Saturday, September 23, 2006

End of day 1 in Delhi

There is one thing I forgot to mention, but we keep seeing it so we're reminded, nearly every time we go out. Indian men are every bit as involved with their children as are the women. They hold them as much, carry them as much, laugh and touch them as much, smile at them as much. They open their arms and embrace their children with smiles, and tell them they love them. It's really wonderful to see.

So our afternoon mission, after resting and recovering from the morning, was to walk to the India Gate. It's a war memorial honoring Indian soldiers killed in World War I. On the map it seemed relatively straightforward, so we set out on foot. Immediately, of course, we were accosted by a rickshawalla who smiled broadly and really insisted that he take us where we're going. I said no thank you and kept walking, he persisted, I said no again, he persisted, and we said no. He said "maybe next time" and I said sure, maybe next time. Marc and I walked away and I started laughing -- what a preposterous notion, "next time," in a city of this size, with this many people walking on this many roads and this many rickshawallas hustling fares.

Turns out "next time" meant "in the next block." He pulled away from the curb and rode a half a block and then stopped by the curb. As we approached he started trying to get us to ride with him again. After a few nos, he pulled away from the curb and drove half a block. This leapfrogging happened for blocks (and it seemed we kept seeing him for our entire walk). A man walking past shooed him away from us -- saving us, right? No. He fell in step alongside us and seemed so friendly, warned us not to talk to people, asking how long have we been here, do we like it, where are we from, etc etc. Friendly, just walking, what could he want from us? He wanted us to skip the India Gate because the Singaporean ambassador is in town and the police have closed off that area, so why don't we instead go to the emporium near by? They have everything we could want. He's not going with us, he's going that way, but we should just turn left here (he's turning right) and we should go to the emporium.

So we continued on our way to the India Gate. And we're walking down the sidewalk, holding hands and noticing how ridiculous the last story was (wait....wouldn't the ambassador from Singapore live here already?) when a man walking behind us fell in step alongside us, very friendly, how long have we been here, do we like it, where are we from, etc etc. Friendly, just walking, what could he want from us? He wanted us to skip the India Gate because the Singaporean ambassador is in town and the police have closed off that area, so why don't we instead go to the emporium near by? They have everything we could want. He's not going with us, he's going that way, but we should just turn left here (he's turning right) and we should go to the emporium.

Amazing. I guess "the Singaporean ambassador is in town" is today's story. So we continued on our way to the India Gate, where the Singaporean ambassador wasn't.

The India Gate is in the middle of an enormous park, with huge lawns, a small lake with paddleboats, and vendors. Lots and lots of vendors. Soldiers holding a wreath of flowers were rehearsing their steps, again and again, as another man wailed.


We wandered around for awhile, got lost a time or two, and then went back to the room to get ready for dinner at Punjabi by Nature, reported to be an incredible restaurant.

Since the restaurant was pretty far away on the map, and we had only an address to give, we thought it best to hire a taxi through the hotel. Surely the hotel people could clearly communicate with the cab driver and we'd get to the restaurant without trouble. Surely. So off we went, and our Sikh driver was quiet as Marc and I talked in the back seat. Suddenly there was a clattering sound outside the cab window and the driver stopped and got out of the cab. The hubcap had come off, so he got out to retrieve it and left the car in gear. Without headlights on, and it was dark. So the cab is rolling backwards, the driver's door is open while he's getting farther away, chasing the hubcap, and Marc and I are sitting there in disbelief. Rolling backwards. He got the hubcap and came back, jumped in the rolling car, and off we went as if nothing happened. He couldn't find the restaurant, and it took us a long time and several mistaken routes, but we got to the right place, finally.

The food was really wonderful; they specialize in tandoori so we got gigantic tandoori prawns, and the Punjabi by Nature chef's meat special. The waiter emphasized quite strongly that the meat special was very spicy, are we ok? Well, the prawns were really incredible, and the meat special was spicy but not bad at all (in terms of spicy, it was so yummy, and the sauce was great for dipping naan). This picture of the prawn faces is kind of dark because the restaurant was dimly lit and I didn't want to use my flash.

We have another couple of days here in Delhi, one of which might be spent driving to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Of course everyone has told us you have to see the Taj Mahal, but neither Marc nor I are just burning to see it. It's a 4-hour drive each way (at least, says the desk clerk), and while we'll see the countryside which would be nice, seeing it twice in one day, driving 8 hours (at least) to spend a relatively small amount of time at the Taj -- which neither of us is burning to see -- seems like a bit of foolishness. Who knows what we'll do.

2 comments:

Hiren said...

I am from Delhi. Sorry about the Rikshawallas but they are same in all the cities. In Delhi, you should not miss Qutub minar or lal qila for historical value.

The latest Akshardham temple is a new master piece of architechture that everyone has been raving about. The other is the lotus temple. All this maybe a little tough in two days but I insist on Akshardham- don't miss that.

Best of luck.

LDH said...

Thank you for the recommendation Hiren -- we hadn't heard about Akshardham. We're learning how to deal with rikshawallas...