Travels through India with Terrell Neuage and Narda Biemond. Return to India 2018
Narda writes in italics Terrell not
I’m writing waiting for brekkie at the Diamond Restaurant. It’s “roll out of bed and there you are” …..almost. Yesterday we went for a ride on the wild side. Bought a 3 day tourist card for the metro. The Delhi metro is really modern, fast and efficient. Women get offered seats, they line up separately for the extensive (just like the airport) security check. And the line is much much shorter. Less women travelling…it looks like it in the metro. There is even a special area on the platform marked “Women only”.
Our first stop was Connaught Place, a large roundabout with high end restaurants, shops and hotels. We bought a high end coffee were a little unimpressed and then tried to find the Red Fort by metro. We were unsuccessful and walked for quite a while through some pretty dodgy areas. There was a bunch of public hospitals in this area. Then we decided to do some random rides and got off at a station north of Vishwadidyalaya 😏😀. There the housing was quite different, three story buildings surrounding a park. A nice place to live and quite a contrast.
Think we slept about five, maybe six hours last night. ‘We’ll come and take a nap’, we promised ourselves when we began to rattle around our room at six am. It is now seven pm and naps never came our way today, nevertheless, we felt good and spent the day getting lost and enjoying it all. At our new found great breakfast place we spent a couple of hours on our computers/smart devices while sipping chia and eating a wonderful breakfast; eight am until past ten. Much more pleasant than our room to write and to connect with the great world out there; not that the twenty-five million (give or take a couple of dozen) people in our immediate vicinity are not enough to connect with; we do connect with them though in a bumping into a crowded type of way. Back in our room we managed to fiddle and fart around for a couple of hours with several serious attempts at trying to get out the door. Perhaps we are just old, maybe too thingy about what we want to wear (after all we have about two changes of clothes as we packed very little, other than all that we thought we would need: mosquito net, blowup mattresses because we thought the beds would be too hard (not so, so far), mesh to lock around our bags on trains, camera gear, one fifteen inch computer – must get that size and weight down, extra shoes, books, some stuff to give away, and not much to wear. Of course, that opens the door, if not the overfilled full of crap we may never use suitcases, for Narda’s new Indian clothing. Not to worry, finally out the door, tried to follow our GPS but ended up taking a tuk tuk to Connaught Place, not sure why, I think someone recommended it to us. Ended up in a rather longish conversation about Muslims with a Muslim man, the second in two days. Both from Kashmir and both with houseboats to rent. I think we may go there for a week and stay on a houseboat at the end of our trip in mid-April.
Had coffee at some alleged trendy Starbucks-like place, not a nice place, people too precious, all thinking they were trendy, we much prefer our area, which is just happy people getting through their life. We bought a three-day visitor metro pass for about eight bucks and rode around. One place we got off there was lots of college students protesting with signs and banners and surrounded by police with their guns. We finally found a sign in English, seems there were protesting about wanting another bus to come to their schools.
I think there were more police than students. After all, kids wanting another bus can get quite unruly.
We got back on the train not out of fear of police and college students but because there was a long line waiting to get onto the metro. They have airport security things to go through here (they have it our hotel too) and I show my special card as I unbutton my shirt, to show my defibrillator /pace maker, then I get to go around and get checked individually. Hey, I have been lifting weights and going to they gym for many years, maybe a bit of a vain Leo, but at 70 I can show off a bit.
That’s it. On and off at a few more shops; a great lunch; absolutely love Indian food. We try different things each time. we are looking at taking a cooking class later this week; so come to our home when we get back and we will cook great stuff for you too.
The Cow Thing
Narda, the wise, asked an intriguing question yesterday which got me to thinking about it sometime around two am when the world around us was asleep.
If I had to be a cow, would I rather be a cow in Australia living with clean air and green grass and roaming about a groovy open paddock or a cow in Delhi with the air not so good and playing bumper tag with the traffic and eating garbage?
After deep reflection using these thoughts I think I sided with the cows of India. Here is why;
The cows of Australia with their clean air, water, wide open terrain get to produce their grass-fed butter and lots of milk for humans but at what cost? Life is short and swift for an Australian cow. Luxury living, then it is off to the slaughter house for wayward cows to feed the meat eaters who enjoy chunks of karma in their stew. A cow lives only a couple of years – a cow giving birth has it worse with their calf being taken away soon after birth, so we can have their milk.
