Last Day in Delhi


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!

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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.

img_5440 img_5437 The round parliament building.

These white cars were everywhere!

img_5433 People enjoyed being on the grass, watching all the tourists.

img_5419 img_5418 Schoolgirls and street sellers

img_5411 img_5416 India Gate, inscribed with the names of martyrs.



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From Delhi to the Taj Mahal

If you like monuments, you should visit the Taj Mahal. If you like seeing different cultures and people, the drive to Agra is fascinating!


Woke at 4am. The bed had jolted, so I assumed it was D returning (he sometimes wanders off at night, if he can’t sleep.) Sat up, and realised I was alone, then bed jolted again. Wondered if Delhi was having an earthquake. Located wandering husband and told him he should sit under table if there was an earthquake (which I know after doing online research following earth tremors when we were in Italy 2 years ago.) Husband looked at me as if I were mad. Went back to sleep.

Later, I looked online, and read that Delhi had felt tremors measuring 4.5 on Richter scale.

Car was booked for 7am. Arrived in lobby. Was told, “Yes sir, your car is ready. Please take a seat.” Waited for a while before driver actually appeared. I think, in India, it is considered polite to tell people what they want to hear. It is sometimes almost true.

Drove through Delhi traffic. This is a lot like dancing a tango, lots of tension and near-misses. Seat belts are a necessity. Drove on freeway to a toll booth. Everything completely stationary. Many people honked their horns (no idea why, but Indian drivers use their horns a LOT.) Several people got out of their cars and had a look around. Then the barriers opened, cars surged forwards, people ran back to their cars, avoiding all the lane changing traffic, we were off.

We drove through fields. Passed hundreds of chimneys in a brick making area. Passed green fields with neat crops, people working on ancient tractors or horse and carts. People walked with great sacks on their heads. When we left the freeway, the traffic became more eclectic. Oxen tethered on the back of a too-small truck, tractors pulling trailers stacked high with sacks, lorries with great mounds of grain. All the time bikes and motorbikes and tuktuks, weaving through the traffic, horns sounding.

The drive through Agra was another world. We crossed the wide Yamuna River. On the grassy banks oxen and donkeys grazed while people washed their laundry. Fields of linen were stretched out to dry in the sunshine. Pigs and goats wandered freely, while water birds floated on the river. In the town, the roads were a tumble of traffic, cows, people carrying sacks on their heads. And monkeys scampering across roof tops. I don’t know if the monkeys were introduced by people, perhaps one of the temples, but now they were everywhere. I didn’t entirely trust them when we walked around – they watched us with their clever eyes, darting behind walls then jumping up unexpectedly. It was us who were the novelty, the monkeys were comfortably free.

Left the car in the carpark at Taj Mahal. We had to leave bags in the car, though could take cameras and a handbag. Our ticket price included a bottle of water (which I didn’t trust enough to drink), a bus ride to the monument (though we could have walked, it wasn’t far) and shoe covers. If you don’t have shoe covers, you have to remove your shoes and leave them in an open cubbyhole.

The Taj Mahal is beautiful. Made of white marble, inlaid with precious stones that form floral patterns, surrounded by gardens and fountains. It is the tomb made for a loved wife of an historical ruler. She was the second wife (bit of an insult to the first wife) and she died giving birth to their fourteenth child (so I figure she deserved a nice tomb.) The entrance gate was engraved with an extract from the Koran, written in increasingly large letters as it got higher, so when standing on the ground, it all looks the same size. Clever.


All the architecture and craftsmanship was clever. But for me, there was no atmosphere. Perhaps you need to be the only visitor. I would suggest that everyone should first visit Huymayun’s Tomb, so you appreciate how it is meant to feel. But the photos are pretty….

img_5409 Traffic at the toll booths.

img_5396 Lots of milk churns being carried as we drove into rural areas.

img_5390 p1100161 People washing laundry in the river.

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The Taj Mahal


Who helps the poor in Delhi?


