Sitting at the rooftop terrace of our hotel in Delhi, it is difficult to remember Dubai. It has been just a few hours since we arrived and all the past impressions have quickly faded away, erased by the continuous new inputs from this crazy city. i have a weird mixture of insecurity and serenity. A feeling created by this combination of simple Indian amability, together with their genuine curiosity and exhasperating perseverance to try to do business with you and of course the touts.
The arrival to Delhi was… Memorable! We had decided to take the metro to Rama Krishna Ashram Station and walk a few meters to our hotel, The Vivek. Unfortunately, we left the airport and turn the wrong way to find ourselves staring at a red Airport Express bus. Bea’s old memories arouse and n urge to jump in and see the city as we arrive consumed her. We asked the driver for directions and he told us “…no problem. The bus no stop in Main Bazar but close. 1’5 Km. 20 min, 15 min. OK, 10 minutes. 1 Km only”. It looked like he was bargaining with us how far from our destination he would drop us! Remembering the news of recent rapes, I checked to see other women in the bus. I saw an Arabic family that seemed to be as lost as we were so I relaxed and tried to enjoy the ride (75 R each… That’s about 90 cents). WHAT A RIDE! I really think Indian cars only have one pedal, for the gas! The way they take the curves, they squeeze between competitors in this endless races, it is just incredible. 6 lines squashed in a three way motorway. This includes cars, vans, bikes, rickshaws, bicycles and pedestrians, all together. It is the closest thing I have seen to the frenzy of snakes mating! All turning left and right, stopping and accelerating, with the coordination of an improvised jam “driving” session. This dance was scored by an orchestra of claxons and accompaigned by a strong stench of smog which firced us to cover our noses with a cloth mask at one point. Not so much because if the smell but for the thickness of the air. Only one placed has topped this experience, a corner chicken takeaway shop in Bethnal Green. The clouds of vaporised fat coming out of the friers were so intense you could almost bite it! The bus dropped us (literally, they do not fully stop), at a biiiig junction and the driver told us we had to walk along a wall (the separation between the road and the metro line). It was a big dark ugly road that would scare the shit out of batman. At 22h00, extrange shadows, people sleeping on the road, on the rickshaws, on the rubbish; wanderers with wooden sticks coming out of nowhere, stray dogs, transvestite prostitutes in saris (or maybe they were women, but in very bad shape)… You name it, they had it. 15 endless minutes until we finally reached the Main Bazar where, of course, people tried tiredlessly to drag us into their commissioned guest house. The best option, ask someone from a shop, someone who is not involved at all in this business. We did it at a SUBWAY and the guys helped a lot. Once at the hotel we got the typical options, a cheaper room for 650 Rupees (window to the corridor of the hotel, a toilet that saw better days… a looong time ago,…) and the one they really want to sell you for 750 Rupees. With this trick we almost skipped the holes in the sheet, but they were too big not to be seen and after a couple of reminders, we got the room and they gave us a new sheet (but no discount, it was too late for bargaining and the room was actually nice. By the time we were settled, most of the kitchens were closed. We stopped at the Diamond Cafe (in front of the hotel) and got a delicious Malai Kofta(something like vegetarian meatballs with cheese and in a thick sweet sauce) and Fried Black Dal, together with rice and Aloo Parantha (bread filled with potatoes), our first Indian meal. A bomb for our stomachs that kept us awake until 3am! Luckily, the time difference meant we could talk to our families in Europe and after a bit of Bollywood music on our TV (luxury room!) we slept like angels.
Next: travel agents, tourist offices, reservation centres, DTTDC and city maps! Or how to move around Delhi and remain tempered.