Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Capital of India

Do you like pashminas? Just some of them?
Did I like New Delhi? Like the owner of this bundle of pashminas, I had to take it all!

I was impressed by the airport, the quality of the road; it looked so much better then Kathmandu. Looking at the apartment that we wanted to rent: marble floor, spacious rooms, a large balcony... it took my mind from the highway that was right in front of us. We had already paid the money when I realized that in the night time they were tearing down the builiding next door, with a back-hoe that was feeding rubble to a long line of trucks. Ear plugs to the rescue! I will wear them every night. 
In the morning I look through the window: one man is sleeping on a cot, covered with his shawl. His co-workers are coming one by one, wrapped in their pashminas, sit on their haunches and talk while smoking. Around 9 they will start working: with a metal rod one of them will dislocate part of a brick wall, one will break each brick apart, one will clean the bricks of mortar and put the good ones in a pile. Two of them will pick up some huge hammers and in rhythms of four will break the concrete floor in rubble and metal lattice. Two more sit next to them, watching while they wait to take their places. This is what they do aaaaall day long: they dismantle this building piece by piece. In the night time a pick up truck will come and they will load by hand all the bricks, to be reused somewhere else. In a different night the back-hoe will come againg to break the things that the humans couldn’t, dig a hole to bury all the mortar and the brocken bricks.  One man will sleep next to the pile of steel recuperated from the reinforced concrete, and next day everything will start again. By the end of our week in Delhi they erased one floor of an old 100/40 ft building. I don’t even know if they are the same people or not, from this distance they look alike: short, dark and slim, dressed in long sleeves and long pants, with a thin shawl that can be used as a turban, cover, insulator, table cloth, carrier and so on.
True heroes!

As we try to make our way to the bus station, I notice that on the other side of our apartment they are building. Bricks are carried on their back, mortar is mixed with a hoe on the floor and transported in small buckets on their heads toward the mason. The only construction-specific sound is the one for cutting the polished grey marble slates.
Add to this the dust from the cars on the highway, the one from under the highway, the one from something that was an old green space, and you understand why, when I wiped the table before meals, the sponge was muddy.
Our time in Delhi was limited and we had already picked the things to see. Each one of them deserves a photo blogpost and we had a nice time visiting them. But the taste is bitter-sweet, and there are lots of small things that contribute.
The distances are huge, comparable with the ones from Beijing. The subway system is just starting and there are lots of areas serviced just by bus. 
This bus is a "metro feeder" takes people from the bus station to the subway.

And none of touristic objectives are close to a station. You have to take a rickshaw! Our first time the four of us sat in the back and Mihai shared the seat with the driver. After that he wouldn’t get into one, and we had to work hard to convince him to try again. Now he sits in the back holding Ileana or Ioan. 

Our first trip with rickshaw.

While walking we had to pay attention where we’re stepping, to dodge a hole, a human limb, a urine puddle, or something else. The human traffic is intense, their personal space being much smaller than mine.

The man on the left had his bicycle-repair business right here, next to the fence!
 I was happy to discover that they have a whole car only for women in the subway. Conductors would survey the doors and whistle fiercely if a man tried to enter it. I was allowed with my son, and saw an old man with a cane sitting, so there are exceptions. 

Subway station with the Lotus Temple in the background.

The culture is different. In our carry-on luggage we have an ankle-lenght skirt and a short sleeve shirt. That’s because in this country showing skin is a problem, and legs above ankles are inciting. The problem arises when I have to refrain from my normal behavior. I cannot hold my husbands hand, hug him in public, nothing that can assume intimacy. Looking into people’s an invitation for men to flirt with you. Winks don’t mean a joke in India. Whistling has a sexual connotation, so I must have looked weird whistling our family signal trying to locate my husband on a street full of men. There are women in the streets, dressed in their colorful saree-s, but they move along with their children, bags, kind of looking over you or through you. They are not approached by Indians, because it would be impolite. But since we are foreigners, we are free game! So every day I was careful to walk behind Mihai. He would get all the offers for taxi, tuk-tuk, postcards, and saved my breath (the men will not follow a woman’s instructions). Still, we had our share of gawking, even a few young men following us from a respectful distance as long as we visited some objective. We would notice when we stopped, because they were there, pretending to look at something else.


Our way of coping with the constant haggling for our attention was to ignore them completely. On the outside, because on the inside it takes a lot of energy to ignore a human being who’s trying to make a living. We’re not buying things because we don’t want them, we have no use for them, no room to carry them. If you’re asking the price you’ll get such an inflated one from where they are chipping away to make you a favor. In the end they still win many times more then the Indian rate. They enter your personal space, hold your hand, crowd you (his neighbor is waiting his turn to try to sell you something), follow you. “No, thank you,” means there is a possibility to interest you in his wares. 
Downtown, between Red Fort and Jama Masjid (mosque).

Beggars ages vary, many are mutilated, and from “Slumdog Millionaire” and my book "Enjoying India" by J.D. Viharini I know it’s their job. They make this sign with the right hand toward their mouth, like they are hungry, but if you offer them food, you will be asked to open the sandwich to see what’s inside, and refuse it if it has something not allowed by his religion. They will refuse it outright if you offer it with your left hand, that is considered unclean.
Flowers to be offered at the temple.
Yes, Delhi is not clean, it is dirty in some places, many of them, but here and there are monuments from different eras, buildings that are nice, and painted, and their greenery is washed everyday of dust. And the people are such a mix: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, dressed in a traditional or a modern way, following the rules or holding hands for a picture.

I'll tell you more, just wait...

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