We visited the offices of Pardarshita. Pardarshita means ‘transparency’. They have partnered with Actionaid, and are striving for transparency within society. They want basic human rights for women and children in India. Although laws are in place to help people, in reality, many people are unable to claim their rights.

For food, poor people are given ration cards. In theory, there is a basic level of nutrition. However, the scheme is not adequately organised, so many people cannot access it. The same is true of pensions, education, health care. The main problem seems to be administration.

The charity runs workshops, informing women of their rights and helping them to access them. These include:
Enrolment in school for children.
Ration card.
‘Kerosine Free Delhi’ ( they can claim free LPG for cooking, if they have a ration card.)
Voter card (for elections.)
Birth Certificate.
Income certificate.

The people need to queue for many hours to obtain the above certificates, and they need the certificates to claim their rights. Or, some people pay for a counterfeit one (this apparently, is very common.)

The ration card is given to people ‘below the poverty line’. I think, whatever the country, this is always going to be a difficult one. Who are the ‘poor’ in England? They have far more than these people even dream of owning! Previously, in India, poverty was assessed by calorie intake. I think this seems an accurate guide (often, especially when people are subsistence farmers, the whole “less than a dollar a day” standard is meaningless, as they wouldn’t have anywhere to spend a dollar even if they had one. Money only works in Western countries as a guide to poverty, in my view.)

However, the last census in India took possessions into account. So, if a domestic worker had been given a television to watch, she was considered ‘not poor’. This allows the government to count fewer people as ‘poor’. Which means fewer people can claim their rights.

India has lots of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. If you are a Muslim and speak Bengali, people will assume you are an illegal immigrant, even if you’re not (in the slums, there were a lot of Bengali speaking Muslims.) They tend to have to bribe an official to be issued with an ID card. If you can prove you have lived in India for 10 years (so have documentation) you can then stay legally.

The rights of domestic workers is another issue. India is famous for cheap labour – everyone in the world wants to take advantage of this. Including Indians. So, most people, even ‘ordinary’ people have domestic staff. They are paid below the minimum wage (because no one checks) and are sometimes treated almost like slaves. No one really wants to change this, because no one wants to pay more for their own cleaner, child minder, cook…. The pay is about 2,000 rupees a month ($30) They are also very vulnerable to abuse. A rich person, with guards on his gate, sometimes feels he is above the law (remember, women have very few rights in India, and courts rarely rule in their favour.) There are some sad stories amongst the women in the slums.

All children have the right to free education in India. The quality of this education varies. We visited a school in a resettlement area. It was a bizarre experience.

We were shown into the headteacher’s office and given chairs to sit on. The chairs were dusty, and I felt I needed to keep moving my feet because as the headteacher (a sensible, intelligent, woman) spoke, mice scuttled about on the floor. Do mice run up trouser legs? I wasn’t sure, but didn’t feel especially relaxed.
The school had 2,000 pupils. There were 15 toilets (you can imagine what that means…) We were told the ratio of teacher to pupil was 1:70 (though actually, the classes we saw were much smaller than this.) The building is used three times during the day, two shifts in the morning and one in the afternoon (completely different head, staff and pupils attend each shift.) This makes for difficult administration when things like budgets are planned.

The women in the slums told us that by age 9, most children could only read very simple Hindi, so they questioned the point of them attending school. If children don’t attend school, they can help their parents, or care for younger siblings so their mother can work. The headteacher told us that teaching quality was variable, because many teachers were demotivated. Paid by the government, they put in the hours, but had no motivation to actually teach. They also are expected to do admin, such as ensure children have ID cards, which takes time, so teaching gets relegated. Another problem is that very few of the pupil’s parents could read or write, so there was no reinforcement at home. This is huge. In England, children take home a book every day, so they can practice at home. Without this, it is much harder for a child to learn to read, especially if their role models never read or write.

I found the school visit to be a rather depressing experience. The classes we glimpsed seemed completely unstimulating, even the rooms were drab, with nothing displayed. I might be judging unfairly – we only saw a glimpse; and I don’t like mice – but I’m not sure I would have bothered to attend that school. In the slum, we passed a house where a woman was reading to a whole room full of children. We were told it was ‘an education room’. It seemed much more child friendly than the school.

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Thank you for reading.

Into the slum….


Today we went to the slums (which officially are illegal.) The resettlement areas, where the goverment have housed the poor people, were very poor. The slums are worse. Hard to get your head round the poverty, these people have nothing.

We left our bags in the charity office, though could take our cameras as people are used to the charity taking photos to use in campaigns for help. We left the lanes and walked into the slums. Unfinished buildings in haphazard places, sometimes so close together that it was like walking through a dark tunnel, a 2ft wide pathway with sewage in the open ditch next to you, fat electricity cables in a tangle above you. We had to walk in single file. The houses leant towards each other, there was almost no light, a foul smell, and children playing at the corners.

Their homes were a room in a concrete building, with a rug on the floor and a few possessions heaped into the corners. No furniture at all. It makes you feel a bit lost as to how they can best be helped.

We saw a woman through an open door, sitting on the floor, beating wet washing with a stick. We saw several groups of ‘rag pickers’. They have bought huge sacks of rubbish, which they then sort into bags of paper, plastic, metal. They can then sell this for a small profit. Whole families sat on the ground, sorting rubbish.

There was a park/children’s play area. A square of litter strewn hard earth surrounded on all sides by buildings. The charity had bought two climbing frames and children hung upside down from them, watching us walk. Three women sat in the corner on a dirty rug. They had bought a sack of nuts (300 rupees – £3) and were sorting the husks from the nuts. It would take them all day. They could sell the sack of sorted nuts for 400 rupees. It cost them 50 rupees in transport, so 50 rupees for a days work (about 60p).

Several buildings had electricity meters on them. The goverment had provided these, to try and prevent the fires breaking out, which were common. In the rainy season, the area floods, carrying the sewage and rubbish into the houses.

The area is home mainly to Bengali speaking Muslims. Some would be immigrants from Bangladesh, some were Hindu Indians. There was a Hindu/Muslim ‘temple’ – a room decorated with fairy lights and flowers and brightly painted pictures. It wouldn’t have been out of place in Vegas! It was a symbol of unity, showing that Hindu and Muslim people were tolerant of each other, trying to work together. It surprised and impressed me.

There is a huge bond between women. I felt exactly the same as the women we met, I kind of knew what they were saying as they showed us around. We had met them at the charity office, and now they were showing us where they lived. They hugged me when we left – I dont know why really, I didnt help them in any way, I just shared a tiny bit of their lives. But I think women recognise something inside of each other, a shared understanding that transcends culture or language or possessions. When I stroked their babies or they held my hand so I didnt trip near the open sewer, we were equal, the same. Not sure if I’m describing it properly, but I hope you know what I mean.

There were lots of children and lots of animals. Goats and dogs mainly, but a few birds too – even a dusty duck searching through the rubbish.  There were chickens, many to a wire cage, stacked on top of each other. You wouldn’t want to be a chicken in India.

The children were playing. They would be holding a stick, or a piece of rubbish, but you could see they were making up some story in their head. Or else they were teasing each other and laughing. They were, bizarrely, happy. They wanted us to photograph them, and punched the air in triumph when we took one! They were very funny.

So how can these people be helped? Tomorrow I will tell you about the school we visited, and what the charity is actually doing to improve the situation.

Thank you for reading.

p1100051 p1100058 The play area.

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Rag pickers, sorting the rubbish into type.

p1100065 The narrow lane –  like a foul smelling tunnel, so narrow it was almost dark.

p1100069 Piles of tar and litter and excrement, next to the open sewer.

p1100078 The women sorting nuts from husks. The husks can be burnt for cooking.

p1100087 Wherever we went, there were children playing.

p1100085 The Muslim/Hindu temple


p1100093 Boys having a laugh.

