It has been a long time since I was planning to go to Delhi but it never seemed to happen. So this year, on a later half of January, I booked my flights to Delhi and luckily I got it super cheap. I paid like Rs 5500 for a return trip on April 1st. It was a one week trip and I had to make the most out of it.
I usually do not like touristy places and so I read a lot of blogs and shortlisted a few places that I really wanted to visit and wrote more areas which are kinda not that famous. So after thinking about everything, I was ready. And yeah, my friend Biswajit Baruah (and this flat mates for sure) was generous enough to let me stay at his place. It was a golden chance for me to know Delhi better as he was staying there for years now and he knows it inside out.
The day finally arrived and I was at the airport at 8:45 AM and my flight was from 11:10 AM. Due to all the COVID rules, everyone was asked to arrive 2 hours earlier for any security and health checks that needed to be done. But surprisingly, none of that happened at the Guwahati Airport. There were no health checks done anywhere but yes, all the necessary kit was provided before boarding.
It was around 1:45 AM when I reached Delhi. As instructed/advised by Mumtazuddin (another awesome friend of mine from school days), I took a cab to Lotus Temple. I was more inclined towards taking a Metro (as I never travelled in before) but I was going to land in Terminal 2 and that isn’t the best terminal for new people as it is somewhat isolated. Taking a metro will be complicated for a metro-virgin guy.
I booked an Uber and I went straight to the Lotus Temple. Easy ride. I connected with the driver who gave some good tips about Delhi. He was from Gurgaon and advised me to stay alert at all times as Delhi can get too smart for new people.
People who knows me personally will vouch on the fact that I am always too hungry and that day, I had my breakfast at 7 in the morning and till that time, which was around 2:30, I had nothing except water. So you can surely guess my desperation for some food at that time. When I reached the Lotus Temple campus, I head straight towards the area where I could see food stalls. I had 2 amazing Aloo Parathas and some sabji and stuff and those surprisingly cost me Rs 40. I was expecting something around Rs 120 because of the quality of the food. I always heard Delhi has cheap and good quality food options and I definitely experienced that.
After filling my stomach and my heart, I went inside the Lotus Temple. The place had a decent crowd and the lady security told me that I am allowed to shoot photos and videos but not record with the microphone that I was carrying. No issues. I stayed and roamed around the beautiful campus, which was designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba. For those of you who don’t know, The Lotus Temple is also known as The Baha’i House of Worship. And yeah, the entry is free to the Lotus Temple.
Once I was done with the Lotus Temple, I had a Rs 20 Lemon Juice outside the gates, which was refreshing and filled my soul. (just trying to use sentences to make it look cool – you can safely ignore these).
A piece of advice here – if you are new to Delhi, NEVER LISTEN to the Auto Rickshaw drivers when they offer you a deal. I got deals like Rs 50 to the nearest metro station which was not even 1 kms. And some even went to the extent of ‘free mein baitho bhaiyya (brother, sit for free)’ or ‘wohi jaa raha hu chai peene, aa jawo (I am going that way only for tea, come)’. NEVER FALL FOR THESE. I walked a few hundred metres (using Google Maps) and I reached the station. I knew nothing about Metros then and so I was going to make some mistakes here.
I knew (from YouTube videos) that in Metro stations, you can buy tokens directly from the machines placed there but due to the covid situations, tokens arent given in those booths but you can get it directly from the Customer Service people. Also to get in, one has to make a Metro Card but I wasn’t advised on how and what type to get.
So I went to the Customer Service (CS) guys and asked for a card as I was travelling for 8 days. They said I can get a card (with unlimited trips) for 3 days at 500 and for 1 day at around 220 or something. 3 days unlimited sounded tempting but temptation hurts big time. I got the card and I was happy. Now I am roam around and no one can stop me. Yooohoooo….!!! Such a stupid I am.
After security checks and the cool-looking metro card swiping to enter the campus moment happened, I had to go to the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah. I wanted to attend the Qawwali there, which I learnt from blogs, happen every Thursday and Sunday. And that day, my friend, was a thursday. Such a lucky person I am.
