A Day in Delhi

This is a miscellaneous post. I spent a day in Delhi and wanted to share the experience and photographs here. However, the topic does not fit into any of my research topics, so this post will just be uncategorized for now.

Recently I was in Delhi for the day because I had a flight to the States. The day begins with the story of my luggage. Then I did make it to all the activities in my planned itinerary and then headed to the airport. My itinerary was planned so I could make use of my time photographing. At some moments I was quite pleased with what I found to photograph and at other moments I was disappointed. Here I will tell you the story of my day from the luggage to photographs and everything in between. In addition, some of the pro’s and con’s of Delhi will be expressed in this post. I hope the information is fun and helpful.

My trip started the day before at the Udaipur train station. My friend Meropi had escorted me to the station and helped me get my luggage on board. I knew my luggage was going to be an issue but what could I do. I was not sure if I would be returning to Udaipur when I left. I had an oversized duffle bag (40 pounds), camera bag (30 pounds), small duffle bag (20 pounds), and my purse. I had been told that the station I was arriving at in Delhi would have a luggage check, however, when I arrived I found out it did not.

My plan had been to leave my luggage at the train station and then head out for a day of photography. I did not want to waste money getting a room as I did not intend to spend any time in the room. If it was going to be my last day in India for a while I wanted to be outside. Now I completed my plan but not in the way I had visioned.

We arrived at platform 2 at the train station in Delhi. A nice gentleman on the train with me carried one of my bags to stairs. Once we made it to the stairs someone should have had a video camera pointed at me. I had to carry this entire group of luggage around 100 pounds up a set of stairs across a bridge and down another set of stairs. The oversized duffle bag can be carried like a backpack, so I had it on my back like a backpack. I had my camera bag which is a backpack across my chest and the other duffle bag I was carrying on my arm. It is a miracle that I did not fall down the stairs. Anyway, once I was down the stairs there were some taxi drivers who wanted to give me a ride. However, no one immediately tried to help me with my bags. I had to make the taxi driver carry one of the bags.  I told the driver that I needed to go to the New Delhi Train Station to drop off my bags. For the whole ride there he tried to get me to go to a hotel and I had to repeatedly tell him I did not want to go to a hotel. This is one super annoying thing about traveling.

The New Delhi Train Station is super busy. It is a hub for long distance trains and the local metro. When we pulled up outside it was a zoo. There were a bunch of porters who wanted to help me carry my bags though. Of course I got ripped off by them too. Two guys needed to help me, not just one. One of them first tells me I will have to pay them each 300 rupees (approx. 4.60 usd) but once we had dropped off my luggage he told me I had to give them 500 rupees (approx. 7.70 usd) each because they put my bags up on the shelf. I did not have time to argue as I was trying to get to a bicycle tour. I filled out the paperwork for my bags, paid the porters and quickly walked back out of the train station. Outside I found myself a new driver and told him I was in a hurry. The one good thing about Delhi drivers is they are in a hurry. I do love a good tuk-tuk ride. I arrived on time to the meeting point to my bike tour.

I had taken the tour once before back in 2013. The tour is with Delhi by Cycle and I took the Shah Jahan tour, which is of Old Delhi. They meet at a parking garage near a hospital. The bike tour is great because you get some exercise and see parts of the city you would not see otherwise, plus there are some good photo opportunities.  We headed out a few minutes late but that is okay. We rode our bikes to the entrance of Old Delhi and stopped for an introduction. The photograph below is of one of the entrance gates to the original city (unfortunately, I could not get a better view).

Once we had finished the introduction we headed into the crowded streets of the old city. Even though I had a much harder time staying on the bike this time, I love the tour. The first time I was dressed completely inappropriately. I had on wide-leg linen pants and flip-flops on. At one point I lost one of the flip-flops. You can read about part of that adventure here. This time I dressed more appropriately with jeans and Nike running shoes. I blame my coordination problems on the lack of sleep. We headed down the streets and made a stop or two. Then we came to a large cross road. Below you can see part of the intersection. It was crowded with traffic barriers and shipping boxes. I feel like this photograph gives a feeling of the whole city, crowded and in a hurry. However, not everyone is in a hurry. There was a shipping truck next to where we stopped and the driver was sleeping.

