I'm typing this from an internet cafe on the main bazaar in Paharganj, Delhi, with the sweat trickling steadily off me and the incessant noise of horns blaring out on the street...it's chaos out there, but all very exciting for an India novice like myself. I ambled down the street yeaterday, shortly after a terrifying taxi ride from the airport to my accomodation, and thought I was adjusting well to the blinding heat and humidity and to dodging the constant stream of swerving cars, taxis,
pedal rickshaws, auto rickshaws, handcarts... but then I got so preoccupied looking at what I was stepping in (you don't want to know, trust me!) that I was taken unawares by a meandering sacred cow as we met head on. Turning off down the dim side alleys the ferocious noise diminished, replaced by the gleeful giggling of half naked wee kids running around among dogs and chickens, calling "hello!" and wanting to shake my hand.
Everything I had read or heard about Delhi had prepared me for unbelievable hassle and I think that had shaped my expectations to the degree that I can't get over how easy it is! Yes, it's horrendously noisy, chokingly polluted and smells of a pungent combination with high notes of urine...but the people are so much friendlier than I was prepared for. I browsed the stalls and was given the hard sell by nobody, I was approached by beggars but they didn't try too hard, several times I've been looking lost and consulting my map and people have come over and asked to help me and then not
dragged me off to a relative's shop for "special price" shopping. I'm sure the father and son team who sold me some cheap earrings probably did rip
me off but it was such a small amount and they chatted to me for so long that I was quite happy to pay! I also had a long chat with a big-turbaned Sikh at a tea and spice stall, who shared his secrets of getting the most out of cooking with the spices, even though I told him I couldn't buy any because I was traveling for a good while and they would be stale by the time I got home...when we finished chatting he gave me his card and said maybe I would come back and get some before I left for home and I didn't have the heart to tell him my last port of call before home would be in Brasil. I took a picture of him which I may post here if I can figure out the technology...(which probably means you will get to see the printed photo when I get home next summer!).
The 'middle-aged colonial memsahib' look definitely seems to be effective at keeping the leery men away, anyway. There are far too many nubile young women with lots of bare skin on show to deflect all attention away from my shapeless ankle length skirt and baggy shirt, topped with broad-brimmed granny hat! I'm just glad none of you are here to actually see me! So only one dodgy male has
followed me and got into conversation leading to enquiries as to the availability of 'free sex' in my country, at which I looked suitably horrified and school ma'am-ish and informed him that Ireland is a conservative Catholic country in which it is extremely impolite even to mention such things!! And it worked, he actually looked satisfyingly embarrassed and promptly buggered off... no doubt to hassle one of the aforementioned nubile young things! So, taveling at 40 definitely has its advantages!
There are others who are well aware of Ireland - several of the lads I've spoken with became very animated when I mentioned that was my home, telling me how wonderful the Irish cricket team is...I have to say their success earlier this year didn't make much impact on me at the time but it holds great value here and I'm an instant hero by association, as the beaming faces tell me what a glorious victory we had against the big Indian rival, Pakistan. Another guy had me baffled when, mid sales pitch for a silk scarf, he asked me where I lived and on hearing
'Ireland', broke off the sales patter, shook my hand and said "Ah, Bond country! It is very good to meet a Bond person! Very good country!". I must have looked totally non-plussed, as he enlightened me with "James Bond! 007! He comes from Ireland!" ... turns out he had read a book about Pierce Brosnan, of whom he's a big fan, and aspires to visiting his home land. I didn't like to disillusion him by describing the reality of Navan so I left him to his dreams and thought to myself that's the closest I'm ever likely to get to being a Bond Girl...!
Off for dinner now...what'll I have? Hmmm, think I'll go to the Indian...tee, hee, this is spicy veggie heaven and it's so much cheaper then Poppadom in Sligo!
Early start tomorrow I have a 5.20 a.m. flight up to Leh in the Indian Himalaya, so hoping it will be light enough for some spectacular mountain views...
Oh my God, I'm here! I'm actually in India...