09 April 2008

New Delhi horror

26 Dec 2007
As New Delhi is dotted as the capital of India in the world map, our ignorant impression of it was a buzzing metropolic city. It was buzzing.. buzzing with dirt and hunger. The ride to our hotel was disturbing; it was late at night, the streets were drowned in rubbish, there were a great number of people squalid and squatting by these filthy roads. Worried about our safety, I posed my driver a very serious question, "Is this area safe?" He turned around, gave me a disconcerting look and said "God bless you, madamme"
.It wasnt at all comforting to see a water-dispenser truck stationed right outside your hotel.

It was only the beginning of our Delhi horror.

We finally got our room after a good 30mins worth of hoo-haas. Tired and needing a shower badly only to find that the water here is just as bad as Bangalore. Water in India trickles, smells, and leaves you wondering if you've actually washed off all the shampoo on your hair. I really hate the water in India.

We decided to shrug all these crap off and go out for some food. Thinking it was best to get the hotel's car service than hail a cab, we were again struck with fear. A car stained with permanent dust drove up to the hotel entrance and we entered to croaks and yawns of an annoyed driver. We told him specifically we wanted to go to a restaurant, or any 24-hour deli. He nodded "Yaa, yaa". Then he started driving towards the back alleys of those rundown buildings, stopped, and this random bloke with a hood, hands in his tattered jacket starts hunching towards our car, jumped in and our driver took off. =_=! My buddy was worried sick and had his phone ready, fist clenched to strike at any sudden movement.

(.A few days after we returned to Brunei, 2 girls were mobbed and molested by close to 20-30? men outside a hotel in New Delhi. I seriously dont advice girls to travel to India alone.)

.At 12am in the morning, he took us to a dodgy street stall filled with intimidating people and used tinfoil plates disposed of everywhere. It was dirty, it was disgusting.

We ran back to our car while constantly watching our backs. This time, I tried to make myself clear by raising my voice, "Restaurant!" "7-11??". He didnt seem to understand and went round and round in circles. Remembering we passed by Shangri-La earlier on, we clutched our tummies and demanded he take us there immediately!

"Civilisation, at last" cried my buddy.
In Delhi, the extremities between the rich and the poor is appalling. It is just a stone's throw between sub-human conditions and Shangri-La's grand entrance. People in here are donned with diamonds and strut with an air, seemingly unaware of the condensed misery beyond these thick glass doors.

Our sumptuous supper was to last us a couple of hours till our 5am train ride to Agra... which is here we go, scare no.2.
At barely 5am in darkness, Delhi is already wide-awake. We were running late but the traffic couldnt care less. With a few minutes to spare, our driver told us to get out of the car and make a run for the train station. It was the scariest shit ever. People were yelling out to us, we were this close to being run over, the train station compound were refuge to many, many, many homeless people. We ran and we ran... Just when we lift our feet off the platform, the chugging starts. Phew.

28 Dec 2007
After a night in Agra (next post), we decided to return to Delhi for a day of touristy activities - we were determined to unearth the good in this city.

First thing first is to get our luggages out of Karol Bagh - the hell-hole according to my buddy, get ourselves a decent hotel and off on our adventure.

.Located at the west bank of River Yamuna.

Raj Ghat (King Court) is the place where Mahatma Ghandi, the father of India, was cremated. A memorial is dedicated to him in the form of a simple black marble platform, with the epitaph He Ram (translated to 'O God') which is believed to be the last words uttered by Gandhi before collapsing after being shot.

An eternal flame burns perpetually on his resting place, and the marble is so brilliantly polished that it reflects the passing clouds.

Gandhi was known to be in harmony with nature, therefore his samadhi are enclosed with trees, and little plots of white pebble stones.

A soothing music that seems to be echoing from the skies played continuously... walking through this park brought an immeasurable sense of peace to me.

.Located at the heart of the capital, Rajpath.

The India Gate (42m high) is built as a memorial in honor of 90,000 soldiers who sacrificed their life during WWI and the Afghan wars. The flame of an immortal warrior, Amar Jawan Jyoti, has been burning under it since 1971. This gate instantly reminded me of the Arc de Triomphe of Paris! It seems like a very popular place for the locals. There were an arcade of vendors, children blowing soap bubbles, monkey performances and people practically picnicking by the pavement. I was repeatedly harassed by a woman who wanted to give me a henna, while casually waving her needle around. I freaked out when she wouldnt let go of my arm. Huuhuuhuu.

