The indian dream is fading fast...
Trip Start May 12, 2005
79Trip End May 14, 2006
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Heaps of history and places to see in Delhi, an old legend proclaims that whoever builds a new city in Delhi is destined to lose it (this most recently happened to the British who had new delhi for a fleeting few years before india's independence). All in all, there have been 10 cities in Delhi's 3,000 year history. William Darylymples' excellent 'City of Djjins' gives a fantastic taste of a disaperring delhi and a tour-guide to some of its lower profile sights....unfortunately we were so busy tieing up loose ends that we didn't really get any traditional sight-seeing done...but Delhi ain't going anywhere, the sterile fingers of western modernity can't quite grasp India's capital
not everyones cup of tea, the majority of people stay in the Par Ghanj area or Connaght place, in our week here, only a couple of other western travellers stayed in old delhi. Amazingly chaotic and stimulating place, but with a definite edge after dark; a couple of sketchy encounters and unprecidented crowds. Old Delhi is a muslim area (as was much of Delhi prior to partition in 1947). The centerpiece of Old Delhi is the stunning Jama Masjid, a marble and sandstone mosque of monolithic proportions (check out the photo gallery). Our room was directly across the road from the 'back gate' of the mosque, but after 7 months in asia, the early morning call to prayers didn't disturb us.
Streetside; the road around the back three quarters of Jama Masjid supports a real patchwork quilt of trades and businesses. The southernmost portion is lined with automotive parts shops; blokes covered in grease bashing motorbike rims back into shape on the sidewalk, piles of ball bearings, heaps of leaf springs, etc. Spaced in between these shops, spilling out onto the road are individuals hawking their own small piles of spareparts. Many of these blokes simply roll up their wares in a blanket at the end of the day and this morphs into their bed and roof for the night
The street heading north/south along the eastern edge of the mosque (as well as manny of the adjoining streets) habours an area dominated by live chicken and goat markets right next door to the butchers which are right next to the fried chicken/goat curry resturants; talk about the food chain! Although a little hesistant on the 30 rupee half fried chicken at first (watching a hairy bloke holding a blade between his feet and slucing chickens into halfs isn't so appetising, especially when the shop next door has a fine selection of skin-on/skin-off goat heads), Mark made a daily ritual of a deliciously spiced and fried chicken drizzle with lemon juice, dried chilli and funky sauce. Dozens of these resturants did a roaring trade over lunch and dinner.... especially after dark when one particular street became people jammed (like waiting in a traffic jam, except there ain't any cars). Quite puzzling were the set of metal detectors at the entrance of this street, surrounded by indian cops with lathis (bamboo sticks) and antique rifles; no one was obliged to walk through the metal detectors and they didn't appear to be in working order anyway, however, every afternoon about five, as the people jam started to thicken, they'd appear.
A very strong part of the muslim faith is charity for those less fortunate. Before lunch and dinner, seated queues started to form outside many of the chicken resturants (there were other places to eat with a more varied menu, we went to a filthy little hole in the wall for omletes and chai most mornings). These most orderly lines were made up of rag pickers (people who make a living picking through garbage, India's version of kerbside recycling), beggars, cycle rickshaw drivers, etc... Everyday without fail, they would all be fed....everyone, no pushing or arguing, what was left over at each resturant was divided fairly (incidently, go out the back of any coles, resturant or bakery in Australia and look at how much perfectly good food we throw away).
Chadni Chowk, the main road in old delhi runs off the southern end of Jama Masjid. It is in a constant jam, the concerntration of humanity along this stretch of street is mind-boggling. Just walking the half kilometre to the new subway station is an artform, dodging roadside stalls, potholes, collapsed sections of pavemnent, vehicles of every kind etc. Navigated this stretch a couple of times a day and ones' footwork improves after 7 months in asia.
Great little vegie and spice market on the edge of old delhi, really like stepping out of the city into a rural marketplace. Only dropped in once and didn't have the camera handy but Clare, Rikard and I all really enjoyed the hustle and bustle of this hidden little piazza.
Already mentioned the mosque, but deserves a special section
Buses: simply the most insane, skillfull and relaxed urban bus drivers we came across throughout asia. A joy to watch, one needs to load/unload whilst in motion, Mark got complimented on his daring in this department a few times! Strong memory of one particularly hardcore driver goign hammer and tongs for 10 minutes, then getting to a major stop, killing the engine, pulling the newspaper off his lap and looking for all money that he was having a leisurely sunday morning.
Rickshaws: The intensity of the bus drivers definitely rubs off on the rickshaw wallahs (both auto and cycle). Very hard to get a reasnoble price out of an auto driver, but the cycle drivers are always keen for work (we always leave these hardworking fellas a tip if we donīt get any funny business)
Walking: Already mentioned the complications of walking. Suffice to say that there is seldom the chance for a side by side leisurely stroll in delhi.
Subway: A new addition to the Delhi transport scene, very limited so far, but handy for a couple of trips and good value for money (no barginning needed). One of the highlights of riding the subway is watching locals get on/off the escalators. Not many places in India have īmoving stairsīand especially on weekends, there are fits of laughther as people stumble and scrap their way up/down the subway escalators.
A lowlight of subway travel is the security check everytime you enter, metal detectors and then a bag search. This was fine until we were going out for a last meal with Rikard before he flew back to Sweden. WE didnīt really think about it but he had all his luggage with him going inot the subway. As soon as we spotted the metal detectors we all sighed, we were all ready for some major Indian shenanigans... Rikard started unpacking his pack for the mustachioed security guards, being avery organised person, Rikard had already wrapped all the x-mas present heīd bought for his family and friends
Test match versus Sri Lanka starting in DElhi on the day that we flew out...weīd narrowly missed one test and a couple of one day matches on our travels, so we (mark) were so glad to get a chance to go to the cricket in India. Getting tickets was an experience in itself (why was i surprised!??). Got a tip off that tickets were for sale at a soccer stadium next to the cricket ground (Feroza Kotla), nobody at the soccer ground knew anything about this. Went into the members section of the cricket club...met some really nice blokes, but they couldnīt sell me tickets, they told me that the tickets were going on sale the next day at the soccer ground. Went straight back to the soccer ground, tracked down the organiser of the soccer tournament (apparently the longest running soccer tournament in the world), he told me that they wouldnīt be selling cricket tickets today or tommorrow as their booths were needed for the soccer tournament!! He told me i could buy tickets from the Bank of Maharhastra....tickets to a sporting event from a bank!!! Found a bank of mahashastra,ītickets of the cricket, what do you mean we are a bank sir!?ī...a bit of further questioning and one gentleman knew the score, other branches were selling tickets from 2pm -4pm tomorrow!!! Found the correct branch and finally got the tickets, could only buy tickets for the full five days, but they were about $15 each and we sold the remaining four days to the owner of our hotel....so we were all sorted to go to the cricket.
So it was a great day at the cricekt...the ground is under reconstruction (aparrently this has been going on for quite some time)
We spent quite a bit of time sourcing charities in and around Delhi to donate money to. We gave out the call to our family and friends and got an amazing response. The next entry gives details of the different charities and some photos as well....