The arrival platform at Varanasi was no less tumultuous and disorderly than the departure venue at Delhi the night before . . . utter, absolute, overwhelming chaos.
This was not the deluxe train I’d expected. The carriage was probably 40 or 50 years old. Everything was the same shade of pale green one sees in the below-ground corridors of hospitals and governmental buildings around the world.
It is a scene that Bruegel might have painted in a fever or Dante reserved for one of the innermost circles of Hell.
I had spent too much time shopping in the Karol Bargh Market and the other in Paharganj, followed by a final afternoon enjoying rest of the fantastic Delhi Metro system, that I did not get back to the Megha Sheraton, to pick up my bags, until 5:10pm, almost 1/2 hour later than I had been advised. That put everything at risk. I was to pay the price, literally, in sweat and rupees.
New Delhi is one of the most over-populated, dense, crowded, jammed together, claustrophobic, delimited, pressed in, bethronged, enjostled, cramped, packed, crushed, squeezed, tight, heaped, swarmed, mobbed, clogged cities in the world. Even more so than the previous sentence.
I was fortunate in the taxi driver I’d hired for a day-long tour of New Delhi highlights chosen from my guidebooks and research.
For henna painting on your hands, world-class artists are sitting on the main street that runs through Delhi’s Paharganj district. Here’s a sample . . . Click on the image to enlarge. This is done every year at this time for the festival of Karwa Chauth. (http://www.karwachauth.com/the-legend-of-karwa-chauth.html) Two artists work simultaneously. One works the left hand, and the other creates the exact mirror image design on the other. This took about 20 minutes. I didn’t ask the price because there’s a basic marketplace rule around the world . . . if you are not serious about buying, don’t ask.
This modern transit system (Delhi Metro Wikipedia entry) is a hugely refreshing surprise. It’s also a bit humbling. I don’t know a single city in all the USA that has anything of this size and quality even under discussion . . . and Delhi’s system here is almost 90% complete. See the Delhi Metro web site. And here’s a photo gallery that shows how modern, clean and comfortable the Metro system is in this “impoverished, third-world” country.
The Emperor Franz Joseph famously complained that Mozart’s music has “too many notes.” My version of that, probably as lazy and ill-informed as his, says there are too many choices online for buying air tickets.