Pickpocketed in Delhi

March 24, 2004

My last day in Delhi was the worst of the trip, I was pickpocketed outside my guest house in downtown New Delhi on the main Bizarre just 30 minutes before I was due to leave for the airport to get my connecting flight to Hong Kong. It was a masterful sleight of hand by the perpetrator because my wallet was secured in a pocket in my shorts, I felt nothing but apparently its a very common occurence in Delhi. I was really fu!*ed off and angry and had a really strange feeling of vunerability, could I still make it to Hong Kong? were these people following me or am just a south softy? Luckily I had 50 Us dollars tiucked away in another pocket which was enough to get me to HK. The people at the Guest House were totally unsympathetic, they soooo didn’t give a fuc@, barely even batted an eyelid. They were actually more hasty than ever to get the money as I finished a long distance call to cancel my Bank cards.

Delhi is a stenching, rotting city full of sly, conniving shysters, a city where honesty and goodness is constantly assaulted by duplicity, malice and greed all of which I tasted first hand. To appreciate India you need to understand this duplicity is wrapped up in the complexity of their extreme poverty and simple desperation to survive, I have never witnessed such blatant soul destroying poverty as in Delhi. But this is just a microcosm of real India and the Rajastan which I witnessed. I somehow believed I had the street acumen to handle downtown Delhi but in truth I took a right pasting, they chewed me up and spat me out for breakfast, I got slaughtered, 2 nil to them, but I still love your country.

Jaisalmer is a place which exists only in the imagination, nothing else in India is remotely similar to this enchanting city, dubbed ‘the Golden City’ because of the honey coloured texture of the sandstone. The vision of the Jaisalmer fort protruding out of the barren desert on arrival is a really exquisite and spectacular view, this place is absolute must see for anyone visiting Inida. I had decided to make a last minute detour to Jaisalmer on the advise of a stunning girl on my Yoga course (unfortunately happily married but a great girl), the overnight bus journey was shit, sat next to this loser trying to sell me low budget stones and various tacky jewelry all night, I ignored him as best I could but he just carried on so consequently I had virtually no sleep. The view however driving into town of the sun rising over Jasailmer fort had made it all worth while. Specifically I’d come here to check out the legendary camel treks in Jaisalmer desert, I had an isssue to resolve. To date my encounters with the animal kingdom hadn’t gone smoothly, it wasn’t just the rabid dog in Cambodia who dug his teeth into my arse while I walked home from the beach and then proceeded to round up his canine pals to chase me home as I tryed to leg it back to hotel one hand tangled in my undercrackers, that was bad enough, there were other incidents; I offered a piece of fruit to a Baboon in Udaipor (supposedly an absolute no brainer for making pals with monkeys) he disdainfully turned his nose up and thrust his red raw arse in my face, the rickshaw driver of course loved it. And then there was the elephant in the market, surely these friendly fellas would warm to me as I patted the ear of a 40 ton monster walking leisurely through the street, he then proceeeded to lay some pretty hefty cable on my beloved Birkenstocks in response, its like a canonball falling on your foot, I was compltely non-plussed and was feeling distinctly paranoid around animals by the time I reached Jaisalmer. Despite my hopes there was to be no respite; my allocated Camel for the trek had either received psychic instructions to dis me via the Elephant or he was just plain stubborn. He disobeyed everything I asked him to do; ‘go forward’ I clucked in Camel instructions, he sat down; ‘giddy up pal’ he slowed down and when I asked him to sit down he proceeded to pinch a loaf and flood the surrounding desert in stenching piss so I was stuck, I gave up pretty quickly and let the treking guide takeover over instructions. Added to this was my Camel’s serious flatulance problem, I mean SERIOUS, or was he just trying to rile me even more? As we set up camp at the end of day 1 we all sat under the beautiful stars aound the fire, relishing the wonderful skyline and serene desert, pontificating about our extensive knowledge of planets and the stars; ‘Venue, Mars, the Plough…yap,yap, yap’ and then the lucid conversation was broken by a sudden machine gun fire burst of flatulance from my Camel, it was the sort of loud, distinct sound that the Viet Cong probably heard everyday in the demilitarized zone of Vietnam in 1965 and would have prompted them to scrambe down their tunnels netorks waiting for the enemy to show their faces. It was as if my guide had stitched a whoppee cushion into the backside of the camel with a timer; synchronised to go off at the most annoying times of the night and the accompanied pungent smell was puketrid. This went on all night at intervals, just as I was getting some good ZZZ’s he would kickoff and belch a few farts in my direction for good measure. Luckily, I was in very good company on this trip, there were 5 travellers of in total; 2 very young Dutch girls studying in Bombay and 2 other English guys one of whom decided because he was India he could now dress like a buffoon, they were really great laugh all the way. The 3 accompanied tour guides were great fun to, really chilled out and for once they didn’t try to sell me crap except a bloke selling beer which was an absolute godsend in the evening. Really fantastic trip, a definate highlight in Rajastan.

