Good eatin' for mosquitos in Delhi

New Delhi Travel Blog

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At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi

Last weekend, on just a few days’ notice, I had to move out of the hostel, as did everyone living there.  Thankfully my supervisor found a guest house where I could stay for a few days.  I was surprisingly chill about the whole situation; I knew my NGO was working on finding a place for me to stay, and if I really had to I could go to a hotel for a few days.  The first three nights at the guest house were great; the bathroom was smelly and there were a few critter issues, but the bathroom was private and the room had a/c.  Unfortunately I had to switch rooms after three nights, and got a teeny tiny room with no a/c and no toilet or sink.  The shared hallway bathroom was, let’s just say, not clean.  So much for Chill Debbie.  I was not a happy camper.

 

I was already planning to visit my friend Anna in Delhi for the weekend, so to avoid taking a bucket bath in the hallway bathroom I decided to head for Delhi a day early.

Sunita's neighbor, Anna, me, Sunita, and her daughter
  So, I brought all my stuff to the office, took one suitcase to Delhi, and hoped my NGO would find a place for me to live over the weekend.

 

Getting to Anna’s from the airport was an adventure.  I got a pre-paid taxi, but the driver had no idea where to go and spoke no English.  Anna was on a phone call for work, so I was on my own.  We were driving around aimlessly, and the driver just kept shouting “hundred rupees” at me.  Hey buddy, it’s not my fault you don’t know where this place is; I already paid for this ride so it ain’t gonna happen.  He actually stopped the car, turned off the headlights, and motioned for me to get out.  Umm… I don’t think so!  I rolled down my window and asked people walking by if they knew how to get to Anna's address.  Two young guys -- whom it turns out are from a distant part of India -- had a vague sense of where to go, so they hopped into the car with me.

Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
  The driver was ranting in Hindi; translation: He was frustrated and wanted me o-u-t.  I laughed; I mean, I couldn’t blame the guy, but I wasn’t getting out until he dropped me off at the right spot.  Finally the guys said we were within a block or two of Anna’s.  They suggested I give the driver 50 rupees (slightly more than $1) as a compromise, which I did.   I finally found Anna’s.  Lordy. 

 

Anna’s apartment is lovely, with a big balcony and a clean bathroom with hot water (my first hot water in two months); after the previous night at the guest house I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  She cooked risotto with tomato sauce and fresh vegetables -- the kind of meal I’ve been craving for two months.  We sat outside and talked, ate, and went to town on a bowl of fresh fruit.  When it was time to go to sleep, I noticed -- and I'm not exaggerating -- over a hundred mosquito bites on my left foot and ankle.

Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
  There were about a dozen on the other foot as well, but I was too distracted by my left foot to care.  I hadn’t felt a single bite while we were sitting out there.  Guess I must be sweet. J  I can’t believe I didn’t put on bug spray -- I know better.  The next couple of days were torture as every few hours the bites all flared up at the same time; I think my immune system was freaking out.  Have anti-itch cream, will travel.  Anna didn’t get any bites, by the way. 

 

On Friday morning I went to see a doctor about my stomach woes (see previous blog entry), and in the afternoon Anna and I ventured out for some shopping.  For lunch I had a lamb sandwich with French fries and a green salad -- my first since leaving the US.

Delhi traffic
  So good!  The whole weekend I ate non-Indian food just because I could; it’s tough to find in Bhubaneswar, and my tastebuds were homesick.  We got caught in a terrible downpour, which was the perfect excuse to sit in a coffee shop and talk and talk and talk. 

 

Saturday night we went to Gurgaon (grr-GOW-in), about an hour outside Delhi, to the home of Sunita, who works for my volunteer program (as does Anna).  The view off the highway on the drive there was one huge, modern, shiny office building after another, many of them with non-Indian company names in neon letters on top.  Times are a-changing in India.  Sunita cooked us a delicious meal and then watched us eat it, which isn’t what I’m used to.

