Delhi ho!

Last travel post from India! We spent our last few days in this strange and wondrous land in Delhi. Before lurching into India’s capital city, we spent 6 hours on a train from Jaipur. Train trips always make me feel melancholy – more than any other mode of transportation, they epitomize “journey” to me, and I inevitably find myself in a contemplative space.

The Indian train, in all her glory.

However, Indian trains are also far too a) bustling, and b) revolting to allow for unbroken contemplation. Todd and I sat in one of the cheapest classes on all of our trips, and there was rarely a dull moment. Apparently, paying for a berth doesn’t mean that it’s really yours – we had endless numbers of villagers “sharing” our seats, and cramming themselves into any unoccupied space. We also watched a dizzying array of activities taking place, including a business meeting between 5 men that lasted for six hours (with breaks for sharing village gossip).

Todd was totally appalled at the idea of chatting for 6 straight hours.

And whenever I felt too melancholy, I just took a trip to the toilet, where I was abruptly jerked back to reality.

And this was one of the cleaner options…

Things didn’t get any more normal once we arrived in Delhi. I booked a place that was highly recommended on Trip Advisors, and we found ourselves in one of the most delightfully bizarre hotels that I have ever encountered. The Hotel Kabli is a converted mansion in a random residential area that appeared to be at the edge of the universe when we arrived in the cold night fog. We were warmly welcomed by the Sikh proprietors, and were soon huddling in our room under every blanket we could find – it was Delhi’s coldest day in 66 years. The next morning, we awoke to find ourselves in the middle of Kabul. There were Afghans everywhere – men chatting in large huddles, and veiled women sitting in a segregated area. We were the only Westerners in the joint. Apparently, the hotel is a favourite stopover for Afghans doing business in Delhi. The men wanted to talk to Todd, but when I joined them, it felt awkward – they weren’t rude, but I felt like I was committing a cultural faux pas.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Before we decided to move to Thailand, I was considering applying for a PhD at the JNU school of international studies. Needless to say, things didn’t work out that way, but it was neat to see the campus. It was an interesting mixture of a stereotypical university environment (political posters everywhere), and unique Indian charm (a walkway covered by a cement roof that would occasionally crumble and drop chunks on students’ heads).

Doing my best to look like a university student.

We also spent time fighting for survival on the metro. I have never seen people push and shove quite like this – I finally understand how people get crushed to death in crowds. And I’ve never seen grown men dive for seats on the metro like I have in Delhi. It is a blood sport.

We arrived home in the wee hours this morning. After a short stretch of glorious sleep, we were woken by insanely bad karaoke music blasting from a celebration across the canal from our building. Nice to know that even though we’ve left India, there’s still plenty of weird to go around.

11 thoughts on “Delhi ho!

  1. That toilet on the train is the most revolting, disgusting “pit stop” I’ve ever seen. I would wear Depends, will keep that in mind for any planned trips to India.

    • Haha! This wasn’t even the worst one we saw, Sophia – at least it was dry, and didn’t have too much, ahem, solid waste clinging to it. Some of them have floors that are soaking wet, and have clearly had visitors who didn’t know how to aim. Totally disgusting!

  2. Ross, I’m not sure if you’re reading this, but I have a hunch that the guys conducting a business meeting in our berth on the train were your Indian contractors. There were calculators and spreadsheets involved… just sayin.

  3. Hey Ruth,
    I’ve just got back to Ooty and have been catching up on your blog. Sounds like you had a good trip, despite the mishaps! I have to say after being in Thailand for 3 weeks coming back to India was a bit of a culture shock. The busyness of the streets, noise and rudeness of some people are too much – I’m thinking maybe I should move to Thailand now! Besides Thai food is much better than Indian (except I did miss fresh lime sodas!).

    • Thailand definitely has a different/more relaxed vibe than India, doesn’t it? Although I have to say that there is something exciting about India – definitely never a dull moment! Sounds like you had a good trip, though (?) I can’t totally agree with you on the cuisine, though. I love Thai food, but I think Indian food might come out a little ahead in my books (although it doesn’t offer as many fresh and healthy options). Maybe we both just needed a change in cuisine for a few weeks!

      • I think you are right about the change in cuisine, the grass is always greener on the other side right?!
        Yes we had a great trip, kept busy and enjoyed it all. Good to be back in Ooty and settling into ‘normal’ routines. Good to be back in the cool too, there was a frost on the ground this morning. As much as I love Thailand I don’t know if I could live in the heat.

  4. Started reading your blog a month or so ago. Your blog gave me insights into Thailand today. Just spent two weeks in Bangkok and a couple days in Phuket. I lived in Thailand in the 70’s and this was my first trip back. I plan to continue to enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I stayed at the Davis Hotel, which I highy recommend.

    Wanda

    • Thanks so much for reading, Wanda! I imagine that Thailand has changed quite a bit since the 70s, and it must have been interesting to come back to visit.

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