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A rubbish tip – but if you look carefully, you can see the children playing. Barefooted.


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Meeting the women…


We were taken to a house in a relocation area. This is an area where poor people have been relocated, away from the centre of Delhi (so the city centre looks nice when people visit.) Am not sure if that’s true/the whole reason, but that’s what we were told. The roads were unmaintained, covered in litter, with cracked tarmac. Some were wide enough for vendors to have stalls at the sides. Some were narrow, long dusty lanes with houses on each side. The houses were tall, entered through an open doorway. It didn’t seem polite to take photographs, so I will describe it for you.

We went through the doorway and climbed steep steps that twisted, similar to climbing steps in an ancient castle tower. We reached a room, full of people and laundry and noise. We walked through, to another staircase. At the top of this one, in another room, we removed our shoes. I looked around.

There were two closed doors and two open doorways. One had a soaked floor, so I’m guessing that was an area for washing. Water is carried up from taps in the street, or via hosepipes. There are also communal toilet blocks in the street. The other doorway led to a kitchen area. A double ringed hob was powered by a large gas bottle – like a camping stove but bigger. There was a stretch of work surface, with pots and pans and a couple of sacks of what I assumed was food. No refrigerator, no sink.

The charity rents a room in this house. Above us, up more stairs, were two more homes. So people constantly walked through each other’s house. There is not much privacy if you are poor in India. One doorway led to a bedroom, the other to the room rented by the charity. We went in and sat, on rugs laid on the concrete floor.

The room soon filled with women, and they sat and shared their stories. They were very strong people, you had to admire them.

We heard from the woman who, when she married, was required to remain in the house all the time. If she ever left, she had to cover her whole head. She asked her husband for permission to leave the house, which he gave, and she began to meet other women. She knew they were being hit by their husbands, even though they denied it and explained the bruises by saying they had had accidents. Gradually they trusted her enough to tell the truth. I got the impression that this was huge – just getting the women to speak about what was happening in the home. They then formed a sort of support group, a place for women to share their problems with other women. I’m not sure that anything changed physically, but they were no longer alone, they supported each other. They are beginning to campaign for a women’s court, so their legal rights are upheld.

We learned that in India, when a boy is born, there is a big celebration. Everyone visits, they bring gifts and food (it sounded like a Baby Shower in the US.) If a girl is born, it is kept quiet. The mother doesn’t leave the house, the baby is kept hidden, people mourn. These women were trying to change this. When girls are born, they try to persuade the mother to come to a celebration, which they organise. They give a gift, and acknowledge that having a girl is also good. It’s very tough, because the families don’t agree, and family is very important in India. They are also campaigning for girls to be vaccinated, to have health care and decent food, for baby clinics to check girl babies.

Girls grow up knowing they’re not valued. They are encouraged to stay at home, they seem to be very much ‘owned’ by their husbands. This is even though the woman’s family has paid a big price as a dowry – they pay for the man to take the girl. I’m not sure how it’s different in other areas of India, or amongst rich and educated Indians, but this seems to be the case in the relocation area we visited. I wasn’t sure if I had understood correctly, so I did some online research. Apparently, a dowry was historically given to the bride by her family, so she had her own money if her husband mistreated her. This has evolved into it being given directly to the man. Officially, it is outlawed – but it is still commonplace. I then read horrible facts, that if a dowry is too small or withheld, the woman is burnt and her death reported as accidental or suicide. Crimes against women are rarely investigated. It was all too horrible, so I stopped reading.

