India Trip Blog 10: Streets and Reproduction of Poverty


India Trip Blog 10 (11 January 2020) Streets and Reproduction of Poverty

11 January Saturday. 1:40 in the night. I was not sleeping, although I feel alright. So I turned on my light.

I started thinking about some things yesterday. I realized that it has become impossible to walk on these roads. I mean, one can sort of get along, but with a lot of difficulty, with all kinds of vehicles stopped on the roadsides. One has to walk around them, out into the street.

In some places, there are food sellers on the roads as in Calcutta. The roadside is so rough and cluttered with everything that it most certainly is not a pleasant experience.

I am always afraid of getting hit by a car or motorcycle when I have to walk around a vehicle, because they come so close. So I go, just gripping my bag. There might be a pleasanter, less cluttered part of the city. I don’t know. One has to experience it to see what is going on.

It was pleasant to be in the Residency yesterday with no traffic at all. And here, there is nothing anywhere to even stop the traffic. So there is no way to get across the road when the traffic is heavy. It seems that there is no concern for pedestrians in these Indian cities. It is always dangerous, because often these guys on motorcycles dart through the wrong side of the street, when one does not expect it. Or they just come directly at you. It makes for complete chaos. No rules, no regulations for the roads. Are they thinking about driverless vehicles here? No way!

Yesterday, coming back from the Residency, there was a complete lock of traffic in a crossroads. Buses, cars, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, even bicycles. Nothing could move at all for some minutes, because everyone was trying to get ahead of everyone else.

I started to think, deviously, well, the British were right. They cannot run the country on their own. But it does run, but by the most forceful forcing their way forward, these days, it seems.

In this chaos, few women are seen at all. The ones that I see along the roads look completely helpless if they are alone. Rather pitiful creatures. Here, I did not see girls on motor scooters, but I have seen a lot in other places, like Delhi. Or Calcutta maybe.

Having cars has made the situation more difficult for pedestrians. If one does not have wheels, they they are at a big disadvantage.

The shops along most roads are dirty, grungy, grimy, dark, crummy, poor, cluttered completely, of course. There is no place to walk except in the road where vehicles are parked in front of the shops.

Even, I swear to God, the auto rickshaw guy was honking at a cow in the street, lumbering down the middle of the street in complete chaos. Is that cow going to move over for the rickshaw? I just laughed. The cow did move.

It reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield’s joke about his wife honking at a tree before she hit it.

Sometimes one seemingly comes close to getting killed and the only thing that one can do is laugh about it.

I want those who have plans for society to come here and see this chaos. Just see it and think of it all over this vast country. Indeed, across several countries in Asia.

But comparing India to China, or any east Asian country, even leaving out Japan, there is surely a lot more discipline elsewhere.

I noticed in the pub that the waiters did not even bother to remove the empty bottles. One must remind them to do it. On the other hand, one would not expect highly trained waiters there!

But in a hotel restaurant, like the Mira Mann, it is much more professional.

The why things are going now, I can only see these streets and roads getting clogged with more and more traffic without underpasses or over passes and it is impossible to get across the road for most of the day and certainly in the evening. The surge of traffic goes up to midnight or longer.

It seems so out of balance to have a hotel door-man standing to open the door for you, dressed in some livery garb, just after one has risked their life trying to get across the street in front of the hotel.

Where is the possibility of a person walking confortably along a street? I don’t mean the right to walk. I mean the sheer possibility of it. Now that is nearly impossible. Crossing the street is very nearly impossible. I honestly believe that people who had not been here could not even imagine it. They would likely demand to get out of the country as quickly as possible. Still, I keep coming back, making the same mistake over and over, perhaps. But maybe not.

I don’t think that there is anything so fascinating, nearly so fascinating, in Disneyland as in the Indian streets. To tell the truth, Disneyland always bored me. Except perhaps for the very first time when I was very young at twenty-three. And it would be hard to find a ride in Disneyland that would be as exciting as the Indian streets. Certainly not nearly as dangerous, as that would not be allowed!

Well, it seems to me that it would be sobering to most in America and other “rich” countries to see how things are here in India right now. Is it this chaos that is meant by development? The mass replication of poverty? Producing wealth and technology and the mass production of poverty. Technology is not reducing poverty. It is the poor who are producing and now using it.

I was amazed at that section in Old Delhi, near the Old Delhi Railway Station. Hundreds of tiny shops, packed with, and selling technology. All the brands, fake or not fake. Maybe there is not a lot of difference sometimes. It was in a rather muddy lane that day, and there was the mass marketing of technology by small shopkeepers. I don’t know if they are getting rich. I guess a few of them might get lucky and get rich, but not many. I really do not know.

India Trip. Blog 9 The Lucknow Bar (January 10, 2020)

India Trip. Blog 9 Lucknow (January 10, 2020) The Lucknow Bar

8:15 Evening. A hell of an experience just now. I went out of the hotel and walked down the main road. I think the direction is to the south.

There were no restaurants around that I could see and it was quite hard to walk, sometimes, on the street. In some places, the sidewalk was blocked and there was all kinds of filth. Just amazing.

But there are some hotels and restaurants on the other side of the street. I managed to dodge the traffic, motorcycles, cars, and buses and get over to the other side. In a place with the name “restaurant,” I asked if they had beer. He said, no. I asked him where there is a place that sells beer. He said that there is not a place like that.

I thought that it might be true in this area, but certainly not true in the whole city. So I walked back in the direction I had come toward Husseinganj. There is a metro stop there just close to the hotel.

Finally, I made it back to the Mira Mann Hotel, with the horse and rider in front. I went to the small road on the other side of the street. I noticed that across that small road, there was a quite big sign that said “Restaurant and Bar.” But there was really no sign of a bar.

