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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 17: A different side to Delhi

INDIA | Thursday, 22 November 2007 | Views [670]

India Gate, New Delhi

India Gate, New Delhi

Thursday 22nd November

I spent the morning moving to another hotel down the road, as it was cheaper and better value than the place I stayed the night before. It's also in a busier part of town - the bazaar - which means you have to run the gauntlet of traders, rickshaw drivers and hawkers who populate this busy market area. A lot of time can be wasted acknowledging every greeting of 'hello mate' (often done in the worst cockney accent you can imagine), so I now just keep my head down and ignore them all.

I decided to take a walk about the southern part of the city, which makes up New Delhi. I am staying in neiter Old nor New Delhi, somewhere officially in between, but definitely with a greater slant towards the Old. The main shopping/commercial area is called Connaught Place, the closest familiar place I would compare it to would be the Leicester Square/Picadilly Circus part of London. I know this isn't exactly a compliment, but it makes a refreshing change from some of the narrower, dustier streets north of here. But there are a lot of shops, restaurants and rip-off merchants about. South of this area lies New Delhi, the part built by the British in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it really shows.

Walking through the wide avenues and tree-lined boulevards, past grand buidlings and ancient monuments, you might think you were in a large European city. In fact, certain parts remind me of Paris, and there is even a Delhi equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe - called India Gate - which leads up the royal mall (the Rajpath) to the official presidential residence (the Rashrapti Bhavan). The Champs Elysee springs to mind when you first see this long stretch of road. I also came across some beautiful gardens which house centuries old temples.

New Delhi is a world away from the noise, pollution and chaos of Old Delhi that I had been exposed to up until now. It is clean, quiet, and there is a pleasant lack of hawkers. As much as I have enjoyed the unique character of Old Delhi, much of the novelty has worn off at this stage, and the New bit made a refreshing change, a good place to chill out and explore. I guess the fact that it was similar to home made it all the more enjoyable. I don't mind admitting that a taste of the familiar is quite nice in a place that is a world away from what I am used to.

However, walking back to the hotel, seeing men, women and children sleeping at the side of busy roads, brought home the difference in the two parts of the city in a shocking way.

Having walked about town for a good four hours or so, I was glad to go to a very comfortable, modern cinema to see my first Bollywood movie. I wasn't expecting too much but I was curious as to what I would see. This was the latest blockbuster called 'Om Shanti Om' and has been heavily promoted on TV and billboards everywhere you go. MTV and other music stations seem to be dominated by Bollywood - or bindi - songs, most of which are as colourful and over-the-top as you would imagine them to be. The star of this particular movie is a guy called Shah Rukh Khan, and he seems to be the biggest star in Bollywood (although I think he looks a bit like Lou Ferrigno from the Incredible Hulk TV show).

The movie was alright actually, although it went on for about 3.5 hours (with an interval in between the two halves of the story)! Every 15 minutes or so there would be a big, all singing and dancing number, the music of which I think is quite good, although I don't understand the lyrics. Despite the fact that most of the dialogue was in Hindi (how dare they!), they tend to drop bits of English into it every so often (they do this on some of the TV shows but can't figure out why!). The best bit about it was the lead actress, who was absolutely beautiful (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepika_Padukone). So, I can't say I am a convert to Bollywood movies but they do have their merits, not least the women who star in these films. In that respect, they crap all over Hollywood.

Tags: Sightseeing


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