We decided to walk to Old Delhi from the backpacker district of Paharganj in the New Delhi part of town. What an adventure! Walking from one part of town to another is something of a test to see how well you can keep your eyes open and on everything around you at the same time. Because, if you fail this test, you'll likely be run into by a rickshaw driver, motorcyclist, or you'll step in poop. We walked through sections of town that reminded me of a more chaotic and dirty version of Seoul. Entire rows of buildings selling kitchen accessories. Then one street devoted to paper. Card shops lined the street behind rickshaws weighed down by industrial sized packages of uncut paper. I wasn't paying attention at one point and was nearly knocked over by stacks of cardboard on the back of one rickshaw. I walked away more annoyed with myself than rattled by the slight collision. We arrived at Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, just in time for prayer, which meant we weren't allowed in until it was finished. We relaxed and then made our way to Old Delhi, and the infamous Haldirams for a snack.
I think I get pretty lucky when it comes to people allowing me to take their picture. I think a lot of this luck is due to being a woman. Andrew can't get away with photographing a group of little girls quite like I can. I love this about being a female photographer. I think we (as females with cameras) aren't as scary as men. I also think despite having thousands of dollars worth of gear, I'm not taken as seriously as other photographers. You know, the ones with the vest and the obvious camera bag and possibly two dslrs slung around their necks. I often get disgruntled about this kind of bias, but I try to use this to my advantage when it involves photography.
I've become so smitten with the school children piled into rickshaws that we've been seeing since we arrived in Delhi. Backpacks are piled on the roof or bunched up, hanging off the side of the rickshaw. I've counted as many as fifteen bags hanging off the sides of one rickshaw and I'm only assuming that just as many school children are piled inside. I love it. It also makes me chuckle a little thinking about what their reaction would be to the spacious yellow school buses back home. I bet they could fit their entire school into one of those buses, but no way would it be able to navigate down the skinny streets of Delhi!
I pointed to my camera when we walked past a few rickshaws with children in them, obviously waiting for the rest of their count to get out of school. The girls started squealing with excitement and quickly pulled eachother together for a picture. Then they pointed to their friends in another rickshaw. Then the driver pointed to one girl off on her own who was too shy to ask me. None of them spoke English, but that didn't stop us from having fun taking pictures and then looking at them on the LCD screen.
After the improptu photo shoot, we ducked into Haldirams to try some lemon soda (a new favorite drink of mine, especially if it has some mint in it!) and a Raj Kauchori. The guidebooks insisted we try both and I was not disappointed. It may have been too soon for Andrew to try something so adventurous, but I enjoyed trying something incredibly new. It was nothing like I've had before and every bite felt a bit like a surprise- in a good way. Basically a Raj Kauchori is a crispy "puris" think: a giant hollow cheese ball without the cheese flavor. The puris is then filled with different stuffings with different kinds of chutneys. The Haldiram's version is smothered in yogurt with more, different flavors of chutney drizzled on top and some crispy bits thrown on for good measure. Usually when someone says something is "interesting" to taste, it's not necessarily a good thing, right? But in this case, it is. A very, very good thing.
I've seen versions of this on the street (not quite so elaborate) but have been too nervous to try it after our bouts with food poisoning. On the street it's a much more simplified version- Just the puff with a stuffing and then a broth spooned into it. They don't look nearly as exciting as the pretty Raj Kauchori of Haldirams.