The Red Fort, The Metro and The Beggar Situation
Met a couple of people at breakfast yesterday and we all went to the Red Fort which is a major sight in Delhi. I imagined I’d see mostly western tourists there but actually saw hardly any, I assume most of them were visitors from elsewhere in India and Asia. It was fine though, a really interesting experience as we seemed to be one of the major attractions! A young Indian guy stopped me and said ‘one photo ma’am, one photo,’ and I said ‘no no’ and turned around, assuming he was trying to sell me something, anbd he just walked off looking dejected… It turns out he just wanted to take a picture of a whitey. Later on a guy approached me and said very forwardly ‘I want to talk with you.’ So I said ‘ok…’ and he just asked me my name, occupation, etc, the usual rigmoral, and then told me a little about the Red Fort, and how it was built by the Moghuls and how he was of Moghul caste. Was really interesting, and all the while a crowd was forming around me, Indians just watching me speak… not in a threatening way, just in a shamelessly curious sort of way. It was nice to be asked for a photo, and I guess one of the reasons they do it is because some Hindus won’t allow you to take one, whereas some look made up if you ask them!
We took the underground to the Red Fort which was extremely bizarre… outside it was all INDIA INDIA INDIA LOOK AT ME I’M INDIA!! and then you go down some steps and you could almost be in, not quite London’s, but certainly Liverpool’s underground. Except of course for some glaring differences, such as the fact that EVERYONE is Indian, which means that as a tourist you have somewhat of a celebrity status but without the perks. A very professional looking bunch of men took our picture as we queued, so we are expecting our pictures to appear in the Hindustani Times any day now… Another difference is thast tickets cost 6-8p, and you have to go through a thorough security check before entering. And they announce over the tannoy ‘please beware of pickpocketers, and vacate seats for the elderly, physically challenged and women.’
We also went into the train station, and I was so glad I didn’t have to go there for the first time alone… it is sheer CHAOS! You literally have to step over people who are sleeping all over the platforms, but once you get up the stairs to the tourist booking office its a different world, with air con and nice seats… which when you think about it is pretty awful. I wasn’t buying a ticket but the people I was with were going to Agra, and they were a guy and a girl. Apparently, the ticket man wouldn’t even look at Alison or answer her questions, and wouldn’t actually let her take the tickets from the table, holding them down until James took them! Which is just a culture thing, as I’ve never really had a problem when getting things done alone. One of the advantages of this was that when walking through Old Delhi it was James who got all the hassle…
Not that I haven’t had my fair share of hassle already… though I mostly get the women and children. On my first day alone, I came out onto the Bazar (marketplace) and was immediately confronted by a small child pointing at a kebab stand and then to her mouth. So I though fair enough, and bought her a kebab, and waited for it to be cooked to make sure she got her food. As we were waiting a litle boy came over and did the same thing, so I got him one too. Then a woman came with a baby, so I gave her some money and walked away, when an old man with a drum came along … soon I found myself half running down the street being pursued by the woman, and reams of children, although I’d managed to shake off the drum. I hid in a stall, waited for the crowds to separate us, then doubled back towards the hotel, but somehow they managed to find me, so I walked faster and faster towards my hotel, actually jogging now, all sweaty and frustrated, and fucking drum man pops up again, playing his drum at me, and the whole motley crew followed me all the way to the hotel door and shouted at me ‘sister sister, money sister…’ as I ran up the stairs!!
So my first day was terrifying, but I had such an amazing day yesterday that it made up for it. And you sort of become impervious to the beggars after a while and they lay fof a little. And now I’m off to the India Gate!!