The women chatted, laughed, told us their stories. They were coping with so much, both physical abuse and emotional damage. Married aged 15, then rejected by the community because they had given birth to girls. They were learning to recover, learning they had value, learning to support each other.
They laughed as they recited a rhyme they all learned in childhood, which repeats a phrase with “abla” in. The word “abla” is sometimes used as a prefix to a name, so ‘Abla Anne’. It means worthless. The women have changed the rhyme, substituting “sabla”(might be spelt wrong) which means the opposite, means ‘of value’. These women are gradually trying to change their little bit of the world. Nothing massive, but even these tiny changes take great strength of character. They are very brave. It was an honour to meet them.

Thank you for reading.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about our visit to the slums. Why not follow my blog, so you don’t miss it?


Children’s Day in Delhi

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Today was our first day looking at projects in the poorer areas of Delhi. I woke up nervous, which was annoying. Several toilet visits and lots of praying, and I had myself more or less under control.

First, we went to the charity field office. Various people did presentations, and we learned something about India. I learned about the Dalit people. In India, they have a caste system, which I vaguely knew about. Depending on your name, ancestors and family homeland, you slot into a class of society. The Dalit people are below even the lowest class.

I also learned about Debt Bondage. You are deemed to be responsible for paying the debts that are owed by your ancestors – for the things they might have done wrong ( so not material debts, sort of spiritual debts, owed to society.) These can never really ever be repaid, which in effect means that people are slaves. ( Not sure if I am explaining this correctly – anyone with more knowledge than me, please jump into the comments section below!)

Apparently, the good old British compounded the problem when they ruled here. The British introduced toilets. These toilets needed to be emptied. Only the Dalit people were considered low enough to carry poo, so they came from rural communities into the cities, where they were the poo carriers. The problem (for other people) arose because when they carried poo, they earned money. They then used this money to return to the rural community and buy land. This left no one carrying poo. So the British, in their wisdom, made a law that meant no Dalit people could own land. Hence leaving them available for poo carrying. Even today, Dalit people do 33% of the agricultural work, but only own 1% of the land.

Now, I don’t want to discuss the politics of this. I am fairly sure British Rule made some terrible decisions in its time. I am also suspicious that sometimes countries who have had generations of people since then, like to blame some of their current injustices on the British. However, today people are downtrodden and unfairly treated, and whatever the reasons, this is wrong. The law in India now allows Dalit people to own land. In practice, very few do.

I asked how people know which caste someone is in. I was told that a person’s last name, their family occupation and place their family originates from, all give clues. Plus it is apparently openly discussed. If someone says they don’t know which caste they belong to, they will be upper caste, because the lower castes can never forget the weight of oppression they feel. I thought that perhaps, instead of withdrawing currency, the government could withdraw family names and reissue everyone with a casteless one. But perhaps that kind of sweeping rule is why the British made some bad decisions in the past. Perhaps I should just keep quiet and listen for longer, so I can fully understand this culture.

We left the field office and drove to the community centre. This was a room. There were two very steep steps into it from the street. Inside, it was painted and had a few pictures and slogans stuck to the wall. We met the children. It was Children’s Day in India, when schools are usually closed and communities plan treats ( like picnics.) These children were from a poor community and they had planned a protest march. They lined up outside and held signs and banners they had made. Then they all marched through the streets, shouting slogans they had learned. ” We have a right to education.” ” We have a right to food.” ” We have a right to clean water.” “Girls have a right to life.” Makes you think, doesn’t it……

The girl’s right to life is a big one, and something the charity are working on. In India, parents often choose to terminate a pregnancy when they have the ultrasound scan and learn it’s a female. In some areas, very few girls are being born.

The march finished on an area of scrubland, where they held a rally. Some mothers sat and listened, and a few teenaged boys wandered over. They had hard faces but the same silly haircuts that lots of boys who I’ve taught have, so I felt quite comfortable. We sat on hard dusty seats in the hot sun, while stray dogs fought behind us and clouds of flies floated around. We were surrounded by houses – tall many storied buildings with balconies filled with washing drying and people leaning over to listen. It was very foreign.

