Everyone warned me that nothing could prepare me for what India would be like, and that no amount of forewarning from people who’ve already been there, or digestion of the Lonely Planet Guide to India would cushion the impact. So I guess what’s really surprised me the most is that of the many emotions that I felt while in New Delhi, shock wasn’t really one of them.
Naturally, the poverty is very confronting. The other day we had a persistent beggar pestering Simon for money and although he twice gave her some, she practically chased us back to our hotel room. The same thing happened the next day with me – though I get bothered a lot less because I look Asian and am harder to place than Simon, who is so clearly Anglo. It’s sad but you really have to harden yourself to get by.
It’s difficult being a tourist in a place that is so much poorer than the countries we come from; people realise that we have a lot more money than them, so we have been constantly taken advantage of and over-charged since we set foot in India. I guess that’s just the price we’ve had to pay to come here.
New Delhi, as confronting as it is, is really just a big noisy city – with cows, dust, stray dogs and pollution but a big urban sprawl nonetheless. Everyone drives like a maniac and is trigger happy with the car horn, but most people we’ve encountered in our travels can speak some English; they eat samosas and drink Pepsi; and there was even a conveniently located McDonald’s which served McAloo Tikka and Veg Surprise burgers (though I wasn’t actually game enough to find out what the ‘surprise’ was!). We visited a great market in Janpath and I bought loads of books, including a full collection of Enid Blyton books that I’ve been after for a few years. The books here are CHEAP. Really, incredibly, amazingly cheap. The editions are printed to be specially sold in India, and are priced accordingly.
We stayed in Karol Bagh which is an area renowned for its shopping. Amjal Khan Road is the main street and from about midday it becomes a large market attracting locals and tourists alike.
Humayun’s Tomb was one of the stops we took on our tour around the city. Off to the side of the main tomb are some interesting ruins. When you are inside what looks like a small tomb, certain frequencies of sound will cause an echo to bounce around inside the mathematically designed walls.
From LonelyPlanet.com: “Built in the mid-16th century by the senior wife of the second Mughal emperor, this is the first important example of Mughal architecture in India. It’s also one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and should not be missed. The elements of its design are echoed in the later Taj Mahal.”
Another stop was the Baha’i Lotus Temple which draws obvious inspiration from the Sydney Opera House. This is definitely worth visiting because it must be the quietest place in New Delhi. Once you step inside the temple, silence prevails… and in a relentlessly noisy city, it’s a relief to be alone with your thoughts for a few minutes.