An Interesting DayJanuary 30 in India ⋅ 🌫 10 °C
Another nearby breakfast of roti and tea before heading out into the city again. First stop was just nearby, the Qutb Minar archaeological site. The main attraction here is the world's tallest stone minaret, topping out at just over 70 metres! It's very impressively designed as well, and located in a complex with a few ruined mosques, tombs and other buildings. Although it had been fairly quiet when we arrived at about 9am, it steadily filled up and by the time we left at 11 it was getting quite crowded. Fairly typical for a place in India! It's like constantly being at the Easter Show or something.
Next stop we headed over to India Gate, a massive Arc de Triomphe style archway that commemorates the Indian dead from WW1, WW2 and other campaigns. Lots of Indian tourists about but not many Westerners. Huge numbers of people selling crap too, toys and photographs and the like - again mostly aimed at locals. I reckon it was probably a 50/50 split between people selling and people there to see the monument!
From here we headed to Connaught Place, the centre of New Delhi designed by the British in the 19th century. There's a bunch of old white colonnaded colonial-style buildings around a multi-acre roundabout, laid out in very much a Parisian style. As it was lunchtime, we found a place that apparently did decent food and seemed busy so wandered in. We both had a thali which is basically a mixed curry plate - three small serves of curries, rice and naan. Very tasty!
We felt like finding a coffee place and having a sit down to relax, and so we stood around near the exit of the metro station trying to find an option on our phone. As we were looking at our phones, a guy approached offering to clean my shoes; I said no and waved him away without even looking up since I was pretty used to constantly being pestered. Then he said "but sir, look!" I glance down, and lo and behold there's a huge dollop of wet cow shit on the top of my right shoe!
It immediately clicked what had happened - he had squirted it there without me noticing, and would then expect a "tip" for cleaning it off! I shouted no and told him to F off, turning around and taking my shoe off. Shandos and I (okay mostly Shandos) cleaned the shoe off over the next 10 minutes with tissues and water we had to hand. The shit culprit had disappeared almost immediately which was lucky for him; as we were standing there cleaning it I was getting angrier and angrier and probably would have gotten physical if he'd come back. He was an older guy and pretty scrawny as I remember.
Eventually we got 95% of the shit cleaned off. Both a little shaken, we decided to just head straight for the nearby metro and head home where we spent the late afternoon relaxing in our room. I did some more reading and apparently the shoe-shit scam is quite common in that area of Delhi - an article in the Guardian written in 2010 said he'd had it happen four times in the same area, even after living in Delhi for years! Apparently it goes back as far as the 60s. I've heard of similar scams involving mustard on jackets and fake bird shit, but those are often precursors to getting pickpocketed. At least it made me feel a bit better - we didn't lose anything more than 10 minutes of our time, and that even westerners who've lived here for a couple of years can fall victim to it.
For dinner we headed out to an odd place nearby, a sort of hipster arts collective in a compound with galleries and multiple western-style cafes. We went in a couple of cafes, and both of them could've been anywhere in a first world country, although the prices were about halfway between Western and typical Indian. Quite an odd feeling, though I guess these places will keep on popping up. Although there's a lot of poverty here in India, there's a colossal middle class as well that's only going to keep on growing. Moving on tomorrow!Read more