We walked to India Gate. Lots of families and school children were sitting on the grass, and taking photos. Street sellers had stalls of food and drink. Some men sat next to stoves and kettles, selling cups of chai (tea). Women walked through the tourists selling bangles. They were almost aggressive – at one point I realised a bracelet had been clipped to my wrist as I walked and she was negotiating the price!
Walking is quite difficult for white tourists because the tuktuk drivers follow you, offering to take you. They don’t believe you want to walk. After a while, they drive to the end of the street, and offer again when you get there.
Near to the President’s Residence are roads of large bungalows. Each property had a guard on the gate and high walls topped with spikes – only the monkeys could climb over. The gardens were green – lawns and trees and shrubs (didn’t see any flowers.) It was lovely, but easy to be lonely if you lived there I expect, especially for the wives, it was very enclosed.
We saw more monkeys. There was a huge male sorting through the rubbish. We stopped to take his photo, but a man walking past told us we weren’t allowed to. Apparently we were in a military zone (though there were no signs up.) I like that in India, when we do things wrong, people tell us – they don’t shout or fine us, they just inform us we’ve done something wrong. (Shame though, it would’ve been a good photo.)
We went to Janpath Market. There were a mix of stalls in the street, and shop fronts with goods spilling into the road. At one point, everyone began to quickly collect together all their things and move them off the road. I thought perhaps a rainstorm was coming. They laughed, and told us that no, someone had spotted a policeman! Apparently, they are meant to keep all their items within the shop, they could be fined for displaying things on the street.
I wanted a photograph of a man frying potatoes, so asked his permission and offered him a few notes (bout 40p in value.) He laughed, and said no. When I walked away, a man rushed up, told me that the food man had changed his mind, then told the food man that he should accept. I have noticed things like this before in Delhi. There is a sort of ‘Mafia’ which runs everything. It isn’t necessarily sinister, but there is definitely an organisation that runs below the surface, mostly unnoticed by tourists. People who run the market, and will direct you towards certain stalls and find change if you have the wrong money. Or taxi drivers who only know the way to certain hotels. Or information offices, who tell you everything is shut except for certain places. It makes you feel slightly wary.
I like India. Delhi has been very different to what we experienced a few years ago in Mumbai – it is less intense, fewer random people on the street touched us, there were very few children begging, the traffic seemed less chaotic (it mostly stayed on the road.) But both cities were busy, full of colour and decoration, and the people were polite. You feel that people TRY in India, even in the slums, they weren’t sitting back, waiting for aid, they were actively trying to survive.
The only thing I found really difficult, to the point I don’t think I could live in India, was the pollution. There was a thick haze everyday, and I found walking fast uncomfortable. It actually hurt to draw breath. I’m not sure what India is doing to address this, nor what part Europe and America play in causing it. But something needs to change. On our last morning, there was the Delhi half marathon. I looked online for the route, but mainly saw posts from medics, warning people to be careful if they wanted to run, and advising people with asthma or heart problems, to stay at home. I hope the air pollution can be sorted. Before it’s too late.
These white cars were everywhere!
Thank you for reading.
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