Category Archives: old delhi

The doors of Old Delhi……..

I just love the doors of Old Delhi – unfortunately, I do not know their histories – so I will leave it to you to imagine their stories……

Sugar and rice and everything spice………….

I have been hearing about the spice market and I have desperately wanted to go. It sounded like a magical place where the sights were only rivaled by the smells. Where wholesalers bargained out of burlap sacks and the color of the spices lit up the canvas of the market.

Unfortunately, it felt a little drab – more like the streets of Oliver Twist rather than the hoped fields of the Sound of Music – but there were some beautiful sights to take in. The spices did light up the back drop a little – like the hushed tones of a sepia infused photograph. Quietly stunning.

On the way to the Spice Market in Old Delhi, the streets are lined with nut wallas – a walla is a merchant – so you guessed it – a nut walla sells nuts. There were dozens of them – one right after the other. Their displays were beautiful and tasty.

There was also a paneer walla. He sells blocks of paneer – think cottage cheese meets tofu – it is very popular here among the veg and non-veg eaters. And, yes, it bothered me a little that it was not refrigerated – but it did not seem to bother anyone else.

Along the way to the actual Spice Market, you see a lot of stalls with spices in them. But even though these are not the stuff that the official wholesale spice market is made of, they are pretty all the same.

There are also all sorts of pickled treats. I am a big believer in “when in Rome” so if this had been pasta, I would have surely tried it. But alas, I am in India and could not bring myself to taste these unidentifiable delights. The locals were not so shy and quickly savored them.

Now this is another story – take a potato, slice it, and fry it in some grease – and you have yourself a customer.

These are bags of rice and flour.

These are seeds for Lotus flowers.

Someone told me what these were but I cannot remember – some form of crystallized sugar – maybe molasses – I can’t remember – if you know, please do tell.

I wanted to go all Martha Stewart on these stars of anise and decorate them with glitter or at least a little paint. Wouldn’t they be pretty hanging on a tree with a ribbon?

These bowls were in the actual Spice Market. I did not know what all of them were – but there is surely curry, pepper, cinnamon, salt, coriander, ginger, chili powder, and many other yummy spices in these bowls.

I wonder how this works. These are red chili peppers. This is a wholesale market – so it is entirely possible that these bags get emptied every day. But what happens if they don’t all sell? And who is buying that many chili peppers?

This yellow root is tumeric. It is said if you grind it and add it to a warm glass of milk and drink that every day, you will fight off the swine flu.

And, no, I really don’t want to know why they are selling rat traps here.

These are dried rose petals for making potpourri. They smelled as lovely as they looked and reminded me of my grandmother’s bathroom.

This is what a typical stall looked like. Bags brimming with spices just waiting for someone to come buy them.

And really, truly, don’t blink or you might miss it. This is the sign above the alley that tells you that you have officially arrived at the Spice Market. It was a crowded place with lots of activity – not many tourists – and a lot to see. I am glad we found it!

Old Delhi – part 3, the people

People, people everywhere! Delhi is crowded and Old Delhi is more crowded. The alleys are narrow and the streets are full. But that gives you a chance to slow.down.and.look.around…

Indians are some hard-working people for sure. There is hardly a street anywhere in Delhi that doesn’t have a man pushing or pulling a bike or wagon with some heavy-arse stuff on it. Old Delhi is clearly no exception. And, yep, these guys are maneuvering between cars, trucks, buses, scooters, people, and cows. And they just never seem to have the right shoes. Can you imagine?

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I mentioned before that Old Delhi has a lot of men roaming around.
There are certainly women too, but really, it’s mostly men.

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The children on the streets of Delhi always take my breath away. This little girl was with
some of the vendors. I am guessing they are her parents or at least a relative. At least, I really, really hope so.
She is a little bitty thing and she was just in the middle of the hustle and the bustle. Right in the middle of it all.
And she seemed totally unfazed. She looked at home on the streets.
I am not really sure how I feel about that. Not that it matters. It is not changing. At least not for her. At least not right now.

