Dal and rice, Parantha and curd, Back to Delhi!

Trip Start Jan 27, 2008
1
6
30
Trip End Apr 06, 2009


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Where I stayed
Regent international hotel

Flag of India  ,
Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sometimes you get lucky. Every now and then life hands you a cookie, a small pleasure that lets you know that you are not cursed, after all.
After another tough goodbye to Carola, I made actually good time to Heathrow, about 45 minutes. No-one in line. Nice. Get on the packed plane. Window seat. Nice. Plane fills up, and no-one comes in and claims seat #27k, the one next to me. Pilot announces that we are closing the doors and readying for takeoff. NICE!!! An 8 hour flight with every seat taken except the one next to me, and beyond that the aisle. It is life's little gratuities that make you happy sometimes. Felt like business class, well almost.

Despite all that, I still find it difficult to sleep on long flights. Give me a hop from Boston to New york city, and I'll be snoozing like a baby, but an 8 hour to Delhi from London, and I'll be wide-eyed and sleepless. When we landed then, I had been up for about 20 hours or so, and had to negotiate a fare to paharganj (300 rupes, not bad), find the hotel I wanted to find, and settle in. Didn't quite work out that way. Paharganj was reached, all right, but not near the train station where I wanted to be. Without that landmark and groggy from lack of sleep as I was, I walked around for about half an hour and determined to just get a room somewhere. 400 rupees later (expensive!) I was checked into the Regent International with a tv and attached bath. Should have been a half bath for the number of taps that actually worked, a western-style toilet without a seat--try squatting on one of those--and no hot water. Still, the bed was comfortable and large with a thick blanket for the cool Delhi nights in february, there was room service, and a tv with remote. Plus the sheets were almost approaching clean. A half hour later I was asleep.
Waking up around 9:30 with a fairly strong hunger, I called down for the simplest of indian dishes, Dal (lentil) and rice. I would have had a dosa, as the regent is one of the rare places in the north that actually do them, but the kitchen had nothing else at the hour. I ordered it all in hindi, but the desk man sent up an english-speaking cohort just to make sure he had it right. "Something to drink? Beer?" the man (whose name was actually unpronounceable to me). It took about 20 seconds of thought, but I decided that the cold taste of Kingfisher after a long day's flight and nap might be just the thing. The food arrived first, on a weatherbeaten steel plate, with the dal in a cracked bowl that had seen dirtier hands than mine, and a little cup with salted carrots, onions and chiles on the side. No spoon or fork of course, but that is no matter, I've always gone native here in India.
No sooner had I dug my hand into my food than the bell rang. It was Andraputratrai(?) with my beer. "Denyevad Andra. . pe. .pu. . ahh whatever," I smiled, giving a slight bob and weave of my head, "Shubratri." He smiled and wobbled his head back, and I shut the door, sorted out for the moment.
It's tough sometimes with jet-lag and all, but it seems that India is ideally located, at least for a flight from London, to adjust. Coming in as I had at around noon, and getting settled around 4 in the afternoon put me awake eating at 10. Then a couple of hours later I slept again at 2 or so. Awake at 6, I felt finally rested. By 9 I was packed and ready, though unshowered (again the no hot water thing, much easier in summer), and off to find the Hari Rama Guest house off the main baazar.

India is funny for directions. You think you are in the neighborhood, and probably are, but your directions can be all screwed up. I set off to find the railway station, or some landmark in the hundreds of little stalls and shops in the "ganj," and again my guitar helped me. A man walked up alongside me, and trying to ignore him as another tout, he just said, "guitar. Nice. Rock and roll!" He then did a little air-guitar thing that made me smile. "Where you go?" he asked, and I again thought, "oh jeez, here it comes." I told him, the main baazar, and he replied that he "have rickshaw, take you there." Declined. I would walk there. "5 rupees only, my friend!" Well, I couldn't turn down a ride over there for less than a quarter with my backpack and carrying my guitar, could I? I didn't, and in the end was glad of it. No more wandering around looking for the train station when I couldn't trust my infallible sense of direction anymore.
This is a common thing with rickshaw drivers in areas where the Gora (westerner) is on the prowl. They will bring a friend with them who speaks some english to try and draw in a customer. Nothing wrong with this, and most times one will know the good one by the honest face and real price. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Delhi is not crowded with tourists this time of year, as it is cool and most of them have gone south, but the rickshaw driver who is smartest and offers the real fare, one so low you can't argue gets the passenger. There are many less touts here than when I was here the last time in the summer, no flies, no rain, and also many less beggars, presumably because they have fled south for their business as well, or the recent cold spell just killed them all.

The Hari Rama Guest house in the Main baazar has a lot of Israeli hippies, but also has a beautiful rooftop restaurant which reminds me of the Gopi Guest House in Hampi, a place to which I attach fond memories. At 250 rupees (non-negotiable), and with a bath that actually works, if only with tepid water, it's a decent bargain. Clean by the usual standards as well. Sitting in the rooftop restaurant makes it all worth it. The taste of "milk coffee," the smell rising off the city, halfway between burning rubbish and diesel fuel, the sound of horns and the din of the people in the main baazar below. Almost like coming home.
I have vowed to learn more hindi, and have. I can almost use verbs in their proper tense, and I've been learning such full sentences as "Apka rakhna tute paise ha," (keep the change), and "Main hindi bolo thora hai," approximating "I speak little hindi," useful in the fact that it usually provokes the one it is said to to switch to english, or at least find someone who can translate.

I had almost forgotten the young, dirty, dreadlocked "trustafarian" types who flock to India (and the hari rama) without the brains to do their homework on the culture, lack the class to learn, and are too stoned to notice. They are like dirty-faced toddlers wandering the streets and sitting in the stairwells, some vague notion of India being a magical place of spiritual enlightenment that they will somehow grasp just by being here.
Perhaps, if they stick around long enough, they will become those "yogi-er than thou" ashramians who spend their lives and money in ashrams with some semi-sham yogi who never quite lets them know that life is meditation in motion, and enlightenment does not come spontaneously by sitting still in withdrawal from the world no matter how much money or life you spend on it.
Hey, knowledge of pathways and tools is handy for a time to get to know the silence of the mind, but it is truly living in the experience of the real and whole world that truly brings peace. One must be pathless to know the Way. Hmm. . .peace in the midst of chaos?. . .Pathlessness with direction? . . . perhaps I could make a little money with that. . .
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Have fun my friend
I look forward to reading your next adventure.

Ryan

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