Posted by: jeanne | October 21, 2018

a little more delhi

friday.  it’s the festival of dussehra, where, according to your sect, good triumphs over evil in several ways.  here, they’re celebrating ram’s victory over ravana, who has stolen his sweetie.  today there magically appeared in sangrathrashan a 15′ statue of ravana that tonight they will kill with fireworks, and burn to a crisp.

because i was under the impression that everything was going to be closed, i unset all my alarms, and slept until about 10.  but then i discovered a bunch of orders waiting for me, so i spent the rest of the morning finding all the various things people had ordered.  i left them in sorted piles in the workroom after i was done, because it was after 12, and we went out.

friday’s mission – the mughal gardens behind the parliament  houses.  i walked unfailingly to the street with the little 3-wheeled cabs – yay – and negotiated the guy down to 200.  he’s started at 400, and gabi had already told me cp was 150, so i figured 200 was okay.  when the average indian makes less than $1000 a year, i don’t mind being ripped off to the tune of 50 rupees.  68 cents. happy holidays, guy.

we got to the mughal gardens, and couldn’t get in.  our driver suspected as much, and told us we needed to register online, and then go to the gate and get past the guards.  we were right around the corner from parliament, and all the ministers and many ambassadors live in the area, so there were soldiers on every corner and midway down every block.  all armed, of course.  all bored looking.  but they wouldn’t let anybody pull over to use their cellphones or consult a map.


ghandi on the salt march, with armed soldier to remind us that force is the first resort of the worst kind of people

so, for another 100rs, we went to the lodhi gardens, which has a lot of ruins.  and these were only abandoned, and not really ruined at all; and in fact we saw repair work going on in each place, while at the same time saw walls crumbled to the ground and missing steps everywhere, too.  we seem to be going to gardens one day, and museums the next.

lodhi gardens was full of families and young couples.  it being a holiday, government offices were closed (and not much else), so traffic was lighter, and people were out in the gardens in force.  whole families (in india that’s a lot, because families are extended) had thrown down blankets (4-5 large blankets together in a large patchwork), had kicked off their shoes, and were hanging out and eating as if it were a large outdoor living room.


working on the walls


modern sculpture is everywhere in the parks of delhi


kites in a dead tree

we were very impressed at how much tending is done to these public spaces.  everywhere we looked, there were carefully dug water channels surrounding all the planted plants, and altho it seemed wild, it was in fact very carefully overseen by a myriad of mostly unseen workers.  likewise, the streets, tho filthy, are constantly being swept, repaired, and cleaned up, tho if you didn’t pass the same spot twice, you’d never notice.

we did a circuit of the gardens, checking out each of the ruins, and then we stopped at a shady bench and had our lunch (peanut butter and jelly on my homemade bread).  there were several parties of people with professional photographers, a few were models, but most seemed to be wedding parties.

and everybody was taking selfies.  jim got waylaid and even i got roped into posing with somebody.  they would come running up to us and ask if they could take a picture of us.  usually i said no and moved off, pointing to jim, but this one woman, after snapping our picture as we walked along the path,  came up to me, and before i could decline she had the camera out and was pointing it at us, with her in the middle.

then we walked (!) the several blocks to the khan market, where we’d been for lunch with gabi, it seems months ago.  we needed the cheapo indian version of frontline poison for dogs, and got a bunch of it.  and then, i had remembered a shop we’d passed, so led jim to it and disappeared inside, while he found a place to sit outside.  the shop was very small.  but they had wonderful long dresses with coats, and they were something i knew i’d regret if i didn’t get one.  so i got three.  the manager and shop assistant were all smiles and very helpful, as i tried on size after size of the dresses i liked.  each different dress was a different sizing, so i went thru a few tries before finding one i could wear.  actually, one of them was too big, but i can take it in when i get home.  while i was trying on dresses, the shop filled up with customers, all of them speaking english with flawless american accents, so that i couldn’t tell, even after coming out, whether they were in india on a visit home, or had learned enlgish that perfectly.  it was the same in iceland, where i was told over and over that they’d learned english from video games and movies.

anyway, khan market being the super-upscale place it is, each dress cost me a little over $30.  this is compared to the $3-10 i paid in the paharganj markets.  never knew i was such a clotheshorse, but then again, they just don’t have these type of clothes back home, and i felt like i was in heaven.  i felt like i was really in heaven while looking at the textile exhibition at the crafts museum.  but i realized, as each piece was more beautiful than the last, that in heaven, the splendor never ends, and after a few moments of it, i would be tired and my eyes would be stinging, and finally it would all turn my stomach.  heaven is good in little doses, that’s what i have concluded.

