Breakfast in Delhi
New Delhi Travel Blog› entry 4 of 16 › view all entries
A very long wait in
When it was time to board, I walked over to the gate, to find a huge crowd of people pushing up against the flimsy cord barriers of the boarding area.
On board there was a similar feeling of people pressing into one another. Flight attendants went around, chivvying people into their seats and demanding, often ineffectually, that they be seated. Bags were spilling out the overhead compartments, passengers unwilling to move their personal belongings too far away from their seats, despite the protests of the flight attendants.
My nerves probably reached their highest pitch when we landed, and it was time to disembark. I couldn’t quite imagine what sensations would hit me in leaving the safety of the airport. It was all a bit dreamlike, as if I wasn’t totally there in mind, but was seeing things from a deep sleep. The brightly lit concourse and the crowds of other passengers pressing up to the luggage belt to look for their bags, the curt and unsmiling gestures of passport control and customs, the money changer who smiled to attract me to his counter, but who became suddenly annoyed when I asked for a receipt, and downright irritable when I asked him to break one of the 500 rupee notes he gave me (he refused, “I already gave,” he said stonily, ending the interaction), then the crush of people on either side of the barrier as I left the main terminal.
The driver led me away from the terminal, into a huge sea of parked cars and motorbikes. It was cool and damp outside, and smelled smoky (the pollution?). The sky was an impenetrable bowl above us, a dark nighttime haze, impossibly thick with mist or smoke or pollution. Occasionally bright flashes of lightning lit up the sky rather eerily.
In the small car, which was tidy and air conditioned, I sat in the back and gazed out the windows.
What I did see was the road, and the tuk-tuks, tankers, trucks, cars, bicycles (!!) and even pedestrians who shared it. As I had read in other travel blogs, the lane markings appeared to be used as mere suggestions only. The driver straddled two lanes most of the time himself. People drove with their hazard lights flashing, and sometimes no lights at all, and wove in and out as the mood struck them. Horns were used liberally by everyone and sundry, seemingly as a sort of “here I come” warning or as indication (maybe?) that the driver wished to overtake or change lanes.
Arriving at the guesthouse, the rain was still pattering down. It was late now, past 10pm, but one of the guesthouse staff was there, waiting for me. After the driver left, the staff person -- a very friendly, middle-aged man about a head shorter than me -- showed me quickly to my room and explained all its amenities. It was all very tidy and clean, just the way it had looked on the website. There was even a flat screen TV showing about a dozen channels of programming (Bollywood movies, news in English and Hindi, shows about Delhi, dance competition shows, etc.), and there was AC, a small safe, even a little fridge with chilled bottles of water.
I stayed up until 1:00 am, reading, writing, and even used my cell phone to call home.
By 5:30 am I was awake again, ready to start the day.
After a cold shower and sorting out my things, I emerged from my room to find the gentleman who helped me last night bustling about. He offered breakfast, which I ate sitting outside. There are two little garden patios here, both with tables and chairs. Sitting out there in the warm morning air, listening to the screech of birds (they sound like parrots, but I'm not sure if they really are) I could hardly believe that I was in the middle of one of the busiest, most crowded cities in the world. Except for the fact that I can hear car horns honking in a neverending chorus, and it's sort of hazy and smoky-smelling outside.
I've decided to go to Khan Market today, and perhaps Humayun's tomb and Connaught Place.
To finish up my description of Monday's activities:
I decided that yes, I would like to hire a car and driver for the morning. This was all arranged by the people at the geusthouse, who said I could have a car & driver for 4 hours for 500 rupees, or about 15 dollars. In retrospect, having the car for my first morning made my entry into
The driver came shortly before 10, and I asked to go to Khan Market first.
The drive to Khan Market was easy, and we passed through streets that were bordered by large, lush green trees and beautifully manicured fresh, green lawns. The driver said that this area had been developed by the British before
At Khan Market I managed to find FabIndia and spent about an hour looking at clothes, finally buying two pretty tunics (one short sleeved, one long), as well as a dupatta and a stole to go along with them. The shop was practically empty, it was quiet and air-conditioned – all pluses. By the time I came out I was in such a dreamy state that I spontaneously slipped into a Café Coffee Day (a Starbucks-type café clone) for a latte and very nearly forgot the other major errands I needed to accomplish there; namely going to a bank to get some rupees and getting a SIM card for my phone.
After Khan Market, I asked to go to the tomb complex of Humayun, which was breathtakingly beautiful.
One of the security guards followed me around the first part, wanting to give me a little tour for a spot of money, natch. He was so friendly and smiley that I didn’t want to brush him off and accepted that he'd by my paid companion for the first bit of my explorations there. He led me into the first tomb in the complex – small but exceedingly pretty, with what looked like a dozen teardrop domes on the top.
After the tomb my time with the taxi was just about up, so I had him drive me back to my guesthouse. After that I decided to take the metro to
Walking away from the guesthouse along the main road towards the metro, I was unprotected from all the elements that I had been able to look at remotely from the safety of the car: crazy traffic zipping by me (trucks, tuk-tuks, bicycles, cars, the works) with their horns going frantically, and exhaust spewing out behind. Lots of men squatting along the street, or cruising aimlessly up and down it, looking like they were sniffing around for something to break the tedium of the moment. Naked toddlers sleeping deep as the dead (and looking it) on cardboard on the sidewalks, beggar women and their children – little wild things covered in grime with their hair standing on end, demanding alms from passersby. Urine and (probably worse) on the pavement and in the street corners. The occasional drunk or mad-looking person; street-dogs sleeping in patches of shade; rickshaw drivers calling out for custom; street vendors hawking snacks, posters, bags, belts, jeweled fabrics, and so on. I felt quickly overwhelmed by it all, and it was the just the same in CP. In between ducking into another FabIndia and having a bite to eat, I found that I was having sensory overload, and feeling vulnerable and exposed in my nervous walk around the area. I was just waiting to be approached by an unwanted tout, or shoved, or touched or grabbed, and I didn’t feel relaxed or comfortable with it. It was a relief to get back to the guesthouse, though the Metro was incredibly crowded on the return trip (evening commute?) – people were crammed in like sardines in a can,
Sign at the metro station: Please don’t spit here.