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August 28, 2002
India: International Conference of the Deranged
I didn't just meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala: I also met Alipali, a lovely English girl. We decided to travel together to Calcutta via Delhi and Varanasi and Agra. India being what it is, we did get to all these places, but that's about all I'm sure of.
Delhi, in particular, takes bewilderment and confusion to new heights. Hundreds of years ago, when it was a mere slip of a village, it was only slightly confusing, but the place has changed greatly since those days. Delhi has relentlessly pursued a hardline policy of continually expanding confusion. Every week the city council meets to devise new ways of adding, improving, refining. Specialists are flown in; experts from different countries are consulted; chaos is carefully plotted. The visionary attitude and hard work has paid off: Delhi is now officially the third most confusing place on earth, and is gunning for top spot.
My clearest memory of Delhi is arriving at the train station late at night, and being warmly greeted by one million people.
Just outside the station was the International Conference of the Deranged. It was a vast scene of unfathomable chaos. Hundreds of rickshaws had crammed into a space which could comfortably fit a few dozen. Rickshaw gridlock had set in, and, by order of the city council, was obliged to remain. Everyone was shouting. There were beggars everywhere, of the hardest, most experienced, professional kind. It was hot and dusty. A vast assortment of potent, life-threatening smells filled the air. And a vast assortment of Indians filled the lower reaches of this very same air. And a vast assortment of panic-ridden thoughts filled my head.
I turned to Alipali to see if she was okay. "I'm fine," she said in a calm voice, "I've been here before." "In which case," I replied, in my strongest voice, "I'm going to start whimpering."
Alipali knew where the cheap hotels were, so she made a practical suggestion: I would stay at the train station and guard our luggage, and she would dart through the crowd and find a room. It was the best plan I'd heard since arriving in Delhi, and also the only plan. I immediately agreed. She gave me her rucksack and disappeared into the rickshaw insanity outside. I watched her go, a clever girl moving quickly, and then closed my eyes. The enormous crowd inched ever closer to me, but I couldn't bear to watch.
Illusion never changed
When I came to, the sun was shining. Alipali was singing "Torn," as she always did in the mornings, and I was surprised to discover that I was still alive. And, it seemed, in a hotel room. With a lovely English girl and everything. I realised that this was Delhi at its finest, that it would never get any better than this. "How about we go somewhere else," I suggested. "Anywhere else. Whenever you're ready."
"Sure," she said, "let's go to Agra and see the Taj Mahal."
Outside the safety of our hotel room, the International Conference of the Deranged lay in wait. We let it wait a little longer, then we made a run for it.
Apparently, there are real tourist attractions in Delhi. I can't be entirely sure, but it's possible that I'll never see them.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 09:32 PM in the Dog Biscuit category | Comments (0)
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