So I went over there, dodging the motorcycles. The place just looked like all the other dirty and crummy store fronts. But there was a guy in front. I asked him where was the bar. “Bar kaha hai?” He pointed up the steps toward a door. And sure enough, there was a bar inside there. It was being run by a young guy.

Another young guy came from the back and said in English that they were going to make a video for a whiskey brand and he wanted me to review it. He said something about me getting some free whiskey if I would review the video. The brand was “Signature Whiskey.” But I told him that I really did not care to drink whiskey. I told him that I had just come here for a beer. The young guy running the bar was back there. I asked if they had beer, because the place was pretty much set up for various types of whiskey, it seemed.

So I sat down at a table and aksed for a Kingfisher beer, light. They are 4.7 percent, which is not very light.

The waiter, a wretched looking guy, brought it. The bottle looked normal. He poured some in the glass, but I did not let him fill it. I noticed that it did not make any head like a normal beer would. I tasted it. It didn’t taste like any beer that I had ever tasted. I thought that it might be a different type of beer. Or I thought it could be that they had adulterated a beer or put something else in the Kingfisher bottle. I noticed that first, it was not making any foam. And it did not have any sparkles in it. It was just completely dead.

I said to myself: Okay, I will pay for this beer, but I am not going to drink it. I had already ordered some chips for Rupees seventy. Hardly worth it. But it is a bar.

Finally, I decided to just take the beer to the young guy and tell him that something was wrong with the beer. (Just talked to Selma.)

He looked at the beer. One could see that the color was off. There were no suds. Just a dead beer, and it did not taste at all like beer.

I told him that I would pay for it, but that it was not real beer. So he opened another Kingfisher beer. I tasted it and it was okay. I don’t think it was their fault, but somehow the bottle had just gone bad.

The workers in the Residency grounds offered me chai today.

I sat back down at the same table. I had finished the chips that were way too salty. After that, I ordered two papads. That was good with the beer.

This town is more fun than Calcutta, in my view.

I got to the end of the beer. Then I started thinking that I should have another one and forget the dinner at the hotel. All that formality to go through, it is just more comfortable in the bar.

Another choice on the menu was Tuborg beer. I think that it must be made in India. So I thought to try a Tuborg. I liked it better, but did not think to ask for a light one. This one was stronger at eight percent. I didn’t want that much alcohol, but thought that I would just drink it slowly.

Some guys had come into the place across from me. They were putting away the drinks very fast. I don’t know how many. They were all big and fat, sort of maganda types, but seemed friendly. Boy! They were really putting them away, peg after peg. There was a television on the wall, where a Cricket match was going on.

The only other thing I had was potato pakora. Alloo pakora. That was also Rupees seventy. A dollar or so. I was just enjoying soaking and poking and seeing what was going on there. I took a whiz before I finished the beer, just to take a look at the pisser. Man! What a dirty shit-hole! Revolting!

One has to say that this is a very dirty country for the most part. I jump back and forth from liking it to hating it. What a disaster it is!

Well, before I finished the beer, I asked the young guy running the place if I could take a picture of the bar and drinks. Not with a flash. I was pushing the film at ISO 800. He said it was okay. So I took a couple of shots.

Then the guys at the table near the bar wanted to take a selfie with me. Well, the big fat one did. That was okay. I enjoyed it. I could not really communicate with that guy, but he understood that I was an American. It was fun.

I paid up and left some tip. The bill was about Rupees 700. I made a couple of night pictures on the street. There was an old guy selling bananas. I bought a bunch from him for Rupees forty.

There was a general store where they had bottled water out in front. I bought a big bottle, rupees thirty. But getting across the street at the roundabout was an experience. I finally made it, but mostly by sticking close to some guy who was also crossing there. Sometimes it is the only way that I can do it.

I got across and came to the hotel. Well, I found my pub for this hotel. And that other guy was just telling me that I can just buy beer from a package shop, but not sit down to drink it. It was bullshit.

He surely would have known that it is not true, when I learned it the second day that I was here. I cannot say.

Anyway, I thought that it was a hell of a day and I enjoyed the experiences. Tomorrow I have a better idea of what is where and how to get around and take some more pictures. That is the story for today. I thought it was successful and I enjoyed it.

India Trip Blog 8. The Residency, Lucknow. (10 January 2020)

India Trip: Blog 8 The Residency (January 10, 2020)

3:10 Afternoon. Out a little after nine and now I came back to the hotel just before three o’clock. It was enough time to go and photograph that Residency place. It is much bigger than I had imagined with many buildings. Some were blown up in the war, apparently. But the grounds are vast. I shot about four rolls of film, two of black and white and two of color. So it was quite a lot. The place is a gold mine for a photographer. I only saw a few people there, all with cell phones. They were all Indians, except for one Australian couple. I talked to them a little.

It is great to have plenty of time to go where one wants and plenty of time to change your film. It takes some organization and it is good not being marched around as in a tour! Man! I hate that so much on a tour.

I got an auto rickshaw just in front of the hotel. He took me to the Residency for Rupees 200. I know that it is more than a local would pay, but nothing to me, so I can just make the guy happy with that extra one dollar. He got me there.

Man! It was very cold in the morning, going there in that open rickshaw. I really do not remember that much cold in India before. Maybe it was because of the storm. It was a good day, a sunny day. The traffic was horrendous, even more so coming back. When I came back, the guy asked for Rupees eighty. I paid him Rupees one-hundred and he wanted to give me change. Pitiful!

When I got to the Residency, I paid Rupees 300 for the entry fee. The museum is closed on Fridays, but that was alright with me. My objective was to do some photography. Maybe I got too careless in the end, as there is so much to photograph. But I just did it the best that I could do and I hope that most pictures are decent. I would like a few extra good ones.

