Blog 2 (To Connaught Circus)
I walked on and saw the prepaid taxi stands and scoped out the situation a little. I asked at one of the stands. He said Rupees 400 for Connaught Place. That sounded OK, but I had to go and change some dollars. I had just realized it. I walked back to the money exchange places and changed one hundred dollars. I didn’t want to change more because even the girl there told me that the rates at the airport were poor. It used to be the State Bank of India, but now, I guess the private places have taken over. It must be more efficient, at least. I had to show my passport and sign documents twice. So the bureaucracy is alive and well, even with money. The taxi guy had wanted to change money, but I figured it would be illegal and maybe a scam. So I thought I better do it the right way.
I came back and paid for the taxi and got the receipt. You keep one half of it and give the other half to the driver. The guy asked me what kind of money I had changed. Well, it was none of his concern, actually. I asked him why he wanted to know that.
People are continuously asking one things which they have no business asking. Things which do not concern them in the least. Sometimes it is for a purpose, so one should either give a phoney answer or not answer at all. It is usually none of their business. One question that I never answer is “what hotel are you staying at.” I don’t want them coming around looking for me.
If they ask where I am from, I generally say “Bangladesh.” It is worth a laugh.
The guy told me where the cars were outside. At least, it was organized and not the chaos that I remembered from the past. Nowadays, it seems that many people are going by the metro, so this has probably helped to straighten up the taxi mafia that used to operate so effectively.
When I came out, there was a guy at a stand across the street. He asked me to come. We walked some distance. I saw some small vans in the distance. At one point, I stopped and asked: “Why are we walking? Bring the car here.”
He said, “Walking is good in the morning.”
I told him that when I wanted to walk, I would walk. But why the hell should I walk if I am taking a taxi? And when I am tired from flying for hours! One needs a sense of humor.
But then, I walked a little farther. I thought that he was taking me to the driver, but it turned out that he was the driver.
He put one of my bags in the small van, but I had to put the other one myself.
Then he asked me to give him the chit for the trip. I told him: “If you get me to the hotel, I will give you the receipt.” I was being difficult because I read on the internet that sometimes if you give the receipt in advance they will drop you somewhere else. So I guess that he knew that I was not a dummy.
Actually, he needed the chit to show it to the guy at the gate where the cars exit. Anyway, he was just a poor guy. On the way, I asked him about Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. Of course, he said that he loves him. The guy was twenty years old. Of course, he would love the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). The party appeals to that sort of lumpen elements in Indian society. He told me that his name was Ravi.
Ravi Shankar, I said. He liked it. It is a famous name.
Coming in, one could see the construction of more metro line. But I noticed that the buildings and housing look like slums, they are so run down and in need of paint. And there is much trash in many places along the road. Typical of India, unfortunately. There is really no reason that things could not be kept more clean and tidy. It could be, in spite of the poverty.
However, now the roads are much improved, very wide. The driving does not seem so wild as in Turkey. However, it was early morning. Little traffic.
We got to the hotel Alka Classic in Connaught Circus. I could not recognize it. It didn’t look the same at all. Ten years since I had been here. So I wondered if it was the real one, but it is, as far as I can tell. I recognized the hallway when I went upstairs. Fortunately, I had some twenty rupee notes so that I could tip the guys that carried my luggage.
I didn’t feel like sleeping at the time.
Afternoon: Three o’clock. I still was not able to sleep. Just when I laid down, a pounding started somewhere behind the walls. Sometimes it was very loud. Then the drilling started. Then some guys came to clean the room next to mine. They were talking and laughing loudly. Finally, I opened the door and asked why they were making so much noise. Shortly after that, they finished. But the drilling started loudly again.
Then there were big noises upstairs as if they were dismantling something like an air conditioner or water pipes. Anyway, that was a disaster for sleeping. I dropped off a couple of times, but then they woke me up.
Finally, I took a sleeping pill. It relaxed me, but did not put me to sleep. I also closed the vent where cold air was coming out.
Now the pounding goes on again. I started pounding the wall with the telephone receiver every time the pounding started. Now it has stopped.
A guy told me that this was the holiday of one of the Hindu Gods. Perhaps there are more such holidays due to increased Hindu revivalism.
But I am trying to give everything the benefit of the doubt. That’s true, but man! This construction in the hotel has got me down. They adopt all the modern things, cars, cell phones, internet, but still manage to produce a tacky-looking city. That’s what I see.
Just down the way, are all the old state government cottage emporiums. There are many of them. Some dating back to fifty years ago, when I was first here. I noticed that many of them seem to be in a sort of state of collapse. It does not appear that they are selling very much. I don’t know!
I finished my roll of black and white film in the Leica, walking there. I put in a new roll of Ilford, black and white film. I made some 15 shots on that roll. I saw some monkeys in one place behind a small temple.
It was just a small temple near a big tree. A guy was there pretending to be a priest. Perhaps pretending. Who knows? There was a sort of shack with a Goddess inside. What a racket! A way to make money. That seems to be what it is. But people go for it. People coming past were making their obeisance to the God as they passed. A shame, it appears to me. They need Karl Marx!
Thank goodness, that pounding has now stopped. It has quietened down. A guy met me just outside the hotel. He was telling me that there was a “government office” where I could get a map! He didn’t have any reason to think that I needed a map. And I wondered at once of it was a fake tourist information center. I had read about them, anyway. If it had anything to do with the government, anyway, I would avoid it.
Well, I feel more relaxed and might take a nap.
Now, I think that I have largely lost my enthusiasm for this country at this point. I am disillusioned!
“I have seen the world and I am not impressed.” Edward Abbey.
I could not write this up in an artistic way today. No way.