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They may not be the most sportive people in the world but...

... Indians have a marathon on the top of the world!

(They claim it is the highest marathon in the world but according to the Records Guiness Book the Everest Marathon would be the highest). It is still something with a race at 5370m.

And for those who prefer cars... (Red Bull race in Ladakh in 2012):


Sufi chants in Nizamuddin, Delhi

If you don’t know what to do on Thursday in Delhi, and you survived the tour of Old Delhi, you are ripe for Nizamuddin! Nizamuddin is a Muslim neighborhood that houses the tomb of the namesake Saint as well as other hidden tombs, gems unknown to the public in which some families even squat.

India,Delhi,Nizamuddin,dargah,sufi chants

If you have a little time, spawn yourself a passage in the crowd of people who are going to pay tribute to the Saint in the Nizamuddin Dargah – Thursday evening, prelude to Friday (sacred in Islam), is equally important. And wait patiently for 7:30 PM when they start singing sufis chants. But watch out. If you go there in the middle of August and it is not raining, prepare yourself to sweat water and blood (or almost). It’s hell hot and jammed-packed, you wouldn’t believe your eyes. And all these poor people you will come across in this neighbourhood, diseases probably eradicated in Europe, a lot of dirt also. It’s good though, it puts you back in another Indian reality you may tend to forget in your posh residence! Baby Samurai managed well also... Undisturbed by the climatic and crowdy contract with the Nepalese mountains we were just coming back from.

India,Delhi,Nizamuddin,dargah,sufi chants

Despite the guide's (from delhibyfoot) explanations, I did not quite understand what thatt Nizamuddin Saint was special for except that he was a Sufi. Not that I understood well either what Sufism was about. But in short:

"Sufism is less a sect Islam than a mystical way of approaching the Islamic faith. It has been defined as “mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.”. [… ]

General Characteristics: Sufi practices have their foundation in purity of life, strict obedience to Islamic law and imitation of the Prophet. Through self-denial, careful introspection and mental struggle, Sufis hope to purify the self from all selfishness. "Little sleep, little talk, little food" are fundamental and fasting is considered one of the most important preparations for the spiritual life. […]

Rituals: Prayers, Music and "Whirling". […] In the mid-9th century some mystics introduced sessions with music and poetry recitals (sama') in Baghdad in order to reach the ecstatic experience. Narcotics were used in periods of degeneration, coffee by the “sober” mystics (first by the Shadhiliyah after 1300). […]

Mystical sessions of music and poetry called sama (or sema) were introduced in Baghdad in the mid-9th century with the purpose of achieving an ecstatic experience. Narcotics have sometimes been introduced as part of the method, but this is considered a degeneration of the practice.”



A July trip to Rishikesh

First week of July. It’s time to leave Gurgaon with the family, at least the time of a long weekend. Four months since we have moved and we haven’t really ventured outside our society! Gurgaon is not the most entertaining place and we somehow get super lazy to drive one hour to go to Delhi …

My friend was in favor of flying (to Dehradun) and I booked train tickets (to Haridwar). So that I would not have to experience more turbulences than necessary! And you should see how much they feed you in this 4 hour train with full on AC: chai, toasts, chai, breakfast, lunch and more if there had been time! However it was a little less funny on the way back when we were nearly 2 hours delayed...

We went for three nights in Rishikesh. It was completely off season, with the rain, and most of the guest-houses were empty. Especially those oriented outdoor activities – for example, it has become very trendy to do rafting on the Ganges. I would have been really happy to stay at the Glasshouse on the Ganges of Neemrana (cf the posts and photos of my previous trip in 2008) but it has become far too expensive, monsoon or not monsoon! For half the price we stayed at the Rainforest House, a guest house, which doesn’t look anything fancy from the outside, but the rooms are very nice, the family room open to the outside, offering a completely vegetarian cuisine which tries to incorporate Ayurvedic principles, a great yoga room, monkeys jumping around and the Ganges at a few minutes’ walk. There are a few disadvantages, mainly the quite dicey 500 metre walk down from the main road (and up on the way back), the owners (an Anglo-Indian couple who built the house), nice but they really keep to themselves and a more than fluctuating phone network – although personally I see it rather as an advantage! 

Despite the humidity, Rishikesh is definitely charming during the rains... Including the ‘Beatles ashram’ (Maharishi Mahesh Ashram) and the Vashishta caves which are by the Ganges and offer the opportunity of a nice walk along the river, with more nature than in Rishikesh city.