I was en-route to Rishikesh from Bangalore and so Delhi had to be my entry point. I flew in on a domestic from Bangalore airport and after a 2D-1N short homestay with a yoga teacher and his family, I was ready for the trip up to my real destination, Rishikesh. The city, any city, isn’t really my scene.
I soon realised that Delhi was an amazing city full of contrast and vibrancy, combining both ancient and modern, secular and religious, rich and poor, garish and the graceful. If you are travelling up north, most likely you will be, like me, using Delhi as your entry or exit point. It’s worth a short stay in the city itself but the real charm is in the suburbs and countryside.
I managed to have a friend of a friend who took me on a motorbike out of the city to visit a Rajasthani commune. I had a great time there sharing a simple lunch of chapati and sun-dried radish with a family.
The homes were all fashioned from mud walls that made it oh so cool on the inside. As I was taken on a tour round the village, it amazed me how the folks there lived a life of simplicity that I could never have imagined possible. It was a priceless experience which I had this friend to thank for.
By the way, they told me there is an old and new quarters when it comes to Delhi and it’s true. Which is why I said the city is such a juxtapose of opposites. You will find the historical in the old quarter and the modern and garish in the new.
It was a short stay at a yoga teacher’s home in Delhi. He was a friend of my yoga teacher in Bangalore, and he had a spare room. More than one actually because it seemed that they tended to build upwards in Delhi. Narrow and upwards with a roof terrace on top of the third floor where they dry their laundry and radish. Sun-dried radish in winter seems to be thing.
I could tell you lots about the home-stay which I’ll save for another time but suffice to say that it allowed me to see how a typical vegetarian household is run. How they bathed their 3-year old son in freezing cold water every morning even though it was winter and this as part of his yogic upbringing!
No, the house-guest was luckily exempted! But the pitiful yowls can be quite heartbreaking to hear.
If I were to do it all over again, I will likely take a room at a hotel or guest house. There’s a loss of privacy when you do a home stay.
All over India, water is a precious commodity. And it’s no different here in Delhi. Water is precious and my baths were just a one pail affair. Every morning, the lady of the house would unfailingly boil a kettle of water for my one pail. That was real sweet! By the time I top it up with tap water, the temperature would be just perfect.
Bathing like that means you will learn very quickly how to save as much of the water you use for washing and rinsing your hair and then how to dip a wash cloth into the now slightly soapy water to scrub and wash the rest of your body. That’s how we make one pail of water last. It’s surprising how quickly we learn to adapt, too.
As usual, street food never bothered my stomach except when it’s really spicy. If you are in Delhi, one of the other highlights is really the street food. Amazing variety and taste and my favourite is always anything potato which is easy to read in Devanagari script, similar to Sanskrit. I just look for A-L-O-O. Maybe that’s why I like the north of India. I don’t feel so lost as compared to when I am in the south.