With our month long mission in Rishikesh complete, we headed to Delhi, the capital of India. Delhi is the only major city in India that they haven’t changed the name of. Yet. So far Calcutta is now Kolkata, Madras is now Chennai, Bombay is Mumbai, Bangalore is Bengaluru, and they even changed Pondicherry (we’ll be there next week) to Puducherry. I asked the locals what’s with all the name changes and all I got was “It’s the government, not us.” Anyway, so far no one has mustered up the courage to change Delhi to anything other than dropping the “New” from New Delhi. I mean what would they change it to? Using the current algorithm it may end up as something like Dilly-may or Deli-meat or something equally as silly.
I’ve been to Delhi many times. It’s not for the faint of heart. First of all you’ll be trapped and snookered by touts and charlatans. Second The city is polluted. In the past year it took the top spot away from Beijing, China as the most polluted place on the planet. Some airlines won’t even fly into Delhi when it gets bad. I mean worse bad. Fresh off your flight and through customs you’ll find find yourself at the mercy of an English speaking tout posing as a taxi driver. I won’t go into detail but you can read Laurie’s blog post on a recent experience here. Planning ahead this time we set up a taxi ride through our Airbnb host. A nice gentleman met us as we arrived on our flight from Dehradun and drove us to the Airbnb apartment in a large Toyota van. We learned that the taxi man has a business with 4 cars and 6 drivers and does tours all over Northern India. He gave us details and prices and it sounded really interesting. He didn’t tell us that our Airbnb had been taken over by aliens or that Delhi had been moved to Puducherry. He drove us through Delhi and we arrived late afternoon in a area of the city we were not familiar with, Hauz Khas Village. We settled into the room and quickly headed out to explore the new neighborhood. It was populated by cool, chic restaurants, bars, art galleries, boutiques, design firms, and young people. The village was bordered by an ancient mosque and madrassa, a lake, a deer park (with tons of actual deer), and many walking paths. And it wasn’t really that polluted. It was dreamlike for me. It was not the Delhi I had come to know her the last 10 years.
We had 3 missions in Delhi and about 36 hours to complete them. Laundry, recording equipment, and getting a smartphone screen replaced.
Laundry – the huge Airbnb apartment we rented had a washing machine. That’s a huge thing in India. There are few washing machines. There are no dryers. OK, we did see 2 dryers at a laundromat once. We washed a load of laundry but the spin cycle didn’t work well and the clothes were wet. The second load faired better. The 3rd load was wet. We got a metal construction rack, magically delivered within minutes, just by sending a text to our Airbnb host. The apartment had a small electric heater and a ceiling fan so we were in business. It took most of the 36 hours but we got the clothes dried.
Recording equipment – We realized the first few times we tried to live-stream a Yoga class in Rishikesh that we really needed our condenser mic, phantom power supply, and some of the other fancy recording equipment we left at home. The nearest supplies were in Delhi – 7 hours away. We managed to pull off a few short videos using the laptops and a lavaliere mic while we were still in Rishikesh but we needed new stuff. There’s an awesome music store in Delhi, Raj Musicals, which had everything we wanted and needed. The store and staff were great. Of course it was an hour drive on the other side of town through heavy traffic. But we did it. We now have a Rode NT1 shotgun condenser mic and an iRig Pre phantom power smartphone interface. We’re back in business.
Smartphone screen replaced – Remember from previous posts I tried to get one of my smartphone screens replaced in Rishikesh. I was promised the world. But it’s India and the world was never delivered. I googled for a while and found a place in Delhi that had good reviews and claimed they could do Motorola phones. I called every number on their website. The first 3 did not work. I was just about to give up and rang the 4th one. A man answered and I confirmed with Airwave Communications that they could fix this Moto phone. They also promised me the world. In between laundry and microphone shopping, by the end of the day, 10 minutes earlier than promised, they handed me back a fixed Motorola phone with a brand new display. This is no small feat as Motorola phones, especially my models, are not really available in India. It ended up being about half the cost of getting it done in the U.S.
We did take time to eat at some of the cool restaurants in Hauz Khas Village. Noteably “Social” which seemed surrealistic to me when I walked inside. We had dessert at an Indian place, called Naivedyam Restaurant and coffee the next day at Cafe Coffee Day, the Starbucks of India!
Next we’re headed South. First to Chennai, the city formally known as Madras. Then to Tiruvanamalai, which took us 4 days of practicing how to pronounce it say it correctly. Then on to Puducherry, formerly known as Pondicherry up until last week, and in my opinion the worst of the name changes. I mean Pondicherry sounds so nice, sounded so nice. Puducherry? Really?