Delhi; Pahar Gang and Being at One with Chaos

on Friday, 04 October 2013. Posted in India Travels


We have just flown to Delhi and finally found our hotel in Pahar Gang, a major bazaar area full of alleyways and narrow roads, all chock with stores.  We are staying at the ‘Hotel Cottage Yes Please’, recommended by a friend. I had called the hotel last week to confirm a place and of course, I didn’t get the exact address and so, on looking it up online find there are maybe 3-4 or four hotels in New Delhi with the same or similar name and couldn’t find the place I had booked a room in.  So I ended up booking a room in three hotels, all ‘Yes Please’, and hoped I would find one of them, which we did.

Our first day in Delhi and we were good tourists, going to see the Red Fort and the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid, built by no less than Shah Jahan, the man behind the Taj Mahal. They are both in Old Delhi, an intensely congested area, especially around the bazaar area of Chandni Chowk. Walking from the Red Fort to the Mosque was intense for my mother – the traffic was just crazy, horns blazing, no paths, rubble in the road, the usual state of affairs in India. Who said India has changed - nothing has changed! This is the India I knew 30 years ago, including being relentlessly harassed by rickshaw wallas, postcard wallas, map wallas and other wallas. (A walla is a dude, a bloke, a man who does things, like washing clothes which is called a dhobi walla or the man desultory pulling a rope moving a fan in the old days of Raj, called a punka walla).

Getting into the mosque was a trip.  Entrance is free but using a camera cost 200 rupees. When I said I wouldn’t use the camera, the man said it made no difference.  If I took a camera in there, I had to pay and as there was no place to keep it, I had to pay. Ah, India, how I love you. Some beautiful architecture inside, but already we are a bit maxed out with such things and we leave soon after.

Then it was down to Connaught Circus, the posh shopping area in the city, where rich Indians go and tourists also spend time shopping, eating, doing business.  It’s a huge circle, about 400 metres in diameter with 3 circles of traffic, one inside the area of the stores, the others surrounding them on the outside.  We walk for a while and after seeing many restaurants and deciding not to go in them, for whatever reason, we have left our choices behind, except for McDonalds, KFC and TGI Fridays.  Yes, they are here!! So we start talking to a friendly tuk tuk driver (3 wheel taxis for the uninitiated) who said he would take us to a good and cheap Indian restaurant, which wasn’t cheap at all but was pretty good, but which we realize after was a place with two different prices, one for gringos and one for the locals and which gives a commission to tuk tuk drivers who bring people there. Sigh! We ate, we left and got ripped off again in a tuk tuk back to the hotel, where fortunately we are given a bigger room, but with no window still. Windows are extra!