The ‘rally’ consisted of a few more slogans chanted, then a brief talk in Hindi. There was then a film, telling the children they had the right to not be abused. Our translator said this was a big problem. Many women stayed in the home all day, they had very few rights. Children were frequently abused by family members. The film was a good one, surprisingly blatant for a children’s film, but very clear – child abuse is wrong and children should tell an adult and call Childline. They then taught the children the Childline number.

Then we were asked if we would speak. There were about 100 children, plus maybe 50 adults, not very different to a school assembly or church service, so I was happy to give a short speech. ( I talked about how special my children were, at every age, and how no one was allowed to hurt them or make them do things they didn’t want to. And these people were special too, whatever their age, they had the same rights.) It was hard to remember to pause, so it could be translated into Hindi. It was also, actually, very hard to not mention God. For me, God is the reason they are special, they are God’s created people and he loves them. But I wasn’t sure what the people I was speaking to believed, didn’t know if they would be angry or offended if I mentioned God. So I didn’t, I tried to tell them what I thought God would tell them, if he was there.

Afterwards, lots of people wanted to touch us and take selfies or say hello. It was strange, we were treated almost like celebrities, even though actually they had given to us, by inviting us to share their day. I got stroked a lot. There are now a lot of terrible photos of me in India, as I was wearing very strange ‘walking through poo’ heavy boots and a mix of Indian tunic with light trousers and a headscarf. And glasses – which make me look like an ageing aunty!

Then we went to a house and met a group of women. Very strong women. I will write about it tomorrow.

Thank you for reading.

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p1100001 The community centre.

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Marching through the streets – while cars and lorries passed us and motorbikes squeezed through. A teacher’s nightmare!

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The place where they held their ‘rally’.


Second Day in Delhi


Slept well. Breakfast in hotel. I’m trying to only eat hot cooked food and no meat (because I’m told, Indians eat very little meat, so the whole process from animal to table is likely to be less ‘safe’ than in England.) It was hard to resist bacon and a wonderful array of pastries. I did have some milk in my coffee, but didn’t eat the butter, which although was pasteurised had been left on warm table, not in chilled cabinet. Am possibly being too fussy. D ate everything.

We walked around the old part of Delhi. A few years ago, in Mumbai, I bought an Indian tunic and trousers ( the trousers – baggy at top and tight at ankle are called ‘salwar’. The tunic is called ‘kameez’ and the veil/scarf is called ‘dupatta’.) I felt bit of a wombat in the hotel, which is full of Westerners, but on the street it felt much more comfortable to be dressed the same as everyone else. The clothes are also very comfortable, as the fabric is light and the veil can be used as a sunshade over your head. It also covered my bag rather neatly – being aware of pick pockets is part of being in India.


We saw the Red Fort, a big mosque and a market. Best was the market, teeming with people, noisy with traffic and shouts and loud speakers from Hindu temples. There was a constant smell – spices and diesel fumes and sweet food and urine and incense, all in a tangle. The traffic was mostly on the road, but motorbikes and tuktuks sometimes avoided lights by driving along paths, so you had to be alert. It was wonderful and foreign and intense.


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Huymayun’s Tomb was built before the Taj Mahal ( which we also plan to visit.) It was lovely. There was a beautiful domed building, which the Persians had taught them how to build. ( Apparently, to build a huge dome, you need a smaller one inside so it doesn’t collapse. Persians were rather good at building them.) The gardens are an integral part of the monument. They reflect ‘paradise’ and have water and trees and birds. Peaceful. There were lots of stars, which some tourists thought were the Star of David. Our guide told us that as the Persians were Muslim, they wouldn’t allow any depiction of living things, so the Indians used geometric patterns, which included the stars. They have no link to the Jewish star ( just as the many swastikas have no link to the Nazi symbol.)


We drove back via India Gate, which is inscribed with the names of Indian martyrs. Opposite, at the end of a long wide road, is the president’s residence, Vijay Chowk. It would be magnificent to look from one to the other, but there was too much pollution haze, so was all rather difficult to see. The round parliament building is also there.


