Tuesday, October 04, 2005

excursion in south central

there's nothing like waking up in the morning to the cacophony of screeching parakeets, taking a blisteringly cold shower (apparently hot's not necessary in india) and stepping out into the onslaught of the morning rush hour in delhi. dust clouds swirling around the countless motorbikes, autorickshaws, bicycles, cars and mopeds. if the heat isn't enough to stop you dead in your tracks, then the overwhelming jumble of people, traffic and noise most certainly will.

today we took an excursion to south central delhi to the lodhi gardens...a veritable oasis within the maddening chaos of this great city. the surrounding streets keep their frenetic pace, but inside the shelter of the garden walls, all the peace and tranquility you could possibly want awaits. even the most haggard traveler can find respite under the lush canopy of trees. lodhi is also the 'canoodling' capital of delhi. in a land where pda's are stictly forbidden, lodhi gardens is a haven for lovesick couples who are just dying to cuddle on a park bench or under an overgrown bush.

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after walking the gardens and exploring the tombs, jake and i enjoyed an incredible meal on the terrace at the garden's restaurant, shaded by gorgeous trees and serenaded by some hip buddha bar tunes. we kept forgetting that we were indeed still in delhi and that just beyond the sanctity of the garden perimeter, the insanity of traffic and noise and pollution awaited us.

we walked a little further into south central to a marketplace on the hunt for saffron. we found chocolate! and stocked up since the simplest things are often the most revered when nothing is familiar (orange soda is still holding strong in my top 3 essentials while traveling in strange lands). we hopped in an auto and sped back to the studio to pick up some money for our trip to agra tomorrow.

india's rush hour is something to behold. the pollution is suffocating and almost requires some kind of mask. my throat is raw from the fumes and dust and smoke of the grossly polluting cars combined with the small trash fires that alight every passing corner.

we had some chai at the studio with the guys and watched as tarun's 3-d animator rendered a mind-boggling board room that was totally digital and so realistic. the conversation revolved around the obvious threat the technology poses to photographers, and yet tarun's humor had us in stitches. the similarities between him and jake are eery to be sure.

we then tried to find a cybercafe i had spied last night. i can safely say that this was the most hair-raising auto ride yet. our driver was the cabbie from hell and definitely on steroids...he had absolutely no qualms whatsoever about swerving in and out of oncoming traffic in an effort to get nowhere. the thing about the auto (and taxi) drivers is, they rarely know where they're going. every so often they stop and ask someone on the street for directions.

they hold up traffic as they consult with their fellow auto drivers and completely ignore the beeping protestations of traffic behind them. 9 times out of 10 you end up having to tell them where to go if you plan on getting anywhere. i'm no help whatsoever as everything pretty much looks the same to me. especially since the neighborhood streets radiate in all directions from their circular centers. if there is any kind of a grid system to the roadways, it's not evident to me but it sure does make getting around an adventure.

after driving around in circles and stopping for directions at least four times, we ended up right in front of GK-1 market. we finally surrendered and just got out. we paid far too many rupees for the ride but were too weary to complain. by dumb luck we found ourselves standing in front of a subterranean cybercafe where i now sit in my periwinkle blue and orange cubicle as a bunch of indian men hunt and peck on their emails, send out resumes and chat with hot babes. no really.

tomorrow we're off to agra to see the great taj mahal on a 6am train arriving just in time to still take advantage of the good morning light and departing at 8pm so we'll be able to also catch the sunset. i can't wait. life is good...very good.

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