I saw right away that the Residency is the place where young lovers and couples meet secretly. They can meet in the day and be seen by few people. It has to be in the day, as the place closes at five in the afternoon.

Walking around the compound, one should not go too far from the track laid out for visitors. I went back from the track to get a better shot of that old mosque, but some dogs came out and started barking. They did not appear to be friendly, so I back tracked quickly. It turned out alright.

Two times today people asked to make selfies with me. Man! I thought that I looked awfully old in those cell phone photos.

Another couple came and talked to me. They were from Andhra Pradesh. The guy said that he was an electrical engineer. I have to say that he did not strike me as terribly bright. But probably language. His wife got the gist of what I was saying much more easily than him. I think that she understood English easily.

Some people seem quite nosy. He asked my age. I asked him to guess. He said 70. Then he asked me what city that I thought was developing fastest in India. I told him that I didn’t have any idea.

I said that they were all developing too fast for me. I said that I like slow development. I tried to joke around with him, but usually, he did not get it. But generally, his wife understood the joke. An engineer!

He asked me how many times I had visited India. I said that I could not remember. (a lie) “But I keep making the same mistake over and over,” I said. He didn’t seem to get that joke. An Engineer? But I told him that I did like coming to India, anyway.

3:55 Afternoon. Friday 10 January. I am sleepy and just about ready to crap out now.

There is a lot of pounding going on up above. It sounds like it is in the room above me. My legs got quite tired today at that place and I needed a rest for sure.

It was okay for a one-day outing. Tomorrow I will try going to the Bara Imambara. And maybe to the Chhota Imambara. (the Hussainabad Imambara). They are close together, but a little farther than the Residency from here. They are in the north-west of the city. There are several things to go to here if one takes the time to do it and take pictures.

Blog 7. The Mera Mann Hotel Lucknow (January 2020)

India Trip: Blog 7 The Mera Mann Hotel, Lucknow (9 January 2020)

8:45 Evening. Just back from having dinner downstairs.

10:00 Not sure yet what I will do tomorrow. Maybe I will go to that old British Residency. It would be good if it is a sunny day and warmer.

Downstairs is a nice restaurant. They are operating very classically. I asked for a Lucknow dish. It is something like Lucknow Dum Aloo and it was quite delicious. I had it with a nan, also very nice. They gave chutney with it, onion pickled, mint and mango achar. Very nicely done. It very much filled me up, almost more than I could eat. Anyway, I was hungry.

At the end of the meal, they bring one a dish of nimboo pani (lemon water) to wash your fingers after the food. Then some mouth freshners, cheney, rough ground sugar and sweet somph (anise). And plain somph. I had not seen that sweet somph like that before. It seems that they do not have that in Punjab.

The bill was less than Rupees 400. Maybe Rupees 380 or so. You just pay it right there and can give a tip. The down side of it is that they do not have beer. Places here seem to be quite conservative. Anyway, I can probably have a beer outside somewhere.

I wish that I could go to sleep a little earlier tonight. The bed is big and wide. I hope that I will be warm enough. I found that the upper window slides open so that I can take a picture from there tomorrow.

So in reality, I didn’t do anything today except make the trip to Lucknow. I only made one picture down in the dining room. I really do like the hotel a lot so far.

A girl came up and started talking to me in the airport when I was arranging a taxi. She was friendly. She asked if I found it easy to exchange money. I said, “Oh, everything is easy if you have money.” She was quite open and said that she had lived in the US for some months. I told her that I was from California. Well, just as well claim that. I have spent some years of my life there. I was starting to ask where she had lived in the US but then I got the ticket and wished her good luck. That was all.

The guide book says that the town is 15 kilometers from the airport. It seemed like a long way, actually.

10 Januarym Friday Morning. I will make a few notes and then get out.

It is a sunny day. Good! I shot a few color frames out the window through the top that opens. Otherwise, the glass is too dirty. It could be cleaned easily from the top. It is a shame that they do not clean the windows. That makes it look a lot more smoggy than it really is.

I got a good sleep. I really crapped out after ten. Then woke up. I thought it was morning. But it was only 1:30. So I stayed awake a little before sleeping again. Then I was out again till almost 7:00 this morning. This hotel is much quieter than the Hotel Alka in Delhi.

I had some dreams. I think we were riding somewhere. Seems like Selma was driving. Bernie Sanders was with us. It was his car. We came to this steep hill, just unpaved. There were some big water holes. I said, “Don’t drive up that.” So we went back down. Some crazy dream, mixed up with Bernie Sanders.

This morning there was good hot water. So I took a shower. It was a little cold in the room, but the shower was fine. I got cleaned up nicely. I went down, after arranging my things, somewhat. All Indian. But there were some decent things, not just all spicy stuff. Fruits such as papaya, watermelon, pineapple. There was something like an oatmeal, that really didn’t hurt me. Sometimes too much spice. I had a slight heart-burn feeling in the night and took a couple of talcids (antacid). Otherwise, it was fine. But really, there is too much spice sometimes unless one eats yogurt with it to neutralize some.

The tea that they normally give is just “white tea.” Milk and sugar already in it. I can drink it, but like black tea. They offer coffee, but I know that it is instant and I do not want that. They tend to do things the easy way.

But I feel good. It is a nice day, but there is no need to jump out too early.

I am thinking to go to the Residency where the Seige of the British took place in 1857. Very notable in Indian/British history. I will get an auto rickshaw to take me there, if I can. From the map it does not look so far away. But it is hard to tell. This hotel is in the more “modern” section of the town, it appears. I want to go the chowk too, the old market area. I will look into the map a little.

