A Day

22 January 2011 New Delhi
This entry is long and a bit rambly – but it gives you an idea as to why I am so tired in the few minutes some of y’all have caught me online in my evenings.

The day started out with no water, which shifted my plans to do laundry to some point in the future.
Last night I was told that I wouldn’t be going into Delhi with the rest of the group because he could only book a four seater and I was tagging along as someone who hadn’t prepaid.
So I decided to go in on my own to Old Delhi. My host family’s father happened to be over (I don’t go there until tomorrow night) and he gave me a ride via motorbike to “Old Faridabad”. I got dropped off at an intersection that I didn’t recognize and had to speak to three different autorickshaws before I could find one who would drive me to the Bardapur metro for a reasonable price (they refused to haggle and were way over charging).
I got out at the wrong exit of the metro in Old Delhi and walked right into what I think was the Hindu temple there giving food to the extreme poor.
I then meandered through, wearing the confident walk of someone who knows where she is going (though I didn’t) until I recognized the library that I had seen on the map I had examined previously. I ducked into a corner of the library and took the map out (being ripped out pages from my guide book, the India guide book is a tome of awkward proportions). The streets are technically named, but they are not labelled and street names are not how you get around.* So I counted the amount of right hand turns that I needed to make and continued my meandering while keeping an eye out for a bathroom. I passed countless stalls for men to piss in, but not one place to pop a squat. Which is just taunting someone with a litre of water and a cup of chai in them.
The Red Fort was the reason why I was going into Old Delhi, I was really looking forward to exploring the massive complex. I made my way from the market to Chandmi Chowk, which has got to be one of the world’s most chaotic markets. The sight of the Red Fort at the end of Chadmi Chowk made me feel a bit accomplished. Go me for finding it on my own and all that.
It was closed for the week surrounding Republic Day, which is next Tuesday.
So I go back to my meandering the streets of the Chandmi Chowk bazarr until I found the Jasma Masjid, India’s oldest mosque. I usually try to put my shoes in my bag for fear of them being stolen (ever see Slumdog Millionare? That shit isn’t made up). However, the streets of Old Delhi had gifted me with something suspiciously like cow shit, so I gambled on leaving them outside.
I paid 200R (I can have a meal for 50R) to bring my camera in. I ignored them trying to get me to rent a brightly patterned colored hospital gown for modesty – I was already covered from ankle to wrist and it’s a gimmick to get tourists to pay another 20R.
Then, my camera didn’t work.
I fiddled with the settings for a good while before, frustrated and sick of getting hassled by the men in the mosque (men around here take pictures of American girls on their cell phones and then tell their friends that they slept with the girl in the picture. Kind of pathetic, really), I left. My shoes were thankfully still there. I walked the length of Chandmi Chowk twice over before deciding that I needed to sit. The bazarr has limited places to do so, which made my decision to go to the Ghandi Museum. Two cycle rickshaw negotiations later (Ghandi Museum? “Hain.” “Kitna?” “50 Ruppes” “Nahi, 40 Rupes.” “Nahi, very far.”), I was sitting in a rickshaw, eating my oranges on my way to what turned out to be a museum reminiscent of the government museums in Vietnam – one part history, one part propaganda, one part shrine. There was a bathroom, which made my trip worth it, though the museum itself is rather nice. Musty and abandoned, but a solid place to spend thirty or so minutes. Minus the bit with the blood spattered clothes that Ghandi was wearing when he was shot.
There was a map in the lobby (I was, by now, off the map I had with me) and I noted that the New Delhi metro didn’t seem very far, and a straight shot as well. Maybe 1.5 miles, which I walk all the time. I decided to walk.
Until the road split. Which wasn’t on the map. I apparently made the incorrect choice regarding the fork to take. The roads here are more or less themed – optics, stationery, silk, food, etc. This was a very long rod of mechanics. Specifically, Muslim mechanics. The small number of women I saw wore some variation of the complete burka. I had specifically worn conservative clothes, but I would have stood out as a non-Muslim women in a man’s world even without being white.
I have never, ever, wanted a man at my side more.
I’m stubborn. I clung to the mentality that I wasn’t lost, that I was exactly where I needed to be, and walking in the general direction of where I wanted to be. After about a mile, I gave up and hailed a cycle rickshaw. It took me three times before I could find one that was willing to transport a single woman to the New Delhi metro. At the destination, he couldn’t break a 100R note (little more than $2), so I had to duck into a restaurant to break it. At which point, I realized that I couldn’t go home yet because I didn’t have enough in small bills (500 Rs are a bitch to break and that’s all the bank gives) to make my auto rickshaw fare home.
So I walked thru the station, thru the railway station (the only way I knew how to get to the market I had been to previously) to go to a larger restaurant (one that caters to Westerners) to break the 500R note. Along the way, I ducked into an internet cafe where I figured out how to fix my camera via you tube; I chatted up an Australian named Michelle and got some ideas of places to visit while I’m here in India; and I walked right into a protest with a hundred or so women holding signs with people banging drums.
Getting home was all that in reverse, more or less. The rickshaw driver did not really know where he was going and kept on trying to leave me off before I recognized my surroundings. In the dark. He also insisted on taking the back roads, which, while quicker during rush hour, hurt my lower back badly enough that I can no longer comfortably do my forward bend in yoga and am thus out of commission for a few days.
I left the house around 8:45, got in just before 7pm. I had a quick dinner of soup, chaaval and dal (rice and lentils). Then, I did laundry. This involves soaking all my clothes in one bucket of clean water, then soaking them in a bucket of soapy water for thirty minutes. Then squeezing them out, rinsing them in a bucket of clean water, squeezing them out, rinsing until as little suds as possible come out. Then I hang them up to dry on the roof. The “shower,” which I took while the clothes were soaking in the soapy water, involves filling the same bucket of clean water up with warm water and using a scoop to rinse myself down and such.

Tomorrow, Agra, the Taj, and moving in with my host family.

* E.g. getting to my current house requires telling the auto rickshaw to take me to “Faridabad, Sector Das (10) Market.” I then have to look for a specific silk shop that’s across from a specific fruit seller, walk a few blocks until I see the unmarked internet cafe, make my next left into an alley, make my second right , then walk until the end of the section of houses that is after the empty lot that is usually filled with garbage and cows.

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2 Responses to A Day

  1. skyler says:

    Wow, what an adventure. It makes me wonder how the heck they do it on Amazing Race. Not just in India but any foreign place.

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