By my third day in New Delhi, I was transferred to a new guesthouse, LIC India Company Guesthouse, Near Plaza Cinema, Connaught Place, Delhi. Rising to the sunshine and in a guesthouse alone, it was time to venture the Old Delhi. I came down with a bag full of Maharaja McDonald meal I bought the night before. I could not stomach the weird spicy Indian-styled burger. To waste it into the wastepaper basket, my mind flashed the images of the poor people begging for food across the streets of India I had come across for the last 12 days. I quickly placed the bag beside a lady who was breastfeeding her baby not far from the place I stayed in.
To be honest, to hail an autorickshaw in Delhi was really a challenge. They were rude, demanding and hard to haggle with. The moment I tried to bargain my deal, off they went leaving me speechless. After three autorickshaws left, it didn’t take long before I decided to walk to Old Delhi from Connaught Place. Not having a map with me, I started to stop the local for directions.
I met a young man who suggested me to take the Metro which was a walk away from Connaught Place. The Metro Station was a world different from the outside world. People were more civilised. One incident occurred to me in the Metro. I paid double the train ride. It so happened that the side of the ticket counter had a route and fare map all written in Hindi. I asked the counter-man how much was the fare and he told me a figure which was double the fare. It was a straight forward case of cheating right in the face.
Everyone was qeueing for the train. I went in the wrong coach at first. After realizing I was the only female in the coach, I came out the coach at an instance and ran to the ladies coach. Lucky, I saved myself from the cold stares and possible harrassment.
My stopover was Chadni Chowk. Again I was lost. I followed the flow of the people traffic and ended up in sweet restaurant. Not a very bad place to get lost since I had not taken my breakfast yet! In Delhi, most restaurants were equipped with an area for fast eater, meaning to say, a place for a person to hurry in, grab the food (of course pay for it), eat it in few minutes without having to settle in a seat and leave the next moment.
Chadni Chowk a.k.a the “Moonlit Square” is the main street of Old Delhi built by Mughal King Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter as a thoroughfare from their palace (Red Fort) to their place of worship (Jama Masjid ). It used to be one of the grandiest market in India and still is, at least, to my eyes. Along the walled city, I found myself in the amidst of hustle bustle of Old Delhi street. Man, you would want to consider avoiding Old Delhi on Friday. Crowded and packed!
Old Delhi retains its unique, vibrance and asiatic sensation though I am not sure of its congestion. It was hard to maintain my pace for I either stepped onto others’ feet or my feet was stepped on. A five feet walkway caused me at least 4-5 minutes to cross over, that was how busy Chadni Chowk was. A cycle-rickshaw swiftly weaved to avoid the pedestrians who seemed to be as powerful as the cycle and auto rickshaws.
I went into Kinari Bazaar and Katra Neel’s blocks and man, I was lost between the sections of the walled old building. Sarees and accessories were cheap and I could not assure they were of good quality. I followed the locals’ paths to exit the building. It was not after 2-3 misdirections I could finally breathe the polluted air again. I walked further up and ah, found the final destination, the Khari Baoli; the biggest spice market in Asia selling all kind of spices, nuts and herbs. And tea too.
I noticed less tourists at this side of Delhi. I was an alien subjected to sharp long stares which were one the skills found in many Indian men. Spices of all sort made me practised the bargaining skill once more. I almost forgot that I didn’t cook back home. I ended up buying for my mother, my aunty and my other aunty! You could now imagine me packing the spices inside my backpack. This was the only place that I didn’t buy local tea for I had a good collection of tea from different countries (not the one packed and sold in the supermarket).
-To be continued
Photos will be inserted later..