Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Delhi: A correction (plus additional notes and thoughts)


In the last post I may have appeared to denounce Delhi as being smelly, overcrowded, delapidated, aggressive and generally not a nice place to be. Having stayed here for more time and become acclimatised to it, I would like to denounce this impression. It is delapidated, hot, humid and smelly, but it is also a fantastically alive, friendly and exuberant place. The people are generally extremely helpful and courteous to strangers, if occasionally over-helfpul. Once you get used to the touts they are pretty much no problem, and many of the "hello sir" and "excuse me" calls you hear are in fact people trying to be helpful. It's just that being from England I assume anyone in any way talking to me in a public place must be up to no good.

Since I last posted I have been to see most of Delhi's main attractions: The Red Fort (quite impressive), the big mosque in Old Delhi (shoes off before going in and strict and suspicious glares at non-muslims such as myself, but absolutely enormous), Humayun's tomb (Brilliant - same architecture as the Taj Mahal), Purana Qaril (disappointing). These were all forts, mosques and tombs built by the Mughal dynasty, who ruled most of India for a fair long time and who were directly descended from both Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. Technically speaking, there was a Mughal in charge of India right up until the Brits took over, but actually much of that time would have been a figurehead only. Anyway, the Mughals were the ones who built the Taj Mahal, which is at Agra, for which I leave tomorrow, by train. I'm concerned though, as the Indian train network was designed by the same people who designed the British train network, namely the British. I am therefore expecting it to be shoddy and unreliable.

Also today we saw the newer Indian government buildings and President's house, and the India Gate, an enormous monument to the India's fallen in various early twentieth century wars, including WW1. They are all nice enough, but all government buildings always seem a bit stale and severe to me. Mind you, I'd just seen the impressive Humayun's Tomb, so perhaps they just suffer in comparison.

This area of Delhi (Paharganj, since you asked) is prone to power cuts - two in the last two days. Which is not a problem since the hotels and shops have their own private generators on the whole, but it does create quite an eery atmosphere when you're out and about and there's no street lighting, just lighting spilling out from stalls and emporiums (emporia?).

Today in Delhi the sun was out. Actually, the sun has been out every day, but today the smog lessened and so the sun was blazing rather than hazy. Which meant I nearly got sunstroke walking around a crumbled down fort with no shade whatsoever. Anyway, a good amount of sitting in the shade drinking water later, I decided to get me a sunhat. Wandering round Delhi's frankly rubbish "main shopping area" Connaught Place in confusion and getting lost for a while due to the confusing diversionary signs for building work on the upcoming Delhi Metro (woah - now that's gonna be hot!), I eventually stumbled on a hat shop, and bought myself an amusing green trilby (or panama or something - I don't do old hat names). It'll keep the sun off of my head, and it makes me laugh whenever I see myself in anything reflective while I'm wearing it, and for 300 rupees (about 3 pound 75) it's a bargain. Though I think over ten months it could get fairly battered and sunbleached...

Finally, a strange occurence: While sitting on a wall in some shade in the Red Fort, taking a break from seeing old ruinous buildings and about to go to a museum (see - cultural! And I haven't been drinking!), myself and Trev were approached by an Indian family. hey were obviously tourists, though I'm not sure where they were from. But it was either another part of India, or from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka because their first language wasn't English. Anyway, they came up to us and said, in broken English "can we take your photo?". Thinking they meant us to take their camera and photograph them so that they could have the whole family in one pic, we assented, only for it to turn out that they wanted a photo of the two late twenties/early thirties men to sit next to us on the wall, one shaking my hand, the other shaking Trev's hand, and the little boy to sit between us, for a photo op with us. I suppose they wanted to check the old Chinese saying "the white man smells of the devil". Bizarre, though...


Blogger Shall said...

ah makes me miss Delhi *sniffle*. Agra fort is good. Wait for the bit of the tour that says "oooo look at these arches, it's an AMAZING MAGIC TRICK. you stand at one end, and it looks like they get smaller as they get further away, and you stand at the other end, and it looks the same, but they're all the same height"..ahh, the wonders of perspective.

As for trains, I once went on a 36hour sleeper train journey that was delayed by 36hours. after the first 12 hours I lived in my pyjamas and hopped on and off the train when I got bored...we were stationary in the fog most of the time. Oh, and there was that time we ran over someone and had to stop and wait for the remains to be cleared from the line...oh, and the time the engine fell out and they had to walk back to the last station and get one and carry it back. People ON the trains are amazing though!

Call up my cousin when you get back to Delhi! Shame on you.

October 7, 2004 at 1:32 PM  

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