Notes from Delhi: R is for Random

We were treated to a potent dust storm yesterday. I staggered on to the terrace only to be blown back inside, blinded by dust particles. To make up for it, there was ample lightning and a spectacular sunset though. Instead of the milk and water sunsets Delhi glories in, the sky exploded into a surreal yellow-orange.  Plus, rain after 4 months! I feel like I should add a few more exclamation marks to commemorate this moment. There you go —>  !!!!

My housemates stared in bemusement as I stood there, face turned skywards, eyes closed for a glorious half hour. Then I started sneezing and reluctantly went inside. Terribly anticlimactic.

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Second hand book bazaars are a god send. Trainspotting is painful to read. I can feel my vocabulary slipping away with every expletive.

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It was supposed to be an evil eye charm. It’s common enough over here. There are keytags, bracelets, chains and all kinds of souvenirs made with it and I didn’t for a moment believe that it was going to protect me. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel an irrational sense of dismay as the keytag slipped out of my head and exploded into blue shards all over the room.

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Visited East India recently. Loved it and would love to go back if possible, when finances and time permit. For now, I’ll have to be content gazing at the ridiculous amount of pictures I took while there.

At Darjeeling, one of the tourist attractions is the sunrise at Tiger Hill. We woke up at 4am and sleepily joined the multitudes who braved the bitter winds and cold (Frozen fingers, cold noses, fun times) to see the sunrise. Once we reached the ticket point we were asked if we would like tickets for a standard sunrise or a deluxe one.  The things we put a price on, sometimes.

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At Gangtok, the wine shops open at 7am. The grocery shops, at 9.

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Meet my yak. His name was Changi. He was a nice yak – old, slow fellow. We got along swimmingly.

My guide was also incredibly sweet. After watching me gracefully scramble onto Changi, he gauged quickly  that I was not built for clambering over snow covered hills (In hindsight I think my loud cries of ‘I am an island person! I am not built for mountains! These feet were meant for flat land!’  may have given me away) He very patiently guided me and held me firmly as I flailed about spectacularly in the snow, the graceful ballerina that I am. He also realized that it was my first snow experience and proceeded to provide me with a steady supply of massive snow balls. Thank you, sir.

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Picture above shows a girl who has just slid down the hill on a blue polythene bag and is overcome with hysterical laughter. The poor chap at the bottom is the man she has just knocked over like a bowling pin while she hurtled down.  No one was hurt in the photographing of this picture.

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M has left the house and will be leaving the city in a few days. Delhi will not be the same. All my memories of discovering this city are intertwined with her and I’m more than a little hesitant to face my next year over here without her. M was the first friend I made here and definitely the closest. It was M who introduced me to the fantastic concoction that is badam milk and the vast spectrum of Delhi’s street food. It was M who made this strange city feel like home. M was also my exploring partner; equipped with her expansive knowledge of the city and my enthusiasm, we’d take on Delhi’s cafes, seedy streets, monuments, cultural festivals, the music scene and exhibitions every week.

I’m going to miss her.

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Happy holidays to everyone back at home. Here’s wishing you a peaceful Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. Stay safe.

Notes from Delhi: Etc, Etc

It’s 4.30 am. I’ve just finished four loads of laundry and downed a particularly potent cup of lemon tea (3 tea bags in one cup).

My writing has become worryingly dumbed down. Sentences have become alarmingly staccato-like and the content here on this blog vacillates between touristy Delhi posts or ‘OMG. I miss home’ posts. So instead of griping about lost mojo,  I’ve forced myself to sit down, write whatever pops up into my head and try and get into the groove once again (I can’t believe I just used that phrase). I can’t promise that everything is going to make sense but at least I can get some of the thoughts festering in my head out there.

My work is cut out for me though. The left side of my keyboard stopped working a few weeks back and I’m left to the mercies of the onscreen keyboard because I’ve been too chicken to battle the Hindi speaking computer guys at Nehru Place and too afraid of being ripped off. Let’s do this.

 

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I like meeting new people and I’m always in search of kindred spirits. Kindred spirits are sadly far and few between so most times I settle for conversation chemistry – because there are conversations and then there are conversations.

While kindred spirits are in short supply, conversation chemistry can occur in the most unexpected places. Throw in interesting people and good atmosphere or even an email thread with the right conditions, and the results are positively electric. Good chemistry is completely independent of the content and context of the conversation. The secret is in the people who partake in it and sometimes the most unexpected of people have the most to offer. I may not always be the most vocal in discussions but I love basking in the atmosphere of great conversation. It’s heady, intoxicating  sometimes.

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Delhi is a complex city. It’s easy to lose faith in a city like this. There are times it welcomes you and times when it repels. This city leaves its mark on you – whether good or bad, is entirely dependent on your survival mechanism. But it’s also a city which surprises you. And I love that.

One of my favourite memories of Delhi so far is at a little cafe in Paharganj. M  hadn’t been to Paharganj, so I took her there. It was Ramazan and it was time to break fast. The owner of the cafe ushered us to a table. He asked if either of us were fasting (rohza, it’s called in Hindi) and upon hearing that I was fasting, insisted that we sit with him and break fast. He waved aside my protests firmly and I was pushed into an Ifthar banquet of sorts. Picture three tables pushed together and white bowls piled high with apples, grapes, pineapple, dates and oranges. Plates of pakoras and samosas, bottles of juice and middle Eastern dishes I’d never seen before dotted the table.

The thing is, during Ramazan, I used to break fast with a cheese sandwich, dates and water. I don’t make a fuss about what I eat – I’m far too tired by the time the sun sets and I just grab some dinner later on. So when this stranger sat me down at his table and fed me this veritable fest I was so grateful I could weep.

Thank you to a kind stranger — you may not have known it but you made a very tired, homesick girl’s day that evening.