Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Old Delhi, Diwali, rickshaws and fireworks

Tues 13th Nov

Several times yesterday we asked people "where's the best place to go for Diwali?", the answer we got every time was along the lines of "it's everywhere, its happening all around", an answer that seemed unhelpful at the time but now it makes sense.  Everywhere we've been tonight there's no particular meeting place but the streets are full of people and ablaze with fireworks absolutely everywhere.  Children are throwing fire crackers around, rockets are whizzing up inbetween the traffic and showers of sparks fizzing on every street corner, the noise is incredible! Its like a happy war zone on acid.  The local children are loving it, everywhere you look children are crouched over fireworks in the road with traffic hurtling towards them, but it must be safe because their parents are making them do it!

Rewinding to this morning we started the day getting the metro to Old Town Delhi.  The metro is modern, clean and organised but then the moment we step out of the station its instantly back to noisy, dusty, chaotic streets.  Went to the Red Fort, a huge red stone fort with massive unpassable walls stretching into the distance.  We took an audio headphone guide, pretty good actually even if we do look geeky using it.  From the fort got a rickshaw to the Jama Masjid mosque, the biggest mosque in India, its free to enter but 300 rupees to take a camera in which roughly translated means locals-free, tourists-300.  The mosque is impressive and amazing views across Delhi from climbing to the top of one of the sky scraping towers.  Bec has to have a blanket wrapped around her to hide her shoulders and arms and I'm made to wear a lovely sarong to cover my legs.  The rickshaw driver has waited for us and is very keen to take us to the spice markets, we go along with it and the rickshaw ride now evolves into a guided tour on foot which turns out to be quite useful as we would definitely have got lost otherwise.  We perhaps rather stupidly let him lead us up to a quiet 5 storey rooftop which looked perfect for getting mugged, kidknapped or murdered but luckily he just wanted to show us a bird's eye view of the busy markets as part of his little tour.  As anticipated the agreed 50 rupee fare has now inflated significantly and I had to argue rather than haggle my way down from however many hundred rupees he was demanding.

Later on via metro and tuk tuk we reached an ancient site called Qutb Minar, eerie ruins surrounding an imposing 73 metre high tower, its all the more spooky as its now going dark and the place it subtly lit with atmospheric spot lights.  We stopped somewhere in South Delhi for food only to find everywhere was closed for Diwali and random firework displays on the go everywhere.  The fireworks here seemed crazy but turned out to be tame compared to the wild party when we got back to Paharganj near our guesthouse. The firework frenzy I tried to describe before kept pace all through the night with no sign of anyone running out of fire crackers anytime soon.  Stood in the street watching one elaborate mid traffic display a stray rocket fired right at us and nearly gave me a permanent centre parting, you may think I exaggerate but the same rocket smashed a car windscreen parked 2 metres behind us! close one!

Things I noticed today;
- Contrary to what I was always told at home its absolutely fine to go back and pick up fireworks that haven't gone off or even better to set them off in your hands.
-Several times today Indian people have asked to pose for a photo with me, don't know why, do I look famous?
-I need to haggle better, think we're probably paying double for everything
- On the metro there are women only carriages

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