Into India

Looking out over Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk district.

Looking out over Delhi, old and new.

My first day in India began far too early. Well before dawn, wild dogs began barking, and then a lilting human cry started chipping in every few minutes; if I had to guess, I’d label it a man trying to persuade a donkey down the street. This gradually built into the cacophony of car horns and street hawkers that by afternoon dominates downtown Delhi like generic film background noise.

Not sure what the "Delhi Milk Scheme" is, but it sounds sinister ...

Not sure what the "Delhi Milk Scheme" is, but it sounds sinister ... The front for an opium-trafficking ring? Or a Pink Panther film?

The waking day began with a cup of steaming hot Chai prepared by the maid who arrived around 10 a.m. Making Chai appears to be her only function, since she certainly didn’t clean the dirty apartment, and my friend Joji made breakfast himself (Upma fried rice and spicy beef in the Kerala style). This heavenly Chai, however, was more than enough to earn the maid a place in my heart, and by its very divinity should reserve for her an honored spot in the next life, as well. There’s a Southern dessert called “Sex in a Pan,” and if it has a liquid equivalent … well, no real need to continue this thought …

Anyway, the hot Chai was necessary for the ordeal of a shower that followed, which involved dumping buckets of hot and cold water on myself while trying not to accidentally step into the traditional Indian toilet, which features a ground-level toilet bowl.

Pineapple vendor in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk district.

Pineapple vendor in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk district.

If breakfast was spicy, the food only got better as the day wore on. The Indians love their spices; they even make a savory drink out of cumin, mint and lime that tastes kind of like a Bloody Mary of the Subcontinent, minus the alcohol. The vendor even sprinkled cumin on the pineapple slices I bought on my way through the uproarious Chandni Chowk market district, home to Delhi’s Muslim population.

A not-so-concealed weapon.  This guy, shown here on the way out of the M

A not-so-concealed weapon near Manokima temple. This guy looks like he's straight out of a Tintin book. Look out, Snowy, that stereotyped Indian villain is coming for you!

I love the squirming humanity of India, the ramshackle sprawl of its capital, and the strange, poisonous potpourri of smells that arises from the piles of garbage and incense vendors on her streets. The food is incredible and incredibly cheap. Even at the most touristy locations, I’m stared at like the two-headed man freakshow exhibit, a minority for the first time in my life, even if I’m really just playing at it.

In fact, it’s far too easy for me to play around in Delhi like the carefree foreigner I am, thanks to the low prices and abundant rickshaw taxis. In the words of Wayne and Garth, “Game on!”

The ever-circling flock at Jama Masjid.

The ever-circling flock at Jama Masjid.

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3 Responses to “Into India”

  1. If you’re around India on January 14th, be sure to enjoy Uttarayan, the annual kite/kite fighting festival. If you’ve ever read Kite Runner, it’s kind of like that. Just wear thick gloves to protect your palms from the glass-coated kite string. It’s literally cutthroat.

    Enjoy your trip. I’m jealous.

    • I missed it; needed to move on to Nepal. But already on the 11th I was seeing hundreds of kids flying kites from the rooftops of Jaipur. I’ll post a picture, if I can find it.

  2. Stephen Streed Says:

    That first picture’s an eye-opener!

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