we got an auto rickshaw home, the guy accepted my offer of 150, which is what gabi said it should cost.  jim’s back was hurting him (mainly from lifting the camera to his face over and over again), and he really likes the rickshaw rides because the vibration coming thru the back of the seat works wonders on his sore muscles.

it was mostly dark by the time we got home thru rush-hour delhi (which looks just like any other time in the streets).  jim went down for his nap, and i went back out to the convenience store, then sat and worked on the last blog post, and then made dinner.  this time it was spaghetti, hoping to use up more of the lamb before it went bad.  the celebrations happened while jim was napping.  loud chanting from the temple we are behind, and millions of fireworks.


ravan the demon, roasted and toasted, bombarded with fireworks and burned.  good triumphs over evil once again

saturday, there was no sign of the demon.  i wore one of my new dresses, an indigo batik.  i had a whole load of orders to go to the post office, most of which i’d assembled the night before, but there was a brand new order in the morning, so it was noon before we left.  the auto drivers suggested 200, but i walked away saying 150, and they ran after me, telling me to get in.  but smart man didn’t have change for a 500 bill, so i had to fish around to find exact change.  the guy who took us to the craft museum didn’t have change, and had to find a bottled water vendor to get it.

and another guy disappeared a 100 note after i gave it to him, and i had to get another one out of jim’s wallet.  so this time, after dropping off the packages at the post office, i went around to a shop and got change so i wouldn’t have to deal with any shenanigans.  the shop, unfortunately, was a charbucks, and they sell coffee for an outrageous 200 rupees.  but i had change, and our destination was the tibetan colony, or majnu ka tilla, as we had to call it for the drivers.  one wanted 400.  i said 150.  we compromised on 200.

and then we got stuck in traffic.  the tibetan colony is far from the center, just as hauz khas is, only in the opposite direction.  the traffic was brutal.  so it took us forever.


a herd of street goats


delhi gate, entrance to old delhi.  so far we haven’t had the courage to visit it


a temple to ganesha, thus the funny top


an ultra modern hospital building

actually, i find the whole delhi overcrowded chaos stimulating.  our friend jack thinks the spacious, green, quiet, upper class areas of new delhi to be sterile, and i sort of agree with him.  but the quiet and green are necessary tonics to the madcap i can’t begin to get close to describing franticness of middle and old delhi.  just like you can get too much of heaven, you can get too much excitement, or too much quiet.  there’s just no middle ground here.

this driver’s trick was to go right past the temple where we wanted to be let off, and pull over a mile past it, on the wrong side of the divided highway, and then negotiate another 50 to turn around and take us back.  so, fine.  it took half an hour to get back there in traffic, but we got there, and got out, and went up to the temple.


majnu ka tilla temple

and were turned back.  i guess it’s a sikh temple, because every man wore a turban.  one came out and told us we couldn’t go in with shoes on, and pointed to a booth where the guy took our shoes and our bags (first asking if there was any money in them (so i took the camera out before passing it over)).  and then we had to wash our hands.  and then we had to walk thru a shallow pool to clean our feet.  i like it.  you can’t go into a holy place all dirty.  oh yes, and i had to put on a scarf, so the man turned me around and tied it on my head.  i guess they don’t have any rules about touching women, the way i understand the tibetan buddhists do.

we went in.  it was a small temple inside, despite the size outside.  there were a few people there, and we circled the altar, and then another guy came to ask if we knew the history of the temple.  some guy, miracles, temple.  he started telling us, but then said come, and led us out, past a man at the door who was handing out sweets as offerings to the people.  i thought those sweets were intended for the gods, but i’m probably mixing up my religions and rituals pretty badly here.  jim ate his, i nibbled and decided it was okay, but sweet and greasy, with a texture of cornmeal mush (otherwise known as polenta), and held it in my hand until i could make a discreet offering elsewhere.

i knew we were by the river, because i’d been looking at the map, so we wandered toward it, and found it just outside the temple grounds.  the river looked shallow, but was moving the flotsam along briskly.  the shoreline was silty from the recent monsoon flooding.  the haze was so bad we could hardly see a really interesting suspension bridge still being built.  several young men followed us from the temple to the bluff over the river, just to look at us, and without any kind of scary motive.  they stare here.  especially at jim, whose beard is quite similar to the beards of the sikh elders.