Cows in India have freedom. They may push a rider off her motor scooter and tourists get stepped on, but they do what they wish. I have seen cows in the middle of a busy street contently looking about for quite sometime as everyone finds a way past them. I have seen cows laying in the middle of the road having a bit of a rest with no one stressed. Can you imagine that in NYC? Some irate driver would shoot the cow in a road-rage moment.
There seems to be a lot of food around the place and once they find their way through Delhi perhaps they will make it to the Ganges for a bit of a bath later in life. I am sure some enlightened person would tell us how Australian cows are reincarnated souls who had worked hard in past lives but had done something not too correct, so they get luxury then death whereas Indian cows are reincarnated souls working off stuff. As I am not believing in reincarnation at the current time I don’t really have an opinion. Below is an enlightened cow giving me a bit of an eye.
our video for the chai maker https://youtu.be/OOX-W7nfU1Q
Starting to figure this place out. The metro is a big bonus and on our 5th day we found a stop much closer.
Our area seems to be a neighbourhood of Kashmeri Muslims. At have met 4 in a short space of time, in completely separate incidents, all have a houseboat on the lake in Kashmir which we may rent (we will be taken care of by their family).
It’s so interesting to hear a different take on everything, from moderate Muslims, which they all are, to the conflict over the border with India, which in their view is India being inflexible.
So off we go to Kashmir in April, in search of truth , beauty, and a cooler climate.
And Lahore is safe. The last fellow was very definite. His brother lives there and “the people are very friendly”.
Tried being tourist for the day, day; oh wait, we are always tourists – even back in Adelaide. As usual, we managed to have difficulty getting around on the metro and at some point we got near to where we thought we should be. Many people descended on us to sell tours and offer great discounts on rides and who knows what else. This morning one bloke, after not being able to sell me a tour, offered some ‘very good weed’ and a police car was sitting right next to us; gave that one a miss. Once you get in a tuk tuk, whether it is a motorbike or rickshaw type they just go on and on about offering to show side streets and special markets. The first rickshaw said only 20 rupees to the Red Fort “too far to walk – very dangerous, pick pockets, and criminals everywhere” then he said only $30 (I think he meant USD and not the Australian dollar) he would give us this wonderful tour. The more we said no the more he went on. After a few blocks we just got out and gave him 20 rupees and wished him well.
I am aware of all the dangers. Of course, that does not protect me from them. I do have the latest Nikon and zoom lens and our phones and whatnots that we cart around, and I don’t hesitate taking photos, asking first if I can take someone’s picture, but what is the point of having a camera and hiding it in fear of someone grabbing it? The Red Fort is amazing from the outside. There was the always present security with machine gun totting military types and the airport electronic scanners that I can’t go through. When I showed my pacemaker/ defibrillator they send me around for personal searching – a tour guide led us through and around security. Sure enough, on the way out an hour later he was there and said, ‘hi, Mr Pacemaker’ and we had a difficult time trying to get away from him with his tour selling ways.
Inside the fort several ‘guides’ offered their ‘excellent’ services and that we should not go through the place without them, but we declined and wandered about happily on our own. The place is under re-construction with lots of repairs going on, so we did not get inside some of the buildings and the water did not flow through all the little canals and fountains but a well worth visit.
Narda made some new friends:
To get away from ‘Mr Pacemaker, the expert tour guide’ we got the next rickshaw in line to the Spice Market. Of course, he tried to sell us ‘must see’ tours all the way and we parted ways on good terms after giving him 100 rupees ($1.55 USD) instead of the 70 we originally agreed on. We do this often wherever we are; if the price is fair, and they get us to where we are going in one piece we tend to add to the fare. If they start off with some ridiculous price to begin with we go elsewhere. Tourists pay a lot more than locals as it should be. The Spice Market is very loud, congested, and smells nice but a short visit was enough for the likes of us.
We took some more metros, went to some shopping area as Narda wanted to get some local garb. Holy cow, one forgets what it is like shopping with a woman until it actually is in front of them. In Adelaide, Narda says she needs to shop, great, I spend quality time in front of the computer with my best mate, Adobe. In foreign places I just find some place to sit and look foreign. I do get caught up with my Facebook friends, world news, sports, weather, write a few blogs, take pictures, videos, say no to someone at the average of every 56 seconds and at the end of it Narda hasn’t found anything she wants. We have three months here so I am sure the correct clothing will manifest on some cosmic level and say ‘take me’.
