We flew into Delhi on our way to see the Taj. We only budgeted one night because we really wanted to spend most of our holiday in smaller cities. With very little time—just an afternoon, it seemed like we wouldn’t see much of anything. But I found an amazing guy, Dhrov, online to give us a walking tour of Old Delh
We crammed on the Delhi Metro (foolish? intrepid? still not clear) and arrived at the Chandra Bazaar a little awestruck. It’s kind of hard to describe the chaos, stink, cacophony and beauty of India. All these senses are crashing on top of one another and like the narrow twisted streets; you never know what is coming next. A cow? A cart loaded with bricks? A motor scooter with a family of 5 no wait 6 (don’t forget to count the weeks old baby in the mother’s arms), a raucous procession of young men drumming and Bollywood dancing?
As wandered through the streets with Dhrov no one approached us to make a sale or beg for rupees. His escort was like a force field around us, allowing us to experience the hustle bustle without the hustle hustle.
The lassi was served icy cold in a clay cup with foamy froth and a spoon. It was an elixir of cool energy. It was almost like a creamy magic potion — it took away my heat and fatigue, soothed my spicy tongue and sipping in the shade of the busy market street made me feel like I was a million miles away from home (in a good way).
Then we stopped by a henna man and Emma and I got designs on our hands. It was lovely to have a quite sit-down and take a moment to chat with Dhrov. The work on our hands was beautiful — complex swirls and shading textures within the lines. The artist makes up the design (called a Mendi) as he works, embellishing as the mood strikes. Women typically get their hands and feet patterned for weddings and special events.
It’s like a temporary tattoo — a vegetable dye that stains your skin brown for days before it eventually fades. The dimension of the henna was something I had never seen before. Now we looked like we really belonged in our new Indian home with the beautiful Mendi.
Then Dhrov hired bike rickshaws and we were off through the bumpy, half-paved streets. Speeding down insanely crowded streets on a bike rickshaw is similar to riding a horse. You have to sway and keep your weight balanced but at the same time all limbs need to stay inside the cart as possible to avoid collision with other vehicles passing sometimes inches from our cart. It was a thrill ride to say the least.
We ended up back at Dhrov’s home where his wife and daughter cooked a wonderful vegetarian Thali dinner for us. We relaxed on his roof terrace — teaching Max how to fly fighting kites and setting off a few fireworks to end the evening.
PS before Josh arrived in Mumbai, Emma and I went out for a shopping adventure. I hope to write about it soon. But I have to mention that wearing Indian clothing here is not only comfortable, but presents us to the world as travelers who want an experience outside of their understanding. I hope our openness and delight with India continues.