At Delhi

Continued from previous post – “Trip to Auli – Day 6 and 7

Soft hands were pushing me roughly and all I could do was mumble “5 mins more” but those hands wouldn’t stop. “Wake up, waake up..” followed by “you know what the time is?” a little louder than before. Opened my eyes to see a fully dressed Ashwin standing over me… “Just get dressed. We have to be in the station in 20 mins.” That was enough for me to jump and rush to the washroom. Ten minutes later I was fully dressed in whatever clothes I could lay my eyes on. When we reached the railway station the train was already waiting and within minutes we were en route to Delhi.

The journey was uneventful. Near the end of the journey we thought we should finalize what to see and do in Delhi and pulled out the Delhi map that we had picked up at the Airport earlier. I had kept the entire of next day – Sunday – for shopping (yes, the entire day. Who goes to Delhi every day? – other than Delhi-ites of course) in Palika Bazaar. We would be traveling to Agra on Monday morning. As we pored over the map and read the notes on it, we came to know that Palika bazaar and the entire Connaught place is closed on Sundays!! Can you believe that? The only option was to shop after we reached Delhi and schedule something else for the next day. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. Ashwin and I had already been to Delhi previously with our respective parents and so we decided to skip the Gandhi graves and the other usual tourist places of Delhi. So Akshardham was scheduled for the next day.

We reached Delhi at 5:00 PM. As soon as we stepped onto the platform there were umpteen drivers trying to get our attention. Finally we chose one among them and followed him to his car. Instead of taking us to the taxi stand he took us around it and under a broken divider parked on a side road; it was a private car. We got suspicious and when inquired he said he does taxi-ing as a side business. He did not quote any amount n said we can give him any amount we wish. He sounded fine and my usually active “Intuition” said nothing. So we decided to go with him. A friend had suggested Karol Bagh as the best place to stay and we asked this guy to take us to Karol Bagh. He asked us details of why we are here and for how long, followed by our budget for the hotel. He suggested we go to Paharganj since the hotels in Karol Bagh are way above our budget. This time Intuition rang a bell and told Ashwin. He chose to ignore it. The driver took us to two hotels, each time following Ashwin back and forth, in and out of the hotels. We declined these hotels since they were charging above Rs. 2000 per day. There were at least 6 more hotels in that line but instead of stopping there he took to the last one. Why he wasn’t suggesting we go to the next hotel, we found out only later. No one needs Intuition to reason this one out. The same situation repeated, only this time Ashwin’s bargaining skills worked and this hotel agreed for Rs. 900 per day. After checking the room we decided to take it. The guy charged us Rs. 2000 (for 2 nights) as advance saying this would be adjusted when we check out and the balance would be returned to us. He wouldn’t agree when we suggested he take Rs. 1800 and we’ll pay the balance, if any, when we checked out. Weird, eh? The driver fellow was still waiting when we went into the lift. If you did not figure it out yet, he had a deal with the hotel guys. He would get commission for bringing in customers to the hotel. Once in the room, Ashwin decided to see what was happening in the rest of the world. I let him watch TV, reminding him every 15 minutes that we had shopping to do before the bazaar closes at 9:00 PM or so. By the way, the room was good – as small as the Dehradun hotel but cleaner look and feel. It was 6:30 when we freshened up and left for shopping.

We decided to walk after at least 4 auto drivers refused to go to Palika without meter (if you think Bangalore auto drivers are bad, then you must go to Delhi). We asked one guy for directions and he pointed in some direction. We roamed about 20 minutes and still did not reach the place. I remember saying “Ask for directions na..” every time someone passed by us and even offered to do it myself. But who listens to me? Aaargh, men !! A small argument followed and I took over, asked directions with 4 people and reached the place in 5 minutes. And once we did, I would not let the opportunity to show off go by and did all the show off possible with generous amounts of stares. Do I hear something about “women” and “maps”?

The shopping experience at Palika Bazaar is the best thing to happen in Delhi. If you want to learn the tricks of selling and bargaining in the shortest amount of time, go to Palika. All the shops sell items on bargain even those with “Fixed Rate” board. Very few shops maybe 1 out of 25 which have “Fixed rate” and won’t bargain. Do carry cash as cards won’t be accepted.

First, look at this pic. One of them is fake. Find the fake one. 🙂

One of them is fake, find it.

One of them is fake, find it.

