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Published: February 22nd 2015
We had a long but comfortable overnight trip back to Delhi. Had the 4 berth cabin to ourselves all evening until midnight, when 2 Indian university lecturers got on. They were quite interesting company for the last couple of hours after waking until we arrived in Delhi. They had been upgraded from second because the first class bunks were not all full. (They were surprised to hear that in UK rush hour, even when first class seats are empty, comuters are required to stand rather than use them.) Some things we didnt know which they told us.....India has free health care (excepting the price of the medicine), but the problem for the 70% of people who live in rural areas is accessing it, since most hospitals are in the cities. All private schools have to take 25% of pupils from poor non fee paying families. The places are allocated not by exams but by first come first served basis. (Also there are government schools and charity schools.)
On the outskirts of Delhi all along the railway tracks there are self built slums. Some are quite classy and solid looking with satellite tv ariels on the roof (but no proper plumbing);
while others are little more than tents made of corrugated iron and tarpaulin. They spring up there because the railway owns a lot of land which it is not using. There are groups of men sitting on the rails playing cards, people using the railway as a toilet, and cows sifting through the masses of rubbish lying around. Someone told us that the apparantly stray cows all have owners, and they go home at milking time to be fed lentils and veg. Someone else said that owners dump them in the streets when they no longer give enough milk. On arrival back to the market near New Delhi station, we were surprised to find that the area was changed. The litter was being swept up and cleared! Police were asking shopkeepers to move their produce back from where it protudes right out across the road. We were told that this is because the newly elected governor of Delhi state is coming by. The AAP won the election by a landslide. They are newcomers to Indian politics. They are promising to crackdown on corruption, and help the poor by measures such as reducing fuel prices and giving a quantity of free
water to every household. The papers say that the national government, bureaucrats and big business may make this hard to acheive.
While in Delhi we both got our shoes cleaned and mended by guys working in the street, had our clothes washed, and had our hair cut (this included a vigorous head massage with almond oil for Fred). We also booked a walking tour of Delhi, led by former street children, for after our trip to Shimla. These tours are organised by a charity which helps street children, and have been well reviewed on Trip Adviser. It will be interesting to hear how their explanations of Indian life compare with the university professors'.
After all this we hired a tuk tuk to bring us to the Ghandi memorial, Raj Ghat. (No metro going that way). This took us through the wide new streets of New Delhi where all the government buildings are. Even here there are some cows in the road, and what looks like a commercial laundry has hung washing all along the roadside! (we did not spot our own hanging there.) Rag Ghat is a simple memorial set in a tranquil garden. It is lovely to
find such an oasis of calm, with flowers and green grass, all clean and well tended, in the middle of Delhi. A very nice peaceful place.
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