Saturday, November 12, 2011

Whoa baby!!

 Hit the brakes and stop that rickshaw!!

Okay, I wasn't in a rickshaw but if I was that's what I would have said. I went for my morning walk today but I decided to stir things up a bit so I walked the other direction, away from Central Market. I learned today that this area, Defense Colony, is a pretty big area and quite easy to navigate. Each section has it's own designation, for example I'm staying in D Block which consists about 10 city blocks. Each building is numbered in order, so if you are looking for building 361 then you just keep following the signs and numbers. It doesn't matter if you travel north, south, east or west, everything is in numerical order from one end to the next.

Okay, back to my story. So I walk a couple of blocks and find my self out of D Block and into C Block. There area a lot of restaurants, stores, repair places and the such. I keep walking, eventually through a camp for the construction workers, looks like the slums, pretty much smells that way too. I keep walking until I get to a large and busy intersection. Across the street I see something that looks inviting. It's calling me to come and explore. But I have to cross the street. Sounds easy, but it's not. They drive on the opposite side of the road than we do in the states. That means when I instinctively want to look left for traffic I better look right or I'm going to get hit by an unpleasant surprise.  But wait, what about that rickshaw driving the wrong way, or the scooter on the sidewalk? Then there is the cross traffic, just as confusing and unpredictable. And once I think I have everything figured out I realize that all the other pedestrians around me aren't moving. What do they see that I don't. So I go the easy way and just wait for the crowd to move and I follow close by. Safely across on the other side I walk towards a narrow and congested gap, I squeeze my way though the narrow gap amazed that I didn't get hit by the cars and scooters who own these roads. Once inside I find myself at the Kolta Market (edited from Defense Colony Market as I reported incorrectly the first time).

The shanty town area I walked through, this is where some of the construction workers live

And wow. Wow, what else can I say. This is what I imagined an Indian market would like. This is what we see on television. Narrow streets and alleys stretching as far as the eye can see with stall after stall of every imaginable commodity. I'm not sure I can adequately describe what I saw or experienced, but I'll try.

Kolta Market

On my left side after entering the gate were stalls that were about 12 feet by 12 feet packed with textiles and rugs. And in front of the stalls were men in equally colorful turbins and burlap sacks of wool. I'm not sure that the sacks were for sale as each stall had only one bag. Maybe it was to show the quality of the wool they use for their textiles. I keep walking for a very short distance and took my first left turn. It's a very congested road that is just wide enough for one rickshaw, two at some points. Stores and stalls selling jewelry, clothes, appliances, electronics, sweets, savory snacks, tailors, laundry places, shoe stores and book stores. The list goes on. If there is anything you need I can guarantee it will be here. I walked about a mile and with no end in site I finally decided that I had to turn around. This was one of many streets in the market, small alleys wide enough for a person to walk went off from the bigger streets, down those alleys were smaller shops, chai wallahs (chai is the national tea in India and wallah means seller or worker). These little alleys also went to the residential area of the markets area.

Some stalls were large and a few you could even walk into. Some were small, smaller than a broom closet. In the street are people pushing carts with fruits and vegetables. Most of the carts being run by young boys. And actually, young boys are working everywhere here. Remember that in India not everyone can afford to go to school, or finish school. A lot of families depend on everyone making a contribution to the house hold.

Young man proud of his apples

As I walk a lot of people stare at me, I'm getting used to this. A lot of people smile at me, I'm getting used to this too. I smile back. When I decide to turn around and head back  I pull my camera out of my bag, it feels like a safe place to walk with it in my hand (I've been warned that not every place where tourists go is safe to carry a lot of money or cameras). I start shooting photos, people look at me like I'm just another crazy tourist. I am, so I keep shooting. A teenage boy pushing an apple cart asks me to take his photo, I oblige. He's dressed in rags, he looks like he's living a hard life. But he smiles big for me and starts talking in a language I can't understand. So I just smile back. I take a dozen photos of him and get interrupted by a tap on my arm. Two young boys want their photos. I redirect my camera lens. The two boys working the food cart in the background smile, my lens moves to the left to capture them. A tap on my other arm and it's another handsome boy, he wants in on the action too and stands proudly in front if his shoe store waiting for me to point the camera in his direction. His older brother politely asks if I'll take his photo as well. In the mean time the boy with the apple cart has been busy polishing his apples and turning them so I won't see the bruised spots, he wants another photo. I'm getting dizzy. I'm having fun. I decide to move on and say my thanks, their big smiles and wide eyes showing their appreciation.

Selling a variety of rice

But I didn't make it far, only a few steps. A man sitting in front of his little stall with bags and bags of rice was watching me with the boys, he smiled invitingly so I took his photos as well. I'm walking, and as I glace to my right down one of the alleys I finally see them. Cows!! There are cows roaming the streets here, at least in the market. It was a dark alley so I didn't get any photos this time but I will next time. I eventually made it back to the entrance of the Kolta Market and even survived the second crossing of the major intersection. I noticed a restaurant specializing in kabobs, I made a mental note of it's location. Made a withdrawal at the ATM and finally back to the guest house. I ate a light lunch today of peas and cabbage, yellow dal and parathas. My cousin Rakesh who has put me up in this guest house is supposed to arrive this evening so that we can finally meet. His daughter is getting married next week and I'm looking forward to the wedding. Part of me wants to take the camera, part of me thinks it would be cheesy to do so. I have one week to figure it out. Enjoy the photos and as always, click on any photo for a larger view. And by the way. I like my new Canon SX40 camera but it by no means comes close to photo quality of my regretfully sold Pentax DSLR.

Very common sign that I'm seeing. So I wonder how it's delfated...

More modern street foor vendor, on my way to the market
(this is in the upscale Defense Colony Market)

Traffic waiting for me to step into the street before they gun it

Coolest looking taxis

Deep fried pakoras (batter is chickpea flower)

Kolta Market, New Delhi India

The 'egg' rickshaw making deliveries

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