India Trip Blog 6. Delhi to Lucknow (9 January 2020)

India Trip. Blog 6: Delhi to Lucknow (9 January, 2020)

5:15 Afternoon. Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Made it to Lucknow, but I shot the whole day getting here, unfortunately. But that’s OK. This trip was OK. Man! It really does eat up your time getting to the airport and to the flight. I was one of the last into the plane, but that was my fault.

The room here is good. Mera Mann Hotel. 14,000 Rupees for five days. I will pay them in Rupees. It comes out to just 40 dollars a day. Two hundred dollars total.

5:40 Evening. Things worked out OK. I got out of the hotel by eleven, but it was none too soon. There was a good deal of traffic on the way. But also, I read the print-out wrong. I was supposed to go to Terminal 3. That is the main terminal and it has both domestic and international departures.

So when I lined up to go in to Terminal 2, the guy sent me to the other terminal.

One can just walk there, but it is not very easy, unless one knows the way. You have to go across the street to another building. Then down an elevator, and then walk through a tunnel. But anyway, I saw it and went there to the domestic side and of course Vistara Airlines was at the very far end. There is no getting a close gate for me on this trip.

A young military guy helped me find the way to that tunnel. Otherwise, I would have been lost, as it is not well marked.

I got in and checked my bag. It is written clearly, but somehow it seems that they had trouble reading the ticket page.

Anyway, I got the boarding ticket and went around to the security for the domestic departures. That is the most trouble, because of the very bad organization of it. Almost anyone, it seems, could figure out a more efficient way of doing it. People bunch up. It was so slow. I was all set up and well organized to go through but of everyone going through for that whole time, I was the only one that he made take their shoes off and go back again and put them through the machine.

Everybody else, all the Indians, were just going on through. But when he saw my American passport, he started pulling that shit. That might be why.

So I said, “Well, I’m not going to go all the way back in the line.” But it was hard to get one of those big trays and the line of trays was already full. Then I came back and the guy starts body screening me all over, a second time. I reminded him that he had just done that. He was acting like a robot. All my money was setting there in a bag in a tray at the end and I was waiting for the guy on the other end to put my shoes through that machine. And my shoes did not make any noise with the wand, but he wanted them put through the machine anyway. It just seemed like harassment. I had to wait for a long time for them to come through the machine, just standing there, while probably at least thirty people had gone through. Finally I just walked back past his check post and got my shoes and left, once they came through the machine. Everybody else’s stuff was coming through ahead of them.

Finally, I headed for the gate number 51. It was practically the farthest point in the airport again. But I did not feel like running. I thought I had plenty of time. But actually the plane was almost fully boarded at that time.

I waited to eat a brownie, but then saw that the plane had already boarded. So much time had been wasted getting through that security. I went there and they sent me down the ramp to the plane. It was almost full. A few more came, but maybe they bought late tickets. The guy said that I was the last person to board.

The plane waited for some time more before taking off. The weather had cleared up nicely in Delhi. Some smog, but also sunshine. The flight was fine. I could hardly take it for the one-hour flight, the seat was so hard. But nevertheless, the flight was pleasant. There were some light clouds, but over the cities it seemed to be mostly smog. There was a snack, just a sandwich and a cookie on that flight, with hardly enough time to eat that.

I did change five-hundred dollars in Delhi. So I got 33,500 Rupees. Not a great rate at 67 to a dollar but I am not going scouting around to find a better rate around here. This hotel is 14,000 and I will pay it out of that. They do want rupees. I don’t mind to pay ahead of time as I don’t have to carry the money around.

The taxi was prepaid for Rupees 450, but I gave the guy 100 tip. The taxi in Delhi was 300 and I gave a tip there too. I will tip them if they help me with the bags. But not all of them will. I am being quite generous with these guys. Traffic is horrible.

We got to the place. It is actually a nice hotel. That’s true. There is a traffic circle out in front. I have a nice, big window looking out onto the street. There is a statue of a horse and rider there. I was very happy with the room.

But the window is so dirty, I don’t know if I can take a picture through it successfully. Looks like it has not been washed in 40 years. I don’t know.

So that is the story. Glad that I am finally here. I have to see what I will do tomorrow. It was 17 degrees when we arrived, the high temperature today. The historical city of Lucknow. Old capital of the Newab Dynasty.

India Trip, Blog 5. January 8, 2020

Blog 5: January 8-9, 2020. Reflections in Delhi

11:00 Evening. About time that I should turn in, I suppose. But I do not feel tired nor sleepy.

It is amazing that I went to old Delhi that way today. I pictures. I hope that I get the hang of it. I think that I actually am. No loss so far.

I have to be out by 11:00 tomorrow. I will back to this hotel on 20th January. Amazing the way things transpire and it is not possible to not somehow get cought up in some of them.

I think I must be a lot different from my brother Mike, who never left the USA even once in his lifetime. He would not know what to do in a place like this.

Trump said “So far, so good.” (About Iran) That’s what the guy said when he jumped off a tall building on the way down! When they get in the big one, and it turns sour, then it will have to be another tune, just like in Iraq. I think that I only spent 2000 or so rupees in Delhi, maybe less, after paying for the hotel. I will see how they want me to pay in Lucknow. This is not big money, actually, anyhow.

1:45 AM January 9, Thursday. I think my body is still on Turkish time. It is 11:15 in Turkey. So I don’t go to sleep so soon. Also there is too much noise in this hotel. Guys talking and laughing. Walls are too thin. A down side, for sure. Well, I don’t really care.

I guess I’ll sleep. I really need to.

Today I came across a McDonalds down there in Old Delhi, near the Railway Station. Just the golden arches on the glass door. But it was the real thing. It had a few young people in it. Not very many. Amazing, but they cannot be serving beef there. Maybe they do vegetarian burgers or chicken. I don’t know.

I really wish this guy would shut up, anyway.

