Delhi Wanderings

by Josh

This is a guest Post by my crazy, extraordinary friend, inspiration and ami-de-coeur, Scott Miller from New Zealand.
I met him travelling in NZ and it’s fair to say that I fell in love with him. Yeah I know. I can be pretty gay, but it’s nothing sexual.
What I appreciate most about him is how much he relishes life. He is always keen to do stuff and learn things and appreciates the beauty around him. He’s also the craziest bugger I’ve ever come across – in the best sense. He is extremely funny, but he has his head screwed on at the same time.
He currently travels through India with his splendiforous fiancee Lucy.

Scott and some old mates

Enter Scott

Here is a little piece called “Delhi Wanderings”. India had inspired me in many ways and motivated me to record and share some thoughts. This is my first completed piece of writing so I’d love some feedback!

The little voice in my head says “go on, take a good look at that filthy puddle”. This time I listen to the voice, stare into the puddle and take it all in. The puddle tries to tells me a story about this incredible country called India, so I take the time to listen as I look at its ugly face.

In the right parts of Delhi, these puddles are plentiful, and as a sandal-shod tourist I quickly developed an unconscious ability to avoid them. By averting my eyes while skillfully sidestepping, (similar to how one tries to cope with the beggars) I keep my toes and conscience clean as I journey through the streets of Delhi from A to B. Today however, I remind myself, as I should do more often, that I am already here right now, so I listen to the voice, pluck up some courage and look deeply into the smelly puddle.

Like an Indian curry, the Delhi puddle is a wild broth of ingredients that somehow make so much sense together. In amongst the noise, pollution, chaos and people, the puddle sits there collecting the ingredients for a sensory feast for anyone keen enough to dine.

It’s a hot day and the streets, or Bazaars as they call them, are dry and dusty. The only liquid to be seen is in a hollow where a puddle has formed, its base ingredient is week-old monsoon rain that apparently falls less often than it once did. While the infrequency of the rain is not so good for all, it is ideal for the Delhi puddle as it allows time for depth and richness to develop before the next downpour washes the pot clean.

I watch as a strangely familiar character of the indian Bazaars rummages through a pile of plastic street hay: the holy cow. The sacred animal of Hinduism, she roams the streets like an enormous stray dog with the expression of an actress who’s walked onto the wrong set, but plays such a good part that you almost don’t question her presence. These wandering meat mammoths unintentionally add their digestive doings to the puddle in that uniquely nonchalant cow-like fashion, thickening and binding the stew.

A cycle-rickshaw man slips past the cow, turning an impossibly high gear, his skinny frame awkwardly heaving up and down on his outdated machine. Less mechanized men haul enormous loads on medieval wagons, while others employ a knackered beast of burden. Squatting on the roadside in the baking sun, these scrawny, dusty men take a moments respite from their toil. Bubbling away next to them in a stained aluminum pot is a spicey brew of chai tea. Milky and intensely sweet, the piping hot liquid is strained into tiny handle-less glasses that can barely be held by the rim. The chai brewer stirs, ladles, strains and sips as he dishes out the well earned tea, his clandestine kitchen, spitting distance from the Delhi puddle to which he adds his blend of spent spices.

Staring into the wonderful puddle I see a less wholesome but equally important ingredient: plastic packaging. Adding color and texture to the mix the packaging also allows these puddles to form in greater numbers by blocking gutters and drains, and stubbornly refusing to decompose. The packaging I see is the un-recycleable stuff engineered to engulf developing countries as their waste management struggles to catch up. This effective method of advertising ensures that brands such as Nestlé can reach the poorest most isolated villages and hang around in piles and puddles; little billboards for the countryside. This, along with the acrid plastic smoke of poor man’s waste disposal is a reminder that the capitalist dream is a long way off.

After some time staring into puddles and wandering the streets, we seek refuge from the onslaught of novelty in a street-side eatery. Well away from tourist hangouts and middle class franchises, food is cooked at the front of the narrow restaurant for all to experience. Great pots of curry, charcoal tandoor ovens, and boiling oil add aromas to the already thick atmosphere. It amazes me how these spice wizards can create such magic in their humble kitchens from such a dirty and chaotic environment. Curry and bread is served hot and fast on strangely reassuring stainless-steel plates. The plates, cups and cutlery are rinsed in a bucket and dried with a suspect rag, then the orange wash-water-stock is added to our our increasingly flavoursome Delhi puddle.

I walk past a street-food vendor with an ingenious bicycle, kitchen, cooker, sun umbrella, table contraption that takes up no more room than a bale of hay. Curious, I approach him to have a closer look, and unprompted, he proceeds to dish me up a chickpea curry with bread. Feeling realistic about the strength of my immune system I am a little apprehensive as I tuck. Despite the potential pathogens, the curry is delicious. These street food vendors operate with the bare minimum of resources and whip up wonderful, albeit stogy feasts for a few cents. I watch as our man neatly chops and onion with a sharpened hacksaw blade knife. The wind picks up a piece of onion skin and floats it on to the puddle, garnishing this wonderful cocktail of Indian life.