Dear readers, today’s story deals with our day of sightseeing in Delhi, this massive metropolitan with a population of 9.879 k people (2001)
From the airport we were taken to our home stay. A home stay is different from a hotel. It has a reception, a living room, bedrooms (with airco) and they provide breakfast. A bit like an English B&B. Our Home stay was situated in a fenced court yard in a busy street.
During our Delhi day we had an English speaking guide, and a car with driver. First we went to a mosque. The Jama Mashid. Shoes off. Kate and I had to wear a thin dressing gown over our clothes. Our guide took us to a priest, hidden in a remote room. Would we like to see a relic? Oh yes please. Priest rumbled around in his room. Lots of dark corners. Then he showed us a little box, opened the lid, took out an upside down thimble with in the middle a hair upstanding: a hair from Muhammed. Wow (who was he again… oh yes, I remember, Muhammad, the Holy Prophet and founder of the Islam). And next the priest showed us a shoebox, with a footprint in clay in it: Muhammed’s footprint. Gosh. Some Indian people behind us wanted to see the miracles too, but the priest shooed them away with a hand: Shoo, go away! 500 rupees please. Thereafter the guide took us to another temple with extended gardens and shrines. And we saw the Qutab Minar, the highest tower in India (72,5 m.)
Then we had a rickshaw ride. Our driver/biker, a thin, tall friendly man with a moustache did his utmost to move us forward. I think we had two flat tyres. Our guide followed in another rickshaw, in the middle of tuk tuks (three wheelers), buses, taxis, hand carts with high stacked cargo, motorbikes… and everyone was blowing the horn, honking, tooting. A deafening noise. A skinny cow here and there. Dust. Thick air. Petrol fumes. We were taken to the old part of Delhi, the Silver Street. I saw a boy in rags brushing his teeth in the gutter, in a muddy puddle. A man squeezing lemons in a bowl. Someone else was peeling onions. And yes, we were noticed too.
Guide took us to a spice shop. We were shown around. ‘Here, taste this,’ said the seller and he gave me a nutmeg shell. Obediently I chewed the nutmeg. ‘Do you know this? And this and this.’ And I thought, yes, I have it all in my cupboard. Didn’t want to be rude though, so I pointed at a piece of Himalayan salt. ‘And what else?’ Oh well, and this, uh, green curry. ‘That’s 800 rupees.’ Ha, now I’ll have to negotiate, I thought, and I shook my head: 800 rupees? Far too much. ‘No ma’am, this is the bottom price, we can’t go down.’ Oh. All right then, 800 rupees.
Next our guide took us to a restaurant for lunch. Only European visitors. We choose a modest priced curry from the menu. Mineral water on the side. The commotion started when we wanted to pay our bill: more rupees, ma’am! The price is excluded tax! Okay, we dug up our last rupees. No ma’am, it’s not enough! So we had to wait for some help from our guide. He explained that we had to tip the owner of the restaurant as well. Yes, but our rupees are finished! So we had to lend some rupees from our guide. Our next trip was to the cash machine.
Then guide took us to a carpet shop. We entered a huge shop, with assistants hanging listlessly against the walls. No other visitors. Shawls, pashmina!, no thank you. But then this good looking, charming, well dressed, smooth talking seller approached us. No, we didn’t have to buy, but listen to this story of an ancient trade, carpet weaving. Since generations done in this special way, this is their technique, look at the back of this carpet and this carpet… and carpet after carpet were rolled out over the floor. Big carpets, middle sized carpets, small carpets Every time when we tried to break away, another carpet was rolled out in front of our feet. In the end we managed to escape. Our guide asked innocently: You didn’t buy anything? No, we would like to go back to our hotel please. Thank you.
And the next morning, at six o’clock, we headed to the airport for our final destination: Bhutan.