At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
  Dinner for her family would be later that night.  I’m endlessly fascinated by seeing how people live.  They have a full-time servant, which isn’t uncommon in India but is reserved for only the wealthy in the US.  After dinner we got a peek at Sunita’s extensive sari collection.  After marriage, women in India wear saris all the time.  I’m so ignorant: I thought whether a woman wore a sari or a salwar kameez (long shirt with pants) was a personal style choice.  Not.

 

Back at Anna’s, I took a Benadryl for my mosquito-riddled foot, which was on fire.

Me and Anna
  I was finding mosquito bites in other places, including smack in the middle of my forehead (I mean, c'mon!).  Then I unexpectedly got my period.  (Guys, sorry if that’s too much information, but all the women reading this can relate to what that feels like.)  Oh, and all day my left heel was bothering me; I thought it was my shoe, but now I realized it was because my skin was so dry (from walking barefoot all the time) it had cracked.  I was falling apart physically and had nowhere to live, but it didn’t matter.  I was having a great weekend, and my spirits were high. 

 

On Sunday I joined Anna for her Sivananda yoga class.  Later we hit the National Crafts Museum and saw a Hungarian movie at Alliance Francais.

At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
  Right near Alliance Francais is a lovely park; we walked and talked and talked and talked.  I was surprised to see a few couples holding hands, and even one couple cuddling on a bench.  Men and women touching each other in public in India is a big no-no.  Anna told me there’s another park she goes to regularly during the day, and it’s filled with couples in hidden spots making out.  It seems odd to go to a public place to get privacy, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do for a little nookie. ;-)

 

Early Monday morning I went to the airport to head back to Bhubaneswar.  When I purchased my ticket, I paid an extra 200 rupees (about $5) for a guaranteed seat in the emergency exit row in an attempt to get some personal space.

At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
  Turns out I was sitting in the middle of a huge group traveling together, including rowdy children who just couldn’t stay in their seats.  The man sitting in front of me was responsible for feeding the group; he had huge tiffins of curries and chappatis that he’d brought with him, and the whole group lined up (right next to me) to get paper plates of food.  I had a few close encounters (and some collisions) with butts, elbows, and dupattas.  Thankfully about halfway through the flight I realized I could move up to the front of plane.  Hallelujah.  Okay, so I’m still working on the “just breathe” thing I mentioned in one of my first blog entries. 

 

Anyway, I made it back to Bhubaneswar and went straight to the office.  After work, I got my luggage out of the storage room and headed over to my colleague Tanushree’s apartment, my new home for about the next six weeks.

At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
 

 

I had such a good weekend in Delhi.  My work colleagues are nice and I feel at ease around them, but it’s not the same as being with someone from my own background who speaks my language.  In Bhubaneswar, I’ve figured out how to talk so that people who speak English can understand me: I talk very slowly, separate all words, enunciate every syllable, use the present tense as often as I can (not so easy to do!), and choose the simplest words possible.  It’s as though my thoughts and words are being pushed through a filter.  It was so nice to talk freely, and boy, can Anna and I talk!  And the hot showers were a treat. 

 

Heading back to Bhubaneswar this time felt totally different than after the Kerala trip just three weeks ago.

At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
  I can’t say I was thrilled to be going back, but I certainly wasn’t dreading it and didn’t feel sad.  I have a life in
Bhubaneswar now: A couple of colleagues have become friends, I do yoga at an ashram in the mornings, I’m much better at negotiating with the autowallahs, and everything finally looks familiar.

 

dhartmann22 says:
I always love reading your blog. I can picture you in the taxi not getting out. :) Miss you!
Posted on: Apr 17, 2008
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At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
Sunitas neighbor, Anna, me, Sunit…
Sunita's neighbor, Anna, me, Suni…
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Delhi traffic
Delhi traffic
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
Me and Anna
Me and Anna
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
At Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
Talkatora Gardens, Delhi
New Delhi
photo by: peeyushmalhotra