Sunday, February 19, 2012

Around the World: Hangin' in Delhi

February 19, 1992

It's late in the morning and I am quite lost in the maze of Connaught Place searching for the Emirates Air office to pick up my ticket to Cairo.  Along the way, several men greet me with one word. "Change?"

"Change" is an invitation to visit a nearby shop where one can exchange traveler cheques or foreign cash into rupees for a better rate than the bank offers.  I was able to get 36 rupees for each $1USD in a shop that sold bags.  Last night, while gathered on the balcony back at Sunny's, my fellow backpackers held a contest.  The winner had the guidebook to India with the oldest publishing date.  Comparing information on places to stay, we remarked that this must be an easy book to republish, as only the prices differ from edition to edition.  We agree that although there is no shortage of people in Delhi talking about change, nothing in India actually changes.  It just gets more expensive.

Lost in the maze of Connaught Place, I hear a familiar voice.  "Can you spare 5 rupees?"  It's the same drug-dazed Westerner again.  Who is this guy and why is he following me?

Connaught Place is disorienting enough, without being on constant alert for the unwanted groping on my backside.  It quickly gets irritating, chasing and chastising ignorant men who sample what they have no business touching.  I finally find Emirates Air and pick up my ticket.  My flight departs at 6:45 am on the 21st for Cairo!

New Delhi

Delhi is almost pleasant and very modern.  New Delhi is full of skyscrapers and noticeably absent of cows.  There's a sense of order to some degree.  Snake charmers wait for curious tourists approach them, for example, and I've grown somewhat accustomed to the sensory assault of colour, smell, noise and dust.  I am working up the courage to have a cold shower in a dark stall on a chilly day.

Some of my hotel mates have invited me out for pizza.  On the way back to Sunny's, Marcus, from Germany brings us all to a place he discovered that sells ice cream.  Ice cream!  Along the way, several offers are declined to shine my converse and put soles on Marcus' sandals.

Old Delhi, is very much like the India I have come to expect.  Crowded, chaotic, cows.   After our ice cream treat, we head into the old part of Delhi for dinner.  I'm not really sure what I'm eating.  It includes rice, vegetables and some mysterious substance that might be meat.  The meal is served on a large leaf and eaten in traditional Indian form, scooping what I can hold between the digits of my right hand.  It is considered very rude and unclean to touch food with your left hand, as this appendage is used for post digestive activities.  The meal is followed by a cup of chai from a nearby street vendor.

Delhi's old city

Back at Sunny's, the grade on the balcony is gradually increasing.  Jorn, from Denmark and Sabina, from Switzerland have discovered a shop that sells chocolate and share a selection of small blocks of fudge with everyone.  Sabina mentions that she will be leaving for Cairo, arriving the day after I do and we are making plans to meet at a place called the New Moon Hotel.

The conversation turns to this morning's shower experience.  Icy cold water in a small dark closet.  Hopefully, either tomorrow's temperature or the water will be warmer.  Seems an awfully unpleasant experience, only to be covered in grimy dust immediately after.

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"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind."