Wait! Have I arrived in the right city? The shinning new airport terminal patterned after Bangkok’s airport edifice is a delightful shock. In fact, because of the 2010 Common Wealth Games, Delhi has received a much-needed facelift. Not only is there a new airport terminal, but also a new Train station, a wonderfully extended metro system (now one can even go to and from the airport), and the shabby streets previously full of beggar children performing tricks among the moving traffic for small change have been replaced by lovely tree-lined boulevards empty of any distractions.
Although Delhi was much improved, marvelously clean and shinny, for me it had lost some of its lackluster grubbiness of my past visits, and I felt like a third world emigrant magically dropped into London’s Harrods Department store. But when the taxi finally arrived in the more earthy Paharganj backpackers’ area, and I saw two cows outside the Rama Krishna Ashram metro station, a pile of cow dung nearby, and the hole-in-the-wall tourists shops and tea stalls, I felt immersed again in the Delhi I had previously experienced. The western poseurs wearing caravan pants, with beards and single dreadlocks down their backs, head kerchiefs and tattoos, still roamed the area. Many were traveling with their ‘ladies’, who were also clothed in ‘1960s’ regimental dress; opaque harem pants or long skirts, Indian shirts, bangles, ankle brackets, and lots of body piercings. While a marinade of sihdus (supposed, and some very real holy men), draped in various shades of orange to soft pinks carried their miniature silver buckets and red powder throughout the area hoping for donations in exchange for placing a red dot blessing on my forehead. It was all there, thank God, and happily I settled into one of my favorite guesthouses, Cottage Yes Please, located on the edge of all this lovely madness. Then I immediately headed across the street for a delicious Indian dinner.
Delhi was getting hot and I only remained for a short visit to make arrangements for my friend Nancy Jo’s and my travels together in October. After going out to Khan Market for a delightful but somewhat disastrous shopping trip (I can’t resist the goodies at Fabindia and Anoki), I was off by train to what I hoped would be the cooler climes of Rishikesh, advertised as the yoga center of the world.