After the last few weeks of misadventures in Ladakh, I finally said my farewells to our Mountains team a couple of days ago, leaving them nursing their blisters and brittle noses in our Delhi apartment. Forty kilograms of luggage lighter, I decided to backpack it alone to my next destination of Jaipur, but not before paying a quick visit to a familiar Delhi haunt of mine, Pahar Ganj.
When you’re booked on a 5am train out of New Delhi Central, there’s no better place to lay your head than in a 250 rupee a night room in PG’s main bazaar. A short walk from the train station, I’ll be the first to admit that Pahar Ganj will not be to everyone’s taste, but if like me you love a bit of timeless Indian chaos, then you should fit right in.
There are three things that you can always count on during a visit to Pahar Ganj. Namely, an all-you-can-eat 40 rupee thali at Sonu Chat House. Your very own personal 1 minute acrobatic hoop dance from a tiny bendy Indian boy with a painted face if you dine on the street outside Madan cafe. And an unnerving fleeting glance from that French guy with the full facial tattoos who never smiles and always seems to be in the main bazaar whenever I am passing through.
On rarer occasions you may be privy, as I was a few years ago, to a full on bovine battle between two bulls jousting down the main street, sending market stalls flying and knocking sari clad women from their rickshaws. Rarer still, you might even watch in horror as a spaghetti mesh of overhead power lines overheats and then explodes, sending high voltage electrical fire balls flying around the street, narrowly missing passing school children, as I also did once. On a lighter note, if you happen to be passing through during India’s wedding season then you will be unable to miss the fantastic nightly matrimonial processions of proud grooms atop their white stallions flanked by surely some of the loudest brass bands in the world.
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Notwithstanding my return to Delhi’s familiar city culture, my real reason for descending from the Himalayas has been to come to Rajasthan’s famous pink (ish) city, Jaipur. It’s a mission emanating from our Urban team, who have been filming the mischievous lives of this city’s resident monkey populations.
Over the years, Jaipur’s monkeys have got quite a bad reputation in certain areas of this metropolis and having now spent three days running with one troop, I can certainly understand why. I have to admit though that I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for them, especially since I was a really mischievous kid once myself, always getting into trouble for doing the wrong things… never maliciously mind you, just by my nature. Saying that however, it is easy to understand why your average hard working Jaipurian can get a bit miffed by neighbours that, as far as I can see spend their days, eating, stealing, sleeping and having sex.
Let’s not forget that India is a nation of tolerant souls. The monkeys can also thank their lucky stars that the Hindus amongst Jaipur’s populace consider them a manifestation of the deity Hanuman which will afford them a plentiful turning of conciliatory blind eyes for a long time to come.
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