India Adventure #3

Old Delhi Market

Sat Dec 22

Considering that we had left these two days to relax and adjust, we still managed to fit in many activities. We started the day with a leisurely meal at Spectra and then headed out on the metro. Today, the breakfast offerings were half different and still everything was superb. We let Noam sleep for 14 hours.

Our first stop was the Old Delhi Market. We got off at the Chandni Chowk Metro station and wove our way through the textile area of the Markets until we reached Connaught Centre in New Delhi. As soon as we stepped off the Metro in “Old Delhi”, we knew we were not in Gurgaon anymore. The park outside the station was full of souls sleeping on the grass during the sunny warm daytime. The market area was a bit overwhelming at first. There was a labyrinth of tiny aisles jam-packed with stalls with things to buy. For the most part, there were distinct districts within the market itself (textiles, oils and fragrance, spices, fruits and vegetables, household items), and we mostly passed through the textiles area. We did see a plate of dal and rice for fifteen rupees (thirty cents). Too bad even cooked street food isn’t safe for our fragile Canadian digestive tracts. The market was an interesting mix of smells; some pungent, some savoury, some sweet, some nauseating. The occasional row of open urinals may have contributed to the latter. There were so many people bustling around that we were always in someone’s way, although a gentle push or the sound of a drum or a honk cleared the way quite easily. The main arteries were clogged with auto rickshaws, animals pulling carts, people pulling carts, bicycles, and trucks, all in a complete jumble. There were also animals of all types: cows, goats, monkeys, and buffalo. For the most part, no one bothered us too much. We were the only tourists around, so mostly people were smiling or chuckling at our group of eight, totally out of place in the market. One woman, surprised to see us, commented “there is nothing here for you to buy, it is just our regular market”. 

After walking for a long while, the boys were getting hungry, so we decided to flag down an auto rickshaw to hopefully speed up the process. One gentleman offered to take us, named his price, and then we all ended up piling in to one tiny auto rickshaw. We were skeptical about the fit, but he kept encouraging us to pile in. It was the clown car of rickshaws, as eight of us (plus the driver) traversed the busy streets on the tiny three-wheeled vehicle. Seven people sat in the back where there should be at most four, and Erez shared a tiny seat with the driver in the front. The three extra occupants meant two kids on laps and Aubrey was across the middle or squatting over Noam to avoid crushing him. Any left turn was risky as Aubrey was thrown right, and it was not easy to hold on. And when the vehicle frequently came close to other objects, Aubrey had to bring his feet back inside the confines of the vehicle. It was quite comical; if people were chuckling before, they were laughing out loud as we navigated through the traffic jam. It was an adventure, to say the least. The funniest part was when the driver stopped, ran into a nearby shop to get a wrench, tightened the wheel nuts and then used his foot for momentum to get us moving again.

We ate lunch in Connaught Place, at a small coffee house. This area was in complete juxtaposition to the market in Old Delhi. While Old Delhi was haphazard and dilapidated, New Delhi’s Connaught place was full of European-style architecture, western chain stores and restaurants. It was still crowded, but this market areas certainly had a different feel. Only the small children on mats selling cheap Christmas trinkets seemed to bridge the connection to the Old market.

On the way home we split up half way home on the metro. Aubrey, Erez and Zev decided to find a rock climbing gym (blogpost from Erez forthcoming), and Maxine, Michelle, Koren, Noam and Teva decided to check out a Bollywood-style theatrical performance in Gurgaon.

The KIngdom of Dreams is a theatre complex with three huge theatres that look like they belong in Las Vegas. The theatres are large, beautiful and larger than life. The play was in Hindi but there were translator units available if we were willing to leave our credit cards as collateral. We took a pass, as we figured the spectacle of the show would be enough to understand the play. 

We were not disappointed. The production was called Zangoora: The Gypsy Prince. It was full of beautiful, colourful, flashy costumes, gorgeous dramatic sets and lighting, and of course, many actors flying through the theatre by harness on a trapeze, including one scene where the main character flies down out of the sky being “carried” by a giant eagle to save the day. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The musical numbers were energetic and captivating, and even though the show was in Hindi, we were able to figure out the gist of the plot. Unfortunately, jet lag was setting in and we ended up leaving at the intermission. Teva especially was fading, and frankly, so were some of the adults.

On the way home, we found dinner open at the mall by our hotel, even though it was after nine. Once we got settled in to our rooms and the youngest and oldest settled in to bed, there was time to worry about when to send out the search party for the rock climbers. The gym closed at eight, but they wandered in, well fed (they also found food open at the mall after ten) and tired after eleven.

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