I have just come to India with no exact plan in mind, and now the fun starts.
I’ve arrived in New Delhi and got picked up from the airport (as arranged) by the guesthouse people with whom I was staying. I didn’t really want to arrive in the death of night in the chaos of Delhi and have to fight my way pass the outrageous taxi-wallahs to get to the guesthouse, or not.
My previous impression of this vast and chaotic place holds firm. It is noisy, dusty, smelly, dirty but full of interesting moments, many are picture perfect but one has got to be fast with the camera. I’m just spending the day getting acquainted with my immediate environment in Connaught Place, the middle of Delhi. A number of touts come up and try to strike up a conversation or offer help. The trick is to stride purposefully even though one has no idea of where one is going, I’m quite a natural at that. The rambling, crumbling buildings and lively street markets are really great. The immense train station with its multitudes (all with suitcases on their heads) is national geographic material. It’s just too much of a hassle to whip out the camera and dodge bikes, rickshaws, auto-rickshaws and wave touts away at the same time. For respite, I duck into bookshops and restaurants.
Tomorrow I take a half day tour with the official tourism authority of Delhi and then head out to bodhgaya on the overnight train, 2nd class air-con, booked over the internet, fairly painless. Equally painless was the picking up of the ticket from room 17 of the railways reservation complex (it was quite a complex), but I noticed the conspicuous absence of computers from desks. I had to fill up a form and watch the guy transcribe the information into 2 different notebooks, by hand, and then pull out an envelope from the stash in his desk. It was postmarked, so perhaps the ticket was issued at yet another railway complex.
There seems to be an abundance of structures called “public convenience” around the place, but only for men, where do the women pee? Granted, there aren’t that many women walking the streets of Delhi.
Oh, and my room at the C.H. Chaudhary Guesthouse for Paying Guests is one of those projects made by the guy who graduated last in architect school. There are 2 sets of electrical switches by the shower, and in general there are 4 or 5 times more switches in the room than there are gadgets. The building is leaning dangerously and there are no windows. It was recommended by the Lonely Planet guide for India and was cheap.
Had a nice chapatti lunch and some lassi, and I’m now waiting to see if I get the famous Delhi-belly. My doctor in Singapore has armed me with lomotil and rehydrating salts just in case.
In many ways Delhi reminds me of Beijing. It is a city doing what over-populated, under managed cities do. Everyday she cranks away, belching smoke and oozing sludge, striving to accommodate all and sundry, from the teeming populous to the gawking foreigners to the orange roped sadhu and his holy cow. But where the Beijing aura is a grey brown, Delhi’s is a golden brown.