My kids are reaching the age where I can no longer force them to do things they don't want to do, like leave the house. Well, I suppose I can force them, but the consequences of doing so are graver than they once were, I feel. Whereas when they were smaller they might whine a little when made, against their will, to do some activity, I could typically buy their acquiescence with something as cheap as ice cream, or not making them eat ants. But now, enforcing my will too heedlessly could cause them to rebel against my parental authority by getting tattoos of Minecraft architecture, or listening to Dan Fogelberg, or sniffing glue (which I admit smells good in certain contexts, like when you live in Topeka and have no prospect of leaving).
So when we had a free Saturday afternoon recently, Shannon and I decided to ditch the kids and go tourist-ing ourselves. The kids thought this a great idea, saluted our parenting prowess, and urged us to stay gone as long as we liked. We went to Qutb Minar, a large complex of ruins not far from our flat, crowned by a 237-foot minar, or tower, built of red sandstone and marble, and etched with exquisite Arabic calligraphy, largely Koranic. The tower was built between the 12th and 14th centuries, and several other ruined/partially-restored structures -- including a mosque, a Sufi tomb, and a madrasa -- fill out the complex.
My main impression from our several hour wander around the ruins was sweat. Sweat, for me, is a basic fact of life when temperatures top about 90 and humidity rises above, say 85%, which describes all waking hours in Delhi during the summer. As long as I am outdoors, I am sweating. The key is to just give yourself to the sweat, to embrace it, to let it wash over you in glorious cascades of fragrance. In this way, I felt that I was the wettest, and most beautiful, person at Qutb Minar.
This is not merely a subjective self-assessment, but a veritably objective truth. I was SO beautiful and SO attractive, that I was stopped by more than a half-dozen Indian tourists throughout the afternoon who wanted selfies with me. Shannon was also repeatedly asked to join passerby for photos, which suggests that, like other famous and photogenic supercouples like Brangelina, we clearly need a supercouple name. I propose Shabu Halen. All of the requests for us to pose for selfies has nothing to do with the fact that Indians love taking selfies with any and all foreigners, probably even Michele Bachmann.
All in all Qutb Minar is a pretty remarkable site. The signage was very adequate, with excellent English translations, the architecture was fascinating, and careful, observant visitors will note the clear Sufi influences throughout the ruins (for example, iconography, which is taboo in most of the orthodox Islamic world, is evident on the capitals of numerous columns throughout the site). I was a little disappointed that you can't take the staircase up to the top of the tower, but apparently this is because in 1981 the lights in the stairwell went out and all the people inside stampeded and a bunch of people died. That said, Great White rock concerts are still allowed. I'm just saying.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Qutb Minar though is the "Iron Pillar," which is only about 20 feet tall, but really old. Some think it was constructed around 400 AD. It's also really heavy, apparently -- my attempts to lift it in the name of science were thwarted because it's anchored in concrete four feet deep, and also there's a fence around it. And also my hands were sweaty, so I probably wouldn't have been able to get a good grip. But I'm told it weighs over six tons, which is more than the state of Rhode Island (excluding the asphalt).