Vrindavan to New Delhi, India 06.10.2009

Meteor: A bright trail or streak that appears in the sky when a meteoroid is heated to incandescence by friction with the earth’s atmosphere. Also called falling star, meteor burst, shooting star.

Today we woke up quite early and sorted our backpacks. We didn’t have any tickets to travel onto Delhi but felt confident we would get there, India has a way of working itself out. I wanted to go to the shops where I saw the Krishna dolls but my boyfriend said we had to leave, and anyway, they would get broken in transit.  I remember what seems like in another era I had travelled to the Far East, crossing over India at night I had gazed down to the millions of lights and imagined small towns with their temples and dust trails and charpoys, wondering what they would be like, and, while the auto rickshaw was turning onto a main road and away from Vrindavan I realised that this town had answered all of those questions. I have become fascinated with the elderly, many of them faded but beautiful in their own way, their faces wrinkled, and in their eyes other distant worlds that I will never be able to understand. I felt sad that we had to leave Vrindavan, but in a way I’m excited about travelling across more of this country, aware that this is one of the brightest things to illuminate my universe since Hale-Bopp.

The bus was leaving the moment we arrived at Mathura New Bus Station, the little station manager rushing over to stop a crowded bus heading to Delhi. The conductor pointed to the seat right beside the door as we shuffeled on with our backpacks. He seemed glad to see us as he wrote extra costs onto our tickets, an extra 70 rupee each and we didn’t bother to ask why. As we got closer to Delhi the clouds began to clear, and what seemed like every km we travelled it got warmer. We passed through crowded towns with names like Chhata and Palwal and as we got nearer the bus got emptier. We could see in the distance the flames where rigs were burning off oil fumes, the landscapes seemed to become more polluted, the air heavier as we passed through Faridabad. We arrived at Sarai Kale Khan bus station where we walked the short distance to Nizamuddin and caught the suburban train to New Delhi. We still hadn’t ate properly and it was already late afternoon, we had shared a packed of biscuits and a bottle of Bisleri on the bus and for the rest of lunch all I could do was fantasize about European apples.

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This breed of dog roams all over Delhi. By day they seem tame but at night seem to take over

After realising we can’t travel onto Amritsar until tomorrow we walked over to Paharganj to the same hotel. We just threw our backpacks onto the bed and immediately headed back into Main Bazaar, starving and trying to find a restaurant which sold western food. It was becoming dark at this point, walking along Main Bazaar I was just glancing at goods and dodging rickshaws when I saw my boyfriend rush over to some men trying to sell things. He was shouting “you want to disrespect my girlfriend?” I hadn’t noticed a thing and luckily a little Italian woman dressed in black with her hair in a pony and oversized sunglasses rushed over. While calming him down she explained that in the 25 years that she had been coming to India she and her boyfriend had ended up in hospital twice after being beaten by mobs. She explained her Italian boyfriend was the same as him (ready to lose it at the first man who disrespected her) and in doing so mobs of Indians had attacked them. She warned that Indians will always take the side of another Indian in a fight. I don’t know if this is true but I held onto my boyfriends arm and told him the men are only trying to get us into their shops and if they say I look lovely it doesn’t mean anything, they just want a sale.

Inside the Jama Masjid Mosque, Old Delhi

Stepping into the pizza place I caught sight of myself in the mirror, my eye makeup all smudged, feeling like a blonde version of Alice Cooper in a floral dress. I kind of giggled to myself as all of the Indians who were there were all dressed smart, or maybe they were just everyday yuppies doing Western for the evening. I ordered tortillas and bisleri, and then later a pizza. Biting into a slice I realised something wasn’t quite right with the food and didn’t eat anymore.

We decided to wander around The Walled City. It was dark and many lanes deserted but I didn’t feel any danger, I was just looking up at the crumbling haveli’s and tried to picture them in their days when Shahjahanabad was the capital of the Mughal Empire. It was getting late and I was being reminded of the Enchanted Forest, the overhead communication wires like the vines of ivy and honeysuckle. Some parts of the city are completely dark and our feelings changed. We could have stepped into the lair of Baba Yaga, the Forest wasn’t nice anymore, there were men, alot of them, sleeping on the ground, without blankets or beds – I just wanted to cry it seemed so overwhelmingly tragic. Just lying there in their clothes, some people had lit little bonfires and were trying to fry puri. We walked further. We may have met Baba Yaga herself only this time she didn’t have a broom, she walked confidently along the street in a teal sari, she looked tired but still tried to smile, a hand outstretched to my boyfriend. While the scene was unfolding he burst out laughing I was thinking “This isn’t an Indian woman, Indian women don’t behave like this!” she mentioned 600 rupee. I said “Hey, i’m his girlfriend!” and pulled him towards me, we walked on and another woman approached, even older than the one before, only this time I realised where we were and knew that I had nothing to worry about. We walked along towards Ajmeri Gate and out of the Delhi Red Light District, back to the familiar version of Delhi we are trying to understand.

I feel exhausted and am glad to chill out in the hotel, the television is on, we like watching the old Bollywood movies although we don’t understand a word of Hindi. We are leaving tomorrow, the Golden Temple express from Nizamuddin to Amritsar.

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