22.05.22 New Delhi, India
It has been some action-packed days here at Delhi. This is my first attempt to document the vast chaos, anarchy, craziness and beauty that defines this country. I also need to introduce here my humble web site, 6 years in the concept phase, 4 years paying for the domain but having jack-shit on, and finally, actually building the God damn website just last weekend.
This site has been developed by FullScope, a company that mainly consists of my cousin. As he didn’t have my new mobile phone number and could not contact me directly, it was with great regret that he informed me when i arrived to start building the site that he had only 45′ to build it as his mates had called and he would go to play basketball. He eventually cancelled his game and stayed another extra 45′, so this site was built in an hour and a half. I have already comments from some – mainly ladies – that the colors don’t look natural enough, not too earthy, it needs more styling and is not sexy enough. Frankly, I’m massively proud for after just talking about it for 6 years I finally have a launching pad for my scribblings! Maybe FullScope will do some more magic while I’m away…
India since the last 5 years has changed a lot, and simultaneously not at all. Delhi has a massive spanking-new airport, very very clean, all with rules and regulations that are actually being followed. It felt out of place. A friend had reported to me that 6-7 years ago when she landed in Delhi for the first time in her life, the first thing she witnessed when the terminal doors slid open and a 40 degree heat wave smashed into her face, was a man at his late 50′s sitting in a squat position at the corner of the terminal building, his face showing intense signs of effort. He was only in the middle of doing some “big” business (“small” business doesn’t even turn a head here). Well if you are coming to New Delhi, it is safe now…
On the second day I moved from my overpriced cell to a more reasonably priced cell. When I was booking my first hotel in Delhi via in the Internet, I must have accidentally clicked on the check-boxes “Please give me your only room that doesn’t have a window” along with the check-box “I’m happy to pay double for an Air Conditioned room, even if the A/C unit can only blow mildly warm air”. It was a 300KG steel unit sitting on a table, making such vibration that would make the whole bed rattle and at a 120db noise level, it would be challenging even for a koala to sleep. It lasted for 10′ before I decided to resort to the ceiling fan. The ceiling fan was barely loud enough to cover the mind-screwing echoing sound of the all-night dripping shower (another check-box I must have ticked), but at 46 degrees Celsius that day, the night felt like trying to sleep while in a deafening low-flying helicopter mission over the Sahara with closed doors and windows. And, for God’s sake, which helicopter is fitted with a dripping shower that you can still manage to hear?
My new hotel came via a midnight connection in a Chai shop with a Japanese guy that swears he is Spanish. He told me of the illegal hotel with no sign he is living in, with no receipts and no paperwork. The hotel has been declared illegal since the head of police changed a few years ago and would not renew the license by giving the usual baksheesh (voluntary donation to the police - cash donations only – no credit cards, no receipts).
The hotel manager was a very accommodating man. He showed me to my room and casually asked, “do you take drugs? smoke hashish, marijuana?”. I said “no sir, of course not!”. His response was a bit disarming. “If you want some, please let me know. Also, no smoking outside. Smoke drugs only inside room.”. Right. We in the rest of the world must have it all wrong for asking hotel guests to smoke only outside their room.
On my first night there, and again at midnight as I was going to bed (why all the best connections happen at midnight?) I met the two distressed German girls leaving their room one floor above me, on a search for another hotel. “Little animals are crawling on me!”. I guess everything has a price. She was right. Shorty after laying in bed, I felt something was a bit funny. Thankfully it was not bedbugs, but some sort of weird insects with big wings. It took a couple of minutes of hard shaking before the over-sized hotel manager woke up. He took me to the next room, same story. We finally took it to the room opposite, and that was a happy ending. Still living there, and loving it.
Much of the rest of my five days here have been consumed by looking for a motorbike to buy. Every single day trekking to the motorcycle district of New Delhi, talking to people, talking to dealers, checking spare parts, accessories, being driven to workshops and trying to cut a good deal while trying to figure out the good guys from the crooks. It’s not as hard as you think. It is actually much harder! The chances here are much higher that you get duped than having a genuine deal. Read some of the harrowing stories at www.madaanmotorsthief.com just to get into the spirit of what kind of criminal dealers I’ve been trying to avoid for the last 5 days. This is just one of them, I had met him a day before I was told of the real deal, he gave me a very good offer and he was very, very convincing…
Meeting exceptional people (I would never call them weird) is an integral part of the Indian experience. Yesterday in breakfast I met this American lady that has built with her husband her own NGO, operating in Kashmir for a religious minority (aren’t you already curious? so was I). She want on in explaining to me that this religion has strong, non-violence ethics like Buddhism (and she got my full attention there), that they eat or harm no animals (okay…), and that they won’t even eat vegetables like carrots because when you pull a carrot out of the earth you are killing it (????). Wait, it’s getting better. They don’t wear shoes so they are grounded with the earth and also not step on or kill other animals (I was still trying to play along at this stage), they won’t shower as they might harm the microorganisms in the water (now she was starting to lose my interest) and they don’t travel, in fact they live in very small, confined communities so they don’t hurt/affect other ecosystems (What? A world of no backpackers?? Are you people for real??). I decided this religion was a bit too intense for me, but I nonetheless underwent a two-and-a-half-hour rant from her on the issues they are facing, while re-ordering my breakfast at least three times, each time the waiter giving me a blank face like he had never seen me before in his life.
And last night (this was an hour before midnight!) I get picked up in a cafe from a Bollywood agent. Why me? The plot: They are filming a documentary on Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. Already laughing? Read on. No mum, they didn’t pick me for the Osama role, okay?? We are actually somewhere in the Operations Center inside the White House, and Barack Obama is in a conference room with all his advisers watching the assassination operation by US Navy Seals on multiple big screens live! I am one of the government’s top adviser, so I’ll either get to be Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, CIA Director, FBI Director or Vice President. Can’t decide yet. But I would love to be Collin Powell if he was still around.
The documentary will be aired in one of India’s major TV networks, so being exposed to an audience of more than a billion people is something that I’m fairly okay with. The thing that is troubling me the most is the fact that I will have to stay in Delhi for 3-4 more days for the shooting. And I think I’ve stayed here long enough, time for some adventure. Plus, they will get me to shave, damm it… Sometimes the Osama Bin Laden role has its advantages….