Wednesday, March 2: Tao and I have agreed to meet this morning but, ridiculously, we didn’t set up a time, leaving it the night before that he would call me in the morning. I get up and eat my cauliflower pancakes and papaya & bananas with yogurt in the dining room, then take my coffee to the computer, where I catch up on emails and Facebook. I’m unable to call Tao because somehow my U.S. based BlackBerry is not getting through on any network in India. I’m in no rush because once Jayne arrives tomorrow, we have a full city tour planned and I will be burned out on Delhi if I do too much. But neither do I want to sit around all day.
Finally, around 10:30 a.m. I’m about to give up and I head out to explore Delhi on my own. Surinder gives me the idea to go to her favorite market, Dilli Haat, on Aurobindo Marg, and later to the market at Connaught Place. I walk through the gate of the “gated community” onto Vasant Kunj Road when I suddenly get a call from Tao. He says he will be here in a half hour, so I walk back inside to relax and wait.
About 10 minutes before his said arrival time, I walk out again to the main road, where I’m accosted by a group of teenage boys who ask if they can take pictures with me. We sit at a little decrepit bus stop and take photos, a garbage strewn field in the background. It’s quite cute; they’re all pulling out their mobiles and taking pictures, each posing with me in turn. Then I have one of them take a picture with my camera, with all of them around me.
Tao finally shows up in an auto-rickshaw and he takes me to a local market, the name of which eludes me. It’s a ratty market, with dirt streets and big holes in the ground and garbage strewn everywhere. This market sells cheap goods, of seemingly poor quality, and doesn’t entice me at all. We wander through, where the best things are the vegetable and flower markets on the fringes.
We catch another auto-rickshaw to Dilli Haat, a clean more upscale outdoor market which has the upscale prices to match. The haat, or market, is spread over an area of approximately 6 acres and has a typical traditional Indian village look to it, with a plaza paved with stone and brickwork and sprinkled with grass, flowering shrubs, and eucalyptus trees. It’s clean and has an airy feel to it. I’m enticed by an exotic variety of handicrafts ranging from intricate woodcarvings to embellished camel-hide footwear, to sophisticated textiles including bedding, wall hangings, pashmina shawls and scarves, to gems and beads to metal crafts.
I find a scarf I love that the vendor offers to sell me for 1,800 rupees, or a little over $40! Tao is tough; even though I know it’s too much, he insists on walking away because it’s too expensive.
We eat lunch at the outdoor food plaza; we find cuisines from North Indian to South Indian to Rajasthani. We settle on Rajasthani restaurant but I now can’t remember what I ate. After lunch, as we are walking past the stall selling the 1,800 rupee scarf, I say to Tao, I wonder if that guy will take 700 rupees (~$16). It’s such a low-ball price from his high asking price, that I know he’ll never accept it. However, we stop by and I offer him 700. He says, what’s your best price? Give me your best price. I say 700. He refuses, we walk away, and surprise (!), he calls me back and takes my 700 rupees. Though I’m shocked he takes this, I think about how in Cambodia scarves sold anywhere from $3-6. I probably still pay too much.
After the markets, Tao wants to go back to the City Walk Mall where he’d like to watch a Bollywood movie with me, Tanu Weds Manu. It’s in Hindi of course with no English subtitles, but he insists he’ll translate as we are watching. I can see this will be a problem as I often have trouble understanding Tao’s English!! Nonetheless, we go there and while waiting for the movie to start, we wander around the mall, where he is determined to buy a shirt. He tries a number of nice button-up shirts on and models them for me, asking my opinion. Finally we go into the Levi’s store, where I buy a shirt and he finds one he likes, and voila, we’re both happy.
We watch the movie, a convoluted story about a doctor from London, Manu, who comes back to India to find a wife. A meeting is set up with the beautiful but feisty Tanu. At the meeting time, her parents claim that she is ill, and has taken tablets which have made her drowsy. While Manu talks to her, he finds out that she is asleep and doesn’t hear a word he says. Despite this, he falls in love with her on sight, and says to his parents that he is willing to get married to her. While on a trip with both families, where exuberant Bollywood songs and dances break out on the train, Tanu takes him aside, and says that she intentionally took five tablets to fall asleep, therefore trying to get rejected by him. She tells him in vulgar language that she loves someone else, and shows Manu her boyfriend’s name tattooed on her breasts. She demands that Manu reject her. Though he has fallen in love with her, Manu asks his father to announce that he cannot marry her.
The story goes on, in typical Bollywood fashion, for 2 hours, and though I can’t understand the dialog despite Tao’s attempts to translate, I can get the general gist of things. It’s fun to see a Bollywood movie in India.
In an upscale mall restaurant, we then have a snack of delicious shrimp with several dipping sauces and I have two glasses of wine. While at the restaurant, I meet a couple from Kabul who invite me to come and visit them in their home one day. We exchange emails. They are in India because the wife is having some kind of medical procedure done there.
A fun day in Delhi with my friend Tao. Tomorrow, Jayne arrives, and I have told Tao our schedule is packed and I won’t be able to see him again. It’s sad because he is a great friend and I enjoy his company very much. But it’s unlikely I will ever live in India, especially after my experiences on this trip, the stories of which will follow in due time!