The CS guys were kind enough to hand me a Metro Station Map but it was way too confusing for me. It went into my bag and never did that came out. It is 14th April today and till now, the map havent seen the light of the day. So well, I was waiting there and two metros already came and left and I had no clue that to do. I reached out to an uncle there who wanted to help me but he also had no clue how to reach Nizamuddin Auliya but said that there is a way. A metro came and while discussing, we got a bit late, he ran to take it and asked me to follow. The metro door closing warning already came on and while he went in, I couldn’t – too late. My brain instantly told me that the door might work like an elevator and if I keep my hand in between the door, the door might open again. Such a stupid I am. I pulled my hand quickly when I learnt that the doors aren’t like that and they would happily chop my fingers off and pull me to the next station if I keep my fingers there. And I tell you, I literally had a fraction of second to pull my hand out of that door. If I was a bit late, I wouldn’t be writing this blog now. Things could have gone south, easily. And so yeah, like a Bollywood Movie, I stood there, saying bye to the uncle through the clean metro windows that it is okay. I will figure things out. He did that typical Indian head motion thing – which we all do – tilting from one side to the next – but we never notice until someone points that out to us. I had this revelation when Russel Peters did that standup comedy on this head motion.
Well, I asked another person now, one really old guy. Pakka Delhi wala from the accent. He laughed and said that this metro trip will take me forever to reach Nizamuddin as I have to change somewhere (which I couldnt understand because he was pretty old to pronounce clearly and I was too new to know what place he meant) but yeah, he said I should just take a bus and it will directly take me there.
I had this unlimited card. Why worry?
I saw another metro coming in. I hopped in, without wasting any second. I got to live the last time. Won’t waste any more chances. For sure. I made the ‘I know it all’ face and stood there but inside, I had no freaking clue what I was doing and where I should get down. No freaking clue.
I pulled out my forever friend, Google Maps Bhaiyya (brother) and looked. I laughed and cried inside. I was heading to a completely different direction. I was happy that I was experiencing the metro ride but also confused that I was taking a completely different route and from the maps, I knew nothing that was going on. I still stayed for 2 stations as I didnt wanted to let anyone know that I was just purely lost. I had to keep my ‘I know it all’ face and I stood from the seat as if I knew the next stop is my stop.
Got down. Still confused. I went to ask a Punjabi guy who seemed like a good person. He scratched his head and told that there is no station that will take me to Nizamuddin directly but advised me to get out of the station and go to another station (which I didnt understand but said ok ok). I got out and I was in Nehru Place. I knew because I went through that road while going to Lotus Temple. The cab driver mentioned about this place – it is the largest IT market of Asia.
I went to the nearest bus station and asked some people and everyone told me different bus numbers to get to Nizamuddin. On normal days, I would have planned to save some money and get the correct information but considering the fact that it was my first day in Delhi, a 10kg backpack on my shoulder and the dry weather – I was not yet ready to enquire more. Historically speaking, I am known to spend a lot on my first 10% of my travel. I spent a lot in HCMC while travelling Vietnam. More about that trip in here.
I took a cab.
He took me directly in-front of the Nizamuddin Auliya gate. I paid Rs 105 there. I went inside that small alley and man I tell you, there was no sign of COVID there. Literally no one was wearing any masks and although I am always the least touristy guy on the streets, in there I was the typical tourist guy with a face mask on. That was a reason I didnt bring out my camera as I thought it would be best not to be the centre of attraction even though I already was.
After keeping my shoes inside a small shop right outside the entrance and purchasing two plates of flowers for Rs 200 each, I entered through those small corridors. It was around 200-300m maybe until I reached the main dargah. Fortunately the qawwali was still going on and I was excited. Without wasting much time, I went inside the dargah because I needed my hands free to make some good quality videos of the qawwali. I went inside the really small and crowded dargah and offered the flowers inside. Wow, the rose smell inside that dargah was more than enough to mesmerise anyone and everyone. I can still feel that.
