*$#@%!! Damned airlines!
Trip Start Jan 27, 2008
30Trip End Apr 06, 2009
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Super glued and clamped with duct tape, the next morning I strung it up, but to no avail. There was a hideous buzzing from the frets that no amount of nut or saddle adjustment and fret filing could fix. Reluctantly, I had to admit to myself the inevitable. My guitar, bought in Goa a couple of years ago and not without some travail in that department is "katam" (finished). I can't say I didn't feel a little like I had lost an old friend or a good right arm; anyone who has music in their blood would say the same
The mission for yesterday, after three gruelling, guitar-less days, was to find another. Thank god for google. After trial and error of various keywords, I finally came across Raj music, in West Patel Nagar. Off to the ATM for a pile of rupees to cover another unexpected expense I hope I can afford. Coming out, I saw a shaven-headed Scotsman wearing an army jacket walking down the street.
Craig and I had met a couple of nights before in the Gem Bar, one of the two or three places in the Paharganj that one can get a beer. We had a little crew that night. I had joined an Italian enjoying his last night after six months in India, then we were joined by a Polish girl and her Czech friend, just starting their journey. They asked me about my "ink," and as I showed them the thistle-and-clan-badge on my right arm ("English" Alex is an absolute master), a fellow across the aisle leaned over and said in an unmistakable scottish accent, "Let's have a look at that one." The rest was history. Through the generations, as we Americans are wont to do, we have traced some ancestry back to the land of thistle and heather, all the way back to clan Macdonald of Skye. Craig immediately recognized the badge as his own as well. Macdonald he is, and from Skye to boot. It is a great excuse to drink until close, if you go on the pretense of finally meeting a long-lost distant cousin, and the beers came till the wee hours. I noticed the family resemblance in the hairline, high and thin. Ha!
So spotting my "cousin" in the street, and--wonder of wonders--actually remembering his name, I shouted over to him. Stragely enough, he was on the scout for a set of tablas (funny how these coincidences work, isn't it?), and so was on his way to a couple of, you guessed it, music shops
There were two shops recommended in the Lonely Planet guide, the first shop wanting 9k rupes for the set. My companion opted to shop around, at least a little. The next shop, just down the way from the first, had the same set with all the trimmings for 5k. Seemed like a good deal, so he bought. **note: it turns out that tablas of the exact same type and quality can be bought for about 1500 rupees once you get out of the more westernized area. Perhaps these two shops work in tandem in a sort of good cop bad cop thing in which the one charges too much, then the buyer nabs the others, contratulating himself on getting a good deal. (side note: never trust the guidebooks, find out for yourself).**
The next move was to find a guitar. The shops has the usual "Givson" and "Hobner" guitars, but not what I wanted. These guitars, although rather fun in design, are not generally of very good quality. This from a country who loves sitar, not guitar. I had checked out Raj Music's website (quite good, actually), and had an idea of what the prices were, so these first shops were charging too much. Twice too much.
No number, of course. I have no idea if they even know of the concept in this country, but even if they did, it would be quite impossible to discern a number in the visual chaos that is a row of shops.
Stepping off the train and finding the railway "poles" immediately, it was no problem to find the shop. Clean and well-managed, this was a far cry from the dirty little shop in the paharganj selling unplayable instruments. They had about thirty or so guitars on hand, about half of them in my price range. Steering well clear of the Funder and Givson brands, I tried a number of them, and finally settled on a mid-thick body acoustic with an oval soundhole and mother-of-pearl inlays. It stayed in tune nicely, and plays well but with a little less in the bass tone and no electronics, as the old one had. Nice looking instrument though, and with the thinner body, I can pad it more for the monkeys who will handle it on the way back. Mission accomplished.
Highly recommended for your musical needs in Delhi: Raj Music, West Patel Nagar Road, opposite metro pole marker 225
As my new friend left last night, it was back to the Gem for a couple of beers later. I toasted his good health as we sat next to a couple of asian "girls" (jury's still out on those two), who yammered away in korean and ignored us all the while. A good "travel friend," and I hope he shows up at my door sometime. I closed the night by strumming a little drunken guitar on the roof of the Hari Rama with a gaggle of Slovenians on their way to Rajastan. That's the thing about delhi though, most people are on the way to somewhere else, and so don't really get the chance to appreciate what this city has to offer other than the "Ganj," and a couple of larger tourist sites.
It is cold and snowing in Manali, at least for the moment, so I have been chilling in chilly delhi, studying my hindi diligently, and impressing the hotel crew with my progress. I really like this particular guesthouse, it has a nice feel and sense of community about it. Also highly recommended.
Tomorrow, I will use the unknown-to-western-people Metro, I have a map, and so will visit such sights as Lal (red) Kila (fort), the Jamma Masjid, built by Shah Jahan (the taj mahal guy), and numerous other ruins and attractions. All on a day pass to the metro at about a buck fifty.
I promise many pictures, as soon as I find a computer that can take my usb cable. . .