When we arrived in June the combination of heat, rain, jetlag, culture shock, lack of car, and three kids meant that it felt near impossible to get out and explore the city. By the time the weather had cooled down we had established patterns that were hard to break, which is why 7 months into our tour we’ve finally made it up to Old Delhi. From others’ stories we also felt like we needed a chance to get up there and do it just the two of us, without our entourage, and not on weekend, which meant we needed to wait for a three day weekend on an American holiday to give us the incentive to get up there.
So it was that yesterday morning, after dropping Elliott off at school, we kissed our girls goodbye and had our driver drop us off at the closest metro stop by our house that would get us up to the famous Chandni Chowk, the crazy main street of Old Delhi. Driving in Old Delhi and on Chandni Chowk is a nightmare, as you will soon see, and we hadn’t tried the metro yet so we decided to give it a whirl. We arrived to our destination after a reasonable ride that wasn’t too crowded and the trains themselves were clean and modern and at 16 rupees (a little over 25 cents) a pop it was hard to complain.
We didn’t have any agenda except to wander the side streets and get a feel for the area. It felt good to be out and about and walk. We even managed to run into a procession of some sort – a tractor pulling a statue of Ganesh followed by a marching band and some ladies carrying coconuts. I couldn’t tell you the significance, but it was fun to be a part of it and the members of the parade were happy to pose for pictures.
We were chased by many many bicycle rickshaw drivers who tried to tell us that we were putting ourselves and our gear in harm’s way by walking, but we get so few chances to walk that we ignored them. We ended up wandering our way to Jama Masjid and then had lunch at the world famous Karim’s (overrated…). In front of Jama Masjid a group of school kids came up to us to practice their best American-accented gibberish and then begged me to take their picture, which always makes me laugh, and I usually comply. They then asked to see their picture and went on their merry way, leaving me with a souvenir of our encounter.
An enterprising rickshaw driver waited outside the restaurant during our entire meal and so we decided to reward his persistence and asked him to take us to the Spice Market. It was actually nice to get out of the immediate chaos and get more of a bird’s eye view of the madness.
That, that right there is why you do not want to drive here. Since it was the afternoon now we also got to see school buses, Old Delhi style.
There were at least twelve kids on that rickshaw, being pulled by one very wiry dude, bless his soul.
After briefly wandering the spice market we realized we should probably head back since the metro was bound to be more crowded in the afternoon and we wanted to try and time things to coincide with Elliott’s school pickup. We went back to our rickshaw driver and asked him to take us to the metro, but once we were in the rickshaw he took us in the opposite direction, as we protested, insisting that we go to a Jain temple in the middle of the labyrinth that is Old Delhi. Which is something that happens quite often to us westerners here in India and is one of my main irritations. But we were on a rickshaw in the middle of goodness-knows-where and we were at his mercy so I forced myself to sit back and let my annoyance go. Bait and switch, thy name is India.
I took a ridiculous amount of pictures of the wiring situation as we rode because I was just so amazed that this entire area hadn’t burnt to the ground many times over. I thought a lot about my electrical engineer in-laws and what they would make of this.
After a trip to the Jain temple, where we saw some beautiful art, were adorned with saffron for good luck and then pressured to give lots of money, we were finally on our way back to the metro. I would be more irritated with our driver if he hadn’t stopped in the middle of traffic and taken a rare picture of Justin and myself, just us two, that I’m in love with. All is forgiven, Saajin.
We finally made it back to the metro where Justin breezed through one of the four security lines open to men while I waited for 10 minutes in the only women’s line. I was starting to fall a little out of love with the metro with each push on my back from the handsy lady behind me. Then our train pulled up, completely full. We pushed our way on and I totally forgot that I was a foreign lady surrounded by Indian men until my husband sharply asked if I was okay and told me that if anyone touched me that he would punch them in the face. After getting off the train he told me that when we got on the man behind me had taken a very good, long look at my derriere and he had given him a menacing look when the man looked up. As soon as it cleared out a little Justin sequestered me in a corner where my posterior would be safe.
All in all I would say it was successful trip and we’re excited to get back up there, especially when my dad comes in a few weeks, after reading up a little in the guide books and making more of a plan of attack. I still don’t know if it’s a place that I want to take the kids because it is just so chaotic and unpredictable, but we’ll see how I feel the closer we get to his visit.