Christmas in New Delhi

Crowded and insane but somehow it works!

On my cycling tours I steadfastly avoid cities simply because they tend to be expensive, rushed places that are best seen on foot, not bicycle. But in Asia i found myself in large cities (Istnabul, Islamabad, Delhi, Bangkok, Hanoi...) with annoying regularity. I needed to visit consulates to obtain visas for the countries up ahead.

The prospect of visiting Delhi was particularly galling. I had received only a 30 day visa for India in Islamabad even though I had requested, and paid for, the normal 90 days. So now I had to go to the capital for an extension!

It was all as I expected: large, crowded. Cars, bicycles, pedestrians, animals and rickshaws jockeyed for position on the roadway amidst a steady beep of taxi and motorbike horns. But it turned out to be fun! The Indians may get agitated but they never really get angry. There was no road rage here, and I soon found myself laughing and cussing with a smile when I was cut off or bumped by another bicycle ride.

I had no guidebook or decent city map, but I came from the north and when i passed the Red Fort I felt I had gone far enough into the city. I turned off the main road to look for lodging. Thus did I stumble into Chandni Chowk, a circus (or perhaps a zoo) of commerce and bedlam. Many small hotels turned me away, being for Hindus only (what? You mean I don't look like a Hindu?) I finally found a comfy place not far from where this photo was taken. Somehow the mayhem and vibrancy that is India is evident in this picture. Step off the street into one of the many small restaurants and suddenly there is no rush: "Please, sir have seat" and soon you have a platter of curried vegetables, all the flatbread you could ask for, and tea to wash it all down. The rest of the world goes by you for once! 1