Sunday, 19 February 2012

Saturday 18th - Au revoir Lutyens Bungalow.

Farewells over breakfast. Victoria and Maisie are going back to Norwich while Belinda and Evelyn are going to Agra then Jaipur. The hotel has agreed to look after our large holdall until we return next week. We pack, check out and take a taxi to Old Delhi station where we deposit our streamline luggage without difficulty. We decide to visit a tourist market called Dilli Haat which is actually not too far from Lutyens Bungalow so we are back on the metro. D is checking the map when a chap asks where we want to go. When told he suggests an alternative and follows us on to the train, chatting away about different things. We assume that he is after money for something but he then gets off at the stop before where we will disembark.

Dilli Haat is bustling and charges a small admission fee to keep out yer average Indian punter. The ones with plenty of money are very welcome. There are craft stalls sponsored by various state governments as well as commercial vendors and this weekend's special event is a comics festival. There are a few pushy traders but it is not too bad as we stroll round in the sun.

The plan is to look out for things we might want to buy when we return to Delhi next weekend. The comics fair is full of schoolkids, some of who interview R about life, the universe and everything.

We retire to a shady food court and have momos and Limca for lunch. Limca was one of the great Indian soft drinks until Coke and Pepsi got into the market. It is now owned by Coca-Cola. The portions are huge. More stalls to recce and R eventually cracks and buys herself a shawl. "For the train trips" she says. Tiring of luxury shopping we cross the road to the INA local market where the speciality is apparently spelling errors.

Time was moving on so we headed for CP (Connaught Place) in search of a beer. As we exited the Metro our helpful man from this morning greeted us. Had he been stalking us or is this a genuine coincidence? There are about 15 million people in Delhi, most of them in and around the main Metro station in CP.

We failed to find the place we had been to last time but a helpful local pointed us at One Cafe on the outer circle of CP which was just what we needed. Cold beer, a/c, comfortable seats and music at a bearable level.

After a long lingering Kingfisher we headed for the Gardens in the centre of CP. There is only one entrance/exit to these and it has security checks. D was told to put his camera in the backpack. When we got through security we were faced with a seething mass of locals taking photos of each other. Indian security measures do seem to include a certain amount of paranoia. We strolled around and took a couple of illicit photos.

We had decided to try one of Old Delhi's famous Mughal restaurants tonight. Karim's is located down an alley close to the Jama Masjid mosque. We take the metro from CP up to Chawri Bazaar where we are tapped by a rickshaw wallah. Off we go into the bedlam that is Old Delhi. We pay him double his asking price - these guys really work hard when they are hauling the likes of us.

As we walk into Karim's we are greeted and seated at a table with two other people. They don't waste seats here. Matthieu is a student from Paris on his first day in India here to attend a Hindi course. He seemed OK for a teetotaller. Marie-Louise was from Austria and totally off her trolley, yelling random Hindi words at the waiters and demanding her sweet curd before her main course. We had the house speciality - Mutton Burru, which in plain English is Goat Kebab with rice and daal. Very good.

At 7 p.m. a check with the magic text number showed that our train would be arriving at Old Delhi station 15 minutes early so we set off bck there walking through Kinari bazaar, even busier than it was a couple of days earlier. We found the Metro underpass which delivered us to the railway station. Looking at the departures board our train seemed to have lost about 30 minutes so we found the "Upper Class" waiting room high up in the station and settled down to kill some time.

At about 8.15 we collected our luggage and made our way to the platform. The train was now an hour late so we found somewhere to sit down and wait where we could watch the world go by. Boy did we see life - when did you last see two blokes in a railway station carrying spears? Photo? No problem. That's Rs 10/- each.

There weren't too many beggars or the like but there were a few sad old ladies huddled against the cold. Every so often the train lost another half hour. the railway tea stall had run out of tea(!) so we had to buy from McDonalds' at five times the price. Bandits. Our train disappeared from the boards and we were slightly panicked but it reappeared now 2 hours late. Then a different train arrived at our platform, scheduled to stay there for 45 minutes. Our train lost another half hour, eventually pulling in just before 11 p.m. rather than at 7.45 p.m. We had hit the jackpot again - the only 2 berth cabin on the train. The coach was in reasonably good condition and the bedding was clean and neatly laid out. A quick night cap then we turn in as the train sets off 3 hours late.

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