Thank you for reading.

Why not sign up to follow my blog? Then you won’t miss hearing about the other parts of Delhi, the resettlement areas and slums, where few tourists visit…



If you enjoyed this, you will love my new book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.
I have always written a diary on holiday, so last Christmas, I decided to find all my old diaries and blogs, and make a book for my children. However, several other people also asked for a copy, so I have written a public version – it’s available on Amazon and has been described as “The Durrells meet Bill Bryson”!

Why not buy a copy today? I think it will make you laugh.

The US link is here:

The India link is here:

The UK link is here:



Indian Money Troubles….

I have been learning a little about why the government here withdrew Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes so abruptly (overnight – with no notice.) I can also tell you about the impact we have seen so far on normal people.

So, last week, with no warning, the rupee notes which are most used, were demonetised. That is, everyone was told they now had no value. Cashpoint machines closed, and the only way to change old notes for the new currency was through the banks. This meant that 100 rupee notes soon became scarce, as people needed them. So, even if people had the new bank notes, no one would give them change if they bought something with a higher value note. (Eg. You could buy some apples using a $10 note, but no one would give you any change.)It also meant that no one received tips – which when you’re very poor, matters. So, why did the goverment do this?

There are a whole host of rumours on social media in India, most of which seem to be untrue. There seem to be several different reasons, but two main ones are often mentioned: to stop tax evasion, and to stop money that terrorists/criminals are printing.

India is largely a cash based society. Lots of people have no bank account, they are paid in cash, store their wealth in cash and pay others in cash. This means there is huge potential for tax evasion. A high proportion of the poorest people in India run shops or market stalls. These are automatically taxed ( you pay a ‘market tax’ to have your stall in the street.) So, the poor people are paying tax, even though their income is very low. However, the richer people, those who own businesses, often deal only or partly, in cash ( a bit like plumbers in the UK!) so they have the ability to pay no tax. Which means the government is losing vast amounts of income. This isn’t fair. The vendors who I listened to, approved of the government’s decision, even though in the short term, it made their lives very difficult. It was forcing people to open bank accounts, which enabled the authorities to track cash and stop tax evasion.

India also has a lot of ‘black money’. This is counterfeit money, produced by terrorists and criminals, which has begun to flood the market. One report I read said that terrorists are using counterfeit money in India to fund their campaigns. By withdrawing the currency quickly, with no notice, the government stopped these people from converting their money into gold or other assets. The only way to exchange old currency for new money is through the banks, which criminals and terrorists don’t want to do as they are more likely to be caught.

One report I read said that in India, property is also bought partly for cash. The current currency crisis ( bit of alliteration there) means house prices will probably drop, making them more affordable for the less wealthy. This will lead to an increase in building work, which will produce more work for labourers. Not sure if that’s true, or wishful thinking…

For normal people, this is a difficult time. When we visited the slums in the East of New Delhi, the women were complaining (and laughing) because all their secret cash had now been exposed. They told me that wives tend to hide money, so their husbands cannot drink it. They have now had to reveal all this hidden money, so it can be changed by the banks, which means their husbands now know they have it and can take it from them.

People are not buying cheaper goods, they are not giving money as tips, which impacts the poor people. They also complained that while they are queuing at the banks, they are not working, so are losing pay. Some people pay others to stand in line for them, but this caused disputes too, with those people who were losing work saying it wasn’t fair. If they needed money, people would exchange it for them, but at a bad rate, so they made a loss they couldn’t afford.

The queues outside the banks are getting longer. We saw one line begin to disintegrate, with people at the front trying to push past the guards and shouting. It could so easily turn to riots. Every bank has a guard on the door, holding at least a stick, sometimes a gun. It’s tough to be poor in India. I hope this doesn’t make life even harder.

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Thank you for reading.

I will write more about our trip tomorrow. Why not sign up to follow my blog, so you don’t miss it? We have a day of tourism, then venture into the slums…..