I knew that old street that was in Chandni Chowk, old Delhi. But it was quite dark between four and five o’clock. A person’s body does not adjust as fast when they are older. Anyway, I am glad that I do not have to go to a concerence, or something like that.

9 January 8:30 Morning. It is still cold in this room. Guess I’ll go down and get some breakfast. I hope that the weather improves some. Too much rain and dreary weather here the last couple of days.

9:30 Morning. Had a little breakfast. I will be out of here in a little over an hour. I really did not feel like taking a shower here in this quite cold room. So I have not done it.

I got up in the night before sleeping. It was after 2:00, and fixed that film, Fuji 200 color. I put it in a black film box. I can use it as long as I do take it out of the camera in the dark and keep it closed till I develop it. I don’t know when I will use it. I opened up the reel enough to find the loose end to load it into the camera. It should be quite OK, I hope. Anyway, it is not important. But it was bugging me, whether I could actually do it or not. I did it in the bathroom in complete dark. Now have to take a Trump. (Shit)

10:00 Morning. Packed up and ready to go. I will be out at 11:00 for a taxi to the airport. I think that there is plenty of time to catch the flight. It is probably easier than taking a train. I really did not have the ability to make such reservations.

News: 9 January 2020.

This morning, there is snow in the hills. Manali and places like that. Not surprising.

At JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). The police asked everybody to provide the information that they have on their cell phones, pictures and videos. I’m sure! Would one risk being arrested?

I certainly would not want to be doing that with the FBI in the USA. Where is the police intelligence? Why were they absent when that was going on? Then why would they take seriously information that they do not care about or were not allowed to observe? Smells wrong. I really do not believe that it passes the smell test , in my humble view.

Even if one was beaten up there, I am not sure that it would be a good idea to come forward with that sort of information. How can one trust the police. As a secularist one is suspect to the BJP government? No way! In my view.

In the USA, it looks like the deep state is really kicking in to get this war with Iran going. And why is it that this is the very time of year when they always start a war in the Middle East. Iraq was in March, if my memory is correct. So it is the same script, right up to the time of starting the war. They don’t want to wait for the heat of summer. Like taking a holiday. Same lines. Same phrases. Everything. Sending troops. Building up forces. Saying they want peace. Iran must stop Nuclear development. It was Trump who trashed that agreement with Iran. Can anybody remember that? Does anybody want to remember that? It just goes on. Shameful. I cannot take it. Time flies when one is having fun!

Tomorrow I will be off to Lucknow.

India Trip Blog Four: Amazing Commerce in Old Delhi

India Trip: Blog 4: January 8, 2020. Amazing Commerce in Old Delhi

6:00 Evening. It gets dark fast. We are not on daylight savings time here.

It was a pretty good day, except that the roll of film in the Minolta camera slipped. But no big loss. I took it out and shot a roll of Kodak 200 color film in there.

I even found a guy in old Delhi selling Kodak Film but mostly Samsun Cameras. I asked him about 35 mm film, and he had it. So those who say that film is not available in India are wrong. It was quite okay today. I shot two rolls of film, one roll of color in the Minolta and one black and white in the Leica. It was a good day for pushing black and white film to ISO 1600.

I am not very picky about rickshaw prices since I am not going to be here very long. I didn’t find any place to change money today. But can do it tomorrow at the airport.

I left the hotel in late morning. I first went to that Madras Coffee House and had coffee. A guy was there taking down the Christmas and New Year decorations. I have about 4500 Rupees left now, a little more than sixty dollars. I avoid the touts that hang around the hotel. It is easy to get a sticky person that wants to follow one around and keep bugging you to take you somewhere that you have no desire to go to. I understand their desire to make some money, but I really am not responsible for their income. Whether increasing it or decreasing it. I know what I want to do. Almost everyone asks what hotel you are staying in. Why? They may come around or send a friend to hang around. So I never tell them what hotel I am staying in. One better not.

I know that I pay them more than normal to take me somewhere all across old Delhi. What is five or six dollars to me? I don’t really care at all. So I just let them make a little extra money. That’s okay with me.

So I just went out on the street and got a rickshaw. The guy said rupees five hundred. I knew that it was too much. I said four hundred. That is also too much, but I don’t care. The traffic is horrendous and it was raining lightly too. Earlier it had been raining quite heavily. I ended up giving the rickshaw wallah five hundred anyway.

I wanted him to leave me at the old Delhi Station, but where he left me, I could not get across that big road with all the traffic. There was an underpass, but I gave it up. It was an area that I had not seen before so I just shot some black and white film there.

I went into a quite small lane. There were rows and rows of electronic shops. An amazing area with amazing commerce there. When I finished that black and white film, I needed to sit down. I found a place that had tea under a roof. Next to it, the guy had chhola batora and puris. So I sat down there.

I took out my Minolta. I started taking pictures with that, I thought, but actually, the film had slipped off the take up spool. I finally wound it back, but the end of the roll went into the film spool. I need to recover it in the dark to reload it.

I switched back to the Leica. Then I came to a place where they were selling all these bright colored lights. I thought that I can’t miss this, but needed color film. So I got my old Minolta and loaded a roll of Kodak 200 color film in it. I finished that roll, but not right there.

I did talk to a few guys along the way and had tea with them. They took my picture with them with a cell phone. Everybody has a camera in their phone now, which is good. I also took their picture, but unfortunately, the film was not advancing.

Well, people pretty much know what is going on, if one spells it out for them and cut through the bullshit. Most of them think that America is great, but I tell them that most people are getting poorer. It is a good thing that a lot of people here know English.

By that time, it was starting to get darker. It was pretty dark all day, but there were lights in the market. I walked up through part of Chandni Chowk and got a rickshaw.

