NEW DELHI – After two days of being shepherded around Delhi by Professor Trivedi and friends, today we were turned loose to report on our own. Alone or in twos, we left our hotel early this morning to navigate a city most of us had never been to with the challenge of reporting in a language we don’t know, within a culture that we’ve only read about in textbooks. Delhi is an absolutely vibrant city, fast paced and full of unexpected moments on every turn. It is made up of small, unmarked backstreets where sanctuaries hide and large main roads are packed with people, music and impromptu parades. It can be daunting, but our confidence grew with the hour and we met the challenge.

Emily spent her day at the Nizamuddin Dargah. She had a sit down with Syed Bilal where they spoke about the upkeep of the shrine, in particular the “interdenominational nature of visiting devotees.”

“We also discussed the film industry’s impact on the shrine,” Emily said. “It’s a frequent location for shooting.”

Natasha and David started their day early with the intent of covering several different stories. They ventured to the Muslim part of old Delhi on a search for a restaurant serving nihari, a breakfast food made with beef, which is illegal in Dehli.

From there they did an interview with the deputy director of the Delhi Haj committee, who decides which Delhi-ites will be allowed to travel to Mecca each year.

They then met up with the imam of the Jama Masjid again to talk more about the Haj.

“That interview took an interesting turn when we learned, as it came to an end, about his boyhood dreams of playing cricket for the national team,” Natasha said.

The pair ended their day with a late night party in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim at the local Chabad House.

“A late night, but a fabulous and rewarding day of work and play,” Natasha said.

Professor Goldman even got in on the fun at the Chabad House. The house, which serves as a synagogue and hostel for visiting Israeli youth and others, is down a narrow alleyway off the main bazaar. A huge photo of the late leader of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson pointed the way.

“Inside the Chabad House, the local Chabad rabbi, who is from Israel, read the story of Purim in the scroll known as the Book of Esther,” Goldman said. “It tells the ancient drama of a plot against the Jews that is foiled by an unlikely Jewish Queen.”

Professor Goldman compared the festivities to Holi and explained there was plenty of liquor, confetti and lots of dancing. He did say that the men and women danced in separate part of the Synagogue. “It seemed like a good way to usher in Holi.”

Gudrun met with Molinder Singh at the Bhai Vir Sing Marg Institute. The Pari spoke about the politics behind the turban. She learned that “turbans are six meters long and a sign of religious affiliation and commitment (or a reminder) to dharma.”

Ellen and Andrea met up with Syed Hammadi Nizami at the Nizamuddin Sufi Shrine to talk about the effects demonetization has made on charitable giving in different faiths.

The team of Pia and Thea traveled over Dehli state lines to Noida to visit the Immanuel Mar Thoma Chruch.

“We interviewed senior citizen congregants, who were gathered there for a lunchtime conversation about gender dynamics in the Bible,” Pia said. “We chatted with them about preserving their Keralan roots in Delhi and beyond, and shared delicious Keralan food with the reverend and his family.”

The Pia/Thea team is also working on a story about the pollution of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. They were able to secure a sit down with Dr. Syamel Sarkar, the Director of Water Resources and Forestry research.

As for me, I ventured to the Digambar Jain Lal Mandir Bird Sanctuary in old Dehli. I had to dash across a highway that separates the Red Fort and the bustling shops of Old Dehli. There are no signs to indicate when the safe time to walk is, so I just took a deep breath, sucked in my stomach and weaved in and out of cars, mopeds and rickshaws that appear to be trying to do the same thing. But once across, it was right there.

Walking up the stairs to the bird sanctuary I was greeted with signs, including one that read, “Birds are our friends. Do not hurt them for your food, amusement, pleasure, safety. Security of our living creatures and environment is our topmost religion.” Jains put an importance on leaving a life free of harm and violence. Jains believe that all creatures deserve to live without harm. They are famously known for not even killing bugs.

Everyone returned back to the hotel safe and full of stories about navigating the big and confusing city. It was incredible to finally be able to use our skills that we’ve been developing over our seven weeks of class and use them in a practical setting.

Photo by Elizabeth VanMetre