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And I think this was her brother. This is how India is changing me. I wonder how I can walk away from this country
without taking a child in need home with me. And how could you possibly pick just one. Which one?
Then I come home to my own family and I am exhausted by their own energy. I wonder how I could even consider taking on more.
Living in your own bubble in the midst of such great need is overwhelming – it is nearly impossible to find a practical way to help –
to find a way to make a difference without trying to change the way India works.
To walk away from this as simply a tourist who just wants to “see” Old Delhi. Not absorb it – not really even embrace it,
but maybe just understand it a little bit better. But then what?
(p.s. I do not remember this boy being handicapped, as least not physically – certainly financially, but I think I just got his eyes closed.)

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This guy has absolutely the right idea. I left Old Delhi very much in need of a nap.

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I rode on my first bicycle rickshaw. My only advice – hold on! They actually go at a decent pace,
but mostly the roads are really bumpy and, because it’s crowded, they swerve a lot!

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Tell me how many women you count in the next photo. And no fair counting the one taking the picture….

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These three young chaps from London were amazing. They were breathing in the city and wanted to share it.
They sought us out as we were waiting in line for a table for dinner. Two in our group followed them up on a random
roof top to see Old Delhi in a different light. Yep, one of the two was me. I have not decided if that was very adventurous or very stupid.
(Shhhhh, that was a rhetorical question. I made it out alive – so I am guessing adventurous. No need for further debate.)
They had an absolute childlike amazement about Delhi and especially the kites.
They saw the beauty in the dirt and felt the soul of the people walking the streets. They were poets walking thru their own poem.
And, yes, in my pessimistic mood, I asked if they were going to have us mugged. They weren’t even insulted by the question.
Ah, to be young and unencumbered once again. Or to at least live vicariously thru them.

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I “met” this guy across the roof. We stared at each other with the same bewilderment.
And we soaked in the same scenes with the same amazement, the same appreciation.
We looked at each other and wondered together, “who in the heck is that”.
Across a roof and across cultures, we melted into the same world of amusement over kites.
And held the same respect for men bowing in prayer.
(Okay, admittedly you have to work with me on this one – he looks very uninvolved in sharing much with anyone in this moment,
but trust me, he was swept across oceans and we laughed at the same sky. I just didn’t want
him to know I was taking his picture, so I did it when he wasn’t looking at me. Please just suspend your reality and go with that, ‘kay?)

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This could be any street anywhere – in Tokyo or New York or anyone’s Chinatown.
Sometimes life is universal.

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These men joined together to break their Ramadan fast.

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All in all it was an amazing night. Exhausting and exhilirating – just like Old Delhi itself.

Old Delhi in three parts – part one, the food…………..

Old Delhi is an fascinating place. A lot of expats are nervous about going there. At first glance, it is crowded and dirty and filled mostly with men. At a second glance, it is simply more crowded and dirtier than I am used to and still filled mostly with men. But, it’s unnecessary to be nervous. You just take the same precautions you would in any crowded area. And be prepared to shake your comfort zone up a bit. However, you will certainly walk away with great stories of interesting people.

Old Delhi is jam packed with not only people but also Indian history and culture. Please feel free to correct anything I get wrong – but from what I understand – it is mostly a Muslim community. Old Delhi was the capital of the Mughals until the end of the Mughal dynasty. It is called Shajahanabad and is home to the Red Fort. Shajahan is the man who had the Taj Mahal built.

We were in Old Delhi during the Muslim holiday called Ramadan. Many times during our visit, there were calls to prayer. Hubby got some of that on video on his phone, but I cannot seem to upload it. I will work on that as it was really amazing. The wailing and peaceful movement to the temple.

Everywhere you go in Delhi, there is food available on the street. Honestly, I have not tried true “street food” but I love the way it looks. Anyone who knows what any of this is, please feel free to tell us!

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I believe these are like vermicelli noodles.

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These I would definitely eat. They looked so yummy!

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This one looks like coconut and all kinds of nuts – what it tastes like, I don’t know.

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I was told this is an “acquired” taste.

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This one also looked appealing – it was corn on the cob.

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I have more pictures that I will share tomorrow. Have a great day/night!