Northern Exposure – Capital City

Here I go again!

Am just back from a 10-day sojourn in North India 🙂 Only 3 cities – Delhi, Agra and Bhopal but a host of interestingly varied experiences! This was my first trip to both Delhi and Agra and I was excited about finally being able to visit the Capital. The Taj Mahal in Agra, I must confess, didn’t have me jumping over the moon! I just don’t know how to be over the moon for a tomb I guess…no matter how beautifully built with infinite love! Macabre! But I was prepared to be impressed by the architecture even if I wasn’t moved by the sentiment 😉 I took Ishaan with me and although I was nervous about being together 24/7 for 10 straight days (how many hours is that??!!)…I was equally thrilled to be sharing this adventure with him 🙂

We arrived in Delhi at night and on our way to the hotel, I was immediately impressed by her broad, deserted, tree-lined avenues and scared silly by the crazy driving and incessant honking of her drivers! And I’m from Goa – ‘Rash-driving’ Capital of the World 😛 Why, I ask you is it necessary to honk like there’s no tomorrow at 10.30 pm on roads where there’s minimal traffic? I wish I had had the guts to ask our driver, but they are a species apart in the Capital and one that should NOT be messed with! Be that as it may, I love the city that is New Delhi. It might as well be called the ‘City of Circles’, there are so many of them. One after every block! There is (to the delight of our politicians I’m sure), an endless supply of roads that can be named and renamed until kingdom come! There are overhead bridges across the broad streets for pedestrians to use with escalators on either side. I don’t know whether they actually work 😉 but I was suitably impressed. There are plenty of open spaces, excellent shopping, the weather was wonderfully pleasant and the greenery warmed my heart. What really clinched it for me though was the profusion of birds – flocks of parrots and hawks that had made the city their own 🙂 How I missed my beloved zoom 😦 There’s no mistaking Delhi for what it is…the hotbed of our country’s politics. Every building here is a ‘Bhavan’, a ‘Sadan’ an ‘Embassy’ or an ‘Enclave’! Those that aren’t are National Monuments or belong to our Defence forces.

Yes! This is a city steeped in history, peopled with humans full of their own importance and not afraid to flaunt it. The smooth-talking, subtle arrogance of manner that seems prevalent here came as a surprise to my rather bourgeois sensibilities, even though I had been warned by friends who are natives. As a rule, I hate making comparisons, but if I have to compare Delhi to the other two metro cities I have visited – Mumbai & Calcutta, although Delhi would be architecturally and perhaps infra-structurally the best city, it lacks the warmth that makes Mumbai so special to me. Also, it’s a rather unsafe city for women from what I’ve heard and sadly I saw nothing during my trip that caused me to change that opinion. Our driver was a slick, smooth-talking Haryanvi, who did his best to talk us into going to places we had no interest in, by the most circuitous routes possible (easy enough to do in The Circular City!) and seemed more concerned about where he would park his car rather than what was most convenient for us. Honestly, there were times, when I wanted to reach across and slap him, just to shut him up! We hired a rickshaw one morning to escape his incessant lip, and had a slightly better experience, although this guy too couldn’t stop talking and offering suggestions for shopping, eating and sight-seeing, even when we lied and said this wasn’t our first trip! What is it with the continuous jabber? The next time, I’m going to stick to the Metro!

Another disappointment was the food, although I think that’s our fault, coz we didn’t make an effort to go to the places recommended by some. We did eat at Nirula’s and Haldiram’s but missed out on Karim’s. Ishaan had a tough time, being the true-blue Goan that he is. Surviving ten days on fish fingers and sliced cucumber can’t have been pleasant! All-in-all, I think Bombay and perhaps even Goa (now that I’ve discovered such fabulous restaurants here!), hold the edge over Delhi in terms of food, for me. Shopping however is an entirely different ballpark!! Khan Market has my undying devotion and I will go back there anytime I can, to wander the shops and discover hidden treasures. South-Ex and the Lajpat Nagar market seem promising too, although I didn’t get to really explore them well with Ishaan and Hubby in tow. The same goes for Janpath, Karol Bagh etc. I’ve already told my friend that I want to do an exclusive shopping trip in the near future 🙂 The sight-seeing too was awesome. Because we were there during the Republic day holiday, the City was decked out in all her Nationalistic finery. Every building was lit up and there were flags & flowers everywhere. We didn’t of course have time to see every Monument, but I enjoyed the ones we did manage. My favourite was the Jantar Mantar, simply for its geometry. India Gate and the Red Fort were wonderful too. Standing at India Gate in front of the ‘Amar Jawan‘ memorial, it’s hard not to let the inherent patriotism of the place affect you. Despite the crazy crowds, it still feels like the hallowed ground that it is. It made me proud to be Indian and it brought a tear to my eye. The Red Fort is a marvel of Mughal architecture (although I must confess the one in Agra is my favourite), and although the sound and light show is average, its often violent & chequered history more than make up for it. I wanted so much to explore Chandni Chowk just in front of the Fort, but with Ishaan cranky and tired, we skipped it. So that’s another place on my ‘to-do’ list for next time J as is the Qutab Minar. The Delhi Zoo was unsurprisingly Ishaan’s favorite outing! Although we had to wait an hour for the tram to take us around, he enjoyed the ride and the animals. I was also impressed by how clean the city is. Even with throngs of people at the Monument sites, there was minimal littering. And the houses in Lodhi Estate, Kasturba Gandhi Marg…spectacular! There’s money here and it shows! The elite here are fashionable and quietly elegant in a classical style so unlike the over-the-top Bollywood fashions of Mumbai. The men in suits or jackets, older women draped in elegant silks, wrapped in warm, expensive pashminas, and the younger women styish in their muted winter colors of tan, black and beige, designer coats and Vuitton bags. Part of why I enjoyed the Khan Market experience so much, was undoubtedly the fact that it was full of these well dressed elegant shoppers! Made me want to take that extra effort about my appearance, which is nothing short of a miracle 😛

We stayed for three days before leaving for Agra on the Bhopal Shatabdi, a short train journey of just a couple of hours.

And then it was time for the Taj!

Next post!

Happy Monday, People 🙂

7 thoughts on “Northern Exposure – Capital City

  1. Excellent travelogue Harsha! Thoroughly enjoyed your jaunt around Delhi….pics would have been a great addition, though in a way, lack of them made me focus on your writing….which is always a pleasure to read 🙂
    Next post!!

    1. Thanks M 🙂 Am using the blog post option in Word 07 for the first time and hit the Publish button before adding pictures! Have added them now, if you care to check them out! It’s a nifty way of posting though…have you used it? Next post tomorrow, I promise!

  2. I love your style of writing Harsha, its exactly as if you are sitting here telling me everything…. fantastic stuff!!! Please keep it up when you leave for Mumbai so we can at least follow whats going on over there xxxx

  3. What an interesting post! thoroughly enjoyed it. brings back a lot of distant memories of my visit to this spectacular city!
    and i can exactly visualize your experience with smooth talking driver. because we also had many similar experiences in delhi, it seemed as if everyone from rickshaw driver, to shopkeeper to hotel manager were out to dupe us. may be that’s why the place is famous for its ‘thags’ 🙂
    But keeping that aside delhi is a place which has a different type of charm.

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