We didn’t sleep too well last night. A few horrifying screams from the bazaar outside woke us up. My legs are red, itchy and bumpy, and it’s probably from those bed bugs Sara was on about. We had to get the receptionist to get the lights to work again, and to ask for some warm water. This is how you take a bath here:
Complimentary breakfast. I am falling in love with masala chai.
At this point, we don’t really want to go out and be scared and stared at, but we do have to go do something with our day, at least eat some food. We pack a few rupees each and my iPhone. Right outside our hostel is the main bazar – something we apparently weren’t aware of until we step out of the alley that was so dark and creepy a few hours earlier – and it’s super busy, crowded and aggressive – it’s scary. A few months before we ended up on this very bazar, a Danish woman was raped here. People are staring at us, yelling and honking because we are in the way no matter where we are, and some guys even follow us a little bit. Suddenly my entire right side is wet – someone has thrown a bucket of water on me. I much later realise that it was probably unintentional – people often throw buckets of water on the drying streets – but as I look down on my bright red tunic and my 40 denier tights that are drenched in water, I feel as if I have offended a lot of people by dressing this provocative – and it’s the most modest thing in my backpack!
A bit away from all the noise and people, we find a fast food place that seems busy and filled with locals. That’s usually a good sign, so we go in. At this point though, all the people and the business of the place are making me feel very anxious. I don’t want to be stared at anymore, and especially not when I have no idea what I am doing. What are all these things on the menu? Where can we sit? How do you even order? I get it together, and we end up having a Chinese platter, out of all things. Our first meal in India is Chinese! And it is beyond spicy! We can’t even eat more than like 1/3 of the whole thing.
We study our map with great frustration, and end up asking two young girls at the table next to us to point out our location on the map. Then we head out to find some things that are worth to look at. We meet several guys that walk besides us, asking about us and giving us advice. While this is certainly nice of them, these men are strangers, and the warnings and bad stories we have been offered prior to coming here, are constantly in the back of our minds. We try to ignore them as much as we can, and never reveal anything truthful about us, just to give ourselves a sense of protection. We end up having this whole story made up – we’re sisters-in-law from Norway, who are going to meet up with our husbands in Southern India.
While trying to find our way to the temple Laxmi Narayan Birla Mandir, I not only step in dog poo, we also meet Naresh, a very helpful guy studying in Delhi. He takes us some of the way and says he hopes to meet us later.
We go to our very first temple. It is beautiful, but odd. For one, I am not used to walking around barefoot in public. Witnessing religious acts like praying also make me super uncomfortable, especially as I have no idea how to behave around a man on his knees. Do I avoid the entire room he is in so I wont disturb him?
On our way back, we run into Naresh again. He is telling us that getting some traditional Indian clothes will be a good idea, and we agree. He then takes us to a “hard to find” factory with Indian clothing by the RK Ashram Mark metro station. It is a small alley that leads to a tiny, dirty street full of buildings that are probably shops just like the one we walk into. An older Indian woman welcomes us, sits us down on a comfortable bench and offers us masala chai and cold water. She is very nice, asks us what we’re looking for, and has her young assistants pulling out one beautiful piece of fabric after another. We decide on a few pieces, and she sends us and some young girls into her office, where we can try them on. We absolutely have to come out after every wardrobe change, so everyone can see and compliment us. At one point, I am trying on a Punjabi dress that Sara has just worn, and the older woman isn’t afraid to tell me she doesn’t think it’s my color. Well, at least she’s being honest.
Naresh claims that it is much cheaper to buy clothes at a local factory rather than in a fancy store, which is the reason we’ve followed him this far, but I end up spending 7500 rupees on a purple Punjabi dress and a red sari (just the shawl though)! It has been a great experience though, and I even learned how to do the sari.
Naresh – who patiently has been waiting for us this whole time! – calls his uncle who is a Tuk Tuk driver and takes us to India Gate and the President’s House. His “uncle” is also super nice, and they give us plenty of advice on safety, saving money, culture etc. Of course I don’t remember anything well enough to pass on to you guys, sorry. What is really cool about this ride around Delhi to see the sights, is that we see monkeys running around in the streets, and bats hanging in the trees – all this is just like one giant casual zoo. An expensive one to get into, may I add.
As the sun is setting, and we are too paranoid to stay out after dark in this mad city, we need to find some dinner and get back to the hostel. Naresh recommends a local vegetarian restaurant, and takes us there to get a thali plate to go for 120 rupees each. We offer Naresh some too as a thanks, but he declines. With our white bags of food, we get dropped off by the alley to our hostel, and we tip the “uncle” 200 rupees. As we hand over 500 rps to Naresh as thanks, he yet again declines, saying “then we wouldn’t be friends, and I wouldn’t be happy“, even though he had earlier joked that he’d rather have money than dinner when we offered. We go to our room and have our first Indian meal in India – amazing, dirt cheap thali:
Super photogenic food
What started as a scary trip to see a temple ended up being a great experience. We have new, India-appropriate clothes, we’ve seen monuments and buildings we wouldn’t have bothered to go see otherwise, and we met a great tuk tuk driver and Naresh, who made us feel safer and a lot less lost. Thank you Naresh!
Next stop, Goa!