Anjali and I are still in New Delhi. It is morning on our sixth day. New Delhi is a city like New York, in that you could stay here indefinitely, as there are always things to do and discover, from a vast and variegated restaurant, bar and club scene, to infinite shopping districts of all varieties, including handicraft stalls and the fanciest, flashiest modern malls you have ever seen, to things even New York City cannot provide, such as ancient ruins inside city limits, like the Mughal Tughluqabad Fort, and the Qutb Minar complex, which we have visited. Writing about a lot of these ancient sites, or a unique edifice like the Baha’i Lotus Temple, is really difficult without showing you photos, but I don’t know if I will be able to do that until I post them on my blog after our return. I’m taking very high-res digital photos, and without access to an editing program like photoshop, it would be nigh impossible to send them over most Indian internet connections, especially not a lot of them.
I am slowly adjusting to the 14-15 hour time difference, and getting to the point where I am not awake in the middle of the night for hours, like I was the first several nights. I am awake far earlier than I would be in Portland, as our hosts have three children with very early schedules, and the very busy road outside the apartment where we are staying is constantly noisy, especially after dawn. The road is a brand new experiment for Delhi. It is called a BRT, and Delhi-ites are acronym crazy, yet I don’t know the meanings of a lot of the acronyms. The road is divided into lanes: one for cars, scooters, motorcycles and autorickshaws, one for buses, one for bicyclists and cycle rickshaws, and sidewalks for pedestrians. Apparently the car-driving locals (5-10% of the population) aren’t happy about it, as it is becomes very congested. It is not strictly obeyed, and many motorcycles and scooters (and even cars we are told!) will use the bicycle lane, much to the danger of the poor bicyclists. There are traffic security personnel at the crosswalks during the day, and I was afraid of getting a ticket for jaywalking, only to realize that the security were there to try to get the cars to stop when the crosswalk turned green, because the cars don’t on their own. I didn’t see any tickets being handed out, just security putting their hands out to motion to the cars to stop, which they do, after a while.
We have been doing a fair amount of walking, as there are many varied, interesting shopping districts within walking distance of our apartment. Since the autorickshaws charge us a whitey surcharge that doubles the price, and which they won’t budge on, walking is much less of a hassle, if you can handle lots of stares, the smell of open sewers, and you don’t mind negotiating the occasional bull. India now has a Kiehl’s, a Body Shop, and a very fancy local shop along those lines, where small bottles of shampoo or sunscreen lotion are $12 US and petite bars of soap are $4 US. In Delhi you can pay as much or as little as you want for a meal, clothing, household items, you name it. There are options for the poorest workers in society who with a six-day work week might make $80 US a month, and options for the richest, who want to go to a restaurant where the entrees are $30 or more US, and an alcoholic drink might be $20. In some cases the upper-end prices here seem more expensive to me than New York, and certainly Portland, and I think spending an ungodly amount on things is one way upper-class Delhi-ites assert their status.
I have a lot of other things I would like to touch on, but I don’t have the time now. We are off to the train station to buy tickets to Amristar, Punjab, home to the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest site. We are very used to Delhi now, and it would be a very relaxing trip to spend a lot more time here, despite what an incredibibly crowded, noisy, filthy, congested city it is. However, we want to cover a lot of ground on this trip, a lot more than we did five years ago, so we need to shake off inertia and keep moving, although we will probably come back through Delhi on our way to visiting Anjali’s grandmother in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh for Christmas.
Everyone take care, and for all of you in Portland, enjoy the snow, I’m sorry I am missing it.