Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dire warnings...

It's not often that I find a place so repulsive that I wish to make a public statement regarding its unfitness for a visit. However, this is one of those times.

Dehradun was presumably a beautiful place. Ruskin Bond did quite like it. But today, it's probably a place best avoided unless you're immediately taking a bus out to Mussoorie. The city is filthy, dusty (my hands and hair are caked with dust), and full of rude autorickshaw drivers who are bandits (they're worse than any I've seen anywhere in India!). Oh, and there's absolutely nothing worth seeing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Delhi Musings

When Lonely Planet issued dire warnings of touts in ConnaughtPlace, I cast it nary a glance. As a pukka Hindustani, I believed I was unlikely to be caused much grief by them.

But boy, was I ever wrong? Every travel agency claims to be the sole official representative of the Indian government, and has a couple of seedy looking characters trying to dupe you into their office. These people are easy enough to shake off (though one of them was alarmingly aggressive).

However, what I hadn't bargained for was that perfectly respectable lookign people could be part of this racket. I was standing on Connaught Circus trying my ludicrously poor map-reading skills out when two blokes came along unbidden and showed me the way to get to where I wanted to get to.

After thanking the two nice young men profusely, I carried along in the suggested direction. But, these two blokes decided to walk alongside me:

'To Bhaiyya, aap kidhar se hain?' (Brother, where are you from?)

'Hindustan', I replied brusquely, having caught on to their game.

'Hindustan to bada desh hain. Aap kaun se kone se hain? Humari tourist office hain na, isliye hum aapki madad kar sakte hain' (India is a big country. Which corner are you from? Y'see, we've got this tourist office, and can help you in Delhi.)

I decided to get rid of these people by seeing if the Indo-Pak peace process has had any effect.

'Theek hain, main sarhad ke us paar se hoon' (I'm from the other side of the border - common parlance for Pakistan).

'Oh aap Pakistani bhai hain. Jaaiye, bhaisaab' (Oh you're a Pakistani brother. Carry on, brother.'

While it's laudab;e that a Pakistani is allowed to walk aruond Delhi unmolested, it is rather depressing that it doesn't stop them from annoying their own countrymen.

Other Random Musings

1. I have never in my entire life head so much foul lanugage in such a short space of time. 'Behenchod' (Sisterf***er) seems to feature in every sentence, and serves the role of a noun, adjective, and verb from what I could perceive. And everybody - from the well-dressed young chap in the 3-piece suit to the gaggle of noisy 10-year olds on the bus - is in on it!

2. Either everybody else in Delhi suffers from some debilitating physiological disorder, or I've become a quasi-firang. Everybody around me seems to be dressed for a cold winter with scarves, caps, jumpers, and even fleece jackets. I, on the other hand, am sweating in my shirtsleeves.

3. A sucker is born everyday. I just saw a bunch of firang tourists profusely thanking an autodriver for taking them to the India Tourist Office (if you read the small print on the sign board, it's run by 'United Travels' and has nothing to do with the Government of India). Some people will never learn.

P.S.: Scribbled on 18/02 in a Cafe on Connaught Circus, Delhi, shamelessly sitting next to a coochie-cooing couple.

P.P.S: The female half of the aforementioned couple is cute.

Edit: I guess lots of you aren't aware of the fact that 'Paki' is one of the most racist swear words used in the UK. And yes, us Indians - in the eyes of the aforementioned racists - are 'Pakis' too. Because of that and the slightly pejorative tone taken in some of the comments towards Pakistanis that could offend my Pakistani readers, I have disabled comments for this post. I apologise if it seems rude, but I feel it would be best to do so.

Dr. Shaikh the sex doctor

Uttar Pradesh seems to be flooded with quacks hawking their 'skills' to everybody travelling by train through the state. Ever since the train crossed the state border into UP, every single square inch of space not taken u by people going about their ablutions in the puvlic eye seems to have been taken over by advertisements in the Devnagri script for the aforementioned medical practitioners.

It all started with Dr. Zafar whose pharmacy at some lace called Dholpur was advertised to all and sundry in a 10-mile radius. However, if this Dr. Zafar's success rate is anything like that of his Mughal namesake, I think I'll stay away.

Where Dr. Zafar's reign ends, Drs. Raj and Shaikh take over. Dr. Shaikh is the one that interests us.

Dr. Shaikh's advertisements invariably go, 'Sex Rogi miliye Dr. Shaikh se' (Literally: Sex patients, meet Dr. Shaikh'. The good doctor also treats Gupt Rog (Secret illnesses). What these secret diseases are is beyond me - for instance, I find a running nose highly embarassing, and would like to keep it a secret. I wonder if the good Dr. Shaikh can help me out there.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sayr e-Hindustan

I am currently in my homeland; spending the longest time I have there since 2005. As I walked around a bookstore in Chennai, I stumbled upon a Lonely Planet guidebook for India (‘stumbled upon’ would probably be an incorrect phrase given that the India guidebook was probably the hardest thing to find in the store – Lonely Planet guidebooks to every other place in the world, Papua New Guinea included, were dime a dozen).

After I had bought it for a certain somebody whom I’m desperately trying to convince to visit India, I began to read through it myself. The more I read it, the more I realised that I had not really seen my own country (not since 1993 anyway). And thus, the plan germinated in the vast empty space above my eyebrows that passes for a brain – a trip across a bit of India.

The original plan included going to Mumbai, but the activities allegedly inspired by a certain unnamed person who shall remain nameless put an end to those plans (especially since I would be heading down to Mumbai from the North, and I had no desire to see myself in the middle of a Godhraesque firestorm). So, currently, my plan – much curtailed – involves:

Chennai – Delhi (17/02/08 0610 – 18/02/08 1015): Followed by a day spent exploring the Delhi of the last son of the house of Timur the Tatar.

Delhi – Dehradun (18/02/08 2315 – 19/02/08 0500): I plan to take a bus up to Mussoorie from Dehradun, and then spend two nights in Mussoorie – reputed to be the Queen of Indian hill stations. And, unlike Shimla - my original choice, delightfully monkey-free.

Delhi –Chennai (22/02/08; hopefully 1955): A Deccan Air flight that should get me back home by 2250 – if they decide to take off on time for a change, that is. Coincidentally, this flight within India’s borders will take a good bit longer than a flight from Scotland to Germany.

Photos should follow on if you are at all interested.

P.S.: Especially if you’re not Indian, I would imagine the latest two albums (from Chennai and Mahabalipuram) would be of interest to you.

P.P.S.: I apologise for the shoddy grammar in this post; I’m tired and sleepy.