I get all the news I need from the weather report

Proof that Delhi is getting unusually strong monsoon rains:

All-India Weather Report (Delhi on left)

From BBC’s Hindi website.

Too many holidays!

Mystical India: a land of saints and sages, where religion reigns supreme.

Many scholars, particularly Indian scholars, hate this picture of India. And with good reason. The British used the stereotype of the religious (and therefore quite irrational) Indian in order to justify colonial rule. The superstitious, God-obsessed natives clearly could not run an effective government, said the Brits; we’re doing them a service by running one for them. Of course, the British conveniently ignored or marginalized India’s rich scientific, philosophical and political traditions. Continue reading

A Week in Delhi: Closed for Business

Shuttered Storefronts

It’s about time I put up my Monday entry for the “Week in Delhi” project. This is proving to be easier said than done, because Delhi largely shuts down on Monday. Most of the markets are closed, as are other promising destinations like museums, libraries and monuments. Continue reading

Watching the monsoon, witnessing disaster

Few events in India are as anticipated as the arrival of the monsoon. The yearly rhythm established by the monsoon seems ingrained in the Indian psyche: the increasingly stultification as summer temperatures soar; the mounting expectation as the first rains near; the euphoria when the first downpours come. This ecstatic release – it’s no coincidence monsoon deluges are tied to romance in scores of Bollywood films. Of course, within weeks, everyone is complaining about the flooding and the inconvenience. Continue reading

A Week in Delhi: Day 1

Sunday Book Market, Daryaganj

Unpacking your backpack upon arrival in Delhi, did you break into a cold sweat, realizing that you’d left your copy of “World’s Very Best SMS Jokes” at home? Worry not – spend your first day in Delhi visiting the Daryaganj Kitab Bazaar (Book Market), and find not just SMS jokes but a delightfully eclectic assortment of secondhand books, from anthologies of gay Indian literature to cookbooks to business school textbooks. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Daryaganj’s Sunday Book Market is “India’s largest platform market for magazines and second hand books.” Take that, Bombay booksellers! Continue reading

A Week in Delhi

Off the Tourist Track

Delhi often gets a bad rap among travelers, who see the city as a necessary evil, an entry point to the more enticing hills to the north, and the palaces and deserts of Rajasthan to the south. Not helping this reputation is the high concentration of touts, scam artists, beggars, aggressive taxi drivers and general hangers-on that populate the more touristed of Delhi’s neighborhoods. (Lonely Planet even has a section on Delhi called “Dodging the Dodgy.”)

Maybe Delhi can make a bad first impression; but you don’t have to scratch very far beneath the surface to find its charms. So, to help travelers get a better picture of this historic city, I proudly present: A Week In Delhi (Off the Tourist Track).

The concept behind the project is simple: choose seven quirky weekly events in Delhi – one that takes place every Sunday, one that takes place every Monday, and so on through the week.  Put them all together, and you have an action-packed, off-the-beaten-track week in Delhi.

My very loose qualifications for the events: they should be of cultural interest and they must not be listed in Lonely Planet.

The first day: Daryaganj’s Sunday Book Market!

Navigating the mean streets of India

Where are we?

I’m not claiming that no one ever uses maps in India. And – for the upper classes at least – the increasing popularity of iPhones means that GPS is just a click away. Still, on the whole, people in India get around in a way that constantly challenges detail-oriented, map-obsessed folks like me. My advice (really more directed at myself than anyone else): let go of excessive advanced planning and be prepared to ask for directions at every fork, T and bend in the road. Continue reading