Delhi is a nightmare form beginning to end. It’s a non stop assault on your senses and much of the good that is in humanity is swallowed up in the whirlpool of millions squeezing out a living in the cramped streets. You probably won’t perceive the cruelty and pain the first time round though as iniquities of Indian society will all just come as a blur of sights and sounds. On the other hand the calm and patience with which many Indians endure their existence here is as impressive as anything you’ll see in India.
Pahar Ganj is probably the most insane street in the world and is a good starting point. There’s no avoiding Delhi in any case as you’ll probably have to fly in or out at least once and it stands between the mountains and the rest of India. This does make it a good place for meeting long lost friends though and you half expect to see Elvis-turned-sadhu amble along.
Hotels, shops and restaurants line the sides in a never-ending collage of neon signs and dodgy wiring. Yet for all of that it’s still a very Indian street.
Pahar Ganj is where everyone stays and the street has a kind of timeless magic to it. This is perhaps the most insane street in the world and is worth a good few days of wandering down the side streets and attempting to get your head around the street life.
On either side of Pahar Ganj you’ll see thousands of painted and neon signs advertising a thousand hotels, restaurants and shops. For although Pahar Ganj is the main traveler ghetto in Delhi it’s also an important Indian market and the locals call it Main Bazaar, though bizarre would be closer to the truth. You can just look down at the stret from a rooftop cafe and gaze at the procession of scooters, rickshaws, cows, dogs, carts and stoned backpackers. Everything feels like it’s just one banana peel slip away from the floor and the dust, flies and deterioration of India are just waiting to drag you down to the gutter.
Take a walk or rickshaw out to Connaught Place and you’ll see the sky again in a park surrounded by a snarling road. You’ll be accosted by masseurs and shoe repairmen, the latter being excellant craftsmen who can save footwear in just about any state of decay. Watch out for the bastards who throw dog shit on your shoe and then offer to clean it for you. And don’t under any circumstances let any of the ear cleaners get within arm’s length of you.
Outside the Red Fort you have the thieve’s bazaar, a market where all the merchandise is stolen. There are more things in Delhi, Horatio, than are contained within your guide book.
If you’re going to be in Delhi for a while for some reason check out delhi events – there’s actually loads going on in this city if you can stand the noise and pollution for long enough to enjoy it.