Before this, one of the two guys who talked to me kept bugging me to take me to the spice market or to a masjid (mosque). I told him that I was not interested.

The other side of the street that goes up toward the Jama Masjid was so crowded. I knew that I had to walk up through there to get a rickshaw. But this bug stuck to me and kept bugging me. Man! They can really be sticky. I was taking a picture now and then on the street. Finally I just had to tell him: “Please, I am not interested.” Man! I finished that roll of color film and walked up the street looking for a rickshaw.

I found one, but this one has two facing seats. I didn’t know it at the time, but this kind cannot go into Connaught Circus. So I had to shift to a different kind of auto rickshaw. The traffic was horrible and surely dangerous. By this time it was dark. I took a video on the way with my cell phone. For some reason, the guy did not want me to do it. Probably because he was not supposed to be going that close to Connaught Circus. He stopped the rickshaw and asked me to stop taking the video. It didn’t matter, as I had taken all I wanted to.

I recognized the road and the old monument, a red stone gate, that I had photographed last year coming from the Red Fort. At the road stops, there are beggars and sellers. He seemed to be telling me to hold onto my bag tight. I had it right in front of me with both my cameras in it. It could be dangerous, I know. I didn’t see any other tourists around there. I guess they would not be likely to be where I was, anyway.

Finally, we got to a place on the street where other rickshaws were parked. He had to put me in a different rickshaw. I got it quickly why. He could not take me all the way in that rickshaw. So I had to pay again. A young Sikh guy took me. But he had to ask several times about P-Block. They do not know the names of the blocks of Connaught Circus. I always tell them, next to Regal Building. Most of them know Regal building.

Finally I recognized the Regal Building. It still says “Regal Building.” I saw it today, but the rickshaw wallah did not know it. So I had him leave me at the corner and paid him. He was happy. That’s all.

I ate something twice, when I needed to change my film. That’s about the only way. Otherwise, there is no place to sit down. The first time was rupees 40 and the second time again rupees 40. About 60 cents. It was so cheap and actually seemingly good. The second time, it was two potato pakoras and they were actually very good. I hope that they agree with my digestion.

Anyway, I was glad to be back to the Madras Coffee House. Again, I had a coffee and then to the hotel.

It takes quite a lot to write all that up, but anyway, a good day.

Why is the US going into this war with Iran? It is truly madness. Just madness. What a mad, mad, country. People here know that it is mad!

What can one do? Two days are gone already of this trip. But I have shot two and a half rolls of film. I don’t know what I will get tomorrow. Maybe it is going to rain again, but there is no wind like in Istanbul. I will be off to Lucknow.

India Trip: Blog 3. Some News From Delhi


India Trip: Blog 3 (January 7, 2020) Some News From Delhi

9:20 Evening. I am catching up on some news. I read some of the Times of India. It is pretty clear that this attack on students and professors at JNU was carried out against secular and leftist students on Sunday evening (January 5, 2020). It reminds me of the events in Ayodhya in 1992. There, the police just stood by and let the demolition of the mosque happen. The same thing seems to have happened here for at least three hours while the masked goons were attacking students and professors on the JNU campus.

I was there at JNU in 1983 and again in 1989. I stayed in one of the hostels in 1983. I do not quite remember how I made that arrangement. I know that there was a water problem and the students only got water for a bath part of the day. It was in the hottest part of the summer.

Now there is a lot of news about what is happening there. A whole new generation is there now. It is sort of like the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and like what is happening in the USA these days.

Of course the ABVP (right-wing student’s group) is attacking and accusing the left. This is also a classic maneuver, like the Reichstag fire in the 1930s in Germany.

Now there is going to be elections in Delhi next month. The Delhi population is over 20 million now. It is more than the population of 140 countries. It is one of the two biggest populaition agglomarations in the world. These are Tokyo and Delhi. Istanbul is also very big.

I can see that the BJP-RSS-ABVP students got a lot of footage on Indian TV. Why not? They are really in power in the country.

The ABVP is opposed to the NSUI and other organizations. (National Students Union of India?)

Now in Delhi, the Aam Adam Party, the common man’s party, has been in rule since about 2012, I believe. Of course, the BJP wants to rule the city. It is quite like Istanbul. Almost exactly, with the Ak Party (Justice and Development Party in Turkey) trying to get control of Istanbul. And also the old Congress Party is there, but they seem quite weak in Delhi. This Chief Minister in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, took over from the old politician, a woman, Sheila Dikshit. He is head of the Aam Adam Party. In 2015, he won 67 out of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi. Sounds a lot like Istanbul. Delhi has three Rajya Sabha seats (upper house of the Indian Parliament) and seven Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) seats. The party expanded to Punjab. But the votes in Delhi declined recently. Kejriwal tried to improve education and health with bigger budgets, increasing from Rupees 6600 crores to 15,600 crores and Rupees 3500 crores to Rupees 7500 crores. (A crore is ten million.) There are free water and electricity schemes and 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras in Delhi. (A lakh is 100,000.) They piped water to 93 percent of the houses. They increased infrastructure development in unauthorized colonies. (Similar to gecekondus in Turkey) They say there are more than two million persons living in such places in Delhi. And the BJP is campaigning in the election without naming a chief minister candidate. They are riding on Narendra Modi’s, (the Prime Minister of India) popularity. This also sounds a lot like Turkey.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems. It does not take too long to catch up on the politics of a country even though one has been away from it for quite a long time.

I had the wet suitcase problem. A few of my papers got wet in my suitcase from the rain in Istanbul. I should have kept them in my back pack.

January 8. Wednesday. 10:20 Morning. I woke up around 8:45 local time. So I had a good sleep. But it was almost two in the morning before I slept. After taking that nap in the afternoon, it was hard to get back to normal. I didn’t wake up till morning.

