Back home in Dirty Delhi
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
21Trip End Mar 25, 2009
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Having 3 seats per section, the Boeing 777 has plenty of room in this situation. I myself managed to appropriate 3 seats in the middle, raise the armrests, and so have almost a proper bed. With 3 pillows and 3 blankets for cushioning, 4 hours of sleep or so on an overnight flight to India makes a difference.
On landing, I managed a prepaid taxi to town with an american woman for 125 rupes apiece, landed at the train station, walked a hundred yards, and reached my usual guesthouse. Approaching the desk, the man recognized me at once. "You have returned, my friend!" A limp indian handshake later, I was shown my room. "Same price as last year?" I asked. "Yes, do sau rupiya. . " 200 rupes for a good size room, clean sheets and attached bath with the necessary indian-style toilet. Not too bad. Even a little writing table and chair. Definitely the easiest and smoothest arrival I have had here.
After stowing my gear, and of course having a drink of local water from the hotel cooler to infect myself once again with the local flora, it was back to my old favorite coffee shop/restaurant for coffee, chai, and food. The same staff was there, and even remembered my name! Nice to be recognized in a far away place. . .
There is a special exhaustion that comes with flying a long distance through numerous time zones. Kind of like when one stays up all night drinking, and keeps on through the day. Eyes half open, brain half working, all the trimmings. Coffee or tea does nothing except make the half-formed thoughts jumble up at the mind's gate as they arrive faster and with more frequency. A strange yet benign sort of psychosis that can only be cured by valium, beer, and a long night's sleep.
The "magic table" on the pagal-ganj is still the same, the same couple of kashmiri lads hanging out, and the same beggars plying the tourist masses for money. Most of them leave me alone, as they have long memory, and know that I'm scottish when it comes to such things as giving money away to the business beggars and tourist babas.
Sitting for a couple of hours at street level, I did notice that it seems quieter than in past years. Israelis are all but gone, as the Indian government only gives a 3 month visa to them anymore. They now go to other places and bother the locals there, I suppose.
Though "quiet" in a relative sense, the traffic of cows, ox-drawn carts, bicycle and motor richshaws and handcarts has stayed the same. Construction on the sewer and electrical systems at the end of the street slows it some though, and some of them just shy away from the main bazaar altogether.
The feeling is still the same however--Unbridled Capitalism. "Friend, friend! You come my shop!" "You want something smoke?" and so on down the line. There is a good defense I have found and use quite often. In my best russian accent I simply say these lines over a couple of times, and they break off pursuit in a few steps: "Russia. . .English no. . " Though many street hawkers know and speak english fluently when it is to their benefit, few to none speak anything remotely cyrillic. Works like a charm.
After a Lassi at my favorite street stand (recognized there as well), and a couple of beers at the Gem Bar (inside of which you can no longer smoke), I headed off to the chemist for my medication. Valium is a wonderful drug for sleep, and the more tired you are, the better. Sometimes when one is too tired, sleep is fitful and restless, but with that faithful little pill on your side, sleep is deep, with nice dreams, and one awakens refreshed, all traces of incipient jet lag washed away. Of course, don't overdo it, or you may just sleep forever. . .
This morning I was up and having coffee by 9 am, well-rested and ready, feeling fresher than I have in some weeks.
Today, I have already been eye-tested, picked out new glasses (which sell for a song, by the way), and made an appointment with my gentle and professional dentist for tomorrow. Later this afternoon it will be off to Karol Bagh with another Royal Enfield enthusiast to see if I can get a fresh engine shipped to the States for my '65 model at home. Who says you can't get anything done in India? One needs just have the right connections and experience, and this only comes from numerous extended journeys here, a smattering of the language and script, and patient perseverence within the chaotic order of this country.
Ahh. Home again at last.