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Velocity:Inertia Stories of my Adventures

3rd try's a charm

INDIA | Tuesday, 25 August 2015 | Views [196]

Lost in an alley in Paharganj

Lost in an alley in Paharganj

First, the highlights, then more details if your schedule and attention span permits!

*a 2 hour walking tour given by former "street kids" of Delhi of Paharganj (where I happen to be staying).

If your time is limited right now, I'd say stop reading, click http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/city-walks.html , and donate if you have a spare dollar, which goes further in India than the USA.

*my first Delhi metro ride, and experience of people making (er.. Very Strongly encouraging??) me to cut a giant line.

*heat exhausted, I stole into a Mxdonalds for air con. After answering emails and meeting new acquaintances Miller and Henri from Montreal, curiosity got the best of me and I ate a spicy paneer cheese sandwich. I just took an Imodium.

*self care, high tea with Totoro (see pics)

*walk miles back to hostel, no Ty metro

*start talking to other solo female traveler, Viola from Switzerland, who is trying to find her way back to the same hostel as me! I get her more lost but got great pics and a new friend!

*men accusing me of "not wanting to talk to Indian people" because I ignored them/ didn't want to tell them my life story in the middle of the street. You are not entitled to know where I'm from or where I'm staying so you can follow me back to where I sleep at night. Red flag! I'd say the same to a white American man and do at home frequently. I may get white and/or class privilege but I'm clearly in a place I don't know very well and you and any other strange man in the street of any background asking where I'm from and where I'm going is a potential rapist/stalker/harasser so bugger off!

*first tuk tuk ride

*India Gate, in honor of WwI soldiers with Viola, Katie and Rose.

*dinner and story exchanging at a Mexican -Indian restaurant, a really fun time!

*more tuk tuks, cows, dogs and puppies in the street

*an Italian man asking me to help his friend edit a menu in English for money tomorrow

*so many tireds!!!!!!


the Salaam Balaak Trust walking tour- I should have done this one on my first day rather than the touristy one in the car! It was led by a group of 17-18 year olds who had once been "street kids" and had been helped out of their situation by the organization. One of the guides said that as I was walking up he thought I was a boy at first, which made me giggle :) I liked how he said it with honesty but without judgment or stigma. Anyway, I highly recommend checking out and donating to this organization, which runs shelters and successfully pulls many Indian children out of poverty.

The main guide, Vishal, led us through the maze like alleyways of Paharganj, the neighborhood I am staying in. It is a poor area with a bazaar and a bunch of budget backpacker hostels. I begin to wonder if it is a type of gentrification, though if it is, it has not completely overtaken the area or drained it of its ubiquitous culture. A local told me that this is a "shady" place. It has not been easy to stay in, especially on my very first days here. But I am glad I did nonetheless.

It was good to explore Paharganj through the eyes of someone local who has lived a very different life than me, and it nice to do so without being harassed or getting lost so that I could absorb more of what was happening around me. I did not take pictures other than a wall in an alleyway of Hindi and Christian deities. (They are there to remind everyone that the gods are "always watching.") It doesn't sit well with me to be who I am coming in and taking photos of the poor living conditions and the people in them, as much as I do think it is important that they are seen and known. They may not feel the same way, depending on the person. They are not tourist attractions. I did take a picture of a super cool wall in that neighborhood while not on the tour, the purple and green one.

We were introduced to some of the children- all boys. They had one girls shelter far away and had some success stories about girls, but most that come to them are boys. Tragically, this is because pimps will hide girls away and sell them into prostitution. A story was told about a girl who had so convincingly pretended she was a boy that she had been admitted into one of the boys shelters before being found out.

Vishal was even kind enough to walk me to the metro after. Something strange happened there. I got into the queue (line) to buy a token to ride and the men started saying, "you need to go to the women's only," but as I wandered forward I didn't see any. A man came from the line and told me to come up with him to the front. I told him I didn't want to cut anyone, but he just shook his head and waved me forward. He pushed next to the person at the window and bought me a token with the money I gave him, and went back to his place in line (which was easily 50 or more people long). I was simultaneously mortified and touched. The last thing I wanted to do was look like an entitled white tourist who didn't feel like waiting in line. I had all the time in the world and was prepared to wait indefinitely for this token I needed. But this man and others in the line insisted.

So after some trial and error I am now in the touristy "Connaught Place," neighborhood having high tea at a fancy hotel. I feel a little douchey admitting that this is what I'm doing, given the history of racism and imperialism inflicted by the Brits, who did not invent tea but certainly appropriated it into the style in which I am experiencing it. And, compared to what I was doing this morning, it is odd. The disparity between the haves and have nots rings louder than ever. It is costing me $20, which is a lot of money here. At the same time, I had a chance to do this and wanted to take it once.



Tags: adjustment, connaught place, financial inequality, street harassment

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