The room feels quite cold, but I was alright in the night. I freshened up without a shower and went down for breakfast. It is the same thing. Sort of crude puris and potato curry, but they do have toast and jam and the waiters will make one an omelet if one wants. I did not bother with that this morning.

It was raining heavily outside. I think some of the storm has come here from Turkey. The news was on in Hindi, of course. Then the signal was lost in the heavy rain. The tea is okay and the juice too, but it is made up, not real juice. They also have some fruit, papaya and pineapple and another fruit that I did not recognize. I would like bananas.

I will go out when the weather gets a little better. My room does not have windows, in Hotel Alka, so I cannot check the weather from the room. I saw some of the news. It appears that the state is going to hang four guys in for rape on January 22, according to the Times of India. They are in a jail in Delhi. It may be postponed.

The hotel culture seems the same as I remember from years ago, and it still strikes me. How the waiters, two of them, stand around watching the TV and not taking care of the tables. There was just me there for breakfast and a sadougie (Sikh) sitting close to me. So there was really nothing for them to be doing. I got two cups of tea and the guy just brought my toast from the toaster. That’s all.

I’ll take it a little easy this morning. Maybe the weather will get better. I’ll get out and take some pictures. It could be nice, even if there is no sun. Maybe better in the afternoon. But maybe I need a fast lens, and not the zoom lens on the Minolta.

Here is one thing about the Nirbhaya Rape case that is in the papers. Four men are sentenced to hang on the 22nd of January. (They still had not been executed on 2 February, 2002) Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur. They had been sentenced to death six years before by another court. It is a rape and murder case. It is in Delhi’s Patiala House Courts. The judge was Satish Kumar Arora. The mother of Nirbhaya had filed the case through her advocate Jatindra Kumar Jha and Seema Kushwaha.

Asha Devi is the mother. The report says that the court ignored the pleas of the rapists. Well, I wonder if they are all guilty. I don’t know. In December 2018, the parents had brought another case to have them executed.

The women are crying to have them hanged speedily. The National Commission for Women (NCW) chief Swati Maliwal says that the case took seven years. She wants it to be done in six months. “Justice will be done,” she says.

Is it really justice?

Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Centre for Social Research says “Fast Track Justice is still to become real.” She says that the crimes can be prevented by ensuring “fast track” justice. I doubt that. They will be launching campaigns in districts with state commissions.

The National Federation for Indian Women, general secretary, Annie Raja, talked about the need for reforms in the law. And the need to focus on “witness protection.” They need more forensic laboratories, police and judicial reforms, and a review of implementation of existing legislation.

Enanshi Ganguly Haq, at the Centre for Child Rights, said there was a need to focus on “preventing violence.” They are counseling survivors of sexual violence, rape and so on.

The Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal also said that the hanging needs to be done in six months. But “this has given people some relief.” I am sorry, but seeing them hanged does not really give me any relief. “Then, only, a deterrence will be created.” I wonder why six months? Where did that number come from? “We have to make Delhi a safe city where no such incidents take place,” he said.

But it is a tautology. At a town hall: “If police are more alert, together with the citizens, we can make a safer society.” It just says that if society is safe, then it is safe. Exactly.

The father of one if the convicted. Vinay Sharma. İs Hari Ram. The father said “He has not done anything.” Champa is his mother.

Now, I will check on the weather.

India Trip Blog 2, January 7, 2020. Settling into Connaught Circus

Blog 2: Settling into Connaught Circus (January 7, 2020)

The next thing was how these guys tried to trick me. Man! Something like that always happens. Dodgy Delhi again!

I saw these guys come up to me just outside the airport door. They showed me the prepaid taxi booth. It was no longer inside the airport. So I went there and paid my Rupees 400. Between five and six dollars. But they took me to a place a little farther. These are the police prepaid taxis. There were small yellow and black taxis lined up there. But they took me back and started calling on their phone for a car to come. Then I knew their game.

I told them that they were trying to fuck me over. I asked what all these small vehicles were there, because I took one of those last year.

This taxi mafia in Delhi is hard to crack. Finally, a guy agreed to take me in one of those. That’s the way it is supposed to work. They thought I would not know this.

When we got to Connaught Circus, the driver could not find Alka Hotel, even though I had the exact address and phone number. All these places look the same to me around Connaught Circus. But then, I recognized that old Madras Coffee House and then we found the Hotel, which is just a little farther.

I am a little cold in the room right now. It is 11:20, morning.

3:20 Afternoon. I went out with my Leica and finished the black and white roll that was in the camera. I first went to that old Madras Coffee House. I made a couple of photos in front and then went inside. These people around the hotel are bugging me a lot. And the rickshaw wallas bug one to say what hotel you are staying in. Some of them already know.

Anyway, I went into that coffee house and had a coffee. All the food that they serve there is South Indian. Dosa, idli and things like that. They asked me what I wanted. I ordered a coffee. They wanted me to order some food. I said that it is all South Indian, “but I am Punjabi” making a joke. I ordered something, but I guess they did not understand, because it did not come.

I had the coffee, real coffee, and a very different flavor that I have not tasted before. It was Rupees 80, but I just gave them a one-hundred note.

I asked, but they did not want me to make pictures inside. But I made a couple when they were not looking.

They still had their Christmas decorations up, with a tree and colored lights.

I went out and tried to take some pictures around the hotel. The auto rickshaw guys bug you and some beggar kids also hang around.

6:50. Took a nap. Three hours or so. I had made a few pictures out in front but those kids and rickshaw wallas kept bugging me. So I walked over to the Pind Baluchi restaurant near Regal Building acrosss the street. I ordered a chicken dish and a beer. What they call light Kingfisher is 4.7 percent. So even that is strong enough.

