This post is a continuation of Finding Hotel Broadway and my description of my first full day in India. I’m in Old Delhi. I would have posted earlier, but as my frustrated post of two days ago describes, internet is pretty spotty here in India.
I walk out of Hotel Broadway around 11:30 am and was glad to be moving on from what was meant to be just a short excursion to start my exploration of Delhi. (Read My first day in Delhi and Finding Hotel Broadway).
I start to hoof it to the Red Fort, a major site in Old Delhi and a bit of a walk. A tuktuk pulls up to me and I think: “Not again!” The driver goes: “Where you go? Red Fort?” Hmm … He was correct!? I stop. He goes, “5 Rupees!” (A price well below market price: even I knew that. It was a give away). I think, “This guy is smart …” I mean what a good way to lure someone in. I think, “I’ll pay him 5 Rupees and be on my way. Let’s see what happens …” I get in and his game starts right away, but it was good – he knows his mark. He drives me to the Red Fort and starts his seduction to be my driver for the rest of the day. Nice and indirect: “Take you wherever you want me to go. Pay me what you want, if you are happy.” His name is Akbar.
He offers to drop me off at the Red Fort, wait for me and then take me on a cycle rickshaw all the way down Chandni Chowk, the main street in Old Delhi, which is exactly what I had planned to do. So, I say, “Ok.” He becomes my driver for the rest of the day, and it was mostly a good experience.
I knew when he picked me up that he was giving me slick game, and I was warned about these kinds of shenanigans. I commit to one thing at a time and feel like I could end the transaction whenever I wanted. The bottom line is that he took me to places I wanted to go (more, actually, than I thought I was going to do that day) and showed me many hidden sites. He did take me, however, to a few shops I didn’t think about going to. The deal is that he gets a commission for the people he brings to these specific shops, but he wasn’t pushy. If I didn’t want to go somewhere, we moved on. I didn’t buy anything at these shops, but BOY, OH BOY did the shop keepers try their best to get their commerce in my hands and my Rupees in theirs! I learned much about the ways of India.
I didn’t get any great history lessons from Akbar, but I didn’t mind. Rather, I saw – very quickly – much of Delhi and got introduced to some of its inner workings (albeit from a certain view point), which is exactly what I wanted for the day. I felt like my role, my position in this new machine I was in, became defined: I was the Western who helped keep this gray-market going. Akbar and I were two interlocking cogs in a machine, serving a very specific purpose to one another and to a larger cross-cultural mixture. It was a commercial baptism into India, and just like a religious baptism: you only do it once.
The video is a few clips from my ride down Chandni Chowk. Wish I could show more … Keep in mind that Chandni Chowk is not just an old road, but it is also a wide, well-developed road. The streets I was on earlier in the morning were much more crowded, mostly dirt and narrower and crazier!
The next day, Sunday, I spent on my own. There is too much to go into and to describe in detail; so, tomorrow I’ll post pictures of my 3 days in Delhi … if the internet is working for me! And, then I’ll move on to describe Varanasi…