I feel brand new waking up in the morning. My biggest worry was that I could not fall asleep because of the time difference and therefore I would wake up so late the day after that it would take time away from my sightseeing tours. Most likely the stress of the long flight has been beneficial for my sleep and now I fell like I’m ready to conquer the world. We don’t have any programs for the day so we decide to take it easy and just go to Nehru Park (the equivalent of our Central Park) to attend the 4th annual Jazz Festival later that evening. I am more excited about tomorrow though, since we will be visiting the Red Fort and the earth of Old Delhi.
The Red Fort, Lal Qil’ah, was been built in the seventeenth century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the same that had commissioned the Taj Mahal, when he had decided to move the capital of his empire from Agra to Delhi. The visit at the fort is interesting, the property huge and the building inside very intriguing, but two hour spent inside the fortress are more than enough for me. I’m not very fond of monument as much as I am of the Indian people and their faces, and the dynamic of everyday life. I cant’ wait to be running around in the old city and that’s just because I have no idea what lies in front of me. We rent a rickshaw with a guide, for a total of 2OO rupees per hour, according to Vikram and 200 rupees per day, according to Bhawna. Unfortunately I do no speak Hindi so even if I was there during the negotiation, I have no idea of what they told each other. The price is so ridiculously low that it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
I can definitely say that this place is the most organized disorganization I’ve ever seen in my life. I only pray I can come out alive. Vehicles run at about one inch from each other, if you are lucky that is. I’m surrounded by thousand of rickshaws, used by tourists as well as locals, cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and carts. There are no such things as right of way, stops or direction of travel. They come from everywhere: left, right, they overtake you, they cut right in front of you, the suddenly appear from no-where and I swear, if they could fly, I would have a swarm of them humming over my head. I laugh my heart out, the same heart that jumps out of my chest every ten second while our driver zigzags in such confusion that my head spins around as if I were drunk and I start thinking of all my friends. I know some of the Italians could go through this, some of them may be a little skeptical, but if think of my American friends, I know they would not be able to deal with all of this and I they would try, their air will turn white.
Our guide takes us through all the different areas of the old city: the antiques and brass quarter, the shoe quarter, the bridal quarter (weddings are a huge business in India) where a multitude of store, from the hole in the wall to the huge show room, sell everything necessary and unnecessary for the most important day of your life: saris, ribbons, streamers, laces and jewels. It’s an explosion of colors and sparkles in this crowded and narrow street. So narrow that, to avoid the collision with another rickshaw coming the other way, a sari got stuck on the hood of our rickshaw while we keep going with a man behind us screaming something that does not sound like a compliment to me. But again, I do not speak Hindi so I might be wrong…but I doubt it. My favorite part though is the spice market. There’s the lady selling petals and flower necklaces and there are all the different stores with barrels and containers full of scented and tasty goods. There’s this very fine powder coming from the spices in the air that makes me sneeze and makes my nose itch, while this time our guide take us on the roofs of the buildings overlooking the very busy market and where I can stare at the sunset of another day of my vacation in India. The only thing I miss to see are the cows: so a popular country song comes to mind, I think “where have all the cows gone”? In my opinion, they could not take the chaos of these streets either and run away!
We head back home and on the way to Tej Abode, even if the traffic is still intense and the honking has not stopped, everything around us seems so much more peaceful right now compare to what we just went through. Yeah, the city of the extremes, that’s absolutely right!