putting up rope barriers.
We were out of the Red Fort after about an hour or so. Next stop to be was Raj Ghat that is located just next to the Red Fort. However there were some protestors who were heading to the Raj Ghat and so police had cordoned off the entry route. So we had to skip it and head home. A Delhi darshan after 20 years had come to an end. Fortunately, the trip did not cover even 80km and so I had to pay only Rs.500/- plus tip to the driver.
There are many museums located in Delhi. I have visited only one, the Gandhi memorial a long time back. I think once the summer is over, I will try to explore these museums.