17th CENTURY PORN AND A DAY IN DELHI
Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
43Trip End Mar 19, 2011
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Where I stayed
If you ever get a chance to go to the Singapore airport, even if it's just to switch planes, do. It’s one of the best airports I’ve ever been in. It boasts interior landscaping, luxury smoking lounges both indoor and patios, café after café and shopping arcade after shopping arcade full of duty free items of all kinds, a cultural show and concert about Singapore, private TV booths resembling overblown space-age hair dryers, a spa, you name it. I needed an electronics store so I could purchase a multi-national adaptor and the first thing I saw was an electronics store with multi-national adaptors. I'm not saying a more superior airport doesn't exist somewhere else on this planet (I'm told perhaps Hong Kong), but alongside the many others I've experienced, I can't think of a better one to be stranded in. Singapore truly brings glamour back into the airport
CLICK BELOW FOR MOVIE. Arrived in Delhi after my layover in Singapore. In Delhi, the walk from airplane to immigration seemed like the longest mile, especially with a very heavy piece of no-wheels carry-on to contend with. It was one endless, boring corridor after the other. Finally, after plodding through all the bureaucracy, I was greeted by my representative from Pierce and Leslie, the luxury five-star travel agency that would be handling the India/Nepal leg of my journey. We left the airport and I stepped out into the India night air for the first time and we drove to my hotel, the Amarya Villa, a restored mansion in a residential neighborhood where I was greeted warmly by the night manager. My compact, whitest-of-white, contemporary room, the only one on the top floor, opened out onto a white, caravan-themed rooftop terrace. I went to bed early, woke up the next morning and took a constitutional around the neighborhood looking for the entrance to a nearby park that I didn't find, but not before breakfast (in India and Nepal, all of my breakfasts are paid for).
There was one other person in the small and charming dining room, a 40-something lady who overheard me say something about being from the New York area
CLICK PICTURE FOR MOVIE After my stroll, I met my guide, Ravi, who showed me Delhi, not only capital of the modern nation state of India, but also the capital of many previous dynasties and a remarkable mixture of the medieval and contemporary. Before beginning our tour, we stopped at a small electronics outlet to either fix the fake camera I'd bought in Tokyo or to buy a new one. I bought a new one. We explored within the walled city of Old Delhi the 300 year old Chadni Chowk market by rickshaw. I found it mildly amusing that our driver was wearing a jacket that said U.S. Army. This busy market sells an extraordinary variety of items ranging from silver, jewelry, aromatic spices, leather, fruit, vegetables, rows of apothecaries, a street of nothing but bridal apparel, roadside dentists displaying their bizarre array of equipment and teeth that have been pulled from dead people (false teeth) – and toothless peasants just go up and try them on for size
One of the most popular tourist attractions within the old city walls is the Red Fort, a 17th century complex of moghul empire influence.
Out of the Red Fort and through the Lahore Gates, another 17th century moghul structure on the same ground, now a shopping arcade. The British destroyed the original gates (a small section of them remains nearby) and built a barracks on it, which exists more or less as the current edifice.
It was here, one of the last stalls before exiting the gates, that I bought a miniature painting from an art dealer. It's a copy (can't remember if he said it was original or not), but I can tell you this particular man could have sold swamps in Florida. Every word out of his mouth was of the soft-spoken "Whether it's the fine quality or the lesser, the real value behind a painting is in the eyes of the beholder. Now, let me show you this one. You're an artist, the only difference is you express yourself live and this artist expressed himself on canvas
"Um...I...", I stammered.
"Blah blah blah," he continued.
I did purchase a copy - I now know it was a copy. It was one of the cheapest of the lot. It spoke to me. I later found out also if you want to buy a miniature, you should do it in Jaipur, and I did, signed by the artist who sold it to me and painted another miniature right before my eyes - a simple head of a woman - and gave it to me. The piece I bought was small, of a peacock (I love peacocks). But that was Jaipur - I'm getting ahead of myself.
Through all of this, my guide was sitting quietly in the corner but I'm sure was busy calculating commissions in his head and willing for me to eeny-meany-miney-mo the one with the most rupees on the pricetag
At some point, he informed this art dealer that I was looking to explore the nightlife of Delhi, in particular, the gay scene. Here I will digress a little to explain that there are two gay capitals, Delhi and Mumbai) emerging since India passed it's new laws legalizing homosexuality in 2009. I've heard in the south Pune was also emerging (and maybe Kerala?). There are no real gay bars, per se, instead they have gay theme night parties. There was supposedly a party that particular night.
"I can help you," informed the incredibly goodlooking and seductive gentleman. "You want the gay party, we'll get you in," he promised, never once taking his eyes off mine. I believe there is a party tonight, not far from your hotel, in fact. Your guide can call me later and I'll find out the details." He felt it necessary to add this: "Now, mind you, it's not MY scene, but I have some friends whom I can call and ask."
"Thank you," I managed after having been reduced to saleman's putty.
Eyes still locked with mine, he forged ahead
"It's not everyone I show these to."
I stared at them basically trying to keep a straight face by this point. I wasn't going to buy one. Not with the internet at my fingertips.
"I'll just stick with this cheap little number that speaks to me because I'm drawn by imperfection," I was regaining my sense of customer-savvy.
With a friendly smirk, never taking his eyes off mine, he said, "Give me a call about tonight."
So off we were next on our merry way to theJama Masjid, believed to be the largest mosque in India. This was followed by a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, the earliest example in India of Mughal architecture. If you click on the movie above for Humayun's Tomb after looking at the picture below of the same from a different angle, you will notice the optical illusion masterfully conceived when designing this amazing complex of structures. From a distance, the dome behind looks like a part of the front edifice, yet as you approach, it sinks behind. When you reach the other side, it magically reappears in the distance.
By the time we were through with our tour, it was early evening. I took a taxi to an excellent and tastefully decorated Volga Restaurant (there are two; I went to the one in Outer Circle at the major, vibrant thoroughfare called Connaught Pl. - apparently it's owned by some hotshot designer). The waiter told me to order the sampler plate, which was very nicely presented and tasty as well. The most important aspect of this upscale eatery was that I did not feel awkward dining alone.
I was surprised that I only had one day in Delhi. I learned that there was no gay party that night - I was two days late. The next morning I would fly to my fantasy destination: Kathmandu!