2007 #2: Mad Dogs and Kiwi Twits

We went for a ride on the Metro to Connaught Place. The metro is a lot busier this year – you actually have to queue for a token. Although the queues are still fairly civilised there – unlike a lot of other ones in Indian situations, where it’s every man for himself and the more elbows you have the better. Again, we went through an electronic gateway and were scrutinised by security guys. Mind you, the first guy looked at Paul’s bag and then I lifted mine towards him and said “woman’s things” and he waved me away. This mortal fear of women’s’ handbags appears to be a worldwide phenomenon.

Connaught Place is a large (really) circular area with a round garden in the middle and shops around the outside of that. Of course we got out of the metro through the gate on the opposite side of where we needed to go so we had to walk through the center garden in the roasting hot sun. A truly horrible feeling. (At 40-odd degrees, this is not such a good joke.) By the time we got to our destiny I was almost reeling from being broiled alive. Only mad dogs and Kiwi twits will put themselves through this. To add insult to injury, we went to a restaurant to cool off and have lunch and I ordered vegetable pakora. I was so busy reeling that I hadn’t realised that the restaurant was a southern Indian style one. They really like their spices down there. And I do believe that half of Southern India’s spices were loaded into my pakoras. This is just what I needed – broiling on the outside and blistered on the inside. Spice is all very wonderful, but I don’t understand this concept of cauterizing your taste buds so you can’t even taste the food anyway and even drinking water now hurts. I was really kicking myself by now because I was really hungry. Oh well, lesson learnt and in the future I shall make careful enquiries as to the origins of the restaurant chefs.

Finally we got back to lovely, smelly, noisy, crazy Paharganj. Now this place I feel at home with. Across the road from our guesthouse I amused myself haggling for a second-hand book – a great pastime, this haggling with the locals – went up to our rooftop for a plate of nice, mild chinese chow mein and commenced to get over my jet lag, hunger and internal blisters in the laziest manner possible. In fact, I went to sleep at approximately 4.30pm and found myself wide awake at 4.30am. At this time of day, only prowling cats and lizards are awake. However, they all kept me company out in the hallway while I continued reading my book and waited for the rest of the world to catch up with my totally sane sleeping and waking habits.

Sunday found me back out on the street trying to find my tailor from last year. I led Paul down the alleyway he was in – creeping past Paul’s previous tailor’s doorway, a man we love to hate – but couldn’t find my tailor anywhere. So, back out onto the street to find the Ravindra Bros. material shop. Couldn’t find that either. So, down another alleyway to Sunny’s place. Sunny, as it turned out, was the guy that recommended the Ravindra Bros to me in the first place, so he gave us directions. When we got to the shop (essentially a large hole in the wall at the side of an alleyway, or ‘lane’ and Paul so nicely puts it), I gave the main brother (a smiley man in a fabulous turban) a photo I had taken of them last year. He was grinning from ear to ear about this. It was well worth the trouble it took to see that look on his face.

Once again I helped pay off the Ravindra Bros mortgage by buying far too much material. They’re just so pleasant and the material is just so gorgeous – rotten tactics, I say. We than went around the corner into another ‘lane’ and sat down for a chai. We’d just decided we might as well eat there when a little mouse ran across the courtyard and into the kitchen. Mulling it over, we decided that we would risk eating there, as the mouse was actually very skinny, which we took for a good sign. If the mouse had been fat, we would have presumed it ate there regularly and removed ourselves to another establishment. Also the fact I’d seen a weasel in plain sight an alleyway or two over told me that the pest control services were alive and well and chances were it was a fairly good risk.

Turns out the food was fine. I had Aloo Bhiaj Paneer (a very exotic name for mashed potatoes with onion and cheese) which I didn’t think had a lot of risk attached to it and it was rather nice. There were various westerners sitting around and wandering through. The types that look like they got left behind in the 70’s and 80’s and have quite forgotten how to get home and don’t care anyway.They’ve probably been lurking in these alleyways and sleeping in cheap rooms for years – their familiarity with the area and the locals gives credence to this concept. All in all, very entertaining. And a touch you will never see on a New Zealand cafe wall – a sign saying “I Love U – F #@* Off”. You have to wonder at such times if the owners actually know what the sign says. Or did they put it there because it was shiny and the words show up in the light nicely?

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