>I have a few hours before my first official tour of Delhi begins. Today we will be visiting the Qutub Minar, a victory tower begun in 1199 and finished in 1368, the mausoleum of Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor, and the B'hai Temple (which will mean I have been to 3 out of 7 worldwide; I was at the one in Haifa, Israel and the other one is right in the backyard of my childhood home in Wilmette, IL). Then the group is on to the Rashtrapti Bhawan, the official resident of the Indian president, then Parliament House. At night we are seeing a laser light show at the Red Fort. Quite the action packed day.
My unofficial introduction to India has been full of mishegoss, or craziness as they say in Yiddish. At the airport, our group was besieged by people who attempted to load people's luggage onto various buses that had nothing to do with us. Our guide yelled at the swarms repeatedly, but this did not dissuade them. Fortunately, no one touched my little bags. Maybe I looked too hostile. Our guide insists that we call him Kumar although that is not his name. He thinks it is easier than this real name, which is Apurva. This cracks me up.
One guy (my friend Ray says he reminds her of Piggy in Lord of the Flies, and that is the perfect description, although he is middle-aged rather than a teen, but just as fucking irritating) in our group is already practically begging me to stab him in the face. Apurva/Kumar was telling us not to drink the water, blah blah blah, when he began shouting from the back of the bus.
"Excuse me! Excuse me! I called the Coca-Cola company back home and asked them if it is safe to drink Coke here, and they said yes," he wheezed. "Is that true?"
Apurva/Kumar then launched into an annoyingly long and unnecessary explanation of the high standards maintained by Coke and Pepsi bottling plants in India. I would much rather have heard more information about the customs of the country. Piggy also yelled this morning at the currency exchange guy at the reception desk for giving him 500 rupee bills, which is about $12 US. This is not excessively large if one plans to shop at a store.
Anyway, Ray and her friend John and I are sharing a room, and the hotel insisted that they gave us a triple. Upon entering the room, we found two twin beds. We returned downstairs and said it was not a triple, which then led to a little argument, and the manager going upstairs to verify that we know what beds look like and that there were three of them. Much to his surprise, we are not total morons. Finally, a mattress was carted in, and by 1:30 am, we went to bed.
We got up a little before 7:00 and set out for the big breakfast that is included with our trip. Then we headed out to look around a little bit for ourselves. Let me say for the record that if I had taken a trip like this even five years earlier, I would have been crying within 10 minutes.
The hotel directed us to a bank a little ways down the road so that we could use the ATM. This was all fine, except that we decided that instead of doubling back to use the route the hotel recommended to us to get to Connaught Place, a shopping area that is mostly closed on Sunday but nearby, I looked at a map and decided we could go another way. Of course, we got a little lost. Under normal circumstances, I would just stand on a corner and stare at things until I could figure out where I was. This is not possible here, as men are constantly running up to you as you (white person) walk down the street.
"Hello! Can I help you? Where are you going? Want a ride?" and on and on even when you politely decline help. We were followed by a variety of people at different points on our walk. Stopping for even a second could have meant we were surrounded, so we sort of pushed on. The worst was a man with an infant who followed us forever and jabbered in Hindi (or Urdu) the entire time. I would have given him some rupees, but the bank only gave 500 rupee bills. Plus, I was not inclined to handle my wallet on the street. After a bit, we found three young women and asked them where we were, and although they actually were no more clear than we were, they had a general idea and we followed them until we saw a sign for our hotel and got back.
Personally, I found it overwhelming, but once I had a sense of where I was, I would have not minded trying to set out again. I didn't generally feel unsafe, although I kept an eye on my bag more than usual. Ray was definitely done for the morning, though. So now we are back at the hotel waiting for the group. I decided to take a few minutes to blog my experience thus far. The hotel is basically anally raping people for internet access ($8 for 30 minutes!!!!!), but I didn't see any internet cafes on our aborted exploration anyway. So it goes. Hopefully, our group experience will be a bit less intense this afternoon, although I am not holding my breath.
More adventures to come.