The journey from the airport was magical. And when I say magical, I mean it was magical how on a three-lane strip of road, five or even six cars would drive aside one another. And when I say drive aside one another, I mean dodge in and out of one another, fitting into spaces that didn’t even exist seconds before. All the while, the incessant and agitated beeping that slowly begins to lose all meaning. The beep could mean, “get out of the way old man on your bike,” “you can’t cross in front of me small child,” “I’m coming – get out of my way or I will knock your wing mirror off,” or the most common, ” I haven’t beeped in 5 seconds so I’d better beep again.”
So aside from the road situation, chaos ensues on the pavements (or lack of) too. The main bazaar is a bustling street of the obligatory beeping tuk-tuks and roadside vendors selling anything from fruit to children’s underwear. You can barely walk a metre without being greeted and persuaded into shops, restaurants and again tuk-tuks offering to take you to God knows where. A man without complete resolution and a firm plan will quickly find himself lost in this crazy city.
But the place has a certain charm, one that an inexperienced traveller such as myself can only glimpse – beautiful greenery and gardens in the most unlikely corners, and delicious food in interesting set-ups. To navigate one must have a will of stone, as the slightest smile could have you led down a side-street buying hand-made silk rugs or fake plane tickets to Kolkata. Neither of which has happened I add; I would have bought the silk rug voluntarily.
The people are hard to read – what meant to be a (very optimistic) 20 minute stroll to the railway station became an hour long onslaught of people telling us we couldn’t buy tickets at the station, or that the ticket office was closed due to some religious festival and we had better follow them quickly to some alternative tourist office… We returned to the hotel tail between legs and empty handed. Lesson learnt – do not speak to anyone at New Delhi railway station. In fact do not go to New Delhi railway station full stop. The over-priced tickets from the tourism guy in the hotel start to hold a new appeal. In the kindest possible way and said with the fondest of smiles – get us out of Delhi!