September 14th, 2008 – by: tabs_sea
Meeting fellow Couchsurfers at a CS picnic in Lodhi Gardens
Today I checked out of Yatri House in the morning, as they were fully booked and had no rooms available for tonight. All in all I liked Yatri House and would certainly recommend it to other travelers. What you see on its website is very accurate in terms of what you get, and it was a pleasant place to come back to at the end of each hectic day in hectic Delhi. Before I left, the owner helped me arrange a hired car & driver to take me to Agra & Jaipur over the next few days. In choosing a mode of transportation I was torn between the train (which I’ve heard is very nice) and a hired car.
In the end I opted for the convenience and flexibility of a car and driver. The driver’s name is Anand, and he reputedly has many years experience taking tourists around Rajasthan and elsewhere.
Tuk-tuks, or auto rickshaws (as they are called in India) -- just like taking a bumpy ride in an outsized tin can.
From Yatri House I went to the B&B of a friend of a friend. She lives in a beautiful flat in the south of Delhi in a posh area called Greater Kailash, with cool marble floors, high ceilings, and servants to do all the cooking, cleaning, and errands. I take it that in India anybody with a bit of income has servants, usually in the plural. Given the dire lack of employment and the cheaper value of labor, I suppose this isn’t unusual.
In the afternoon I did another interview, and then went to a Couchsurfer picnic in Lodhi Garden organized by the Delhi Couchsurfer group.
I mention this especially because it’s an interesting example of how the Internet can be (and is) used as a powerful social networking tool, with real impacts on people’s lives. Through CS I “met” [online, that is] several people in Delhi before arriving here, and exchanged contact information. On arriving, we arranged to meet for coffee, and they turned out to be some of the nicest people I’ve met on this trip. It was pure coincidence that this Delhi CS picnic was taking place during my visit and that one of my CS contacts invited me to come. So there I was, sitting on the manicured grass of the Lodhi Garden, sitting beside a couple of ancient (and very beautiful) tombs in a picturesque garden in New Delhi (not to mention wilting in a pool of my own sweat, as the heat was brutal, even as the sun went down), chatting with perfect strangers, ALL of whom were there because they had met online through this website. There were plenty of Delhi-ites there as well as travelers (from France, Germany, Singapore, the UK, Australia, Scandinavia, etc.). This sort of thing couldn’t have happened 10 years ago, but I suppose nowadays it is a common thing to meet online, and to form all sorts of liaisons (travel partners, business, friendship, romantic, etc.) through the medium of the Internet.
tomb in the Lodi Garden
The picnic went on until after dark, and at the end a couple of Delhi CS-ers kindly offered to drive me back to my B&B, saving me from having to go through the usual auto rickshaw rigmarole. I was back in no time, speeding through the velvety night in the CS-er’s luxury car – powerful AC blasting out soothingly cold air, new-smelling leather upholstery, and flash stereo system with Hindi movie tunes belting out, to which the other CS-er sang along.
At the B&B I arrived just in time for a delightful meal with my hostess, served in her chic dining room by one of the servants. I tried crunchy fried “lady fingers” (okra) for the first time – very nice – and there were fresh roti to accompany the vegetarian meal. Her daughter had the television switched on to an American reality show called “Wife Swapping,” and in that particular episode an “embrace-your-inner-goddess” Wicca-practicing wife had to switch places with a hard core “my-husband-is-the-master-of-my-domain” wife. If your only impressions of the States were formed by watching that sort of reality show (not to mention MTV videos) you’d have a pretty strange view of the US, wouldn’t you…?