Delhi, India
The last few days I have been in Delhi. I have not written since I have arrived, because it has been mostly uneventful. I took a late night train from Jaipur to Delhi, arriving at around 6:00AM Dec 29th, I think. The train station was just beginning to brighten as the sun came up. The first thing I noticed was the dust in the air. It was fairly cold, and the dust and smog hung like a fog over Delhi until mid morning, when it finally started to warm up. I was quoted some ridiculous prices for a auto rickshaw to the hotel I had picked out. I finally convinced a bicycle rickshaw to take make for half as much. Now at this point I really had to go to the bathroom, and by whatever means necessary I needed to get there quick. Turns out I was looking at the wrong train station on the map, and that some of those outrageous prices may have been fair. Point is, by the time we got there, no matter what the room looked like I would probably take it just so I could relieve myself. I arrived in Delhi with such urgency and need, that comparatively, everything afterward really has been quite uneventful.
I spent time in Connaught Place, where there is some nice grassy area, and upmarket stores selling products at U.S. prices. Stores that come to mind: Nike, Adidas, Van Huesen, Puma. There are some bazaars, and markets nearby as well. There is an underground, windowless, circular shopping area, where average Indians would shop in the middle of this area. It is pure insanity! Every 5 steps, literally, a young man would shout to me to try and get me to look in his little shop. It is even more ridiculous when you see what they sell, like t-shirts and belts and shoes, is the same in almost every shop. I really find it hard to put it into words how claustrophobic and dizzying it is. It makes Black Friday at the Mall of America look like a funeral procession.
I went to the National Museum too, which was ok. It makes you really appreciate the museums that we have back in the U.S. It is near an area that is a main thoroughfare, with a memorial arch at one end and the Presidential Palace at the other. It has a lot of open green grassy areas, with fountains and trees. It is the first time I have seen so much open space while in India. It evokes feelings of the Washington D.C. Mall. Again, the area is nice, but it did not bring about awe or amazement.
Last night was New Years Eve. So far 2007 and 2008 feel about the same. I went to a rooftop restaurant, where I could get a beer, drank it, had some chocolate cake, and left. I could not find any crazy parties going on, and had not met anyone who knew of anything special, so close to midnight I called it a night. Bands of rowdy men were wandering the streets and I wasn't sure how safe I felt just walking around by myself. Loud explosions were going off too, not the sound of your average firecracker. But it was not all for waste.
While walking back to my room I came across an alley with loud Indian pop music blaring out from it, with a couple men standing around looking down the alley. As I walked by, I was forced to stop and watch. In this narrow alley there were 15 to 20 middle aged men dancing with each other, while a small laser moved across the alley walls. Again, this is one of those situations where you have to see it to really understand as people in America do not dance like this. It is men dancing with sheer joy and exuberance, hands flailing in the air, head flying around in circles, feet hopping up and down with absolutely no inhibitions. Just men, no women, sometimes face to face. I just stopped, watched for a moment, just thought "wow!" After I saw that I wasn't disappointed that I had not found a great party. That made my NYE worthwhile.
Tomorrow I leave for Amritsar the holiest city for Sihks. The next leg of my trip in India is going to be places that I really have a lot of interest in seeing and am excited to get going: Amritsar, McLeod Ganj, Agra, and Varanassi.