2005 #3: Rooftop Dining – Delhi Style

Well, settling to the Indian way quite nicely now. Yesterday was a bit of an adventure. We went to a bank around the corner and went and sat in a little room where some men were writing things in duplicate and triplicate in important looking books and they had piles of the most ancient looking ledger books I’ve seen in a long time. Something like what was used in schools in the 40’s and 50’s. A guy walked in with a motorbike helmet on – something you can’t do in the western world and live. I think he was a money courier – sort of like the Indian version of a stuntman, without the danger pay.

We also went to a shop that sells much of the incense we see in NZ, and you sit down with the important looking elder of the place and his boy brings you chai and you choose some things and put them on a nice wooden tray and they add up your bill with a pen on scraps of paper. Actually, come to think of it, I haven’t seen a till here yet. When we finished, the man had his boy bring us a sample of perfume each to take away. I’m not sure if it is normal here to give perfume to a man, but I guess it must be. Paul didn’t seem quite as delighted as I was, but you can’t please everyone all the time. It was a very posh shop – it even had glass windows!

We took a cycle rickshaw over to Sadar Bazaar. Mmmm – Delhi traffic – hmmm. If I thought our neighbourhood was busy, I was in for a real treat this time. I’m not sure how much notice the locals take of the traffic lights, but there appeared to be vague traces of organised chaos going on. Although I’m not sure how they train their bullocks and horses to read roadsigns and lights. Some of the red lights have “Relax” written across them – a nice Indian touch.

After struggling to walk through the Sadar Bazaar crowds on the streets and in the alleyways, we finally gave up and grabbed another cycle rickshaw. What a good idea. You’re a little elevated and can see much more, but you’re still part of the scene. There was quite a traffic jam going on, so we had plenty of time to look around us. And the neat thing was that the meter wasn’t running. Same cost no matter how long it takes. Cool! We were the only white faces there – apart from a group of 3 that Paul saw whiz by somewhere along the line – and we were in the traffic for what added up to hours! At one stage I caught some Indian ladies in a rickshaw going the other way looking at me, so I smiled and waved to them and they seemed totally taken aback. Their delighted smiles were just fantastic. That was very nice.

We went from there to Old Delhi and visited a brass merchant that Paul has been dealing with. Both these areas are Jain areas. They are total vegetarians and will not harm anything at all. As Paul put it, they make Buddhists look violent. Some of then wear white masks over their faces so that they don’t accidentally swallow a bug and kill it. Taking things slightly to extremes really, but there you go. This brass merchant had some amazing stuff. Huge brass statues of all sorts of things. Very beautiful. But to bring such a thing home would use up about 10 years of luggage weight allowance. Darn it all. Up the scary staircase he had rooms with shelves and shelves of a mind-boggling variety of smaller stuff. It’s very nice that many shops you go into will automatically bring you a drink. So we had several drinks of chai and Pepsi (out of glass bottles. Yes – GLASS bottles!!) which is greatly appreciated with the heat and grime that is just*everywhere. While we were sitting down enjoying our Pepsi, a long furry something ran up the passageway and past us. Turns out it was a weasel. Apparently there is a family of them living behind one of the doors. We’re not quite sure whether it’s a good sign that these creatures, lizards, eagles, weasels, etc, are about or not. On the one hand they eat the bug things and rodent things around the place, which is great, on the other hand the fact that they need to be there at all is a slightly alarming thought. I’m just choosing not to think about this too much.

Last night we went and dined at the Metropolis – a nice Indian restaurant just down the road from us. We went up to the rooftop and it was very romantic being served ice cold beers and cocktails with umbrellas whilst we were serenaded*by the gentle honkings of 90,000 people trying to all occupy the same space at the same time on the street below. The food was beautiful and the service very good.In the back of their menu it is written that they have been there for 75 years and are “obsessed with their relationship with the following businesses”*(and goes on to name about 4 Indian newspapers). They have such fabulous wording here. I was tempted to take their beautiful large studded wooden doors back home with me, but manners and the vague possibility of them noticing held me back. The live lizard wallpaper is a fantastic feature also. Paul made me promise to behave myself and not keep leaping up to take photos of the lizards all the time. It wasn’t easy.

We then went back to our own rooftop and took water with a frenchman, an american woman, an Israeli and a kiwi that had been in India for an hour. He was a little jumpy and his eyes were almost popping out of his head from jetlag and lack of sleep, but after a day or two here he’ll learn the fine art of passivity and lizard watching and he’ll come right I’m sure.

Today we are going over to Connaught place and will go to an underground market. Air conditioning and all. Luxury! she cried.

To those of you who have emailed me –

Carol – those those pedestrian bridge things in Bangkok aren’t half as scary as the traffic below!

Oriwa – kei te pehea koe e hoa? Lovely to hear from you. Please give my love to the ladies of the Info team. The big man who will be flying with your son to Thailand has a little bit of time to start a radical diet before trying to sit in a plane seat for many hours. May I suggest that he just doesn’t eat between now and November and he might just pull it off.

Kevin – no I haven’t gone all genteel and cultured on you – I would have drank Jack Daniels on the plane, only they had run out! I’ll fill them in ahead of time next time so they’re stocked up and ready for me. Thanks for the tip on getting through Customs quickly. These things are good to know. And I already got through two lots at Bangkok and there was no comment on the airline cutlery. Maybe it had helped the second time that I’d forgotten to fill out my departure card. That was very frowned upon and I was very officiously put aside to fill it out, like a naughty child. A cunning distraction.

Greg – hi there. Unfortunately I did lose sight of the brandy bottle – I’d probably darned near emptied the thing anyway. But never mind, I’ll console myself with the bottle of duty-free gin that somehow got into my bag. One does what one can in such circumstances. I shall battle on.
Dad. Big hugs. And yes, you’re right. Some of the Indians are rather keen to sell things to visitors – in fact they’d probably try to climb right inside your skin given half a chance. But wearing sunglasses and imitating a deaf person seems to do the trick. The only problem I’ve had so far was 2 boys in an alleyway in Old Delhi last night but a push and a snarl soon sorted that out. I haven’t been a mother for years without learning a thing or two about snarling when necessary. It transcends all languages.

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