According to my original itinerary, I should be in Africa somewhere watching a giraffe doing the Limbo. But things change in life. As Winston Churchill said, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." I think I am on the path to perfection or a dead end, depending on how you look at it. So I am still traveling through Asia after eight months and my next stop is India. India was not part of my original itinerary (inching closer to perfection) but the more I heard about it, the more it attracted me. I realized that I was on the doorstep of the world's second most populus country and all I had to do was open the door. But it was a big intimidating door that housed one billion people, immense poverty, the hindu caste system, Ghandi, the beginning of Buddhism, and the Taj Mahal. But I was mesmerized by other traveler's experiences in India. In the same breath, they would utter the words "amazing", "life-changing", "horrible" and "rapacious." I had to see India for myself. With my things packed, a thousand pills of Imodium AD and a "Don't give up attitude" (and a credit card in case I wanted to leave immediately) I boarded my plane to India.
From the start, everything seemed to work out. On my flight to Delhi, I befriended a nice English-Thai couple who regarded India as their second home. We shared a taxi to the backpacker area of Pahar Graj. Pahar Graj is a maze of alleys filled with small shops, scooters, bikes, dogs, and cows. Walking through the main bazaar you are befriended by Indian merchants trying to sell you everything from underwear to India rugs. During the day I would explore different areas of Delhi and at night I would eat dinner with my friends, watch some cricket and chat about India.
Delhi is crowded. There are traffic jams, pollution, the relentless sound of horns and lots and lots of people. I spent a total of five days exploring the different areas of Delhi. I rode a bike rik-shaw through the narrow alleys of old Delhi to the Red Fort. I used the new subway system to jaunt around the city. I visited the numerous sites dedicated to Ghandi - a museum, his old house and the site where he was cremated. And like most developing Asian cities, the influence of the West is abound. In an area named Connaught Place, stores selling western brands like Nike and Rolex are the main retailers. A McDonald's and TGIF attract throngs of India consumers. Western companies are slowly establishing themselves in India. One of my favorite spots was a place called Jantar Mantar. It was built for astrological purposes. Amidst the hustle and flow of Delhi sits the salmon colored oblong structures that were built in 1700's. My last night in Delhi coincided with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Everything was decorated in flowers and lights and the people lit fireworks throughout the night. It was a nice way to end my stay in Delhi as I headed to Dharmasala and the Himalayan mountains of the north.
India: An Area of Darkness - V.S. Naipal
India: A Wounded Civilization - V.S. Naipal
India: A Million Mutinies - V.S. Naipal
Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
Untouchable - Mulk Raj Anand