What to do and what not to do in Palika Bazaar:
1. Bargain bargain and bargain. If the seller says Rs. 3999 (he said that rate for 2 jeans) start bargaining from Rs. 500 or so and do not pay more than Rs. 900. If you do not like anything, leave the place. You will find the same or better in some other shop. If they are not agreeing to your quote, leave the place. He will either call you back and accept it or you can leave and try the same in the next shop. More often than not, the tactic of leaving works.
2. Good collection of ladies’ tops and dress materials. I bought some tops at Rs. 100 and Rs. 150. Do not pay more than that. I did not go to check the dress materials.
3. Men’s T-shirts are good and cost between Rs. 100 and 150. Do not pay more than that. Beware when you buy formal shirts (Rs. 200). I had bought two formal shirts and the sleeves were found to be too thin.
4. Do not buy electronic items as they are ALL FAKE. We took our chances when we purchased a Transcend 32 GB pen drive for Rs. 600, hoping it would work for at least a month. If it works beyond that, well and good 😀 When we said we wanted to check it on a computer, he agreed to open the casing only if we were going to buy it. We checked, was fine. We couldn’t use it even once. The first time it copies stuff and next time it asks to format and the computer is never able to detect it again.
5. Do not buy shampoos and deos, they too are FAKE. They sell 3 bottles of deo for as cheap as Rs. 100. Do not bother.
6. Perfumes? They will quote a hundred less than the original perfume in malls. A perfume which is quoted to be Rs. 900, after a while of bargaining will come as close to Rs. 100. Leave it.
7. Chappals were good but since I never get chappals my size I did not bother to even look.
8. The best-est part: Handbags and purses. Yesssssssssssssss buy as many as you can. You should have seen Ashwin’s face when I said 200 for a bag which the shopkeeper said was Rs. 1200. Purses were beautiful with bead-work and embroidary. Amazing drool worthy stuff. I bought 3 of them – for mom, MIL and myself. Imagine my dismay when we ran out of cash at this point. Damn !! And the time? 9:30 PM. Closing time. Damn, damn!!

Bead work and embroidery purse

Bead work and embroidery purse

We were left with only Rs. 50. We bought an ice cream for Rs. 10 and spent the Rs. 40 on an auto to take us back to our hotel (did you realize that we walked the distance earlier? And that our hotel is not more than 2 kms away?) Why didn’t we walk again? We had all these shopping to carry and was in no mood to argue again. Back in the hotel everything was tried on 😀

The dinner was a bad experience. We were charged Rs. 410 for a small quantity of chicken biryani, half butter chicken and 2 rotis. Even the salad was charged at Rs. 10 per “plate” and we hadn’t even “ordered” it !! This rate was OK if the food was good or if it were a decent hotel but what we had chosen that night was a roadside dhaba sort of a place near the railway station (NDLS). There’s this whole line of small, dirty, peeled paint hotels and we couldn’t have chosen a worse one than this. The food was bad enough but to have 4 big, fat cats looking over you as you eat ?? Ugh!! Add a rude owner who just minutes before was inviting us inside and you can imagine the anger I was experiencing then. So just beware, no, avoid these hotels completely.

The dinner experience dampened the entire experience of Auli and the shopping. Couldn’t help but compare the people of Auli and Delhi and their friendships/loyalties. I remembered the time our suitcase was stolen when I was in Delhi years ago. It happened in a matter of minutes. IF I had disliked Delhi then, I hated it this time. I don’t know if I will ever go back to Delhi again. If this is how Delhi-ites treat Indian tourists, I wonder how the international tourists would be treated when they visit Delhi for the Commonwealth games. We badly needed to distract our minds and so we spent an hour watching TV (him) and reading novel (me) and we retired to bed.

Next day we were up at 10:30 AM. We went to Birla Mandir before lunch for lack of anything else to do.

After a quick lunch we caught the Metro to Akshardham. Travelling by metro is again a first for both of us. When we reached there it was the cycle rickshaws this time who fooled us. Though we did not have to shell more than Rs. 10, it was still something we could have saved. The temple is less than 200 meters from the metro station.

There was a huge crowd even at 3:00 PM in the afternoon. We could not click any pictures due to the heavy fog during the time. The temple looked majestic from outside and got me calculating the amount of battery and memory in the camera. Disappointment awaited once more – No cameras, no mobile phones and no bags bigger than 8 X 10 inches are allowed inside. Everything needed to be deposited in the counter just inside the main gate. The mobiles and cameras have to be separated from their respective batteries and deposited. After this there are at least 2 more security checks – metal belts and wallets have to be kept separately in a plastic tray and will be returned to you after the check. This main temple was closed for some maintenance but there was a set of movies and audio-animatronics that depicted the story of Swaminarayan who is the main deity of this temple. A boat ride was another show which took you through the vedic times to now, depicting the Indian wise ones. It is certainly painful to see that the foreigners have taken credit for most technologies that Indians had already discovered ages before them. A musical fountain show began after sun down and was absolutely wonderful. There is a souvenir shop in the complex selling anything from Akshardham T-shirts to herbal tea to purses to CD/DVDs. The temple complex is surrounded by green lawns and trees and beautiful sculptures. I felt so proud that the artists/sculptors at this age came so close to what our ancestors did ages ago for temples like Belur, Halebid, Kajuraho and may more.

Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple

Two eyes and half a day are certainly not enough to absorb the magnificence of this temple and I am not exaggerating. Please visit this place at least once in your lifetime. All religions are allowed inside though I saw a board disallowing burkhas for security reasons. If you are spending only half a day, go post lunch. The lightings in the dark are a feast for the eyes and of course the musical fountains experience is always to be had in the dark. For more details and pictures, visit http://www.akshardham.com 🙂

To be continued…