Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Slowing down a little

So two days this time... Monday we rode the Metro around... first had to get a tuk-tuk from here in East of Kailash, F block, up to the Central Secretariat, in central Delhi. The first 2 said "no"... abruptly and looked the other way like I had the plague. Try #3 he says no, and I say 150? Come-on man... 150 OK? and he gives the Delhi head wobble they do here... back and forth like no but a little up and down the same time, with a shake to the back seat, means "get in". We soon found out why, chock a block the whole way, Monday morning rush hour headed to the center of town in the Capital of the country, the day the minister of finance is to unveil the budget for next fiscal yeaer. So we inhaled some fumes (luckily most vehicles run on compressed natural gas, but still. 35 mins later we're dropped off at the Central Secretariat metro, which is the southern terminus of the yello line at this time(they're building out a whole heck of a lot they have to have ready for the commonwealth games next October, and if you saw the crews doing almost everything by hand you would bet they will never be ready).

We ride up the first stop or two in the nice, clean, air conditioned efficiency of new Japanese (Mitsubishi) rail cars, before we hit a crossing of two lines stop, and next thing you know it is packed like rush hour in most big cities, close enough to tell what scent your neighbors are wearing and feel their body heat. Naturally Julie was sitting and I gave mine to a women under the sign marked "reserved for women"... and read the sign out loud to the other few guys sitting there that didn't...

Long Hindi name is the stop for Delhi U, sorry I'll have to look it up later. We get a bike rickshaw, our first time, oh he's thrilled to take us to Delhi U for 20 rupees, to the office name I write out on the yelo index card, til he gets up the hill to the main gate and drops us off there, he had no gas left to go any further. We get directions, oh it's a long walk over that way. Walking walking, all of a sudden Julie kicks a pipe sticking out of the ground with her big toe, of course she's wearing open toe sandals no socks... ouch! Long way to go.. here's another rickshaw driver... I show the card, no problem! he says... and we are home free, finding out its a long downhill the other side now, life is good for the rickshaw walla, but when of course hills that go down must go back up, so by the time he pants up to the front of the office of management studies building he's gassed too... and arguing the 20 should be 30! Yeah Ok... I don't like it I think you were putting on a bit of a show but I'll give you the extra 10.

In the sweltering hallway (read Julies blog for more detail) probably a little less than an hour this time, I only had to go out for a cold bottle of water once. Saw Omprakash again, he's from up by Katmandu in Nepal, lots of Nepalese kids here in the Foreign Student registry, a few Chinese, one from Afghanistan says to Julie "so do you think you'll be visiting Afganistan any time soon, I could show you around"!
I am chatting with a young man from Iran, he's a Ph.D candidate in medical genetics.

Out of there and I tell Julie I'd rather take Tuk-tuks, these rickshaw drivers are a hassle. But the tuk-tuks turn up their nose at a fare to the metro, it's too close, so father time comes along the oldest rickshaw walla we've seen yet, bet steady he is, standing the whole time to the metro in 100+ heat, so I figure he deserves an extra 10 more than the last guy and he gives a big smile for that!

We metro down to Civil lines, where we are to look at a share apartment, long and short of that it's a flat w a shared kitchen/dining room w a tv in it, 2 bedrooms with 2 cot like beds in each, and an add-on porch room with 2 more cots in it! 6 girls will share this for $110 a month each, meal plan extra. Mrs Gupta, the houseowner has strict rules, in by 8, no boys upstairs, no smoking, you must call if you will be late. Real nice terrace and balcony, too, but no deal, yeah, we'll be thinking about it for a few days, yeah, by next Monday for sure we'll let you know.

Tuk-Tuk comes by and swiftly we're back on the metro, down a couple stops to the Chandni Chowk, maybe lunch will perk us up. Hawkers in your face maybe 10 or 15 a minute, no I don't need shoes, eat first! Go to Haldirams, he says, the exact place we're looking for. After lunch we shop a while and Julie tells my embarrasing hat story in detail followmetodelhi.wordpress.com, then I learn about the geography of the chowk when you get way down in there, where the walls are about 4 feet apart, goats, people sleeping, people living on dirt, cooking on dirt, sleeping on dirt, there are dead ends... and you have to walk all the way back out the same way, once you find someone who speaks english to tell you that and point the way. Luckily when we get to where the alley is about 6 feet wide there's a rickshaw walla, hallelujah brother, how much you want to get us to the Chandni Chowk Metro stop! He's cooking along past the meat butchers (lots of flies there), goats laying around everywhere, guys smoking there little beedies, and of course a stall every 6 or 7 feet on each side of the alley, when here comes some guys walking motioning "get over, get over" and behind them a group of muslim men carrying a platform for a funeral, yes a body on there under the fabric, a crowd of 15 people and 3 or 4 rickshaws complete the procession, we're not knowing how to act with this at all, very awkward you don't know to look, make eye contact, or if it's disrespectful to have your head down or look away? So many strange new things in Delhi.

We get to the metro, and down to Rajiv Chowk again at Connaught Place and Center Park, ground zero of Delhi. At the metro station there's a Nirula's, modern ice cream and food joint blaring 1980's music like spice girls and such, Julie loves it, we have a butterscotch ice cream and coke and cool off, then go find the bookstore and get a new guide book, while Julie finds the shoulder bag she's been looking for at the stall next door. That done, heck w the metro let's get a tuk-tuk back to East of Kailash... which we negotiate a 120 fare and a little long, gritty, fume filled ride back through rush hour to the south part of town, but that pretty well ends our day. We walk down to the modern food place w a Subway, Pino's Pizza, and Food city or something like that all in one and Julie eats, I have a large orange soda and pineapple cake. We get back to the room my feet are on fire oh one last thing as we walk the couple blocks back, it's cooled down to about 102 by now after the sun is going down, so I stop in the chemist downstairs to see what they have. 5 guys work in there (they have so many people everywhere, there were 4 people helping when we recharged our metro cards) and 1 of them spoke enough english to understand I want I SO PROPYL ALCOHOL! Huh... I've been walking all day, my feet are on fire, I pantomime, you must have something, don't you have rubbing alcohol!? Huh.... what? Then finally one guy to the others, he needs something to wash his feet. OH! right over here... and he pulls out a bottle of........ Isopropyl Alcohol... I SO PROPYL ALCOHOL... I read slowly as I take the bottle from him, yes... that's a great idea, how much? It was blue in color and an absolute joy following the cold shower.

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