Hounded in New Delhi

The night train from Varanasi to Delhi was comfortable. We got a good night’s sleep.

The trains have been generally better than I thought they would be apart from their timeliness. It’s rare for a train to get anywhere on time. For some trains, that’s not surprising because routes can be several hundred kilometres, running over two days, and delays accumulate.

Our time in Delhi was a rest before going north. We spent the day visiting a few sights. The first place we visited was Jama Masjid, a well-known mosque. After leaving this, we made our way to Chawri Bazaar. On our way there, we were approached by the usual auto and cycle rickshaw drivers. One, however, kept following us, telling us that it was a long way to the bazaar. It was, in fact, only 1km! He stayed with us all the way to the bazaar. We couldn’t shake him off. At one point, in desperation, we crouched down behind a car to see if we could escape him! When we got up, we saw him looking puzzled and alarmed before he spotted us and cracked open a smile. It was only when we got to the bazaar itself that he decided it was futile to keep offering us a ride!

After the bazaar, we went to the iconic India Gate and the excellent Museum of Modern Art. In most places, there are two entrance rates, sometimes three: one for locals, occasionally one for Indian tourists and finally foreigners. Sometimes the difference can be tenfold. When I buy a ticket, I usually ask in Hindi: “one ticket please”. Sometimes they give me the Indian rate, sometimes they ask for ID and I tell them I’m a foreigner. At the museum, I actually asked for two foreigner tickets. The woman selling the tickets said, “but you look Indian!” and gave me an Indian ticket instead!

When I started my trip, I was warned about the scams and crime in Delhi. Therefore I was somewhat on edge initially. However, Delhi turned out to be a pleasant city.

One of the best parts of Delhi is the relatively new metro. Built 12 years ago, it has spacious stations, air-conditioned trains and women-only carriages. It’s incredible that a comprehensive metro network can be built relatively quickly in an already developed city. The airport express metro gets you to the airport in 25 minutes. Given the traffic levels in Delhi, the metro is a convenient and fast way to travel around.

An unusual aspect of the metro is that there is airport-style security checks at each station entrance. Bags are scanned and another guard frisks you.

You are not allowed to take alcohol into the metro. We bought some whisky for someone on the way home from our metro. The following day when we were going to the airport, we took the metro, having packed the bottle. Of course, the whisky bottle showed up on the scan like a bright Christmas tree! It was pretty incriminating. I had to use my charm then beg the guards to let us take it through. Eventually they let us through and we didn’t even have to bribe them!

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