2005 #4: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Delhi

Nighttime now and we’re back in our own neighborhood after another afternoon of cruising around. This time we traveled by motor rickshaw, which give the illusion of being safer than cycle rickshaw, but apparently are not. I did not bother to ask why, I preferred to stick with my illusions.

We went through Connaught Place to the bank, which was an interesting experience. You go through a metal detector and then you get scanned by a guy with a hand scanner. Paul had to hand over his pocket knife to be held until we left again. Upstairs we sat in a room, sat down at the counter and were ignored for 5 or 10 minutes – apparently very normal – waiting patiently to be served. The gentleman that finally noticed us (even though we had been sitting all of 3 feet in front of him for a while) served us, filled out some paperwork, gave us a brass token to hang on to and we were then escorted to another room to some people in cells behind bars. They handed over the money. This is how you get your own money out of the bank here if you are a foreigner. It’s a little bit reminiscent of the scene in Harry Potter when he goes to the Goblin bank, only the security guys in the bank are a fair bit nicer looking than goblins.

Over to Janpath, where we looked through a row of Tibetan shops. Very interesting and colorful. I spent money. On jewelery. What to do – I’m a woman. I then had to carry the stuff all over the place and it gained weight as I went along. The Tibetan people are very nice – not as pushy as the Indians. We saw fascinating padlocks and conch shells with silver-work all over them and gems and miniature sewing machines, etc, etc. We then went briefly through the Rajasthan row, but were getting pretty hot and tired by then and we’re going to Rajasthan anyway, so we opted for (cringe) MacDonald’s instead. Well, they have clean toilets (ish). The door was opened for us by a very sharply dressed “Security” man who even wore spats over his boots. Everything is chicken or vegetarian. I had a Maharaja burger, which had mildly spiced chicken patties and an extra bun in between. The buns don’t quite hold together like our ones and it was nigh on impossible to eat it in a ladylike manner, but fortunately a TV was on showing a cricket game so not too many people were watching me.

We wandered on to Palika Bazaar which is an underground market. Totally crazy and full of western stuff. And sort of like a concrete bunker or a large bomb shelter with a dome on top. We didn’t stay there long, it just wasn’t so nice to be in.

Back to our neighborhood (Pahar Ganj – Main Bazaar) where a policeman had decided to take up residence at the entrance and wouldn’t let our rickshaw through. I guess he was having a slow day. So we had to get out and walk. Talk about take your life into your hands. By this time the jewelery had gained an extra 400 pounds and the traffic was pretty insane. There are no real lanes here – just a free for all. So people are always beeping at you from behind and you have a choice between avoiding dogs, cows, people spitting, touts, beggars, puddles and piles of rubbish of dubious origins. Also auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and taxis. This is all crowded into a street about the width of one lane of our streets. One taxi driver decided to stop and have a chat with his mate across the street and caused a massive blockage. Not that it bothered him at all. It actually would have been quicker to get up on his car and walk over it, and I doubt he would have noticed or minded. Tempting.

I am constantly amazed at the spatial abilities of the rickshaw drives. For the mayhem that goes on, there seems to be a remarkable lack of actual accidents. I think Auckland drivers could take lessons from these guys. It’s a total mess, but somehow the traffic almost flows. Well, in a terrifying and raucous sort of a way. Another entrepreneurial opportunity here would be to sell Rescue Remedy to newly arrived westerners on the street corners. You can’t do such a thing on the footpaths because they just don’t have such things (footpaths), except for in the very modern areas.

I stopped at a clothing shop on our street and found some nice things to wear. But no matter how thin, the clothes just are not cool enough! If somebody came up with a way of making refrigerated clothing, they’d make a fortune.

We dropped in at one of Paul’s contacts’ shop and, joy of joys, they gave us a cold coke and a seat. Then finally back home and yet another cold shower and some Indian TV with the ceiling fan on high. Highly entertaining, especially the ads.

And now we are back at the air-conditioned cyber cafe. They are doing quite nicely out of us. It’s always a bit of a shock to walk back outside into the heat and past a reasonably open public toilet, which is a little on the fragrant side.

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