A long abeyance had been unusual to my blog…until now. Part of the cause is voluntary (a lot of self-swearing to slow-down was evident) and part necessary. A jaunt to New Delhi was what made it the latter.
I visited the national capital last week (& returned today) for the 2nd time in 6 years. Though I would have preferred putting up at the famous Kali Bari straight away, I got slightly adventurous and decided to try my luck at a cheap hotel in Pahargunj. It was a decision I would deeply regret. Pahargunj is the dingiest, craziest, dirtiest, filthiest, noisiest and gloomiest market I’ve ever seen. The hotel where I put up for 24 hrs had a highly vociferous manager who apparently could do without any sleep at night when his voice was equally loud and redundant. Pahargunj is frequented by many foreigners – probably competing against each other as the ultimate test of resilience. What struck me most on the morning I made the fateful decision to be lodged in hell was the sight of a dozen motionless bovines right in the middle of a dingy chowk, perhaps collectively admiring the human race for living in conditions fit for hogs.
I shifted base to Kali Bari on Mandir Marg the next day, and life instantly became a lot less traumatic and more pleasant. Over the next few days I met some very interesting people, including a bong family that bore a strong resemblance with the Raddis in Pune. Madhumati di was undoubtedly the most stunningly beautiful and graceful middle-aged bong I’ve ever seen. In her husband I discovered a fellow jazz enthusiast, thanks to the ringtone on his mobile!
I also had my first experience of having a shave by a roadside barber! The venue was under a tree on Mandir Marg, bang opposite to Kali Bari and it cost me all of Rs5.00, which was the cheapest service I could avail in the city. Auto fare was seldom decided by the electronic meter - the driver simply quoted any amount that suited his fancy. When I had last visited the city, these folks were on strike against a government ruling to fix electronic meters (which couldn’t be tampered with like their mechanical counterparts). Apparently the government won the battle, but lost the war to human greed and unionism.
The return trip was nowhere as comfortable as the Rajdhani Express. It took a staggering 41 hours, the train (Kongu Express)was dirty right from the start and my coach was infested with cockroaches and at least one mouse that nibbled twice at my feet. People added their own filth, a juicy magazine (Manohar Kahaniyan) was widely circulated and I killed time on my Reader’s Digest. I spotted Venus and Jupiter in the West.
Oh, I almost forgot - Delhi Metro is awesome!