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July 28, 2020 / catherinebwrites


Interesting electrical installations.

Tourists told us that Old Delhi with it’s market streets was difficult. Indians warned that it was full of pick-pockets, thieves and tricksters waiting to part you from your cash. That you have to be very careful. That best way is to hire a bicycle rickshaw and a guide.

But, unless you live in a hole in the ground, you know that every city and every market has pick-pockets, thieves and tricksters and that you need to be careful with money cards and documents. Besides, the great pleasure of markets is wandering around, seeing the goods close up, bargaining and buying. And you can’t truly enjoy a market from a moving vehicle. So we took a tuk-tuk and headed for the Spice Market. Within minutes we were stuck in a traffic jam.

Traffic jam
Traffic jam
Traffic jam

But by now we were traffic jam veterans. We knew that Delhi traffic jams are to be savoured, so we sat back and admired the infinite variety of vehicles and the range of passengers and goods that they carried. I’ve tried to describe them in earlier blogs but the pictures tell all.

The market was jam-packed with people, mostly men. Shop owners, assistants, customers, hangers-on, friends, tuk tuk drivers, porters, bicycle-taxi drivers. Tiny shops on either side of the street had displays of spices and nuts, loose, packaged, tinned and bottled. The smell was intoxicating. Unusually, the shopkeepers didn’t try to lure us in to buy their goods. I reckon they thought that westerners wouldn’t be interested. But we were, and this gave us the chance to look and smell and ask questions which is half the pleasure of being in a market.

I’ll have that… and that… and that…
All of these please….

By the time we’d explored one side of the street we were starting to flag so we went in to visit Fatehpuri Masjid. This is a mosque built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of the wives of Emperor Shah Jahan. After the crowds and the noise it was a haven. You have to remove your shoes before you go in.

Fatehpuri Masjid.
Fatehpuri Masjid courtyard

There were several old men sitting by the pool chatting or just sitting. We had the impression that they met here every day. We too sat by the pool to enjoy the peace and quiet. Several families wandered in.

As part of the complex there was a boys school on the first floor. The pupils came out on a break to play football on a wide first floor terrace. Every so often, the ball bounced into the courtyard below. We retrieved it and threw it back. The boys were polite and grateful and highly amused to see tourists fetching their ball.

Then I noticed a man doing his washing -or perhaps someone else’s. In Hindu society launderers belong to the lowest cast. I could not discover how it is viewed among Muslim people. All I know is that it demands careful attention to remove all najaasah (impurity) and, depending on the cause of the impurity, may need several washes. It certainly looked like very hard work

man washing clothes

Back on the street we bought herbs and spices, nuts and jaggery (a sugar made from cane sugar and date palm used in sweet dishes in India). We wandered along absorbing the sights and the sounds and saw few other tourists.

Quite a load to carry on your head.
Waiting for work
Hoping to sell
All kinds of electrics
Blankets anybody?

The weather was just warming up but now it was time to leave India and return home. We were sorry that we hadn’t ventured into Old Delhi earlier. We felt we’d only experienced the tiniest sliver of India and now learned of so many wonderful places we wished we had seen. But that’s always what happens when you visit a country for the very first time. Especially India, which is more than a country, it’s a continent with an unimaginable variety of languages, cultures and peoples. We can’t wait to get back.

While we waited in our hotel for a taxi to the airport, there were news reports of a viral disease in Wuhan, China. A group of Chinese guests arrived. Two of them sat in the lobby. One took a bundle of face masks out of her bag and shared them with her friend. Little did we realise that, when we got home to Ireland, half a world away from Wuhan, we’d soon need face masks ourselves.

It may be quite some time before we can return to amazing extraordinary, beautiful, challenging India.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Narayan Tushar Kaudinya / Jul 28 2020 5:47 pm

    My good old delhi. To imagine see old delhi empty and quiet was bizarre past few months. When were you here ?


  2. fatimazahwa / Aug 1 2020 12:50 pm

    It’s on my bucket list to visit New Delhi and the Taj Mahal , it’s all on hold , my dream as the future awaits is to travel to as many countries as I can when I have the chance 🙂 this piece is so beautiful you spoke so successfully and provoking on the magnificent spices , food , culture , religion and sparked interest and enlightenment to visit New Delhi ! Us westerners do find it bizzare as it’s unlike Our norms and customs !


  3. catherinebwrites / Aug 4 2020 11:27 am

    You really must visit India as soon as you can. It is an amazing place. We’ve just been talking on the phone to Ram, our driver when we were in Bandhavgar National Park seeing tigers. Indian people are the friendliest and sweetest you’ll ever meet.


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