I travelled to Delhi from Jodhpur, and I’m the first to admit that I was a little apprehensive about arriving in the capital. After a great week in Rajasthan, it was back into a megacity for a couple of days. In truth, I was being a little unfair on Delhi; I was expecting the city to overwhelm me the way Mumbai had a couple of weeks earlier. To my delight, I was worrying about nothing. Now that I’d acclimatised to the temperature – in any case, Delhi in November isn’t engulfed in the humidity that never leaves Mumbai – and I’d familiarised myself with the country a little bit, I enjoyed Delhi. I quickly found a little routine, waking in the morning to have an enormous breakfast on one of the many rooftop cafes in Paharganj, the most popular area in town for backpackers, where I could sit outside and watch over the chaos on the street below. Unfortunately, the coffee I was served in most of those places looked like dishwater and had the taste to match, but other than that it was a great start to the day. After that, I’d go for a long walk from my hostel in New Delhi over to Old Delhi and spend a couple of hours sightseeing or just wandering around town. Invariably in the evenings I’d stop for a beer in one of the bars on the Main Bazaar back in Paharganj before calling it a night.
On my second or third day, I bumped into an English girl called Beth outside the State Bank of India branch on Chandni Chowk. She had the bewildered look on her face that is unique to new arrivals in India – I’m sure I had the exact same look on my face in Mumbai. We got chatting and decided we’d go together to look around the Red Fort, a few hundred metres away from where we’d bumped into each other. Part of the appeal of the city is the immense historical value it offers visitors, and the Red Fort, not to mention the Jama Masjid mosque around the corner, both remnants of the Mughal empire, are prime examples of this, and the importance of Delhi to that past empire is obvious – Old Delhi itself was once known as Shahjahanabad. I suppose getting to name cities is one of the perks of becoming Emperor.
What was meant to be a couple of nights in the capital for me quickly turned into a week, as I was persuaded me to stay on for an extra night, and then another. Eventually, I had to force myself out of town to keep up with my schedule – I had a couple of weeks in Nepal ahead of me before heading back to India bound for Varanasi. The next time I’m in Delhi, I’ll give it the time it deserves.