2006 #3: Delhi – Hot Destination!

Last night was pretty interesting and sociable in a variety of ways. We were wandering around poking our noses into various shops of interest, then we went down an alleyway to the local chai wallah for a cup of his wonderful chai. Pretty interesting to check out the alleyway life. There were people sitting around passing time – as there seems to be everywhere in Delhi – national pastime? While waiting for our chai we took a photo or two of our surroundings, including the amazing tumbledown second story just above the chai wallah. Incredible that the place actually stays up there! It appeared to be made of bits of spare wood and tarpaulin held together by spit. Some kid was wandering up and down a ladder from there, trying his best to kick a calf that came wandering up the alley. The things you do when you don’t have a t.v.

We sat on a bench amongst some of the locals and one very uptight dog, and eventually one of the woman asked if I would take their photo. This I was most happy to do, because due to the wonders of digital technology, I can show them the photo straight away. I love to see the looks on their faces when they see themselves on the screen. There was a little boy of about three years, whose mother was a bit rough on him – it was pretty tempting to pick him up and give him a cuddle – and you could see he had no concept at all of what he looked like. He was also pretty bewildered by this woman with a white face making flashing lights at him. His older brother was very chatty though. Very smiley guy who practiced his english on us and I practiced my very small Hindi with him. That only took a second or two.
After a cup of most wonderful chai, we were invited in to see a tabla maker. He was making the most wonderful noises on his tabla, so we took a bit of movie footage of him playing and casually chatting at the same time. It was a neat experience – the tabla is a most beautiful sound when played so well. And the chai wallah would not take any money for our chai. He is a lovely man and I highly recommend his chai to anyone. Just take the first alleyway on the left after the internet cafe with the pothole outside it up Main Bazaar, Pahar Ganj.

Later – back on the Hare Krishna guesthouse rooftop complete with nightly rations of gin – we had a chat with a guy from Nagar, called Pappu. He is involved with an eco-friendly type institution somewhere up there and obviously gets around a bit doing business. He reckons he doesn’t have to travel to see the world, and much of it comes to his place. Fair enough.

Over yonder were a few young guys – from Israel maybe – with some instruments. I wandered over and wangled my way into having a play on one of the guitars. That felt great – it was something I missed a lot last year. Sitting round under the night sky, relaxing and socialising – a guitar was one seriously missing necessary item. I realised that I actually had withdrawal symptoms from this. One of these guys was actually hauling two guitars and a violin around with him. You gotta take your hat off to that. I thought a backpack and a bag was a pain!

There is a large group here made up of French people – adults and young kids of varying ages. When I asked them this morning, they said they were four families who had all come over to do a trek in the mountains. Many of the kids with them had actually been born in India. No wonder they look so at home. What a wonderful thing, travelling to such interesting places as a kid.

It’s another scorcher today. After breakfast, our feet nearly got scorched just walking across the roof and down the stairs. And this is on marble!

We’re going down to check out the train station situation. We might take a couple of days in Rishikesh. We are of course waiting for business to be completed here – the ability to wait being a prerequisite in India. Tomorrow can actually contain many tomorrows. A whole different slant on time from the Western world.

2006 #2: Back In Delhi Again

Once we arrived at our Guesthouse, we went up onto the roof for a relaxing gin or two. The same cats as last year are here, plus a grown up kitten or two. They’re funny looking things – thin with short tails and short rough coats. It’s nice to have them here though, they kind of make it homely.

Yesterday we did the street wander and said hello to several street wallahs that we know. They are very hospitable. After Namaste’s, asking after ourselves, our children, the weather in our country, etc, they ordered chai, turned on fans and got chairs for us to sit in while we chatted. Even they are saying it is hot. The monsoon is late again.

I popped in and said hello to Mr Om at R-Expo. He is saying that he cannot believe I am a mother of five children. It’s easier to tell him this than try and sort through the reality of my family situation with him……my family members will particularly understand this, as there are many of us and it all gets a little complex. Bless him. I made a beeline for my favourite brand of vanilla bean soap – which this time I will not dispose of down the squat toilet. That happened last time I was here. The shower just drains into the toilet, which of course is a tiled hole in the floor, my soap became slippery and dived into said hole. Like heck was I going to dive in there and rescue it! I imagined there would have been vanilla-smelling bubbles in the sewerage system for several days after that.

So much for buying one item from him though. I came out with sandalwood face pack stuff, vanilla bean moisturizer and a few new clothes. Again, the never ending and unsuccessful search for something cooler to wear. Nigh on impossible. I guess I’ll just have to resign myself to cooking in my own wardrobe.

I went to bed pretty early last night, as my body was screaming ‘It’s 4am in New Zealand you fool!!! And of course, the curse of waking every two hours was still firmly in place. This morning (and those who know me will gasp at this), I was up on the roof for breakfast at 7am. Disgusting I know. I’m going to have to get therapy for this. But I got to see the monkeys of the city raiding the water tanks on the rooftops. Actually, when you sit still for long enough, you realise that Delhi is teeming with animal life. Squirrels, monkeys, lizards, a little mouse I nearly stepped on, crows, pigeons, cows, dogs, etc. Who would’ve thought you could come right into the city and do a wildlife program? I should send a note to David Attenborough.

