Last weekend, we took a trip to Delhi and Agra. This trip was incredibly special, and we managed to see a number of amazing locations in both Delhi and Agra. The biggest takeaway from the weekend for me was how the scale of everything in India is just so much bigger and older than the scale of anything in New Zealand. For example, I was under the impression that Agra was just a small town outside of Delhi, famous because it has the Taj Mahal. It turns out that Agra, despite being small by the standards of Indian cities, still has over 2 million people. This ‘small town’ that I was picturing turned out to have a higher population than the entire South Island!!

No caption needed for this one!

Everything here is not just bigger than in New Zealand; it’s also older! A lot older. For example, the oldest surviving building in Aotearoa is Kemp House in Kerikeri, being just over 200 years old. The first fact that our guide told us about Delhi was that it’s so old; it’s had seven different names over the last 1000+ years. We were told about how the city has had many different eras, where it was originally ruled by the Tomar Dynasty, then captured by the Mughal Empire, had a series of slave kings, and was eventually invaded by the Portuguese and the British before eventually becoming ‘New Delhi’ as it is known today. This was fascinating to learn about, and I think it would make a great documentary!

The Qutab Minar in Delhi

Another fascinating part of this trip has been learning more about the cultural differences between different regions of India and South Asia as a whole. I have discovered that my favourite Indian dish so far, masala dosa (a savoury pancake filled with spices and veggies and served with curry or chutney), is a South Indian (and Sri Lankan) specialty. When I encountered this in Uttar Pradesh (a northern state), it was a similar distance away from the cuisine’s home as encountering Italian food in England. This shows the huge scale of India and made me appreciate that the parts of India bordering Pakistan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka (close enough anyway) may as well be different countries! Despite this, there is a large feeling that the country is quite united. This was especially obvious when we watched Pathaan, a patriotic Bollywood movie starring Shah Rukh Khan, on opening night, only one day after Republic Day!

A very small glimpse of the incredible atmosphere as we watched Pathaan

The last and most obvious sign of the scales that India works with is the massive population. India is predicted to be the most populous country in the world this year, as India will overtake China soon. The effect of the huge population is very obvious when simply walking down the street, catching the bus, or visiting a tourist attraction. It also makes us tourists really stand out (for better or worse…) against a backdrop of 1.4 billion Indians. Overall, this is one of my favourite parts of the trip, as wherever we go, there are always people around, giving a sense of a bustling atmosphere (even in the middle of the night!) and providing safety in numbers.

Juhu Beach on a Saturday night

Thanks for reading, see you soon for part 3!

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