Delhi - two cities
Delhi has two completely different faces. Old Delhi is much like a typically indian city: busy, vivid, chaotic. Central places where life of everybody is crossing are first of all Chandi Chowk, a busy market and shopping area. Furthermore there are the quarter around the Jama Masjid (Mosque of Friday) and the Red Fort.
New Delhi however is the official capital of India, accommodating the government institutions and numberous embassadies. Pettily cleaned roads, that have been planned in british colonial times, make the visitor forget for a moment the hectic life just a few kilometers north in Old Delhi. Every year to Independence Day (January 26), a big military parade is hold on the wide main avenue of New Delhi - during which even nuclear rockets are getting shown. That's India, the land of contrasts: peaceful religion and glowing nationalism.
One of my colleagues in Siemens (Samarth) is originally from Delhi - his parents are still living there. So Samarth offered us to stay in his family's place when visiting Delhi. It was very convenient as their apartment is close to the centre and just fifteen minutes walk from New Delhi Railway station. We rang the doorbell and Ram, the family's servant, opened the door. He seemed to be quite surprised of seing us - unshaved Westerners with mounted backpacks. Ram does not speak any English - and we are not able to speak or even understand any Hindi.
Finally we convinced him to let us come in. His surprise must have been growing as we asked for the bathroom and started expanding and resorting our things in the living room. Samarth told us before that it might be possible that his parents are playing golf when we arrive - so we expected his parents back in the evening. We explained Ram that we are going to roam around and that we would be back by six.
After a long and tiring day in New Delhi we came back to the apartment. Ram was still there - not Samarth's parents. We got suspicious, I pointed to the "8" on my wrist watch and asked: "Mr. Prasad?" - Ram in contrast pointed to "Tuesday" on the calendar on the commode - as to say: "wrong time-scale!".
Samarth's parents were out of station for the following two days - and obviously have forgotten to inform Ram about our arrival. So we decided to search for a hotel outside. Somehow we had the idea of asking somebody who is able to speak Hindi and English to phone up Ram and explain our story. We entered a nearby taxi broker office and asked the man behind the desk if he had five minutes time. After explaining him our situation I tried to prove our identity in showing my passport, the hand drawn sketch for finding the way from the railway station to the apartment, and several business cards of Siemens. The old man just said: "No no, you're a gentleman!". Then he phoned up Ram and after a two minutes dialogue, our accommodation was arranged.
"Holi" is a festival, mostly celebrated in North India. A reliable sign of Holi are people all over the streets covered with all kinds of colours: green, yellow, pink. This custom hides away all caste barriers - during Holi people dance, celebrate and act out their drive for painting regardless of social status.
Naturally, foreign tourists are preferred targets for these "colour attacks". Some nasty guys are even picking out female travellers to have an excuse for touching them unmannerly. Besides, it is a highly risky day for your photo camera. Especially young people like throwing balloons filled with coloured water down from roof tops into the narrow streets of Old Delhi.
In the evening, we went to the fountain in the center of Connaught Place. After a short time, a man dressed up with a blue business-like shirt and a bag in his hand came towards us and began a small conversation. As it turned out that we are from Germany, he unbagged a small notebook with hand-written entries, obviously in German. A certain "Melanie from Heidelberg" recommended warm-heartedly his services - he's a professional ear-cleaner.
If we were interested? He just could have a look, for free of course. "Ok, let's see." - "Oh dear, when did you clean your ears the last time?" and so on. Finally we were sitting in the grass, having our earlobes tugged away and hoping that the strange noises caused by his cotton sticks were less harmful than they sounded.
There might have been thousands of normal customers, but in our exceptional case, he had to use some "medicine". Good value for money, that special treatment. First we thought: this charlatan just drops some water into our ears - but then we were hoping that this obscure stuff was just water! After the treatment, he shouted "HELLO!" from close distance into the ear - to prove us how well he restored our ability of hearing.