The room here is quite cold continuously, so I may be getting a sore throat.

I had some of the spicy sauce with a nan. That was delicious, but I did not care for the chicken. And anyway, it was three times more than I could possibly eat. I left most of it and drank the beer. I guess that it helped me to sleep. I did need to sleep. That’s for sure.

After that, I went around the corner where the old Kwality Restaurant is and finished that roll of film. Pushed to ISO 1600 in the Leica.

I woke up a little after 6:00 in the evening. It was a cloudy day. Some light rain.

There has been fighting between the ABVP and other students at Jawaharlal Nehru University and it is still going on. That is the Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parashad or all India Students Organization. This is a Hindu fascist outfit, linked to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). It is like a communal riot, except between groups of Hindus, mainly the BJP fascists, and those who are not Modi supporters.

Man! I am a bank teller machine. Everybody seems to want some money from you. I understand it. There are a lot of poor people. Very mixed. Right here in central Delhi, most people walking on the street look like they are making it fairly well. That’s what I see. But there was one place this morning, where people were just sleeping on the pavement. I think that it is hard to survive like that.

The traffic is really terrible on the streets in the morning.

I will try to change some more money tomorrow. Maybe go to Paharganj for that. I don’t know.

I turned on the TV. Lots of channels are there, but only a few operate. Only one was in English, and one was from the Northeast, Assam.

I was just thinking about how the political scientists got it so wrong about Indian politics. They thought the country would become more and more secular, but now has been taken over by the Hindu Nationalist BJP. Now they claim that that is normalisation of Indian politics and the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) in the USA is supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to control politics. One has to approach these opinions very skeptically.

India Trip Blog 1: Izmir, Turkey to Delhi, India


Blog 1: Izmir, Turkey to Delhi, India

Eddie James Girdner

6 January 2020. Istanbul.

6: 10 Evening. I just got to Istanbul not long ago, flying from Izmir. Coming to the new airport, it was actually slower that at the old airport. It was a very windy day and a windy, rough landing. It took a very long time to get from the runway to the gate. Seems like twenty minutes or so.

Somehow I chose the most stormy day in the winter to fly.

One thing I noticed about Turkish Airlines. Now the seats are much closer together than before. Unfortunately they have followed the other airlines doing that. Probably forced to by the economics. If one wants any kind of leg room, one must go first class these days.

I know that I chose my seat when I bought the ticket, but they stuck me in the back of the plane, only three or four seats from the back. I have to write it down after this. I was the last one out of the plane and I mentioned it to them that the seating is more cramped now.

The new airport is beautiful, but I am afraid that I will have to walk a long way to the gate. They posted that the gate number would be put up at 6:50, so I am waiting for that.

Also, this area does not have many seats. But I have an idea why. There are several cafes around. Anyway, I just want to enjoy it. I hope that I can.

I put a roll of Fuji color film in my old Minolta camera and shot a few pictures. Seems like no one cares. Why should they?

The security asked what was in my bag. Obviously, people are not carrying film cameras and film these days.

11:35 Evening. We got delayed in Istanbul because of the high winds. The plane was shaking quite wildly just sitting on the runway. Finally, we were off just before eleven. I was sitting using my cell phone with my seat belt off, when the plane suddenly lurched forward to take off. I had to quickly get the seat belt on and turn off the phone. Even though it was so windy, surprisingly, it did not feel very rough taking off. We are just past Kostamanu now at 11:38.

7 January 10:15 Morning, Delhi Time. Alka Classic Hotel, Delhi.

Well, I made it and I just got the clerk downstairs to make my bus reservations from Lucknow to Allahabad. I changed 300 dollars at the airport, but it probably was not enough, since I paid for two nights in the room in cash. That is 10,350 Rupees for the room. I also paid Rupees 2200 for the bus. So I have something like Rupees 6000 left now. The airport was paying Rupees 67 to a dollar in all places. The official rate is Rupees 71 and a half.

At the airport back in Istanbul, it took a long time to load the plane. It was almost full. Maybe just a seat or two empty, but not near me. I could not get that lucky. They waited and waited. More people kept drifting into the plane, coming late. I looked on the airport map. We were at gate 8 which is at the very end of one of the legs of the airport and completely opposite from where I came in on the domestic side. So I got a long tour.

They waited till much later, past 10:30, almost eleven, before the plane took off. They were waiting for the high winds to settle down. So I called Selma. All of a sudden, when I was talking, the plane suddenly accelerated to take off. I hardly had time to get my seat belt fastioned and turn off the phone. It was not very rough taking off. There were a few bumps later toward the east of Turkey, but that’s all.

I actually enjoy some turbulence in the plane. It reminds me of riding a ship, a tin can destroyer in the navy.

After some time, it was smoother and they served food. Not great. Chicken and rice if you wanted it, or vegetarian, otherwise. I had a white wine. It is only 127 cc. So not even a good wine glass full. I thought they would come around again, but that didn’t happen very soon.

So I walked up to the galley and asked for a glass of wine. Mostly it was red wine that was left. Another very small bottle. I had just sort of inhaled it when they did bring drinks around again. I hid the bottle, feeling guilty, and asked for another one. That way, I ended up getting three bottles. It just sort of put me down, because, I went to sleep right away.

I put the pillow and the blanket on the seat, as it was so hard, and sat on them. Even then, it was quite hard!

When I woke up, we were quite close to Delhi, somewhere over Punjab on the Indian side. We came down and landed. There was a long line for e-visas this time, but I came through quite good. Also my bag came. It was a little wet, as it had been raining in Istanbul. Probably it got wet there.

After I changed 300 dollars, I looked for the prepaid taxi booths. They had disappeared from inside the airport, it seems. Not where they were last year.

I had to get a taxi and be off to the hotel. (End of Blog 1)