From here we headed back into the narrow streets. Our next stop was my favorite part from the first time I took the tour. The guides Himanshu and Raju took us up on a roof. From the roof you see into a building where business used to take place. Now the employees live in the building. Since the tour is in the morning you can see the men performing their morning rituals, getting ready and making breakfast. On this trip my favorite part of the roof was the puppy! He was so sweet. I feed him some potato chips because that was all I had. Looking off the other side of the roof you can see an open courtyard and the roof of a mosque. It all seems photographic to me. Plus I took my favorite photograph of the day from the roof (first photo in the post).

From the rooftop we headed down more of the narrow roads and then headed just outside the old town to a neighborhood built by the British. The roads are nice and wide and at one corner we stopped for chai and biscuits. On the way we stopped and Himanshu pointed out a Hindu temple with South Indian style architecture. I do not remember seeing the temple on my first bike ride but I remember the chai stand. This was the place where I had the first Indian chai that I liked. I had two glasses both times. The quiet neighborhood is a great place to sit, talk and relax.

Back on the road, we headed back through the narrow streets of the old city. We headed to the market in front of the Jama Masjid; then headed towards the Red Fort. From the Red Fort you can see down Chandi Chowk, once the major shopping street. Today it is still a great place to shop. The street is also a test to diversity as it is home to a Hindu temple, Jain temple, Mosque, Sikh temple and Baptist church (a photo of the church can be seen on my Instagram). I knew once we got to the Red Fort our tour was coming to the end. After the Red Fort we headed to Karim’s restaurant, a famous Mughali restaurant in Old Delhi. Unfortunately, my photograph of Karim’s is terrible but I will show it to you anyway in case you are in Delhi and want to check it out, you will know what their sign looks like. Furthermore, I did not photograph the Red Fort at this point; I knew I was going back to tour the Red Fort after the bike tour.

The food at Karim’s is delicious and it is nice to talk to all of the people on the tour. I was the only American on the tour. Three of the participants were from The Netherlands and the other participant was from New Zealand. The three from The Netherlands were on a group tour and part of their tour group had had flight delays. The man from New Zealand had come to India to watch a few Cricket matches. I like talking to the travelers and learning about the different things that draw them to India.

Back at the meeting point Raju (one of the guides) helped me get a tuk-tuk back to the Red Fort. I highly recommend taking a tour with Delhi by Cycle. The guides are super nice and knowledgeable, the bikes they provide are in perfect condition, and even though I did not take advantage Raju did stop with one of the other participants multiple times for her to make photographs. The tour is great because it shows you parts of the city you would not see otherwise and you find some amazing photographic moments.

At this point it was between 10 and 11am. My day is not nearly over. I headed back to the Red Fort. Oh, the Red Fort, I thought it was going to be a great place to make photographs. I was wrong. If you are headed to Delhi do not waste your time and money on going to the Red Fort. This year the government increased the prices to get into monuments, most of them used to be 250 rupees to get into now the same ones are 500 rupees. There are places I have been to that are totally worth 500 rupees, the Red Fort is not one of them. However, I spent as much time as I could inside. I had some time to kill. I slowly walked around. The biggest negative I found was that you could not enter many of the buildings. The property had been used by so many different groups including the British (who built buildings inside). I thought the contrasting architecture might be an interesting subject, but it was not. I was not super inspired to make photographs. Instead I sat on a bench for a while and made a phone call. I found a toilet and discovered that I had to pay to go to the restroom. After paying to use the toilet I sat outside in the shade and wrote in my journal for a while. In total I did spend about 2 hours inside the fort. However, it is only because of the breaks I took. Below are a few photo highlights from the fort.

After leaving the fort I decided to walk up Chandi Chowk to take the Metro to the other side of town. I did not want to deal with a tuk-tuk driver. The Metro is a great way to travel and the most expensive ticket is 25 rupees. I started walking toward the street. Once I the street I had to deal with people  wanting to take me on tour or tuk-tuk rides but once I got across the street I disappeared in the crowd. The street was extremely crowded. Walking up the street I only took photographs with my phone.  While I love my DSLR sometimes the best way to take a photograph is with your phone. I was surprised, I did not stop at any of the shops and it took me almost an hour to walk to the Metro station. I thought it was on Chandi Chowk; however, it was on a side street. I saw a sign pointing where I needed to turn but then as I walked down the perpendicular street I walked past the Metro station twice. I finally asked someone and they pointed me in the right direction.

