Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A quick stop in Delhi

Darminder, our driver brought us back safely and the next morning I was to meet up with my cousin from Vancouver before heading down to Agra.

That evening I met up with my friend Rashi from Delhi, and we met up with some friends of hers at Aqua, at The Park Hotel. It’s a swanky poolside bar where beautiful 20 and 30-somethings share the patio with ‘left over’ hotel guests from earlier in the day.

The (mostly European) tourists all looked a bit out of place as their poolside retreat turned from a sunbathing haven to a party scene for Delhi-ites. One by one you could see the look on their faces turn to that uncomfortablt look that says, "we really don't belong here, perhaps we should retire for the evening". Great, more cabanas for us party people!

I chatted with some nice people there; I was curious about the Delhi social scene and what they thought of their reputation (given by folks from Mumbai) for being snobby. One girl summed it up nicely, “it’s just that we dress up more- in Mumbai they are too casual. Even if I go shopping, I would probably dress up as I just don’t know who I’ll bump into”.

So listen up ladies, no going to the supermarket in your bunny slippers in Delhi!

I really enjoyed listening to some ambitious stories too- like Amrita- a Torontonian NRI who didn’t speak a word of Hindi, but had fallen in love with the idea of upping and moving to Delhi to begin a business focused on Yoga for women. So she did it! Delhi was a happening place indeed.

Now let me tell you about Ashok, my stalker rickshaw driver. He had taken me to the bar from my hotel, the horrendous Southern Hotel in Karolbagh (more on that later) and as I found out later, at Rs150, Ashok had totally overcharged me for my ride.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he also fooled me into thinking that it would be impossible to get a ride back (the ‘gullible sucker’ sign on my forehead was obviously lit up brightly tonight).

He told me I should call him for a ride back at the end of the night (at the same overpriced rate of course!). Now as it happens I did not have enough change when he dropped me off, so I told him I would pay him the Rs30 I shorted him on my way back.

I had given my phone number to Ashok and that was a big mistake- never give your phone number to rickshaw drivers! He actually called me in the bar to ask how I was doing and whether I would be coming out any time soon! He was beginning to annoy me.

When I did emerge from Aqua, I called him to come and pick me up, then duly walked down to the street, where I saw a whole line of auto-rickshaws waiting eagerly for my business! What a liar Ashok!

Of course I asked the first one in line how much to The Southern and it was Rs120. Now, I could either 1) be all moral and wait for Ashok and pay him what would be a total of Rs300, or take the cab at hand now and save Rs60 at the same time.

Ashok had taken me on two counts and now it was payback time. “TO THE SOUTHERN! And make it snappy, jaldi!! jaldi!!” I shouted to the first cabbie in the line.

Ashok had probably appeared in front of the hotel about 10 minutes later and become enraged at not seeing me there. He started calling me. He kept calling, and calling…and that little seed of guilt I had for ditching him meant I really had nothing to say to him so I hung up on him…I had to hang up on him 10 times that night before turning my phone off altogether. I got another 2 calls from him on turning my phone on in the morning!

Now, considering he knew exactly where I was staying, I had visions of Ashok waiting for me in front of the hotel when I checked out with a few auto-rickshaw henchmen ready to bundle me with blankets and shove me into the back of the little 3 wheeler. I would be sped away at 18-20kph to a deserted Metro station construction site outside the city where they would beat me for the shorted Rs180. I checked out of the hotel in a hurry and only when the driver was waiting outside with the door open!

I finally answered Ashok's 15th call at 1pm the next day and spoke to him from a safe distance of Agra (300km away). The conversation went something like this (in Hindi of course):

Me: “Hello??”
Ashok: “This is Ashok, your taxi driver from last night”
Me: “Oh!, um OK…”
Ashok: “Where are you?”
Me; “I’m in Agra”
Ashok: “So you’re coming back tonight then?”
Me: “no!”

Yeah it was an awkward conversation, but I think he got the message.

Ashok if you’re reading this, I’m sorry- send me your information; I’ll send you the one dollar by Western Union!

And finally a quick word about The Southern. My stay was set up by ‘a friend of a friend’ and let’s just say, lesson learned: never trust a friend of a friend more than Tripadvisor! (Gosh you’d think I worked for those folks!).

Stay away! The whole hotel smells like sewage. Enough said!

Well my quick stop in Delhi was fun. The next morning I met my cousin who was wisely staying in a better hotel near the airport (her flight got in at 1am!), and we hit the road with a new driver to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal!

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