then we walked (!) up to the tibetan colony.  we had to walk in the road in places, and squeeze past food stalls and shops that spread out into the street with their wares.  we passed dogs, and beggars, trash and potholes.  here, the people had more chinese features than indian, and stared just as much.  finally, we turned in under a sign that said tibetan refugee colony.  we hadn’t seen the refugee part before, and that cleared up much of the mystery of why there was a colony in the middle of delhi.  but then, we’d also passed a similar enclave that was called the northern railway colony, and that didn’t make sense either.

we were on the hunt for a present for our housesitter, jasper, who is flirting with buddhism, actually now he’s more interested in daoism, which is different.  but i thought a red or saffron shirt would be nice, and i also wanted to get a bunch of prayer flags.  several other presents, and tshirts for the boys.  and then we got a ride back to paharganj with a guy who took my 200 offer and knew every shortcut possible, taking us thru an extensive park and over a ridge (strange in this mostly flat city).

speaking of accidents, we haven’t seen any.  drivers in india make italian drivers look like drivers from portland, oregon.  they totally don’t follow the rules, but jam themselves into any hole in traffic, drive down the wrong lanes and on the sidewalks if they’re more clear than the streets, cut right across multiple lanes to make a left turn.  it’s harrowing to be a passenger, or walking (!) down the sidewalks (or the street itself when the sidewalk is impassable).  and yet, we’ve seen no evidence of accidents, only near misses.  we sat at a right turn across divided lanes of traffic and watched while an ambulance came up behind us, swerved around the traffic waiting to turn, and then cut thru oncoming traffic to get across.  it didn’t just inch across, either, but pulled right out, a lane at a time.  and all the vehicles entering the intersection had to stop, and stop quickly.  the ambulance lurched to a slow roll in front of one after another conveyance, all of them eager to get across the intersection, but giving way at the very last moment to the ambulance, who swerved and bullied its way across, and finally disappeared down the side street.  the traffic signs and warnings seem to serve as prompts, rather than dissuasion.  but no horrendous accidents means they’re used to it, and it works, even tho with the near misses and the constant horns and jostling for position, it’s anything but orderly.  and that’s why i find it so exciting to be here.


white mares, ridden by men to their wedding.  these guys were probably transferring them somewhere

we stopped at the lassi place when we got back to paharganj, and then wandered into a shoe store and got jim a pair of sandals.  but he didn’t take a walk in them first, and soon found his feet slipping right out of them, so we’re going to have to get him a different pair.  they cost $5.  when we got back, jim went straight down for his nap, and i managed the photos we’d taken and started writing up our past few days, because if i don’t, i’ll forget.


a foot pedal powered sewing machine.  like my grandmother had bitd

i got jim up from his nap to go out with me to deal with the atm.  it was after dark, and unlike sangathrashan, the main street, gupta, has mostly men on it.  and this would be why – the wine shop.  we had to go to the convenience store for cereal for jim, and past this on the way.  it’s full of men, jostling for position at the counter, buying alcohol.  gabi always ducks thru the hatch to get to the back and away from these guys, because she has been groped and accosted before.  it’s actually dangerous for single women to be in such a crowd, because they’re even more sexist here than at home (where we have it easy).

at some point we let the cat out, and after that i got no rest.  he hasn’t come back, we don’t hear him, and the last anybody saw of him he was heading up to the roof of the house opposite ours in the alley – he just hopped from one balcony to the other.  he wasn’t on the roof when i went to look, but boy what a view from that roof.  and i couldn’t sleep for worry, so i’m out on the balcony writing this, listening for any sounds of the loudest cat in delhi.  worried sick.  it’s 12:30 in the morning, tho, and i have to get up at 5:30 to shut the water pump on, because we’re mostly out of water in the tank.  i’ll be going to bed soon, but i’m not going to get much sleep because i’ll be listening with half an ear for the cat.  it feels really bad to lose someone else’s animal.  but jim remembers once when we were away and our own cat escaped and didn’t come back until about an hour after we got home.  maybe he’s stuck in some courtyard he jumped down to and couldn’t get back out of.

sunday.  the cat came back, the very next day.  the cat came back; they thought he was a goner, but he just wouldn’t stay away.  and so it was.  after looking for him, crying his name, visiting nearby rooftops, sleeping so lightly i could hear a pin drop, looking for him in the streets at first light, worrying myself sick – the cat came bounding across the gap between balconies and scampered in the door.  when i caught up with him, he was having a good long pee in the cat box, and then he wanted to eat.  dusty, but not torn up.  he’d been alone on the roof, caught by the height of the wall he’d jumped down from.  we suspected he was up there because the chipmunks who live there were hanging out on the wall screeching at something for half an hour.  so the guy at the top of the house opposite this one was hanging out over his railing in the morning, and i waved and said the cat was still gone, and pointed to the chipmunks (palm squirrels), who were indicating where their enemy was by pointing.  he assured me he would go find the cat, and about half an hour later kaliya comes squirting the holes in the railings and down the stairs to his lair.  i was so grateful it worked out so well.  the street dogs would have mauled him if he’d been on the street, i’m quite sure, tho gabi tells me he grew up on the streets and isn’t afraid of silly little dogs.  but he’s also got a gimpy bag leg and is getting old, so i was frightened for him.  but everything was okay, and i went back to bed and got 3 hours of sleep.  i need to get a thank you gift for the wonderful rescuer.

