I have to admit, the 33-hour train ride was actually quite pleasant, except for one little incident midway through. The monsoon rain had caused a landslide on the tracks, and after 6 hours we’d have to get off the train and take a 2 hour busride to the next station. Didn’t sound too bad.
The problem was the way the crowd disembarked the train and got onto the bus. You’d have thought it was the last bus out of Auschwitz- there was a mob of people pushing and shoving and fighting in the mud to get on the bus. The problem was that we all were on the same train, and it wasn’t leaving without us. Getting on the bus now or later wasn’t going to get anyone anywhere any faster, and instead it just caused confusion and discomfort. I could only force a smile and take a picture.
After the 3-hour detour, all was good. I was in AC-2, which means that the car I was in had AC and each compartment only had four bunks in it, as opposed to six in AC-3. The fact that there was no one else in my cabin for the entire second day made things even more pleasant, and I was able to spend most of the second day tapping away on my laptop.
I arrived at the train station in India’s capital near midnight and made it to the hostel district by rickshaw 30 minutes later I was greeted by a scene that looked like it was straight out of some end of days movie. Huge mounds of rubble lined both sides of the street, with mud and dirt and trash everywhere.
As I found out later, usually its not as bad as it was then. In fact, they were renovating the area in preparation for the Commonwealth Games (CWG: or, Congress Wealth Scam as one street sign suggested). Kind of like how your room gets dirtier when you first start cleaning it… except about a million times worse, and it never actually gets totally clean.
I ended up spending four days in Delhi. As per usual, I spent the majority of my days in a coffee shop. My friend Lauren from school recommended Kahn Market, and so every morning I’d take a tuk-tuk to the south of the city and post up in the airconditioned café.
Lauren told me about a party at the journalist society in Delhi on Thursday nights, and after a long day of café’ing I took the thirty-minute ride to the address I found on the internet. Long story short, it took another thirty minutes to find the place, but eventually we did.
Upon arrival, I was told that just two weeks before they had instituted a new policy: if you weren’t a member of the club, you couldn’t enter. Apparently it had become a huge party scene and they had begun to get in trouble with the police. I was told I had to leave.
I’d just spent an hour getting here and I wasn’t ready to accept “no” as an answer. I asked to speak to the manager. Waiting for him to arrive, I was eager to find out if I could smooth-talk my way inside.
Upon arrival, the manager told me only members were allowed. I was determined not to lie to him, but I also wasn’t going to accept “no”. He asked if I was a reporter, or if I knew anyone that was a member, or if I had anything to do with the media. I told him “no”, but that these days the media isn’t just about reporters. I told him that I’m the CEO of a web company and that I have a blog, insisting that in the 21st Century the lines were blurred and that I was as much a member of the new participatory media as anyone. “I’m important, goddamnit!” I was telling him with my eyes.
I’m not sure exactly what did it, but I think it was my obvious determination. He finally said that I could enter, but that if I wanted to come back next week I’d need to get a board member to sign for me. “There are about twenty of them here right now so it shouldn’t be a problem” he assured me. At this point I did lie, telling him that before next week I’d get it all sorted out. It was a small lie though, aimed to assuage his conscious for letting me in rather than covering my tracks or obscuring my motives.
I had a blast once inside, despite the fact that there were only 20 people or so there. It was a party for journalist, perhaps my favorite species on the planet because of their natural curiosity, intelligence (usually), and several other self-selecting filters that make someone want to be a journalist. They didn’t seem to mind too much that a non journalist had infiltrated the party, and by the time I left at 1am I’d met a lot of interesting people.
The next night I met Lauren’t friend from Delhi near “Defense Colony”, an area in south Delhi popular with expats and foreigners. The particular square we met at was a nice break from the madness of the rest of Delhi, and John and I enjoyed some good food and beers while talking about life abroad and making fun of Lauren behind her back 😉 .
The day before I left Delhi, I decided to “take the tour”. I went to visit the Central Mosque, but was denied entrance because it was prayer time. Next I wandered around the Red Fort, before hopping on a rickshaw for a two-hour ride through the crowded, crazy, and colorful streets of Old Delhi.
After four days, I decided to head east to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. Overall I liked Delhi, though in just four days I barely got to know her. At some point I’m sure I’ll be back.