Sunday, June 7, 2009

Delhi (7/6/09)

Delhi was exhausting; the heat, chaos, crowds, and dirt of it all, but it’s good to be back in India. Some things seem so familiar, as if I’d only left a few days ago, but other parts are just as startling and perplexing as ever. Our flight got in around 11:30pm or so, and by the time we’d changed money, hired a taxi, and made it to the hotel it was after 1am. We stayed at the Wongdhen House in Majnu ki tila, which is the Tibetan district a little outside of Delhi. Our room was hot and we slept a little. We here being Lauren G., two Zangskari nuns, and a brother and sister also from Zangskar, all of whom had come to meet Lauren, and me.

The next morning we all rode the Delhi Metro (it was my first time). It was an interesting experience, equal parts modern and efficient, and brutal and crowded. We walked through a metal detector and I was patted down by a police officer (as were all of the men) and had to pass my bag through a scanner. The station where we boarded was fairly clean and orderly, the ticket booth slightly jumbled; one had to throw a few elbows at times to make it to the window. Past the entrance however, the crush of bodies getting on and off the train was intense bordering on riotous. The train itself was a jumble of limbs, stained armpits, sweaty backs, and bags that always managed to jut into my side. It was cooler in the station, nestled underground and protected from the brunt of Delhi’s heat. But the respite was brief and as we neared the exit the air rushed forward to meet us, a hot lumbering bear of a mass of what might pass as air but was scarcely breathable. Why anyone would want to be in Delhi in the summer is beyond me.

We met Jo, a Smith alum and Anthro grad student, for lunch at a nice South Indian restaurant in Janpath that Andy had also recommended. I first met Jo when I was in India in 2005 and I can’t for the life of me remember if we’ve ever hung out in the states. It was good to see her though. The food at the restaurant was good and it was a nice enough place that I could risk an iced drink, which was lovely. After that we briefly traversed this underground marketplace in Connaught Place. I generally dislike that market, but I needed an outlet converter and the folks from Zangskar wanted to see it. After that, Lauren and I collapsed in a Café Coffee Day and drank overly sweet iced coffees while the rest of the group explored the shops. Then it was back onto the Metro where a young guy tried to slip his hand into Lauren’s pants pocket, presumably to steal money, which caused quite a scuffle and a lot of swearing on Lauren’s part. I think she punched him, I don’t remember. We had checked out of our hotel and so went to the Ladakhi Vihara, where the Zangskaris were staying. We killed time, went vegetable shopping, cooked some dinner, ate a bit, then around 9:30 everyone walked up the road to the Kashmiri Gate bus station, where I had a hell of a time finding my bus. It was due to leave at 10:05. There was no rhyme or reason to the busses. They were parked everywhere and it was nearly impossible to find any one particular bus. We found mine luckily before it left and I loaded my bag underneath then said goodbye to everyone and got on board.

I took the HRTC AC Volvo overnight from Delhi to Shimla. The bus was nice enough and air conditioned. The ride was mostly uneventful. There was some skirmish with seats in the back between some “rude young men” and a younger woman (according to the woman, who was in tears). I slept on and off and we ended up in Shimla around 6am.

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