So yeah, I came out and something really interesting yet unfortunate thing took place. Two ladies were having fist fights right near the place where the qawwali was going on. And this isnt just a normal fight, they were punching, scratching each other and shouting at the top of their voice and people were trying hard to stop that fight. The fight was so intense that the qawwali singers had to take their table and harmonium and left the place.
I waited, the ladies kept shouting but after like 15 minutes, everything seemed normal. I so wanted to take some videos of that fight but I felt that will not be appropriate. I do not know the emotional status of the crowd there, it would be weird, for sure.
So yeah, coming back to the qawwali, I waited like 15 mins near that place, with the hope that at any point of time they will return and start the qawwali session but no one was there. I asked a person nearby and he told that the next session will be at 9:30PM.
I laughed and cried inside, again.
I left the place and walked toward the main street, through the soul-filling smell of chicken and buff barbeque, through all those tandoori roti stalls. Aaahh… I wanted to eat but the place was too crowded and I felt it was risky to stay there as it was getting dark and covid is on the rise. I felt it is best to go to Baruah’s place and eat something there.
Past experiences taught me that I shouldn’t act clever and take the metro, not yet. So I thought I should take a cab.
I am a smart and healthy guy. The road said it is just around 3kms. I can walk that distance and save some money there because I already was way above the daily budget that I planned. I mean, I never planned any daily budget but I already spent more than 1000 in those few hours, which is wayyyyyyyyy too much for me.
I said hi to Google Maps, put down the location Baruah sent me in Whatsapp and started walking. I saw I have to take a fly-over and felt that might be the way. A girl was walking like 50m ahead of me, who took the same road and so I thought THAT MUST BE THE WAY…..!!!!
After walking like 100m on the flyover, which by the way had no place for walking, I saw the girl ahead of me took an auto and went away. So I was literally the only guy walking, with google maps on, with no freaking idea where I was going. And trust me when I tell you, it was jam packed. There was a time when there was a traffic jam, I stood there, in between cars and bikes, everyone looking at me and I was looking at my phone. I felt it was too funny of a scene because that flyover isnt meant to be walked on.
So whatever it may be, I kept walking and walking and after like a kms of upward walk, I reached like a junction and saw 3 policemen there. I crossed and asked them about the location I want to get it. They scratched their head because I was literally on the wrong side. They said, I shouldn’t have taken this flyover. Instead, I have to return to where I was, take the road next to it which will lead me to Lajpat Nagar 1.
I laughed and cried inside, again..!!!
Here I am, this is me….!!!! walking now in the opposite direction, dodging all the cars and motorbikes that were coming from the opposite direction, tired and thirsty, with my back hurting as I was carrying my backpack all day long. Finally I reached the end of the flyover, took the right and sat there for like 5 mins. Mosquitoes had a good evening snack, for sure.
I walked a few minutes but too tired to move ahead. I waited, right infront of CBI office, booked a cab to a cafe called D Streat Cafe. I felt it was good and cheap and I was hungry like crazy by that time. The cab charged like Rs 70 and I was there.
I laughed and cried inside, everything that I was getting was closed….!!!
I looked for another cafe nearby and in around 600m, I saw there was a Hishi Cafe. I walked and fortunately and finally, it was open.
In the meantime, I forgot to mention, Mumtazuddin and Baruah was texting and calling me every hour or so to ask my whereabouts and if everything is cool. Although everything was going south but it was nothing to complain about and so I didnt mention anything.
After walking like 15mins or so, finally I was at Hishi Cafe. I ordered their in-house cold coffee and I had two of those. Well, it was awesome I tell you and they charge only Rs 60.
Packed two of the BBQ Sandwiches for myself and Baruah and I walked towards his place. At around 8:30PM or so, I was finally at his place. Abhinaba, Jeevesh, Biswajit and myself (Suyash came in late after watching the amazing Godzilla vs Kong – he was soo happy haha) – we talked about random things from Nordic culture to Architecture stuff and it was already too late.
Finally after a long day, I slept and yeah, the first day wasn’t a bed of roses but it was the rose tree as a whole.
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