Fact check: In Adelaide when I say I need to shop, I dash off to Aldis and spend as little time as possible on it, while his highness spends hours reading labels at Coles. That’s what really happens!
As we keep saying, the food here is absolutely amazing. On Sunday we will take a cooking class with our first person to interest us into going to Kashmir. He has his office out of our local favourite restaurant (Diamond Restaurant) and has named his travel business after the music group The Doors (I saw Jim Morison in 1969 and where he is buried in Paris in the 1980s) https://www.facebook.com/touradvisorindia/. He rents house boats on a lake in Kashmir and it all looks very tempting. We have met three more Muslim men each who has a houseboat for rent in Kashmir. Maybe this is the area where they all live. Something to think about! Everything else is all planned.
Saturday 20/01/2018 Delhi
Saturday morning we were up early, a bit before six, and off to our neighbourhood chai street vendor. For our first three days we struggled to get to the nearest metro, which we would take a tuk tuk through unbelievable heavy traffic for twenty minutes to because that was our first instructions how to get to it. The night before in some dark alley somewhere in Delhi in one of our totally lost moments we hailed a tuk tuk and it took them about 45 minutes to find their way to the alley we live in. I am sure we should have some natural alert instinct of any possible dangers, especially with cameras and other things worth more than a couple of rupees we cart about to record our moments but we don’t. So we were happy to be informed that there is a metro stop five minutes away from where we live. The रामकृष्ण आश्रम मार्ग stop (OK, the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg stop). I was a tad bit interested in the Rama Krishna Ashram which is near us, maybe we will get to it tomorrow, due to the popularity of the Krishna movement at the end of the 1960s in California. It was the hippie thing to be involved with though at that time I got involved with a different cult for a decade but I was aware of its hold on others. Those of you who are young enough to have experienced the 1960s would have seen this sect at airports and malls (even in Adelaide) around the world with devotees or pretend to be devotees chanting stuff, burning incense and handing out flowers. (The Vedanta Society of Southern California, with its headquarters in Hollywood, was founded in 1930 by Swami Prabhavananda). Incidentally, the New York Times (International Edition, which we collected in KL on the way to here) had a cover story about when the Beatles went to the TM ashram in Rishikesh and how it is being renovated. Not sure if we will get there. But back to our local subway stop. Groovy. Not far away. It is on the Blue line which we took for one stop to Rajiv Chowk, where we caught a train on the yellow line to the INA stop as we wanted to check out a hotel we had booked for when we came back through here in April. We immediately did not like the area, nothing beats our area with the narrow streets, startled looking cows, people trying to sell us tours, shops, chai carts, and the bustle of this older area. However, Narda did find a dress she liked and bought it so that was a fortunate stop in one of our worlds. Back on the yellow line we thought going to the end of the line would be good. Huda City Centre was sort of pronounceable which made it a logical destination. However, after a series of stops the train started going back and never made it to Huda. Wanting to persevere to our desired stop we crossed the track to continue our journey. It was then I spotted two signs of interest; this was of course, at the Saket stop, one sign advertised Garden of Five Senses and another a cinema. I told Narda that I wanted to go to the Garden of Five Senses, but feeling a ‘rolling of the eyes’ coming on I said and there is a cinema at this stop too and she was quite interested. Another extremely busy hustling part of Delhi where we got swarmed by tuk tuk drivers we just kept walking to who knows where? Realising our utter lostness, and seeing a park with a sign for the Garden of Five Senses we asked someone about the cinema and of course the garden. The person told us that the Garden of Five Senses was not worth the bother, pleasing all five senses of Narda, and that yes there was a cinema.
The only English movie playing was ‘The Darkest Hour’ which we have seen good reviews for and we paid the extra 25 rupees for the ‘premier’ seating (total 400 rupees for the two of us or six buck USD) believing we would get good seats. However, the seats were average and close together with little leg room, but we were in a balcony, so I suppose that was the extra we paid for. Movies in India begin with standing for the national anthem. The movie was good, however, there were several anti-smoking commercials at the start and throughout the whole movie in rather large letters at the bottom of the movie was a line about not smoking. The ironic thing was that Winston Churchill and lots of other people in the movie smoked the whole time. Half way through the movie there was an intermission that lasted about half an hour filled with ads, most of which were impossible to know what was being advertised.
And that pretty much was our day. we never made it to Huda City or the Garden of delights but getting back to our area around nine pm we had another great meal and that is it.