Plenty to see and hear and feel yet in Old Delhi

September 29th, 200911:35 pm @


Just another day in Old Delhi

Walking around Old Delhi can be like being in a Dickensian version of Ulysses. All five senses get such a constant workout that the brain’s only option is to hit record on its own organic VCR, go to sleep and hope to deal with all that shit later over several stiff drinks in a quiet bar.

Being in the area on one of India’s many festival days leaves those same senses feeling as though they’ve not only had a workout, they’ve signed up for a year-long personal training session with a sadistic prick who was thrown out of the SAS for being a little too on the crazy side of the ledger.

I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore when a huge blue guy with a comedy beard started waving a sword about, surrounded by blokes playing drums and trumpets while an overly decorated cow gobbed a huge wad of spit at passers-by.

Meanwhile, a huge monkey with enormous teeth and even bigger balls leapt from balcony to balcony looking as though he was spoiling for a fight, although it wasn’t clear with who or what. Perhaps the cow was in for it.

The shops below were festooned with brilliantly coloured signs advertising “world’s largest fireworks”. Next to them were tacked small, hand-drawn signs pleading “No Smoking”. On the street stood buckets of sand and water – no match for the conflagration that would ensue if the monkey above decided to light up after showing the cow who was boss.

Street vendors carried enormous displays of face masks, where the Hindu monkey god Hanuman shared rack space with Mickey Mouse. Their colleagues sold whistles that sounded like babies crying, a huge hit with the hordes of children running about trying to catch the arrows being fired from another Hindu god on a passing float.

Finally, sweet relief in a side street drinking from a clay cup. Cool and calming, the sweet youghurt was sublime, and the antithesis of its surroundings. More foodstuffs, this time parathas – fried bread, really – from another street-side outlet in a smoky corner where packs of female police officers in khaki saris and berets giggled and jostled their way through the crowd.

The restaurant, doing a roaring trade, was packed with young twenty-somethings who could be auditioning for a Bollywood film.

Then, a traffic jam of cycle rickshaws – the quietest and least smoggy traffic jam I’ve been in – outside a Sikh temple, where the devout were crowding to get in while two men watched the street quietly from a balcony above. Across the road a sign advertised “Guru Nanak linen”.
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