Location: New Delhi

Following our first Delhi breakfast (which consisted, happily, of aloo paratha and mango pickle), the six of us, Wen and Rabsel piled into cabs and headed to Swaminarayan Akshardham; a temple which served as a tribute to a renowned Hindu spiritual leader, Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The first thing we noticed upon our arrival was the amazing architecture. Intricate carvings of elephants, peacocks, and geometric designs peppered every facet of the breathtaking sprawl of gardens, gates, and buildings with vaulted ceilings that comprised the temple. Next, we walked through a series of rooms to watch the story of Bhagwan Swaminarayans life as told through robotic tableaus and seemingly omnipresent audio. The values that seemed most central to the temple were those of nonviolence.   Next, we got on board a boat which took us on a ride through Indian history: from depictions of ancient Indian democracy to those of the first plastic surgery the names of Indian scholars, doctors and more were rattled off to us, none of which we had learned about in school. Advances in physics and geometry made centuries before Newton and Pythagorus were illustrated in more tableaus, which the boat leisurely drifted past. India seems to be the birthplace of everything, from democracy, to astronomy, to even plastic surgery!   At lunchtime, we disembarked from the boat. Because of the temple’s principle of ahimsa, all the food was vegetarian. We all ordered Kali platters, which consisted of roti, rice, and samplings of muttar paneer, chunna, dokla, and sambar; with sides of salty lassi and pappadam, with some gulab jamun for dessert! I was able to identify these foods as I have them at home, but they must have looked foreign to Isabelle, Izzy, Alejandro, Zach, and Teo, who had varying reactions to the spongy yellow cubes and chunks of vegetable piled on their plates. However, after lunch, the jet lag from our 18-hour plane trip the previous day hit and hit hard. Despite the booming audio and stunning visuals that comprised the film, we watched next, about the miracles worked by Bhagwan Swaminarayan as only a child, after leaving the theater we all found ourselves struggling to stay awake. The sweltering heat and humidity of the early afternoon didn’t help, and during the cab ride back, a couple of us fell asleep (naming no names) however, I was too busy worrying about the driving conditions! Delhi roads appeared to have no discernible rules, but the constant honking provided me with an excuse to use my favorite knock-knock joke: Knock knock!  Who’s there? Cargo! Cargo who? Car go, beep beep!   All joking aside, a color-coded sign explaining what traffic lights meant made me suddenly thankful for the regulations surrounding Massachusetts driver’s licenses! Whether because of the bumpy ride back or due to my jet lag, I was certainly relieved when we made it back to the hotel, even if in part because it meant I could prepare myself some much-needed Nescafe!   * Please note that since cameras are not allowed at Akshardham, these images were taken from the Wikipedia entry of the Temple and Theor official website www.akshardham.com