Dussehra was two week ago, but my ears are still ringing. Dussehra is – yes – one more religious festival (I told you this was the season). Perhaps even more than other popular Indian festivals, it is marked by extreme noisemaking. Dussehra celebrates the victory over the God-man Ram (hero of the Sanskrit epic the Ramayana) over the evil demon/intellectual Ravan. In festivals all over India, huge effigies of Ravan are burned. I had a front-row seat at one of these Ravan burnings, and no one had told me that, these days, the effigies are filled with dangerous amounts of firecrackers. Thus, the ringing ears. Continue reading
Last minute clean-up before the Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games are upon us. It should be a festive occasion, but instead Delhi seems oddly quiet. I live near one of the Games stadiums, and I’ve seen far more stern, gun-wielding policemen than enthusiastic athletes or fans. Street vendors and beggars have been kicked out of the city. Even stray dogs are being rounded up and carted away (to where and to what fate, I dare not ask). Delhi is trying its best to present a sanitized image of itself to the world, and, in the process, it’s losing its raucous charm. Continue reading
I’ve already documented the difficulty of finding Monday events in Delhi. The day is marked by shuttered storefronts and closed museums. Still, I knew that street vendors took advantage of this lull, and – with a little sleuthing – I found out that one of Delhi’s biggest Monday markets takes place in Karol Bagh, not far from my flat. And to Karol Bagh I dutifully went today, camera in hand, only to find… nothing! The police had put the kibosh on the market, as part of the preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth games. (There was some last-minute construction going on, as the above photo shows.) Street vendors, apparently, don’t fit into the polished image of India the government is trying (unsuccessfully) to present for the games.
So back to the drawing board for Day 2 of our Week in Delhi.
Proof that Delhi is getting unusually strong monsoon rains:
All-India Weather Report (Delhi on left)
From BBC’s Hindi website.
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
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
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!