I CAN UNDERSTAND THE NEED FOR TOUTING, coming from an environment that is India, people has to go the extra mile just to survive. If you get to see a child beggar wandering amongst busy streets bare-footed asking for a coin or two, you’ll know notice that these are the children that are never given equal opportunities.
I do not know if it is the whole of India or only Delhi, but touts of all sorts are sprawling everywhere. My internet cafe’s young preteen business lady screamed in English, offering her services for Rs 10 per hour. The men that sells souvenirs follows you until he finds another target. Little children pleads enthusiastically for you to look at their goods. There is so much touting, I now know all their tactics within a day of their constant attacks.
Barber shaving a customer at a roadside shop built with tents
Slums erected next to paved roads, just a sight of poverty in Delhi
The only relief I got from all these insanity is during my visit to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. This Sikh temple with a golden dome was constructed in memory of the eight Sikh guru, Harkishan Dev (I learnt toiday that there are a total of ten gurus). Apart from the main hall, there is a huge tank of water which is said to have healing properties. I enjoyed people-watching for a change, while listening to the soft sounds of musical chants. Devotees here go on with their prayers without anyone interested in my fast shrinking wallet.
Me in an orange bandana at the Gurdwara
DELHITES ARE NOT FRIENDLY PEOPLE. I agree that most are kind at heart, that even the most ferocious touts refrain from cheating or killing) but me and the fellow Japanese traveler I met at the station thought that they are not as helpful as they should be. Travelers themselves too reserve some trust because the locals’ hospitality may just turn out to be an art of business. I do sincerely hope that I get an authentic smile with no strings attached once in a while, but until then, I can only make do with their protective veils.
Majnu-ka-tilla, however, is also a different part of India that I liked more. This small Tibetan colony is way out of usual tourist routes, saving it its small village charm and personality. Tibetans are beautiful people and their children even cuter. They are typically shy and honest, but are not stingy with their smiles. No one pushed me for a sell here, a welcoming change that I longed for.
Entrance at the Majnu ka-tilla Tibetan colony
My tuk-tuk driver racing through the traffic on the opposite road
I SPENT MY DAY FIGURING OUT MY NEXT DESTINATION. Given that Ladakh is impossible, I am torn between starting with Rajasthan or going north towards Haridwar and Rishikesh where the climate are milder. My main goal is to get out of Delhi, so after a long discussion with the train ticket officer, my best option will be to take the night train to Haridwar.
Trying to kill time before my midnight train, I walked the Connaught Circle one more time (this time at night, when most of the boutique shops are open). This being the most upscaled shopping area in Delhi, the Connaught is seriously lacking in enthusiasm. Half of the shops are our everyday brands such as Adidas and Reebok, while only a handful are designers’. But for the Delhites who can afford luxury, this is the place to stock up on their clothes and accessories. All the shops are guarded by security with guns, thus segregating the poor from the rich. Not wanting to go empty handed, I bought a Rajasthani travel guide for a bargained Rs 275.
Towards the end of my wait, I sat at the KFC with a large Sprite for 3 hours, writing this post. I don’t usually like to visit fast food chains when I have more local options to try out, but make this an exception, because KFC is just a perfect getaway from the touts.