With Bundi finally in the books it was time to join the social world for a time again. We hopped a night train to Delhi (fairly comfortable, spurned the opportunity to get drunk on some clear mystery hooch with the guy in the bunk below me traveling with his mom) arrived at the oh so convenient witching hour (around an hour before sunrise) and cleverly opted to cut a bit of distance off our taxi ride by getting off before the main station. Ah, Ohka Station, we’ll remember you fondly as a dark, featureless shanty surrounded by chain link fence and abject poverty. Luckily for us there was some type of messy middle of the night vegetable market taking place a block or so away otherwise the only light would have been from the moon reflecting off homeless guys’ urine. We ended up tracking down a rickshaw out on the road (surprisingly, no pre-paid taxi stand around), the driver wrapped in a large shapeless blankoat (something like a snuggie but designed to withstand much harsher treatment, like driving a rickshaw in Delhi or having sex in the park with a ringette player) and looking as surprised to see us as we were surprised not to have been knifed just yet. A long cold ride across southern Delhi, several jovial rounds of directions, the wrong building (my mistake), a B & B manager gives us ride to correct building and voila, back to bed for a few hours.
Later we met up with some friends we met last year in Nicaragua and caught up over some McDonald’s (both of us well in need of some “home cooking”, even if these troublesome Hindus meant I had to settle for a, ugh, McChicken) before heading off for a rather desultory exploration of Old Delhi’s famous Red Fort. With all of us having spent our fair share of time over the past month touring forts, palaces and miscellaneous broken down dwellings of Indians Past we learned it was much harder to drum up the appropriate enthusiasm for such a treasured icon than it was for Happy Hour at, well, any random pub.
Side note: Having since been to Agra’s Red Fort we found the latter to be far more interesting and, merely our opinion of course, consider Delhi’s a mere pale imitation. A Pink Fort, shall we say, or maybe a Caucasian Left Too Long in the Sun Fort. They both had grand red facades and impressively looming archways but the main difference was that, in Agra, behind these gateways there was a maze of rooms, courtyards and balcony viewpoints while in Delhi usually you would simply find a big open space before the next brilliant arch or aggressive looking wall. It was like touring the Hollywood set of a fort, except instead of brave knights and comely maidens there were rambunctious school tour groups and Dave from Wisconsin with the large camera and poorly located sweat stains.
So from there we opted to take the Metro, invariably the most efficient mode of transport in any city larger than two Saskatoons, where we unknowingly entered the car reserved for women only. Luckily a young girl was polite enough to point out my folly and suggested, not in so many words of course, to get a move on, despite my rather persuasive argument that a mauve sarong with turtles on it is in active use in my wardrobe. Which meant I arrived in Khan Market one car sooner than those pampered ladies, although we all set forth together to check out this reputed hotbed of moderate afternoon drinking, and true to form, Happy Hour soon turned into Happy Evening, then Happy Night, then we all ran out of steam due to lack of practice and, in Laynni and I’s case, fundamental miscalculations as to the cost of twenty beer. Nonetheless, we did learn a few valuable lessons:
Canada sucks at cricket (we watched them lose to New Zealand, a humiliation exceeded only by getting caught touching yourself while watching a Scotiabank “You’re richer than you think” commercial)
To fear the “Angry Arm” method of Kiwi mixed martial arts – a clever system by which your face remains protected while your hand is free to wreak vengeance, or finish up your Singapore Noodles, as the case may be
That neither of the B’s in “B & B” stand for “I’d B happy and gracious if roused out of bed to help my drunk lodgers find their way in to the building”
The following morning, bright and early, Laynni was off to the airport (someone had to stay and guard the pillows) to meet her parents. Who, despite thirty odd hours of flying time and a twelve hour time change found the very concept of a nap patently ridiculous for some reason, somehow managed to fall asleep for a few hours until it was time for a late lunch and some grumpy eye rubbing. Then the Family Locke went downtown to meet up with some guy from some organization for a tour of some neighbourhood and the chance to distribute some gifts and supplies to a needy school, courtesy of some of the classes from Arthur Pechey school in PA and a pinch of their own philanthropic nature. I continued to guard the pillows. Well. I also went to Subway and finally got to see The King’s Speech (don’t judge me without understanding the true depths of my superficiality), where I learned that Indian kids aren’t nearly as interested in the fascinating historical impact of a seemingly minor physical affliction on world events as they were in the scenes when the King swore a bunch. That was apparently awesome. Not as awesome as taking calls and texting your friends during all the parts when he wasn’t swearing, but awesome nonetheless.
The next morning we acquired our very own driver, Ravi, (only a rental, of course, unlike our fancy new pink bar of soap) who would be “at our disposal” for the next six days. $410 for six days, five nights and four people not having to worry about buses, trains, taxis, directions or finding ways to stand out in a crowd (our roomy Toyota Innova was plastered with “Tourist Vehicle” decals). Incidentally, that was double the price of a creaky old non A/C Ambassador but I can assure you we’ve had no regrets so far, if for no other reason than keeping most of the insidious black exhaust on the proper side of the glass.
