I arrived unexpectedly at Old Delhi and not New Delhi station, a problem which was soon overcome by the discovery of the brand new and ultra modern Metro system which had obviously expanded rapidly since the guidebook had been written. It being Sunday morning it was nigh on deserted too which was another bonus, most unexpected for a city of 12 million! It still had strange Indian quirks though, passengers were reminded not to travel on the roof! Most backpackers headed for the grubby bazaar area of Paharganj right opposite New Delhi Station but I'd been somewhat forced into staying out near Connaught Place, a modern major hub instead for the simple ludicrous reason that the page with all the other cheap accommodation options had been torn out of the guidebook! With only 2 places to try and the 1st one full, I had no choice but to settle for a double room, it was hard to say if they were upselling but it wouldnt break the bank anyhow. Knowing that a nap would fatally waste the day, I shrugged off the fatigue in search of breakfast and with Connaught devoid of life except for a vintage car rally, I decided to head for Paharganj all the same to see what I was missing. Breakfast at a local joint proved to be curry whatever you ordered and black coffee was too much to ask for, if they didnt have what you wanted then they'd just give you what they had. As perhaps one of the worlds major travel hubs, I was soon confronted by many ubiquitous Japanese, and a cafe I chanced upon transpired to be entirely frequented by a backpacker/tourist clientelle with already strains of hippydome apparent in lurid atire, dreadlocked heads and postcard/diary writing (me included!). Boosted by passable coffee this time, I now took it upon myself to search out some of Delhi's colonial architecture whereby the Metro took me to within striking distance of the Presidency buildings and the Indian parliament.........
With various museums to choose from I decided as a last task for the day to visit the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Museum, in part also motivated by the presence of a planetarium on site, Nehru had been interested in astronomy. Timing it for the 3pm showing in English, as soon as the lights were dimmed I found the fatigue wafting over me again like a wall of sleep and it was all I could do to stay awake. The show was pretty poor anyway, and the operator kept stopping the show and shouting for people to switch off their mobiles when it was actually a kid whining, doh! The associated display of astronomical facts and models was standard stuff, but did have some points of note. India has her own space programme and has produced her own rockets and satellites. They also had 2 astronauts who went up with the Russians during the Soviet era and one of their Soyuz landing capsules was on display. I had seen one before and was reminded how incredibly cramped they were, literally just enough room for 3 men to squeeze in, its amazing they endured re-entry like that. Finally, there was a presentation about their latest astronaut, a petite woman whose name ecsapes me, she was killed in the Space Shuttle which broke up upon re-entry.
NEHRU MUSEUM NOTES
Nehru's family came from Kashmir. He studied at Harrow and then Trinity College, Cambridge, became a barrister and married in 1918. He joined the Home Rule Leagues as they were formed, 1 by a white colonial, Mrs. Besant, who was interred for her trouble. The Amritsar session of the Indian National Congress was chaired by his father Motilal. There were prints of the 1857 Revolt, caused by discontent with the ruling East India Company who ruthlessly pursued profit against any other social considerations. Some ethnic Indian British Army units turned, the Brits didnt see it coming due to ignorance and apathy to local opinions. Some army units rebelled prematurely however and so put the Brits on their guard to a degree. It also failed because it attempted to instate Bahadur Shah, an old Moghul power as emperor, with no democracy to hope for from him either. The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 in Bombay. Annie Besant amongst others became its president in 1917. The All India Muslim League was formed by disaffected muslims in 1906 at Dhaka. First mention of Gandhi and Jinnah at this point. East Bengal (Bangladesh) was separated in 1905, part of the "Swadeshi Movement", an anti-partition Bengali movement. George the 5ths "Coronation Durbar" in 1911 was reported in the critical press as a "pompous spectacle". Family photos included young Rajiv Gandhi his grandson. His wife Kamala died aged only 36. His study notably had a photo of Benjamin Franklin and a sketch of Stalin, doubtless influences. There were other photos of heads of state and state gifts, including a silver case from "England", from the India Association and Institute. His familiar dress suits were on display, white for summer, grey for winter. A gold cigartette box had been a gift from JFK. A sitting room with a single bed in the middle of the floor is where he died. Family photos adorned the walls but pride of place above the fireplace went to Gandhi.
It was peeing down again upon my exit but at least I'd got something done, I headed back to backpacky Paharganj but shunned the surprisingly scant tourist joints for a local eatery where the rice looked good even if they did eat it with their hands. Could there be a more difficult, messy dish to eat that way as curry sauce and rice? And again, in spite of ordering Chicken Fry I got curry, all you ever got, and hot at that. Another long jaunt found the one pub of note in the guidebook closed down, and so I had to endure a "coffee shop" which transpired to be a classy fine dining restaurant, just to get a beer. India's nouveau riche and the worlds largest middle class strolled the trendy designer outlets of Connaught as they negotiated destitute desperate types littering the pavement around them. New pretenders still stuffed themselves with haute cuisine with their fingers, and I paid more for a beer than half a billion people in this country earned a day. They blatantly ripped me off to the tune of 100 Rupees and I later regretted not contesting it to a suitable conclusion, it was the national sport! There were all different kinds of people living very close to each other here, the notorious traffic and crowds were back after all and the contrasts were stark. Delhi wasnt so bad though, like chalk and cheese depending on the neighbourhood, but I was well versed in pavement jostling and traffic dodging, and I instinctively now just completely blanked and ignored any tout however relentless and persistant the onslaught. It was the only policy which worked!