13 Mar 2009

Introducing New Delhi

I have been living in New Delhi, albeit in a hotel room, for 10 days now and thought it was time to set the scene of daily life here. This post is an attempt to transport you to my new world. In a few days time, we should be moving into a flat, where I will begin my long anticipated indulgence of not going to work! Instead, I shall be spending my days browsing and shopping at the markets, haggling over a few Rupees as is customary, and cooking in my new rented, if somewhat basic Indian kitchen. This is still all to be confirmed mind you, but we have contracts ready to be signed and a stash of cash growing by the day ready to secure our little piece of GK1.

New Delhi really is very new. Inaugurated only in 1931 it was designed by British Architect Edwin Lutyens after the British Raj decided to move the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. Wide streets arranged around neighbourhood blocks each labelled with letters strangely out of sequence (R block is opposite C block and next to N?) it couldn’t be anything less like Old Delhi. We will be living in South Delhi, only 20minutes from India Gate and Connaught Place in the heart of the capital, complete with a community of markets and restaurants just a short, hair raising auto rickshaw ride away.

Auto rickshaws (‘autos’ as they are called locally) are the same as Thailand’s tuk tuks, similarly darting about the streets of the sub-continent, whipping between the traffic for just a few rupees. I totally love riding in them, unable to keep the grin off my face... it’s the most fun way to travel, so long as you’re prepared for the bumpy ride.

So far, I have spent much of my day travelling to ‘markets’ (which are not markets as I know them – which is a whole different post), and it’s a great way to get a glimpse of Delhi life. Trying to set the scene, whist trying to avoid the romanticised clichés of India is pretty impossible. Daily, I am presented with scenes of heart wrenching poverty, barefoot street children playing in the dirt, holy cows (or are they oxen?) wandering where they please and people taking every chance to make a living. The poverty hits me hard every time. I knew it would be tough and find myself asking what can I do? I still don’t have the answer...

Without the clichés, life here is much slower than I expected with a focus on family and friends. It’s an overwhelmingly spiritual place. Already we have been invited to a three day Sikh prayer for a new house, advised to eat vegetarian on the auspicious Holi day, not to mention the in-depth horoscope discussions.

There are of course the Western influences of global sports brands in all the markets, Italian restaurants in every neighbourhood and a stack of English bookshops. However it feels really Indian and I love it. The dominance of religion in the country has generated a long established independent coffee culture with not a single Starbucks in sight (although the Indian equivalent Cafe Coffee Day does a mean iced coffee). The bookshops are small and perfectly formed with both Indian and International authors and great Indian recipe books – all cheaper than home!

Every day, I am surprised by life in India – musical lifts in restaurants, bright blue skies whilst celebrating the end of Winter on Holi, stables for horses on the highways, and the constant contrast that is India. I look forward to the months of exploring this country and its capital. Being a resident rather than a tourist allows me to slowly drink in each experience rather than packing the maximum into a scheduled trip. The only thing is – will I ever be able to leave?

1 comment:

Lavender said...

New Delhi sounds like an amazing place - I would love to visit the markets there someday. Enjoy!