36 hours in Delhi

After our very slow return from Fatehpur Sikri, we had only just enough time to buy a takeaway dinner, speed to the train, leaping over barriers and elbowing aside old ladies to catch our Delhi train. Naturally, our seats were occupied, but Jo soon kicked off the interlopers as we entertained the carriage by eating our dinner. As it was curry, and came in a plastic bag, this was messy. Luckily we had earlier stolen a spoon from a restaurant, so eating was possible.

Arriving in Delhi was a little disconcerting. The train stopped at a station far south of where we we expecting to disembark, and it was getting late. However, we decided to make a plan and strode forcefully out through the plagues of taxi touts to the pre-paid taxi rank.

There ensued a bizarre conversation with the ticket salesman, who could not understand my accent.

“Tibetan colony.”
“Defence colony?”
“Tibetan colony.”
“Defence colony?”
etc etc

Finally, before I invoked the Dalai Lama and a complicated description of China’s role in Tibet, maybe with a yeti description thrown in to try to get the guy to understand the word Tibet, we worked out that it was north of Civil Lines, and he scribbled Kashmere Gate on the ticket.

The rickshaw driver who was to take us, unfortunately heard only the “Defence Colony” part of the conversation, and quickly took us completely the wrong way. Eventually as we struggled to understand each other, he flagged down an English speaking passer-by, who got us off to Kashmere Gate, a very long and very cold ride in a rickshaw. We then had the difficult task of explaining that we wanted not Kashmere Gate, but somewhere north of it- and then in desperation I mumbled the Hindi “Manju ka Tikka” – Tibetan Colony, although I had no idea, it was something written on the map.

The clouds of misunderstanding parted; the light of knowledge danced over our driver’s face. It was still another 3km but as we soared the wrong way down the highway, both the driver’s and my hearts full of the joy of communication, I resolved to learn Hindi.

We chose the Tibetan Colony, a suburb full of Tibetan refugees partly because the alternative hotel area in town is described as seedy, and we’d had enough windowless rooms for one holiday, and partly (my part) because it sounds romantic. It was actually like a different country: different language, faces, food, everything. Quite strange.

Delhi itself has both good and bad. As a major tourist destination, the touts are worse than any that have afflicted us. As the capital, bureacracy has been utterly perfected, in the most infuriating manner. But it is extremely modern and vibrant, the metro system nothing short of amazing, and with a nice feeling, once away from the touts.

Jo: We decided we’d done just about enough “sight seeing” for one trip and opted to spend our 36 hours in Delhi cruising around Connaught Place, 3 buzzing concentric circular roads full of smart shops and businesses, quite unlike anything else we’ve experienced in India. There was some shopping to be done and good (damned expensive!) food to be eaten. We even treated ourselves to our only bottle of wine in India (the cost of 2 nights in a decent hotel!). And brains. Yes, Ant ordered brain curry. He was disappointed the brains weren’t a bit firmer… Little walnut sized lambs brains melt in the mouth! Apologies to our Hindu and vegetarian friends. We also ate the most enormous masala dosas in the world… Delicious South Indian cuisine to extend our foodie repertoire. Scrumptious!

We did squeeze in one last sight seeing excursion to the architecturally remarkable, modern Bahai Lotus Temple. A dramatic giant lemon squeezer, where we were kindly invited to offer inter-religious prayers with streams of tourists and local school kids. Not a terribly religious experience for me – but an amazing building!

Now we have spent all our rupees and all our energy in the great effort to get ourselves and our now extremely full bags home. Farewell India from Mumbai airport… We’ll be back!

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