Yoga in Pushkar

March 11, 2004

I’m on the last day of an intensive 3 day yoga course in Pushkar, 4 hours a day doing moves (or Asanas as they say in the trade) and 1 hour study, its wicked fun but tiring, the tutor or Yogi as he likes to be known is excellent and good laugh with it. I was hoping he might be one of those old fellas with a long beard and strange barnet but he’s short and fat but he’s done the business so far. Today he miraculously cured my blocked sinuses which have been blocked for years, it was easy and logical but the difference is incredible; just by bending your posture forward and tilting the head to the side he instructed me to pour warm water mixed with salt down one nostril and all the mucus and congestion came flooding out the other nostril, like loads of it! I think half my brain dribbled out onto the floor, its was like colonical irrigation of the nose, I was sooo shocked I laughed my tits off and was almost sick, but its completely clear now so I’m feeling tops.

Pushkar is a beautiful small town of narrow streets filled with shops, food stalls, temples and an assortment of lowrollering spongers. Located in the centre of Rajasthan its supposedly an important pilgrimmage centre for devout Hindus although I’ve not seen many but then again I don’t hang out in temples, the town attracts huge amounts of tourists mainly young Israeli’s pretending to be seasoned travellers. Many stay here for ages because its really chilled out and theres a huge lake in the centre of town to watch the sun set. the streets are lined with a variety of dodgy street stores selling mainly tiedie garbage and raver gear, I feel like informing them that Jerry Garcia died 10 years ago. In between the morning and evening Yoga I’m reading focivorously, at the moment its Gabriel Garcia Marquez who is just addictive an amazing. Heading onto Udairpor tomorrow. Really happy and loving it and feel really fit

Had great calls with Rod and Dad last night for his Birthday, thinking of all my friends at home

Jaipor is the vibrant and popular capital of Rajistan, a place renouned for its crafts, shopping and festivals. I arrive by train about midday, I immediately notice the huge film hoardings outside the station depicting larger than life moustached heroes, one of the them bears an uncanny resemblance to a friend from home (..Cyrus!)The journey was enjopyable, I sit next to an Indian doctor from Brixton, he regales me with tales about his patients taking a variety of lead sandwiches down town in Acre Lane Brixton.

Unbeknown to me, I’ve arrived on the weekend of 2 major Rajistan festivals; the elephant festival followed by the ‘Holi’ festival the next day. Holi is exuberant Hindu festival where people celebrate the end of winter by throwing coloured water and powder over each other. I take a rikshaw and whiz through the markets to the stadium for the start of the Elephant festival, there are locals everywhere waving and saying hello which puts in a great frame of mind. The festival turns out to be one of the funniest and ridiculous Indian days I’ve ever attended; the day involves a procession of events including elephant polo, cheesy Indian Singers in shell suits, dancers, various other low budget entertainment with the final being the Elephant tug of war, an apparently ritual humiliation for the travellers where a load of particularly gullible ones are asked to try and pull a rope attached to the tail of a 40 tonne bull elephant, guess who wins? about 0.2 seconds after the whistle blows 30 travellers are dragged around the stadium, dust and bodeis flying everywhere trying desperately to hold onto the rope, some with their pants around their heads, the crowd go ballistic, loving it all and of course I join in smugly.