We were sitting at a street cafe yesterday, and I was getting a few local shots with my camera. Then I thought I’d use the movie mode that it has. So I was panning around recording a bit of the human life when a guy wearing khaki clothing and carrying a big stick started laying into one of the cycle rickshaw wallahs. It sounded really painful. I got the whole lot on the movie. I was a little worried he’d notice me and come over to discuss this, complete with big stick, but he was too busy being important with the other guy. It all only lasted less than a minute, but wow. Funny such a thing should happen right in front of my camera!

It sounds like the monsoon has started in the lower states of India, so there’s a large possibility that we might be heading for the Himalayas (lower) instead of down Madya Pradesh, as was the original plan. I told Paul that if he finds me some Valium to enable me to cope with the mountain bus rides, he’s on. He showed me some photos of where he has been up there and it looks absolutely gorgeous. And then he used a really rotten technique and mentioned the word ‘cooler’. Unfair!!! she cried. So there we go – plans changed. We will still go down to Orchha first, which is in Madya, but not too badly affected by monsoon. (This is where we slept in the Palace last year.) I’m looking forward to blowing bubbles at the monkeys and seeing what they make of that! Should make for some good photos. And I have knuckle bones, yo yo, coloured pencils, etc for the kids there.

2006 Series #1: Now at Kuala Lumpur

After almost missing my plane at Auckland (the guy in Duty Free was a terribly chatty sort who just didn’t stop!), I’ve made it as far as Kuala Lumpur. By joves it’s warm here. And I’ve realised that it smells like Bangkok. I was trying to define the smell last night – a mixture of steam, incense and something else….? Can’t quite put my finger on it. But it’s nice to smell it again.

The plane ride was loooong. And squishy. Has anyone else noticed a jet of something sprays back over the wing, from the direction of the engine, on take-off? It’s a little bit alarming to watch. I have to presume it’s all part of a cunning plan so I don’t panic about it – nobody else seems to.

I sat next to a nice Swiss woman. Fortunately we’re both small. Unlike the (presumably Dutch guy) across the aisle from us. Great big long legs with REAL yellow clogs on the end of them. I was quite fascinated. I’ve never seen anyone where clogs before. They’ve always been sitting on a shelf or hanging on a wall. I wonder how comfortable they are. Anyway, he had to sort of wrap his knees around the sides of the seat in front of him. There are virtues to being one of the little people sometimes.

Got to KL Airport, and it was deathly silent. There were no people around. It was like the scene of a creepy movie………..

By now it was about 1am New Zealand time and the old brain was at half mast. I finally got on the right train thing that takes you to a different part of the airport, found my luggage and then followed Paul’s instructions to the desk where I came unstuck when I got into the elevator. Which is made of glass, and has doors opening on BOTH sides. Naturally I got out on the wrong side, which made all of Paul’s directions make no sense whatsoever. Finally I got to the right place and then had to wait an hour for the ride into KL. Another hour goes by to actually get into town, got to my room and found I couldn’t sleep. By this time it is 2am NZ time. I naturally fell back onto backup emergency reserve plan B and opened the bottle of Southern Comfort I had bought – that did the trick. However, I was cursed with the sudden ability to wake up every 2 hours on the dot. And being in a hotel placed between 2 highways didn’t help. It wasn’t the traffic noise that bothered me, it was the lack of beeping and honking. It just seems so unnatural somehow in an asian country. This place is just too sane!

I finally abandoned my bed at 8am and went down for breakfast. Curses – I forgot my Vegemite! Never mind, the fresh croissants with apricot jam got me through. I ended up sitting with a very nice Australian woman who is an ESOL teacher and was returning to Oz from Latvia. We went shopping – as is a pair of women’s wont. There are many muslim women here, and they seem to be quite solemn. We both realised that we hate shopping in the heat, so we got it over with as quickly as it is possible to be quick in sickening steamy heat and then headed for a food shop. There I was accosted by my first beggar of the trip. But since he already had a fist full of money I didn’t overwhelm him with my concern and humanity and he dipped out.

Back to the hotel, running round like an idiot repacking, downstairs to catch my lift to the airport – which naturally was running late – and back onto the plane. The flight was full of Indians, complete with large amounts of children – screaming, cheeky children – but while sitting in the waiting lounge, I got to know a few of them, and naturally swapped photos of children, got heaps of heavily accented advice of where to go and how to get there, so it was all okay. There were times, mind you, when I was tempted to suggest to the hostesses that the two children sitting across from me who were taking turns to ensure the air was full of screams at all times, that they might like a brandy or two. However, I held back and drank them myself. I’m generous like that. Also, a bit of a shock when a guy walked up to me on the plane and handed my ticket back, which I had dropped in the airport somewhere. Someone was looking after me there…… Prayers of thanks.

Well, the flight was long, and then when we got there we circled the air a lot because the airport was full and we were number 12 in line, but finally we landed. I was ready to make the dash – made it to customs just before an enormous team of American schoolkids. Heh heh – no flies on this cookie. However, the universe paid me back for being a smartypants by delaying my luggage by quite a lot. Finally through the official bits and out into the crowd and saw Paul. Oh yay – he made it through the landslides in the mountains after all. Apparently only just getting back to Delhi in time, mind you.

Crazy, crazy traffic to Pahar Ganj and then finally at our guesthouse.