Our life at the moment is a bit like the famous malayalam movie ‘Midhunam’, where I behave like Urvashi’s character Sulu while the Man is toiling away like ‘Sethuettan’ in office and at home. In the last few days, the scene in our house was somewhat like the initial parts of this video. Our trip didn’t happen and I was sulking more because the airline company refunded me only Rs. 800 and lost 9k! I cringe at the thought of the manner I behaved… (eeeeeeishhhhh)!! Don’t judge me pls… I am just human and the Man super-human!
In an attempt to do something interesting, yesterday I booked myself on a DelhiByCycle tour of Old Delhi. I tried rounding up the Man, tried coaxing my friends, but to no avail. Had a few security concerns since I had to be in Daryaganj at 6.30 am. But considering that this initiative was set up by a cool Dutchman Jack Leenaars, had very positive feedback on Tripadvisor from non-Indians and only a passionate adventurer will be ready at 6.30am in Old Delhi, gut said I was in safe hands. Since I was in a bad mood, all the Man warned is to ‘be safe’ 😀
So 5.45 am, I zoomed down the Expressway, made it on time, met the charming Sudheer and his co-guide Raju. And my ‘cycle-mates’ were 4 brit babes and 2 german gents. Armed with our orange bikes, we headed out to walled city. We cycled through the wholesale chicken/lamb market (the perfect sight to kickstart you into vegetarianism), narrow gullys, twisted turns watching the city waking up. While some people snuggled cozily under their blankets on the pavement, others were busy at work.
First stop was Turkman Gate, the 17th century structure standing next to the modern (read ugly) glass Delhi Stock Exchange Building. Our Guide Sudheer set the mood- this contrast yet co-existence of the old and the new worlds. Peddled our way to Charwi Bazar, which I didn’t know was the pick-up hub of the olden days. I wasn’t even aware that the buildings looked very beautiful since whenever I didn’t have the courage to look up due to chaos during normal hours! We then headed to Khari Baoli and en route saw sacks of marigold dumped in the flower mandi- bright yellow wave amidst dirty sacks. A trip to KB is good for the respiratory system as the spices choke you and then you sneeze your way to a clean pair of lungs! KB was quite active at 7.30 am- labourers loading and unloading sacks of pungent spices. Climbed up 4 floors to the terrace of a huge warehouse, which we were told was a haveli that served ONE family!! The view from the terrace was the highlight of the trip for me- rose petals set out to dry, the serene Fatehpuri Masjid on one side, the bustling warehouse on the other and the kabootarbazi training. Kabootarbazi is the coolest thing I learnt on this trip- men training flocks of pigeons to fly in a certain direction post which teams send their flocks out together, the pigeons get confused
and land up in different flock only to then be returned to their rightful owners upon payment of money. Remember Om Puri’s antics in this song- kabootarbazi is what he is doing and the sounds in the song other than the female singers are the calls made by the kabootar keeper to his flock. 😉
To experience the ‘contrast’, we then left KB via Mori Gate and headed to the serene Civil Lines, riding past Raj Bhawan, St. Xaviers School and came to office of the District Magistrate for tea- while sitting on the pavement! 😛
A cutting chai later, we got back into the chaos and headed to Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi Railway Station, labour market, Red Fort and finally for a much deserved breakfast of nihari at Karim’s. The huge khameeri roti served with succulent lamb floating in oil and fragrant curry was devoured by one and all. A 15 min ride later, we were back at our starting point.
Despite knowing about most of the places I visited today, this trip was still an eye opener for me:
A Dutchman set up an amazing cycling tour in the heart of old Delhi- how enterprising is that!
Kabootarbaazi- such a delightful sport using birds who, till now I thought, were things that pooped all over my balcony!!
Venturing out of my comfort zone and solo explorations are actually enjoyable- I didn’t miss company- I think I liked it A LOT!!!
We Indians treat our visitors disrespectfully- no! lack of education of labour class/lower class is no excuse for shouting out foreign maal, videshi cheez dekho, hellooo welcome to india jee while rubbing your balls! You don’t need education to be cultured! The non-indians on the tour were aware of the catcalls but still enjoyed the trip and were quite excited. I think I was more overwhelmed by things around than them!!!!
I gave Raju, the co-guide a tough time as I had confidence issues with the bike- the only indian on the trip had issues cycling on indian roads!!!!!
There exists another India which is diametrically opposite from the part where I live in and I consider myself blessed for all that I have. There are genuine issues that need urgent attention such as population control, cleaner environment, sanitation facilities, job creation, creation of a culture that respects women and our guests!!!!!!
PS: special shout out to Sudheer and the ever helpful Raju who I gave a very tough time with my low confidence cycling!