The monkeys of Delhi, India 15.10.2009

Suspended animation: the slowing of life processes by external means without termination.

It seems that my boyfriend is still a little bit hungover from last night, he is trying to pass himself off as one of the chai wallahs (tea sellers) who work on the trains, this may get us Indian prices or it may not so i’m going with the flow to see what happens. If you ever listen to a chai wallah they have a distinct call, the word ‘chai’ is dragged out for about four seconds so that as many people as possible will notice that he is around.

We headed along Main Bazaar, the only people who bother us now is the drum seller, he always pats his finger twice on the drum “ta-da” and asks if we want to buy it. This goes on everytime we see him which is about five times an hour. The other stalker is the teddybear wallah, he saw me noticing one which looks a bit like Lassie the dog so he won’t leave me alone now, always rushing over everytime he spots me and pushing it in my face. Ah, Delhi Delhi, am I glad to see you! Do you ever get the feeling you’ve walked along the same street millions of times?, well thats Main Bazaar for me, and you know something, it never gets old.


The Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.

It’s hot, it’s crowded and i’m getting the feeling i’ll scream if I see more tortillas so instead of C.P. we took a prepaid to Old Delhi. Incase you are ever in Delhi and desperate the golden arches are on Chandhi Chowk just across from the onion domed Gurudwara Sisganj. The security guard with the bomb detector scanned us and then we headed to the counter for brunch. We managed to find a seat at the window and while munching down on fries and trying to figure out how that one security guard could stop a terrorist attack we saw the ‘pickers’ with their metal spikes sticking them into people’s ears. One business man became terrified and I mean TERRIFIED when he saw what was dragged out of his ear, he ran away like a little girl and the picker ran after him for his rupee.


Boy playing inside an abandoned monument in Lodhi Gardens, New Delhi

Mid afternoon, the crowds, the cows, the traffic, the heat……but somehow we have changed. We don’t hold onto each other scared like on our first day and now cross the road making the traffic screech to a halt. A driver was waving his arm in the air out of his silver Maruti and shouting something but we hardly raised an eyebrow as we stepped into an auto rickshaw and headed north. We asked the driver to take us to Kashmere Gate and passed through a different part of Old Delhi, the energy was instantly different and hard to describe, it could be poorer or it could be more working class, I don’t know and am still too new to this city to pinpoint.

When we had first arrived in Delhi we had asked someone where all the monkeys were and he told us there were none in Delhi, well whoever that was is wrong. There are whole gangs of them living on the roofs of buildings along Shamnath Marg. We saw a whole convoy of them, from the old grandfathers to the babies all upside down crossing a busy street, not on ground level but high above on telephone cables.

The driver dropped us off at Kashmere Gate. We tried to find Qudsia Bagh, an overgrown garden that I had heard about, named after Qudsia Begum, a dancing girl who had married the Mughal emperor Muhammed Shah. (Tip: If you are ever in Delhi and it gets too much for you then head into the many tropical gardens). We have been in Delhi for days and still haven’t bought a map (do they even sell maps?), thats Delhi pace for you, caught up in the present without any planning whatsoever. I tried to remember it’s location from memory but it was hopeless. Kashmere Gate in my mind was an old monument in the middle of a traffic circle with pretty boulevards. This was THEE concrete jungle. We met a police officer and followed him and his silver shotgun around for a while as he asked the locals. No one knew. We thanked them anyway and wandered off. We were desperate for water and began to walk into the side streets.

Suddenly spotting something shimmer in the sun I had that feeling, you know, when the clouds seperate and a golden beam comes down from the heavens and goes right into your forehead and you just feel like you’re suspended mid-air and have won the lottery. In all of this dirt and heat I had found treasure. I grabbed onto K and told him to walk back so that I could take a second look. Suddenly I wasn’t a lost-in-India-western-woman-on-the-verge but I had been transformed into Charlie Bucket in his rags and I had just found one of the golden tickets from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It’s funny how India changes all of your priorities. My boyfriend bought me one, a Cadburys Dairy Milk! I felt like I hadn’t tasted chocolate in years, decades, centuries. I rushed away from the crowds and sat on a wall and began to unwrap it. When I saw the chocolate I had to laugh as it must have melted at sometime and then been frozen as all the little squares looked like they had been run over by a truck many times, they were unrecognizable. I had to pick the foil out of the chocolate and it was a rush against time, the heat was making my dreams dissolve right infront of my eyes. Ah, India, the simplest things are the most important, like people and water and food and … chocolate!

We were lost and hot and in north Delhi. I spotted a big yellow church across the road and imagined it must be cool inside so we crossed over. A guard unlocked the gates and the annoyed looking caretaker rushed over with a set of keys. He led us across the garden and onto the stairs of the church and opened the door. He started taking his shoes off, my boyfriend followed, I said

This is a church, it’s not normal to go in barefoot!”

So he put his shoes back on. We stepped into another world, dusty wooden benches, mouldy air, plaques all over the walls with British names “In rememberance of so-and-so” fallen, military, battles. It was as out of place as finding Cadbury’s chocolate. It seemed important, but only to itself, signalling something that may have imploded long ago and now inhabited the world of irrelevance. Once we had cooled down I was eager to leave, this was European and something I was escaping from so we wandered back to Kashmere Gate. We met a woman police officer and asked her where Qudsia Bagh was but she didn’t know either. Can you believe it, she was making eyes at my very gorgeous boyfriend! She even turned and apologized to me before continuing to chat him up further, I grabbed onto him and murmured “She is lucky she is holding a weapon otherwise….” He just laughed, probably glad to be in the middle of a tug-of-war.

A friendly family at New Delhi Central Station

This evening we’ve been wandering around Pahar Ganj and it’s alleyways with shops and temples, we headed north this time and across Gupta Road and into Pahari Dhiraj. Where are the elephants and where are the cobra’s doing their little shimmys?


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