Saturday, 30 January 2016

Welcome to India!

Namaste 🙏🏻

We arrived safely following an (very) early morning stopover in Dubai so very little sleep on the plane. The sunrise through the plane window was compensation though - the second line is the reflection in the wing. 

Hand art on the ground and at check-in in Indira Ghandi airport, Delhi.

We hit the ground running and after a hair-raising drive (more later!) to our hotel launched straight into a walking tour of Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk - the huge market area where each street is dedicated to different items. Shops range from tiny to quite large emporiums, but business is always conducted from the floor. 

It was already dark and our guide Harry was anxious to show us everything so after being dropped off in the middle of a busy road (cars four abreast all jostling for position, and just enough room to open the doors) we set off at a pace through the narrow streets, built that way for shade and to keep things cool.

First there was Silver Street, where this roti seller had set up his stall ...

then the bridal market. It's coming up to wedding season in India, and this is big business. Shop after shop selling saris ...

Opulent braids and gold-work ...

Wedding favours made from Rupee notes ...

Silk threads and beads ...

More saris - this time a large wholesale business, packing saris into huge bundles for shipping, stitched closed and loaded onto a handcart three deep (2meters tall) to launch into the manic streets.

And one single shop (maybe there were more that were already closed for the night?) for the groom!

Occasional vegetable sellers set up shop wherever they can find a space - given that the street cleaners are on strike this seems a risky strategy.

And those streets, teeming with every sort of non- motorised vehicle and mopeds - easy to get boxed in by rickshaws.

Great wiring!

A street where wealthy Jain merchants lived - faded grandeur.

Next the food market - those white blocks are paneer (curd cheese).

All sorts of nuts, dates, figs (hanging in strings).

Packed up for wholesale - coming in or going out - who knows?  Everyone is an entrepreneur. 

All interspersed with temples of every faith - this one is an important Sikh temple, but we also saw a Jain temple, a Hindu Monkey God temple, a Catholic church, the biggest Mosque in ?India - with numbered gates like a football stadium, and tiny street temples. Delhi is home to 20 million people and religion is part of everyday life - we saw men praying outside their closed shops and by the side of the road. But very few women out - anywhere.

On and on through busy streets trying to keep up with Harry and still stop for photos; trying not to get run over and not get lost. We noticed little bundles of chilis hanging above shop doorways; these are to ward off evil spirits and are renewed weekly on Saturdays. 


Finally the fireworks market. Only one shop open by now - these are Catherine wheels.

And of course, the street of bike shops especially  for Mike - not like any you've ever seen before!


And then we were picked up by our driver to return to the hotel. The streets were as busy as ever but we made it so now we've eaten (surreally, at the hotel's Chinese/Thai restaurant) we have to go to bed - a 4am wake-up tomorrow so we don't miss the 6am fast train to Agra.

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