this morning, i got up out of bed at 5:30 to shut the water pump on.  i hadn’t slept much at all, and was awake when the alarm went off.  the rest of the block was up also, getting an early start.  but ten minutes later, when i was back in bed, the lights went off.  it happens here.  but this time, only some of the lights came back on.  the street lights and balcony lights were off.  the  water pump was also off.  i went to see if it was a fuse, but both power boxes were off at the meter, so it was a general thing in at least this one alley.  so i went back to bed.  jim was awake, but we couldn’t make coffee without moving the coffee pot to another outlet, so we lay there talking until 6, when the lights went back on.  and so did the pump.  but the water only runs until 6, so we only have half a tank to get thru our day, and no water in the tank used for washing clothes and watering plants.  i’ll have to make sure to run it this evening, if this is the every other evening when the water is on.  otherwise, we’ll have to make it to monday with more than us

being sunday makes no difference here in delhi; they don’t close anything on sundays.  we have to go to an atm to see if my new pin works (i’ve had to spend a lot of time on the phone to both banks who issued me credit cards, trying to find out why i can’t take money out, and finally one of them allowed me to change my pin on the phone (while the other one is still sending me one in the mail, to my home in atlanta).  and i might as well go to the kashmiri wholesalers and get some of those spectacular wool scarves like the one i bought in france.  but otherwise, we’re staying in all day.  i’m baking another loaf of bread, prepacking the suitcases with all our wonderfully cheap textiles, and maybe taking another nap.  jim’s in there now, sleeping.  it might be 3pm, but of course it’s still only 6am for you on the east coast of america.

we leave on our journey out of delhi in the middle of the night monday, so we only have today and tomorrow left to do things.  we’re running right thru the list of things to see here in delhi, and i believe we’re leaving the hardest for when we come back from our trip – old delhi.  until then, i hope i don’t bore you with all the details, but this blog is mainly to jog our memories when it’s time to pull up photos to use as reference for a painting, back home.

it’s sunny and hot – this is india – but now i have clothes that i can wear in this weather.  the indigo dress i wore yesterday left blue color all over my body, so i’m going to have to wash it a bunch of times.  but i’m also still doing that with the sheets i dyed.  the wash is cold water only, and that’s a bit inefficient when it comes to removing excess dye.

oh yes, i almost forgot.  there was an epic fight between neighbors in our alley this morning.  it sounded like a yard full of chickens, but was only two women on either side of the alley, yelling and fussing at each other at the top of their lungs, even tho they were barely a yard from each other.  it went on and on, and the entire alley leaned over their balcony railings to watch.  eventually the screaming died down, but only because the police arrived and were talking to both parties and anybody else willing to put their two cents in.

we decided not to wander afield this day, and concentrate on napping instead.  but we did go out looking for an atm.  strangely, the banks were all closed, as they seemed to be on saturday.  so we went to the scarf wholesaler and found out that they are the ones who supply the ‘craftsmen’ at the craft museum, so we were indeed ripped off.  the guys showed me examples of all the types of wool scarves, and tried to educate me on the difference between, say, pashmina and acrylic.  it takes more expertise and a finer hand than i have, and quite possibly the dudes at the museum also misrepresented their stock when they sold it to me.  oh well, once burnt…


just a random group of i guess monks playing music and handing out free food


the respect for life – this tree goes right thru the balconies above it – they built the house around the tree


jim’s joke – somebody’s either selling ladders or wants to get really high.  badoom


the lassi maker’s setup – a bowl full of yogurt curd, water, ice, sugar, and some of those cute little lemons – 35 rupees

we came out from the street of the kashmiri sellers (tilak street, the high rent part of paharganj), and found ourselves very close to the lassi makers, so we went and had yet another cup of the wonderful yogurt smoothies – with lemon (the lemons here are the size of key limes back home:  tiny).  it’s a great opportunity to sit at street level and watch all the madness unfold around us.


fixing the water pipes leading to the individual houses

crazy, chaotic, passionate delhi.  i think i love it.


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