Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Dehli - Nation Reincarnated

My last two weeks in India are being spent in the capital. Many of you might recall that my last reflections on New Delhi, entitled 'New Delhi - Reincarnation Nation', were less than positive. The chaos of traffic and of my pestering family amounted to a reincarnation nation that erected withered destroyed re-erected fatigued emaciated razed annihilated me (i.e. constant reincarnation).

My experiences since returning to Delhi have been delightfully dissimilar. This city has certainly been a merciless labyrinth, what, with winding roads made uncertain by makeshift construction projects and winding sessions of interrogation by the relatives. But, once I quit fighting the elements and accepted the Delhi I detested, I was no longer as bothered by opportunistic vendors and nosy neighbours. Commensurately, my body language transformed from being chronically tense and frustrated to appearing nonchalant. Autorickshaw drivers lost confidence that they could take advantage of me, and the rest of the cast of New Delhi followed suit. My Delhi was reincarnated!

Last weekend I walked along Old Delhi’s paper trail. Every Sunday, in the borough of Daryaganj, hundreds of street vendors spread sheets of plastic tarp on grimy pavement to sell new used pirated books at deeply discounted prices. One-hundred rupees can purchase for you up to five books. I stumbled upon several gems, including Sons and Lovers and Farenheit 451 and incredible works by local writers. Much of the selection, though, was plain bizarre. Take, for example, a directory of North America’s most cherished bed & breakfasts (i.e. family-owned hotels). Smog, massive and pushy crowds, and the honk screech vroooom decibels of traffic ensure that what you save in cash money you pay for with every ounce of stamina and with sweat of the most prickly-heat kind. Endure the entire stretch and reward yourself with a cold shower to wash away the dusts of shoving balancing dragging haggling.

I then visited the Asia’s largest mosque, the marvelous Jama Masjid; Mughlai archways of red stone and landscape views of the Red Fort, complete with crows gliding through warm winds. With the heat of Delhi’s sun weighing me down, I lumbered through the pandemonium that is Chandni Chowk (market). I slipped away from the market’s main road into a side-tunnel of vendors selling cottons and silks. Delhi’s clamor receive respite in these burrows of billowy textile. All sounds that enter this maze of materials are quickly absorbed by fabric, leaving a sort of dead stink of noise hanging in the air. I bought some threads of this and several yards of that. I exited the cloth market, negotiating for myself space among the crowds on the main strip, and a crescendo of clatter streamed back into my ears. A chorus of hullabaloo, snuggled within the threads of the fabric I purchased, fluttered back into the Delhite air, before I stuffed the cloth into my knapsack. I look forward to revisiting the voices of Delhi months and years from today, by holding my ear up against this cloth, like the echo of oceans in a conch seashell.

Later in the week, I visited Roshan Di Kulfi (restaurant) in Karol Bagh (market) for an infamous platter of chole/chane (i.e. chick peas in a spicy gravy) with bhatura (i.e. fry bread). I resisted devouring this decadent dish for six months (for the sake of keeping my figure of a Greek god...haha). And no visit to Roshan Di Kulfi (restaurant) would be complete without Roshan’s kulfi (i.e. Indian ice cream): pistachio, saffron, sugar, cream, vermicelli noodles, yum yum. I worked off my sinful lunch with a stroll through the deer park in Hauz Khas. Peacocks possibly outnumber deer while roses definitely outnumber peacocks.

My last sunny afternoons in Delhi are punctuated with tall glasses of sweetened lassi (i.e. a beverage of sour yoghourt blended with cold water and crushed ice and flavoured with salt or sugar). I cannot seem to get enough of it! I love lassi best when it is served in a steel glass. Droplets of condensation take form on the outer rim, drip downwards, and create a shallow concentrated pool of the city’s heat. And it is so ironic and well-timed that, similar to my relationship with Delhi, I have never been a fan of lassi --until now.

*images have been captured by myself


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oh, the steel cups! This brings back memories of my trip to India over ten years ago!

Glad to hear that things are looking up since last email. Am enjoying reading what you've been up to.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick thank you for all your wonderful messages - it's such fun to hear how you're getting on! So glad that you now have your family under control (quite a feat, I guess) and that you're having a happy finale in Delhi.

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