Some years back I ended up living in Delhi for a period of 3-4 months, which means that I’ve pretty much seen & experienced, if not everything, then at least most of what Delhi has to offer – both touristy & non-touristy things. Some of the stuff I’ve seen/done several times: During my stay I met many backpackers and I frequently joined them to check out different places in Delhi, which resulted in me experiencing recurring deja-vu’s… (hmm… haven’t I seen this place before..?)
Some of the backpackers I happened to meet both as they were arriving & when they were leaving India. In those cases they always asked me where I had been, assuming that I’d been travelling to other places in India and accidentally happened to be back in Delhi at the same time as they met me the second time around.
They always reacted with a sense of shock & horror when I told them that I had stayed in Delhi the whole time, their minds couldn’t seem to grasp how I could cope with this city that they all found so filthy and disgusting and filled with annoying people.
“What?! Did you stay in Delhi all this time? Why? I hate Delhi, it’s so crowded, noisy and ugly”, etc, etc…
“What the hell have you been doing in Delhi all this time?!?”
Now I can no longer remember all the things I did or didn’t do during my stay in Delhi. It’s not that long ago (less than a decade), but “The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills” like the writer, poet and drunk Charles Bukowski so elegantly put it. Probably I couldn’t even remember all the things that I did/didn’t do back then either…
A Typical Day
My days usually started with a cup of coffee, the daily news from the Delhi Times (agj kya khabbar hai?) and the other local newspapers, and a chat with the receptionists or the hotel manager down in the lobby, before I went for a stroll around the city looking for a breakfast at some of the countless local street vendors (in India pretty much everything comes in one amount: countless!). It was on these mornings that I frequently met travellers and decided to hang out with them, or to go on my own miniature voyages of discovery in the hustle & bustle of Old or New Delhi. Some days were spent chatting up girls (surprisingly easy when you travel) and just hanging out.
One day I decided to hit the tracks. I read something about the Delhi Derby in one of the newspapers: with so many people living in the city, of course there had to be some horse track somewhere. With all these people jammed together in the somewhat confined space that consists of Delhi & New Delhi, how could they not have tracks?
I don’t know much about horse racing except from what I’ve read in the books of Charles Bukowski, plus the stories that I heard from the father of one of my ex-girlfriends – he used to work at the tracks, which means that I don’t have a lot of info & insider tips to share with you aspiring horse-betters & would be millionaires.
I definitely had no clue regarding Indian horseracing and I still don’t.
I kept some notebooks while I was travelling and I tried to look through some of them so that I might would be able to share more detailed information about this day, but my notebooks are a big mess consisting of loose sheets, different notebooks and small paper notes – none of which is organized, some of them are stored in a big box, the rest in a plastic bag.
At The Tracks
Anyway, at the Delhi horse tracks (as far as I know there’s only one track in Delhi) I went to the bookmaker and placed my bet on some horse. First I asked the bookie and some other people for instructions on how to read the listings, and ended up betting on a horse that would cash in 2 to 1 if victorious. The Indians where very helpful and it was obviously great fun for them to meet a crazy, travelling tourist that came to hang out with them at their tracks. The bookie even let me try out his elevated chair, to the great amusement of the locals & myself. It felt like I was a celebrity on the top of a pedestal! Cameras flashing, people chatting and pointing. Great fun!
Apparently the Delhi Derby is “considered to be the jewel in the crown of the horse racing. Every owner, trainer and jockey dreams of winning the race which is run for four-year-old horses and mainly held in the month of January and February at every racing centres over 2,400m.” (this is about all the useful information I found on the topic online).
What about the negative comments I received about Delhi from other travellers? Well, what can I say?
An army of yellow and green auto-rickshaws. Holy cows, unholy cars and lots of lovely people, buildings varying in style, size and quality. Lots of trees (Delhi is quite a green city), “Chil”, my favorite bird because of its size and hovering style of flight (it’s also a good cleaning assistant, living on dead animals).
Sarees (a typical clothing worn by Indian women), long dark hair on beautiful girls. Sweet-pan (a type of chewing tobacco) and its red marks on every corner and wall. Travellers arriving and travellers leaving – always looking for the next adventure or a nice fuck. Vegetable markets, chai (indian tea), packs of stray dogs, dust, exhaust, garbage here and there.
The List Goes On…
Fabrics, garments and leather in all colors and shapes. Quiet nights in the city jungle. Empty streets at night where you only encounter the aggressive packs of stray dogs or the occasional friendly omelette-walla (omelette salesman). The Lotus Temple and the countless others, some even with swastikas. Diarrhea, squirrels, beggars, watching the city come to life on the rooftops every morning. Connaught Place. Horse racing, art exhibitions, clubs and bars. Huge weddings parading with a brass band, winding its way through the narrow and crowded streets – the couple mounted on horse, followed by the brass band, the men, and in the end the women & children who’s accompanied by a noisy diesel generator giving electricity to the hand-held light arrangements that are on the side of the parades. It’s all a big cacophony!
Children playing in the streets, children working in streets, Times of India with the Delhi Times supplement, the zoo, Gate of India, the Presidential palace. Beautiful parks and green spaces. The smell of urine & shit, the sight and smell of milk being slowly cooked in large barrels. Billiards, cinemas, smiles, laughter, pakhora (an Indian small dish). Nerves, complete calm. Sparkling bracelets. Dhabas (Indian street restaurants), Mirchi (chilli), barber shops, dancing with stunningly looking women at some club near South Extension…
A City That Grows
Delhi is a city that grows on you, grows with you, grows for you. A city which bites herself on to you. She makes an impression on any person who dares put his/her feet in her – some positive, some negative. For me, the positive impressions and experiences are so strong that they outweigh the negative ones and turn them into small details.
Kurta & shalwar (both clothing worn by Indian women), school uniforms, jeans, skirts, shirts, dresses, shawls, sex, eyes, butts, breasts and thighs.
Delhi is sexy & delicious!
And the horse? It came in 2 to 1 and earned me 1000 rupies.
- 8 Reasons Why I Hate Delhi (tripbase.com)