The great Delhi swindle

February 26, 2004

I was aware of the potential difficulties and impending culture shock of arriving in Delhi but also took great comfort in the knowledge that I was now a seasoned pro, a wise guy of the road, I kind of Tony Seprano of the travel superhighway. Hey, my antennae was razor sharp, I was a smart operator out in the jungle traversing across new continents. I could spot a low-rolling-swindler a mile off, you could blindfold me and I could smell an Arthor Daley from a 100 yards…so I thought anyway as I walked through Delhi airport customs at 2 a.m.

From virtually the first minute I was ripped off; Rule 1; DON’T TAKE A TAXI FROM DELHI AIPORT UNLESS YOU AGREE ON THE DESTINATION FIRST, THEY”LL RIP YOU OFF AND TAKE YOU TO AN UNLICENSED TOURIST OFFICE as highlighted in capital letters on Page 1 of Lonely Planet’s guide to India. 15 minutes later I’m in the first cab and arrive in the middle of nowhere outside the ‘Delhi Tourist Centre’ I was literally dragged from the Tuk-tuk by five smiling locals. Rule 2; BE CAREFUL OF ACCEPTING THE FIRST HOTEL OFFERED, YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE OVER CHARGED ON THE FIRST NIGHT ‘I tell you the truth, I tell yout he truth, I give you a good deal, very cheap sir, that will be 14 pounds sir’ as I checked into the worst hotel in Delhi run by a guy with an exact facial resemblance to the infamous George Gaffer, an old lowlife landlord from Cardiff University day, it seemed a bit expensive but hey, they wouldn’t try it on with me. Rule 3 DON”t AGREE TO ANY SPECIAL DEALS FROM A TOURIST OFFICE ON THE FIRST DAY, CHECK THE PRICE AND THEIR CREDENTIALS FIRST By midday on the first day I had handed over 360 pounds to fly to Kashmir, a place I had little or no knowledge of, except that it was the most war ridden state of India, I had not planned to go there. I also paid 3 times what all the other travllers were paying at the hotel. It was as if someone had reprogrammed my brain or maybe it was still in Angkor Watts? Gaffer and his guys did the best swindle and persuasive sell on me that I’ve ever seen, what made it more believable was the German girlfriend of the head manager she was a seasoned traveller studying Medicine! She seemed soooo honest and decent, they bought me coffees, showed me around the Gandhi museum and assured me it was all free, courtesy of the India Tourist Board. I was to find out the truth two days later.

The India sale’s people here are a different league. My former work colleague, Jonathan and I had often joked at our desks about the ‘always be closing’ the mantra of the aggresive sales person; these guys had eaten this mantra for breakfast and spat it out. They name their shops ‘99% Discount’ and ‘Everything for Sale’ you get hassled here for everything and anywhere, ‘hello sir.. what do you want?’ ‘England is a very good country Sir, what would you like’ everything costs money and you need to negotiate or you get eaten alive. It cost me 15 ruppes to pinch a loaf, that ain’t luxury either just a whole in the ground and then its extra if you want some paper, you need to negotiate for each square, not pleasant when you’re in market busting to lay cable. You start to realise to survive you gotta talk hard, fast and hustle like a lunatic for everything. I saw, passive, chilled out, hippy dudes enter Delhi and come out the otherside like rip-roaring-Gordon-gecko negotiators, unleashing explitives at all and sundry, fuck the tie die, you gt wise up fast in this town. The tenacity and simple relentless energy of these people is just undescribable. One traveller told me how he ‘d been asleep at night and heard a guy knocking on the window trying to sell him plastic budha’s at 2 a.m in the morning! Not content with the punter’s response of ‘F@”k off you Cu!t’ (in the Uk usually a clear sign to a sales person that you ain’t gonna make a sale) As he lay half sleeping he then watched as the sales person proceeded to thread through the plastic ornamanets through the Mosi net, anything to get a sale! Delhi is a serious wake up call for anyone beliaving that India is nice and dandy