Double-glazing kept the Delhi noise at bay, so we slept well. We enjoyed a good breakfast in the roof-top restaurant with panoramic views of the ablutions happening on the third floor across the street. Our time in Delhi was very short so feeling like we were at our first day in school, with all the excitement and trepidation, we bundled ourselves into a tut-tut and headed off to India Gate to start our tour of discovery. Tut-tuts are the ubiquitous 3 wheeled general transport with a small engine driving the rear wheels and a set of handlebars for the driver. They squeeze through incredibly tight gaps and jockey for the front position at lights with a bit of shouting and bravado. Some have metres, but they are never used, it is expected that a price will be negotiated before the journey, if not you will be in for a bit of haggling at the end. Our first trip was sorted by the hotel and cost 150 rupees, a little over $3, for a 20 minute journey, I expect that was around double the going rate for locals, but we used that as a guide for trips in the future.
We left Perth in a hot spell of close to 40*, so low 30’s in Delhi were going to be easy, or so we thought! India Gate is a large arch in memory of Indians lost in WW1 and subsequent conflicts; it is at the centre of a cross, and each arm is flanked by large gardens. The longest leg leads up to the Government Offices and gates to the Imperial Palace. We decided to walk part way along this leg to the Delhi Museum. The heat, humidity and pollution were taking their toll so the Museum seemed like a good choice at only 400 metres or so, but where does one get in? After a little while I found the exit and was advised by a pretty girl in an army uniform shouldering a sub machine gun that the Museum was closed today. I chose not to argue. Back into a tut-tut to continue to Raisina Hill to inspect the Palace Gates and Government offices. The size and grandeur should have made the President’s Palace an impressive sight; it did not. In his book ‘Delhi, adventures in a mega city’ Sam Miller says:
“At the western end are the great looming ministerial buildings of North and South Block, and barely visible, as if shamed by the power of the bureaucracy, is the Presidential palace, set far too far back to provide the sense of “awe and majesty’ that the British had intended. Edwin Lutyens, the chief architect, had wanted the palace to sit atop the hill-but had been persuaded to allow the secretaries to share that position… …But most embarrassing of all, the slope of the avenue up Raisina Hill is a little too steep, so that, at the moment of intended triumph and majesty, the palace disappears almost entirely from view.” I certainly felt a similar sense of let-down, especially that such a huge tract of land, in such a populous city seemed wasted. Delhi’s population is at best estimation about 19 Million, if you add the 3 million or so who live in the radial towns to the south connected to Delhi by new road and rail infrastructure that stretches to about 22 million, pretty close to Australia’s total population of 23,7000. However you look at it that is one hell of lot of people. Master Plan Delhi 2021 predicts the population to reach a staggering 64 million by 2021.
The entrance to the North Block has the following words carved over the door in a big arch and painted in gold, ‘Liberty will not descend to a people. A people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed. These are high moral aspirations indeed. I wonder if all the bureaucrats beavering away in the huge office complex consider this as they work?
One cannot leave the hub of Indian bureaucracy without mentioning the Ambassador. This is the car synonymous with public service and military transport. These vehicles look quaintly old fashioned against the array of modern cars on Delhi roads, but are still used on a daily basis, some with flags and brass plaques when sufficiently important people are traveling in them. Their role of taxis has given way to Suzuki’s and Toyota’s, a sad bit of modernisation. I had hoped to score a ride in one, but to no avail, I do not know people in high places. Kolkata still uses Ambassadors as Taxis so I will have to wait a couple of weeks before I get that ride. Another icon of British colonialism is the Royal Enfield, also used by the military and Police, but also a common sight midst the Suzuki’s, Honda’s and a plethora of local bikes on the road. Easy to recognize by the steady thump of the 350cc and 500cc single cylinder drowning out the whirring 125cc and 175cc two strokes. I rate my chances of riding one as low, but possible.
The next tut-tut ride was unique insomuch as it is the only one where the driver knowingly took us to the wrong place. We wanted commercial centre of Delhi, Connaught Place (CP), but were taken to the Gold Markets, an area not too far away from CP, and populated by craft shops. Level upon level of saris, pashminas, woodwork, metal work paintings, the list goes on. Cathy bought a pashmina, more of a need to buy something on the first day rather than because she saw it as a bargain. We then walked to CP and were so parched we broke one of our own rules and went into Starbucks for a coffee and something to eat. Refreshed we did a 360 of CP, buying hats and books before returning to the Godwin DX exhausted.
Our first day ended with dinner at the Hotel and a welcome bed.