Published: April 10th 2011February 28th 2011
I feel like a local. I have not been anywhere near as intimidated as I thought I would in Delhi, in fact, I have felt very relaxed ever since I arrived... apart from the slight issue with the phone top-up going a bit skew-whiff.
I met a guy called Ajit, through a friend (a French girl from England) I made in Pushkar. We met up a couple of times and as his mother lives in Allahabad, he was taking the train there to go and stay with her for a week. After a quick goodbye drink and some food in a bar crammed with Indians and the few English people in Paharganj at the time - all gathered to watch the England vs India cricket match - Ajit had to make his way to New Delhi train station, just at the end of the Main Bazaar. His bag was slightly cumbersome so we took a handle each and stomped our way to the station, up the stairs and down to platform 8 for the overnight train he was taking. New delhi station is surprisingly clean, compared to its dismal surroundings within Paharganj. The train he was boarding looked pretty new and we found his carriage eventually - B4, 3 tier AC sleeper. I helped him on with his bags and we joked at how the situation we were in should have been the other way around with him as a Delhi local helping ME to the station with MY bags! We said goodbye and thanked each other for helping each other and said we'd see each other soon.
As I walked along platform 8, back to the staircase, a warm feeling washed over me. I was in Delhi, the city people had warned me about and I was having a nice time... alone! I crossed the busy car park as if I'd done it one hundred times, into the frantic, traffic filled road outside the station, putting my hands up to cars to stop them like every other Delhi native does and they did stop for me.
I strolled down the Main Bazaar with a smile on my face and confidence in myself that even though, in amongst the filth, the dogs, the cows, the dodgy characters, the men wanting whatever it is they want, the lost shoes, the empty rickshaws, the strange smelling liquids running across my path, the buildings looking like they were about to fall down, the neon signs that didn't work properly and the dark alleyways, I felt safe and sound.
Tomorrow I'm leaving Paharganj and I'm sorry about that. It's proved to me that I'm strong, sensible and streetwise, even in one of the toughest cities in the world. Admittedly, Paharganj is the tourist area of Delhi so will be safer than other areas in the city at night, but for me, it's a big achievement to feel so comfortable in it and I now know I can harness this feeling and take it with me wherever i go, along with the distrust and cynicism I have also captured!