Directly opposite India Gate lies the presidential palace (Rashtrapati Bhawan), the official residence of the President of India. The iron gates, which is as far as we can go, are copied from a pair that Sir Edwin Lutyen (its designer) saw in Chiswick, England. This place is beautiful and it's obvious that the architecture has elements borrowed from European styles.

Known to be extremely popular with the diplomatic community and the most expensive place to shop in New Delhi, we were pretty shocked when driven here. It's nothing like what we saw on the web. "This is Khan Market madamme, this one Khan Market, here!" Where are the so-called excellent book stores, delicatessens, fabric stores, nike?? On the other side. And we missed out on that. Bad driver, friggin driver.

New Delhi and Old Delhi is simply divided by a short bridge, however they are a world apart. It is obvious where the emphasis is put and money in this country is spent. Old Delhi appeared as an abandoned child left to fend for itself. Driving around here is quite a pain. The streets are bursting with rickshaws, horses, elephants, and people. Traffic law does not exist in any sense. We dreaded every traffic stop, because we have to endure the sights of malnourished children bending their arms, somersaulting, and imitating monkeys, hoping that the few seconds of entertainment can earn them something in return. Our driver advised against giving money as this will attract a hoard of them possibly banging on our car. We lowered down our window, wide enough to slide whatever is left of our chips to this lil' girl. She hastily grabbed it, and started grubbing everything down. It was a very disturbing sight.

.R: Pronounced "Nine" what our driver called not man, not woman. Apparently this is not uncommon in India, there is a hospital that performs free sexual transplants for men in return for their sex organs. How true is this, i have no idea.

Having had a long day, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Bukhara, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, in Maurya Sheraton. Even after making reservations, the queue is still insanely long. We had to wait more than 30mins, roaming around we found bar Dublin, one of the top 25 bars in the world by accident, also nested in this hotel.

I love the decor in Dublin bar, and the $20+ worth of pint.

Food at Bukhara was great, though i wouldnt say out-of-this-world. Lets just say, you're not at the top without a top price that comes with it.

Averaging 2 to 3 hours of sleep for the past few nights and fighting fatigue, we cant wait to fly back to Bangalore to laze off the remaining of our holiday.


Gabriel on April 11, 2008 at 11:20 PM said...

Nice post. I've always wondered how places in India were like and reading your article has given me an expectation, both good and bad, of being there myself.
Btw, I guess the place your buddy described as 'the hell-hole' wasn't a pleasant one, and hope he hasn't used his fists on anyone there. on April 13, 2008 at 8:23 PM said...

Tell us more about the guy in the tattered jacket who entered the hotel car? Who was he? and why did the driver pick him up?

princess on April 14, 2008 at 3:54 AM said...

You are SO brave. I wouldn't even go there if you paid me millions!!

Your henna incident reminded me of mine at Djema El Fina, Marakech where this woman walked up to us and showed us sample pictures. As we looked through them, I lifted up my hand to Tom and asked him what he thought if I got one and like the speed of lightning, this woman swooped in and started henna-ing my hand. I said I didn't want any but she kept rambling on about drawing something "small" to give me "blessings" and "good luck". Not only did the design end up taking up my whole hand and wrist, she immediately asked for the equivalent of B$100!!!! At this point, we were shocked and extremely pissed off that when we walked away, we realised we had paid her B$35 which is still way too much.

Talk about daylight robbery.

That automatically put me off the whole evening while poor Tom had no choice but to put up with me *hehehe*.

Lee on April 14, 2008 at 8:51 AM said...

Gabriel: I thank god he didnt have to. We were very lucky in many ways.

Reeds: I have to assume that the bloke is the driver's friend, sitting in as a companion as it was midnight. He did not utter a single word while in the car, and at times dozed off. Both of them could hardly understand English, it's a bloody relief we got back to the hotel safe and sound.

Princess: I think you're the brave one!! I had initially tried to brush her off politely, but when she gets overly pushy, i shouted NO! I DONT WANT IT! She backed off but tried her luck again when i came back around. It scared me cos she was holding a long needle =_=!

I salute you and ofcourse Tom for being suchhh a considerate bf. Hehe.

Lee on April 14, 2008 at 2:30 PM said...

Princess: My friend gasped at you paying $35, cos she had hers without any struggle for $5. Haha But it's stg to remember, isnt it.. =P

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