There was a line at the ticket booth and it took me about 5 minutes to get my fare. Then I headed underground. My favorite thing about the Delhi Metro is that every train has a car only for females. I like to take this car, it just feels safer. However, I have ridden in the co-ed cars before during rush hour and I had no problems. I took the Metro south towards an area called Hauz Khas. Once I came out of the Metro I asked a guy how to get to Hauz Khas; he told me to take a tuk-tuk. I grabbed a tuk-tuk for 100 rupees. Several tuk-tuk’s did not want to take me, I think because it was not worth the money.

The area around Hauz Khas was nice. There was a park that I walked through and they had deer there. There is also a modern shopping area there. Hauz Khas actually refers to an area of Indo-Islamic architecture. I was surprised that I was not overly moved by the architecture at Hauz Khas. I had seen photographs of the area and had wanted to visit for a while but once I was there making photographs was more like a requirement than something I actually wanted to do. After a quick walk around the architectural complex I headed back to the shopping district for dinner.

Meropi had eaten at a restaurant called Social in August and she highly recommended it. In fact, you can get a beef burger there. I had to wait a few minutes for a table but once I sat down it was relaxing. I ordered an alcoholic drink but I can’t remember what and the burger. To finish I got a chocolate dessert. The atmosphere is really nice, the decor makes you think you are in a western country and they provide free internet for an hour. Many young professional go there to relax and work. After eating I had to head back to the Metro station so I could get my bags and go to the airport.

I come out of the shopping complex and several tuk-tuk drivers approached me and offered me a ride. I swear the guy told me it would be 50 rupees so I go with him. Once we are on the road he is saying something to me but I am not quite sure what. Based on his motions I think he is asking me if I want to drive the tuk-tuk. I kept telling him no. At one point in a neighborhood he stops and tells me to come up to the front with him. I tell him I do not want to drive and to take me to the Metro station. Once we get to the Metro station he tells me I owe him 250 rupees. I looked at him and said, “You told me it would be 50 rupees and this ride was not worth 250 rupees.” I handed him 100 rupees and walked off. I was surprised he did not follow me or yell at me. I did not look back I just headed down to the Metro.

It was an uneventful trip back. It was rush hour so it was super crowded. The car was filled with young and middle aged workers headed home and teenage girls going out for the evening. We would smile at each other as we packed more and more women in. It was nice a sense of comradery after dealing with the tuk-tuk driver. I was able to take the Metro to the New Delhi station where my bags were.

The guys in the luggage check area thought I was really funny. I got my luggage down and paid them. Then I started moving things in my bags around. I had taken everything I needed and put it in my travel backpack. To go to the airport I needed to transfer things back to their original bags and pack the travel backpack. What can I say I am funny anywhere I go. Once I had everything situated I got a porter to help me outside. I really liked this guy. He was patiently waiting outside the luggage check. Outside he helped me find a driver and he did not tell me how much to pay him. I love people like him, so I gave him extra money. Then I headed off in the taxi.

Taxi rides in Delhi are always an adventure. The drivers are crazy; they all think they are in a Nascar or Grand Prix race. So long as we are not in an accident I think it is super fun. However, as we left the train station the traffic was really bad. On my first trip to Delhi I had stayed in Pahargang which is a neighborhood right next to the New Delhi station. As we drove up the road we drove past scenes I remembered from my first trip to Delhi. I it was bitter sweet. I knew I needed to take a break from India and go back to the States but I also felt sad. Once we were on the open road I just enjoyed the ride. We made it to the airport in 45 minutes to an hour. The driver got me a luggage cart and helped me get my luggage on it. He also asked me if he was a good driver. I told him he was fantastic! I made it alive after all. Once inside the airport I had several hours to kill before my flight. I read and talked on the phone and finally I headed out.

I think that the life of a photographer is often romanticized. It must be so fantastic to travel around and explore the world making images. Do not get me wrong being able to see and experience everything I do is amazing. However, it is not always what it is cracked up to be. Sometimes what is going on personally affects your mood. Sometimes there is just nothing inspirational to photograph. Thus every adventure a photographer heads out on does not pay huge dividends meaning you do not always get a ton of great shots. Delhi was this way for me. This was the second time I have photographed in Delhi and I am glad that I added a few more nice photographs to my Delhi portfolio and I look forward to photographing the city again at the end of December.

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By |2018-10-15T12:34:32+00:00November 27th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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