Upon arrival in Jaipur, Nadine and her minions wasted no time taking the first momentous steps in an arduously epic shopping journey that would span three states, dozens of hectic bazaars and countless excellent scarf purchases that will no doubt echo throughout the ages, or at least until next half off sale on used fedoras at the Red Apple.
The highlight of Jaipur, outside of the stunning displays of both shopping proficiency and bargaining futility, was undoubtedly the Amber Fort. We bypassed the painful looking queue of people waiting to take elephant rides up to the palace, instead going with the more traditional – and marginally less kitschy – route of being dropped off at the front gate in a car. It was like we were from the future. Or really, really fat. But despite all the colossally preposterous tour groups the fort itself was actually fairly enthralling. And after we finished there Ravi took us up to Jaigargh Fort, just a couple kilometres up the hill, yet worlds away. Neatly oiled hair and self catered lunches versus floppy straw hats and elephant dung. Nowhere near the elegance of Amber but still intriguing in a completely different way. A phallic cannon and surly monkey kind of way, but still…
Conspiratorial Aside: Don’t tell Lyle what “phallic” means lest he rethink letting Laynni make his uncomfortably suggestive cannon photo his new Facebook profile picture.
In conclusion, we can safely confirm that a) the “Pink City” of Jaipur is indeed relatively pink, b) camels were definitively sat upon, for a small fee, and c) Lyle is finding it difficult to adjust to a mostly vegetarian menu.
Laynni “Do you know what you’re getting, Dad?”
Lyle, flipping back and forth through the eight page menu miserably like a dog had just knocked his Fudgecicle out of his hand, “Not really, there’s no food in here.”
The Taj Mahal. What else is there to say? Crazy lineups, humbling first glance, lots of dumb tourists taking dumb photos (Hi, I’m Dean), and it looks spectacular from basically any angle. Much like my left buttock. And I won’t bother trying to describe it in detail because, as they say, there are two things that speak louder than words – pictures and penile implants. Now, the curiously large piles of cattle dung being burned on the streets around the Taj were fascinating for entirely different reasons. Not sophisticated reasons. Just being interested in poop sort of reasons.
We also stopped at Fatehpur Sikri on our way to Agra – yet another fairly impressive fort/palace complex, this one standing out mainly for its red sandstone construction, but only because the kids begging for our used tickets and large families picnicking on the floors were old hat by this time.
And when the time finally came to head back to Delhi (hence the “triangle” see), lo and behold, it just happened to coincide with the Indian summer kickoff holiday known as “Holi”. The underlying theme of Holi is colour, lots and lots of colour, everywhere you look people, places and humiliated animals were covered in festive pinks, audacious purples and fading bruise yellows. Which you hardly ever see outside of Easter in Little Italy. Nonetheless, the main jist of it is that people who choose to “play Holi” buy powdered dyes from one of any of the million shops selling it for the festival and either mix it with water to dump, toss or shoot from a water gun at unsuspecting passersby and bystanders, or take the easy route, leaving it in powder form and simply hurling it at the next pair of startled eyeballs to come around the corner. Either way you’re looking at more fun than a day at the fair, or ritual piercing.
Now A Few More Indian-isms
– Apparently, being a young, happening Indian man in the 21st century involves not only endless vats of hair product and a whole lot of satin clothing, but also far more time pretending to hump other dudes to music than we would have ever expected
· A popular television ad – Big Shot men’s trunks, “to accentuate your assets”
· On the back of employee’s t-shirts at KFC – “A Student of Lick-o-nomics”
· And a highway sign after my own heart – “Lane driving is safe driving”
· Common seen on the bumpers of large trucks: Pictures of Vishnu (for a blessedly safe journey), “Blow Horn!” (presumably to alert the driver of the vehicle to our presence and not actually some obscure sexual challenge) and “Use dipper at night” (um…your call, I guess)
· All of which we found odd since at home we only tend to see things like “Rider Pride”, “My Other Truck is a Ford” and “Baby on Board” which, I must admit, is one of my all time personal pet peeves. So you have a baby in the car (sometimes), what the hell do I care? I mean, did you think I was planning to smash into you at high speed if you didn’t? I guess I’m just wondering in exactly what scenario you expect this concise nugget of information to save your life. Maybe a highly paid Nigerian hitman has been contracted to “take care of you” because of an unpaid Impark ticket and bitter PTA dispute over the use of synthetic orange drink at last year’s Christmas pageant but, lucky for you, he’s just now starting to doubt himself and his chosen profession, plus he has an estranged sister who had a baby last year (his niece!) that she hasn’t even let him see yet and now the thought of your alleged baby is making him sad, he thinks, but he’s not normally one for emotion, being a hitman and all, you know, so he’s not sure he even recognizes it, all he knows for sure is that for some reason (that damned sign maybe??) today will not be the day you die of massive heart failure brought on by a poison blow dart to the neck. In which case, awesome call on the sign I guess.
Coming soon to a laptop near you:
The Life and Times of Varanasi in Film.