And so back where it all started, in Delhi

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January 20th 2011
Published: March 2nd 2011
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Well, for a day that didn’t appear to start well, it ended up a most interesting one. Given I’ve had a pretty solid 10 days of touring Indian cities on foot, and since Delhi is a bit too big to cover that way anyway, I broke with my tradition and booked an organised city day tour. I obviously didn’t check the detail adequately, and what I thought would be a modern air-conditioned coach full of foreigners was in fact a crappy local bus, on which I was the only foreigner! I had been kind of hoping for a bit of company and some English conversation after a week or so basically on my own, and while the latter did not occur, in an indirect way, I got plenty of the former. Maybe it was because they felt a bit sorry for me being on their bus, but a number of my fellow passengers made me most welcome in their broken English, and it was certainly a different experience visiting India sights accompanied by Indian fellow travellers. Lunch certainly didn’t lack character – we were all crowded into a small local restaurant, and given the menu was only in Hindi, it was a blind call, but what I got was something like a vegetable curry and was in fact quite tasty (and at just over a buck, also priced pretty competitively!).

The tour itself was fairly standard for Delhi, taking in a couple of temples, a couple of parks (including that housing Gandhi’s bones), the central business area (including the Houses of Parliament), the diplomatic area (to assure us there were indeed some nice residences in Delhi), India Gate, the Baha’i Lotus Temple (sister to that in Sydney), the Red Fort, and the Qutub Minar complex. Of these, I found the latter the most interesting – they are ancient edifices housed in very attractive gardens and contain a number of structures, most of them in some state of crumble or disrepair, but certainly not so the central Qutub Minar itself, a 72 metre high minaret, which has been astonishingly well-preserved, and stands out impressively across the whole complex. We were unable to access inside the Red Fort, so in fairness, I can’t pass particular comment on this, but it is certainly impressive from the outside.

The following day, I wasn’t flying out until the evening, so I had the day to kill. Given I was staying very close to New Delhi Railway Station (an enormous area), I managed to find that station’s metro and took it up to the Old Delhi district with a view to taking in the famed market area, Chandni Chowk. As I got off the train, a young Japanese girl sidled up me and asked if she could walk with me, as she was not keen to walk this area alone (what she was doing in Delhi ‘alone’, I never found out, as her English was not that good!). We ended up spending most of the day together, just strolling around, and it was pleasant to have the company even if conversation wasn’t plentiful. We covered the Old City area, and then took the metro to the New Delhi area, basically comprising the concentric circles around Connaught Place. My memory of this area from my visit to India in the ‘70s was of a pretty new and flash commercial area, but like most of India, the ravages of time have not been kind. Or maybe, I had by that time just outstayed my visit to India, and it was time to go home now!

My little Japanese girl wasn’t my only new friend from Delhi. At the hotel, over a number of meals, I joined forces with an interesting older American lady who spends her time travelling the world, taking photos, and then returning to the US and addressing old people’s groups and associations with her experiences. Our friendship was proceeding nicely, until she started to give me the heavies on her Christian values, so I had to move on! At the other end of the scale, I got friendly with a somewhat crazy American guy my age who was on his way to Varanasi to scatter his father’s ashes in the Ganges. There was no religious significance in this decision – he just thought it a good thing to do!

Well that’s it for this trip, folks. I had another 14 hour transit in Guangzhou on the trip home, but that was covered in an earlier blog. In summing up my trip, I’m sorry there weren’t any particular ‘unique experiences’ to report in my blogs, but in India that is not a bad thing. I’d classify my fortnight of wanderings as a great experience, and call it ‘interesting’, as distinct from ‘fun’. But it provided a pleasant contrast from our relatively modern and materialistic western world, and in turn makes the latter all the more fun to return to. Our next planned trip away is in July, when Joan, Greta and I will be attending a wedding in France, which will take place in a huge chateau at Chantilly, about an hour out of Paris. The two participants at the ‘wedding’ will be a couple of gay male friends of Greta’s – now that might produce an interesting blog!

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