A Night in Delhi

New Delhi Travel Blog

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Nandu our driver in Rajasthan

Well after breakfast at the Trident, Nandu picked us up to head back to Delhi. We threw the bags in the trunk and drove about a mile before he pulled over and performed the "Nandu Shuffle", nervously telling us that "his friend" was going back to Delhi and, if it was OK, we were going to go with him. He told us that it was in a better car (a Ford) and that "he knows Delhi very, very well". This created a bit of a problem with tipping as we had already figured out a very nice tip for him, but as we thought about it, this theoretically should work out well for everyone: Nandu gets to drive home to Udaipur today instead of tomorrow, his "friend" gets a fare and tip from us back to Delhi (he had just finished a trip with another couple and was planning on going back empty) and no skin off our bones.

Typical Indian Truck - notice the "Please Sound Horn Please" - they LOVE their horns as much as the Burmese!
Since he was such a nice guy, we agreed and transferred all of our stuff into the new car which ended up having both a driver and a guide.

They were both nice guys and all was going well until we got to Gurgaon outside of Delhi and hit major bumper to tuk-tuk to overladen truck traffic for 30-40 minutes. Incidentally, the tolerance (both personal and vehicle distance) of the drivers here is amazing as they weave in and out of trucks, scooters, cars and tuk-tuks with barely an inch between them. Well suddenly it was getting very warm and we realized the AC was off. The driver sheepishly said maybe something was wrong with the alternator. My cell rang and it was Karma from Yuksom Trekking - the company we are looking at to take us trekking in Sikkim and we talked for a bit. He is going to email me a revised itinerary/quote based on our discussion and hopefully we can get things finalized later tonight as the clock is ticking and we are not sure about internet/cell access in Bhutan.

About 15 sweaty minutes later, the car stalled on the crowded Delhi streets and we limped over to the curb. The driver disappeared for about 15 minutes, then returned, an even more sheepish grin on his face as he poured three one-liter plastic water bottles full of gasoline into the car. As we were driving down the road, the driver said there is "No Need for jew in India!" which caused us to do a little double take. Then he followed with "No need for jew because the animals just roam the streets!" Ahhh, Zoo, not Jew!

The car wouldn’t start (maybe the alternator was bad) so some locals push started it as Cindy and I ran down the road to catch up and hop in. We made it another few minutes and this time, the car basically died. We knew we were within fifteen minutes of Shivalik where Darshan and Murli live and the guide suggested that they get us a tuk-tuk for the remainder of the way instead of waiting for their company to come with another car. We said as long as they negotiated the rate with the driver, that was cool with us. They did and we hopped in the tuk-tuk with an older guy who said he knew exactly where our address was.

As we were going over a bridge, the tuk-tuk stalled and he mumbled in broken English "overheat!" and proceeded to pull over and add a bunch of coolant to the tuk-tuk. After a few minutes, we were off again with the neighborhood looking a bit familiar. Of course he didn’t have a clue where he was and stopped several times to ask, refusing to believe our attempt at directions. We eventually found the house and Murli greeted us with a smile and a bottle of cold water.

We ended up talking with Murli for a while and then resting a bit and looking at the new proposal from Karma at Yuksom. We talked to him and negotiated a bit before agreeing on a two week program that should meet us at the Bhutanese border after we are finished in Bhutan and take us trekking and sightseeing through Sikkim and down to Darjeeling. We spend the rest of the evening filling out paperwork and emailing Karma everything he needs for the permit. Murli graciously ran out to the awesome Rimpy’s restaurant that he had recommended on our first night in Delhi and picked us up dinner and cold beers. What a guy! We finally got to bed late with an alarm set for 3:15am to make our 6:00am flight to Paro. Woohoo! Off to Bhutan (paranoid coup notwithstanding….)

Various things we have learned in India in no particular order

  1. The locals can easily fit six to eight people in a tuk-tuk and look less cramped and more comfortable than Cindy and I and our small bags.
  2. Cows always have the right of way.
  3. While racial profiling may be a bane of America, economic profiling is rampant here. If you look western, expect to pay a lot more.
  4. If you are a little kid, it is OK to poop in the gutter.
  5. If your truck is not at least 200% over capacity, you are doing something wrong.
  6. An Indian driver needs three things: 1) Good Horn 2) Good Brakes 3) Good Luck
  7. Indian’s love rules and paperwork whether it is for picking flowers, buying train tickets, using your camera or a woman’s time of the month. On the other hand, they completely disregard any and all traffic rules/lights.
  8. There is a reason they call it "Camel Breath".
  9. Contrary to popular belief, pigeons not cockroaches will inherit the earth, at least the sub-continent. They are everywhere.
  10. Surprisingly, scooters in India are often three seaters, and sometimes function as minivans.
  11. Hot water is a relative term - actually, so is cold water.
  12. The term "Brother" has many meanings in India and does not imply blood family.
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Nandu our driver in Rajasthan
Nandu our driver in Rajasthan
Typical Indian Truck - notice the …
Typical Indian Truck - notice the…
New Delhi
photo by: peeyushmalhotra