I have no doubt that Delhi can be a wonderful city, but we unfortunately had the worst day of our travels there so it may be forever tainted for me.
It started early in the morning when Manor went to the train station. A few weeks ago we had bought overnight train tickets from Agra to Jodhpur for us and our awesome friend Judy who was coming to visit. Because we happened to be staying right near the train station (at a great budget hotel actually, called Hotel Amax), Manor decided to just go there in the morning to check our tickets and that’s when he realized that we had bought the tickets for the wrong day! He wasn’t sure what to do without talking to me so he came back to the hotel and we discussed whether we should adjust our trip and spend less time in Jaisalmer and keep the tickets we already had, or if we should try to get all new tickets for the day before. The problem with that was that there was only two third class berths left when he was there and the rest were sleeper. We took sleeper class when we went to Goa and it was not pleasant; mainly because the windows are open and it actually gets quite cold, and also because they do not provide sheets and blankets. Sometimes you can rent them and sometimes not.
After much deliberation, we decided that if we didn’t get new tickets we would not have enough time in Jaisalmer. We had no idea if any tatkal tickets would even be left, but we headed to the train station to wait in line. When we got to an agent he informed us that there were indeed only two third class berths so Manor graciously decided to travel in sleeper class while Judy and I took the third class tickets.
Now we were finally ready to start our day and we hopped on the very nice Delhi Metro to head to Old Delhi and the Red Fort. The Red Fort is a large walled complex with various Mughla-era structures inside, as well as a lot of green space. Many people rave about it, but frankly I just don’t get it. Maybe I’ve seen too much ancient Muslim architecture (the mosques in Turkey and the Alhambra in Spain stand out as favorites for me), but I just wasn’t that impressed. The structures are all empty and there are not even that many of them. Yes, it is a lovely place to spend a couple hours, and we actually took a short nap on the lawn, but I’m not sure what all the hype is about. I felt this even more acutely when we saw the Agra Fort a couple days later, which I thought was fantastic.
Leaving the fort, we headed toward the Jama Masjid. We had to cross a busy intersection at one point and it was very crowded. I was wearing our camera inside the case across my shoulder so it rested on my hip. As we crossed the street a man bumped into me pretty hard, and it seemed like he had gone out of his way to do so. But, this being a country with over a billion people, people often walk into you, so I didn’t think much of it. As we got to the other side, we soon saw a food cart selling an interesting looking sweet dairy dish with pistachios. We decided to buy one and I (of course) wanted to take a photo of it. As I reached down to open the camera case, I discovered it was unzipped and the camera was gone. After several moments of shock and panic, and making sure it wasn’t somewhere else, I soon realized the man who had bumped into me had probably taken it. As we looked back up the street, there was a sea of people and I burst into tears.
Manor knew we had to go to the police station to report it if we had any hopes of getting an insurance claim (thankfully we have traveller’s insurance). As we tried to make our way there I realized that all the pictures we had taken over the last ten days were gone: Kolkata, the Sunderbans, and Darjeeling. We had gotten very lazy about downloading the pictures from the camera onto the computer because we had been moving around so much. As we walked through the streets of Delhi trying to find the police station I couldn’t stop crying. I was upset with myself because I knew something was off when the man deliberately bumped into me but I hadn’t reacted. I felt violated, as well as a supreme sadness over the loss of so many photographs. If we could only get the memory card back the thief could have the camera!
When we finally got to the police station they of course could do nothing but write us a report to give to our insurance company. However, one officer insisted that we look at the surveillance tapes from that intersection—amazingly they had a camera posted right there. I think he was very excited to actually make use of the technology, although it soon became apparent that they didn’t quite know how to operate it. We agreed and ended up sitting there for over an hour scouring the tapes until we finally saw ourselves. When we pointed the moment out to the officer he couldn’t figure out how to zoom in and asked Manor for help! It of course was fairly simple and he showed him how to do his job. We couldn’t see the actual bump-in, but I immediately recognized the man as he stood on the corner with another man and then turned back to cross the street and bump into me; thirty seconds later Manor and I came into the frame. After we pointed out the culprit we felt no better; in fact it just made us relive the whole thing again! We knew there was no way they would ever find that man, and he had probably already sold our camera anyway.
By this time it was late afternoon and we certainly didn’t want to do anymore sightseeing. We knew the only thing that would make us a feel a little better was getting a new camera so we could continue taking pictures of the rest of our trip. We called a friend who had lived in Delhi for many years and he recommended we go to Khan Market. We were hoping to find the same camera again because we still had many of the accessories for it (an extra battery, a second lens, the case), plus we really loved it! We were ecstatic when the one camera shop there actually had the Sony NEX-5, which is obviously not as popular as Canons or Nikons. The salesman gave us a pretty good price and didn’t make us buy the battery charger, USB wire, and case that comes with the package—only in India!
Just as we were starting to feel better and console each other about our lost pictures, we got a phone call from Judy, who was due to arrive in Delhi later that night. She was stuck in Heathrow and had missed her connecting flight. She was understandably distraught, as we were supposed to leave for Agra the next morning, but now she would not arrive until the morning. We knew there were dozens of trains going to Agra every day so we assured her it wouldn’t be a big deal for us to exchange our tickets for afternoon ones. She just had to deal with spending eight hours in Heathrow!
For us, it meant returning to the train station office where we had spent most of our morning to get new tickets to Agra. Thankfully, there were plenty available. We had planned to return to our hotel and shower and relax, but we had made dinner reservations and the time was rapidly approaching. I had been looking forward to trying this restaurant and seeing the neighborhood of Hauz Khas Village and I hoped that maybe we could have one enjoyable part of our day. So we left the office and got right back on the Metro!
Dinner at the fantastic Gunpowder was just what we needed. A friend and magazine article had both made suggestions of what to order so we followed suit and got the delicious pumpkin curry, egg upma, and the yummy, flaky parathas. We decided to treat ourselves to dessert and got a warmed apricot, pistachio, and cream dish. Yum!
Hauz Khas Village is quite adorable, it’s really just a few streets lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques. We went into a wonderful bookstore called Yodakin, which was full of books by independent Indian publishers. Manor was not too happy about me purchasing heavy books, but I bought a few anyway.
I kept reliving the fateful bump-in for the next few days and every so often one of us would remember another great photograph we had lost (the pink Himalayas! The old woman sorting rice in Kurseong! The wooden plank boat in the Sunderbans!), but now (a few weeks later) the awfulness has mostly faded. This was the first time I’ve ever had anything stolen from me, and to have had it taken off my body makes it even more violating. Manor had his bike stolen last spring only a few days after he bought it, so unfortunately he was more familiar with the horrible feeling. Obviously, we have been much more aware of our belongings since then and I know I will be able to commiserate the next time a friend has something stolen—although I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else!