Footsteps in… New Delhi

I don’t know whether Delhi has always been this clean and chic, or whether it was tidied up for the commonwealth games held early last year, but boy could I spend days soaking up the atmosphere in this city!

We head over to the Qutb Minar, our first sightseeing stop of the day. We have had the luck of the Irish with our guides throughout this trip but today, our luck seems to have run out. We have picked an idiot, I’ll call him “Mister Guide. Just read on. “Mister Guide” is under the impression that because we are foreign, we do not understand Hindi. “Mister Guide” perches himself in the front seat of the car and proceeds to chat to his girlfriend “Sona” on his mobile phone, mumbling sweet nothings to her while our driver points out the sights en route to the Qutb Minar!!

Once at the Qutb Minar complex, “Mister Guide” says “this is the Qutb Minar complex, look round and meet me in thirty minutes at this point”…. and I’m thinking to myself, eerm, are we on a school tour?? Anyway, the Qutb Minar is a soaring victory tower, erected to signify the arrival of Islam in India. The complex has some amazing ruins, reminds me of walking around the Gede Ruins in Watamu, Kenya. But Mister Guide is too busy on his phone with “Sona” to to his job, and again, thanks to my Lonely Planet guidebook M and I are able to make some sense of the site. Exactly thirty minutes after we get to the site “Mister Guide” is nagging us to leave!!!

footsteps-in-new-delhi-1 Next stop – Humayuns Tomb. En route to the tomb, “Mister Guide” is on the phone to “Sona” and this is what he says to her, in a whisper like drawl that makes me want to puke…” Sona, tum sandal penkar ana aur phir hum Chandni Chowk mein lunch karege” meaning “Sona, wear sandals and meet me in Chandni Chowk for lunch!!!” Right. So we get to Humayuns Tomb and “Mister Guide” pulls the same stunt and says we have Thirty minutes here, because we need to get to Jama Masjid in Chandni Chowk before lunch time and the Masjid closes and he really wants us to see it!!! Yeah Right!! I am on to his game, he wants to shrug us off and meet “Sona” so M and I go into the Tomb and proceed to take our own sweet time. Thirty minutes on the dot, and “Mister Guide” is on our case again, at which point we tell him to wait in the car and we will come when we are ready. We are paying him for his lack of service!!!

Humayuns Tomb is yet another mausoleum, built by the Emperor Humayuns wife, in the same kind of architecture as the Taj Mahal’s Great Gate, with the same kind of red sandstone as Fatehpur Sikri. M tells me that this tomb used to be famous for couples making out, but we don’t see any so perhaps the authorities have caught onto this and so there is no making out going on here…

footsteps-in-new-delhi-3 So, “Mister Guide”, miffed as hell comes up to us and says that we will miss seeing Jama Masjid if we don’t hurry up. Thanks to Lonely Planet, we knew that the Masjid was closed from 12.30 pm to 1.45 pm for prayers, and it would take us at least that long in the Delhi traffic to get from Humayuns Tomb to the Masjid. “Mister Guide” was just annoyed that he hadn’t been able to shrug us off and meet “Sona” for lunch. Idiot. We were paying him for a full day!

Jama Masjid is right next to Chandni Chowk, and is the largest mosque in India. It really was beautiful but what I really wanted to do was explore Chandni Chowk, and rumour has it that its famous gullies would be the perfect place to try street food in India. I had mentioned this to “Mister Guide” earlier on and I had wanted to drink chai and eat chaat in Chandni Chowk. Obviously, “Mister Guide” had no interest whatsoever in any of what M and I wanted to do, because his only concern was “Sona”….and once again, the idiot was sat at the back of the rickshaw, chatting on his phone, while the rickshaw driver pointed out all the famous gullies like paratha wali gali (for all kinds of parathas) and jalebiwala, and the Sisganj Temple, holy for Sikhs!

footsteps-in-new-delhi-4This was the last straw for me, because I was really enjoying Chandni Chowk, which is a treat for the senses despite its chaos of people crossing haphazardly, traffic, rickshaws, tuk tuks, and incessant hooting and to add to all that, tonnes of bazaars, smells of flowers and incense and frying food and petrol smoke…it was absolutely fantastic and “Mister Guide” with his sulking, was just dampening the experience.

Now M has the patience of a saint, I had lost my cool with “Mister Guide” a long time ago, but even M had had enough of this idiot. We stopped the rickshaw, told the jackass to get off the rickshaw and bugger off to “Sona”, and after all his shenanigans, he had the audacity to demand a tip!!!! A tip??? For rushing us through our tours, not guiding us, and spending the better part of 5 hours on the phone with “Sona”????? I couldn’t help but laugh at “Mister Guide”, and leaving him gaping in the midst of pandemonium in Chandni Chowk, heading towards Haldirams to sate my appetite for Indian snacks. What an idiot.

I wanted to eat chaat, which in Kenya is this yummy Indian snack made with chick peas, chutney, potatoes, onions, sev, yoghurt and chutneys – but in Chandni Chowk, chaat was another word for snack and what M and I ended up eating, on the street was fried potatoes with a variety of chutneys splodged over them….literally saying, Delhi Belly, here we come! Sadly I didn’t get to go back to paratha wali gali for some parathas and chai, but hopefully there will be a next time in Delhi, I still haven’t had enough of this city.

We had a nice rickshaw ride from Chandni Chowk back to the Red Fort.

footsteps-in-new-delhi-5The driver was ten times the guide “Mister Guide” would ever be and he pointed out all the sights en route, rambling on about the history and giving us snippets of information, and he even made M pedal me in the rickshaw, for the last few miles…boy did M struggle. All that wonderful food on our travels meant I had become Ms. Stodge Podge. Hmmm. Anyway, we did thank our wonderful driver profusely and we gave him the tip that “Mister Guide” missed out on…

Our next stop was at the monumental India Gate, which looked very Arc de Triomphe like…

footsteps-in-new-delhi-6I had to satisfy my urge to shop and so we headed off to Karol Bagh,
where I went nuts buying Indian wedges in all colours at bargain prices. A great place to get souvenirs too, with its jumble of shops and bazaars.

Our final night in Delhi and M’s wonderful friends decided to give us a taste of true Delhi life. We rode the metro from Janakpuri to Connaught Place, and met M’s friends at Q Ba for a couple of drinks – Delhi is party town people! The happy hour at Q Ba was phenomenal – something like 5 beers and 5 bacardi breezers for a few rupees…bring it on! Great music, great atmosphere and the great company, Q Ba was the ideal place to unwind.

And the crème de la crème – dinner in the heart of Chandni Chowk at Karim’s! I had been warned not to expect a five star restaurant, but promised finger licking fare that I would remember. The kitchen is open, with large karais (steel pots) simmering away, with the cooks sat behind these karais stirring with large steel kurchis (spoons) – a perfect photo op, but peeking in to the karai all I could see was a pool of fat. You pass through the kitchen into a higgledy piggeldy restaurant, which I noticed was rather male dominated (so females dress appropriately) and you seat yourself at any available table.

footsteps-in-new-delhi-8The food though, more than made up for the ambience – the thought of Karim’s mutton burra and chicken passanda still makes my mouth water – creamy, mughlai perfection, eaten with a hot soft tandoori naan. A perfect meal to end our Indian odyssey, for now.
Delhi marked the end of the Golden Triangle and our footsteps in Rajasthan, an iota of the vast, diverse country that is India…

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