New Delhi

After a lazy morning I went out on Tuesday afternoon to see some of the sites of New Delhi. First I went to Safdarjung’s tomb which is a beautiful building a bit like the Taj Mahal. After having a wander around the beautiful gardens and after seeing this I headed to the excellent Indra Gandhi museum which described her and her sons life very well. It was better than the other museums I’ve seen. After this I went to the Nehru museum which was more anti-British retoric.

It does seem from reading the wikipedia articles on Indian economics that the British probably did damage the economy as growth was only an average of 0.1% a year from 1700 until 1925. Though I’m sure the continued resistance as well as changes in the world economy as probably hurt India more than most. The British restriction of trade to the empire and their lack of granting of Dominion status (which made states largely independent of the UK) for a long time as well as not moving the currency to the gold standard were all errors by the British which would have damaged the Indian economy.

There is also the fact that even today over 800 million people live on less than US$0.50 (20 rupees is the figure given) a day which is shockingly low.

I should note that none of the museums that I have visited quoted any of these facts.

PS sorry for getting all political. I’m not used to seeing such critism of the UK that I knew nothing about the issues of.

All information sourced from Wikipedia.

Delhi

So I flew into Delhi on Friday evening and then went straight to bed and got up moderately late on Saturday morning after checking my email and breakfast I headed out for the day. Unfortunately first I got waylaid by touts including one with fake government ID but no harm came of me aside from the time wasted and I then headed to Old Delhi and the Jama Masjid mosque. I basically fell for it as I was walking in the same direction as this other guy “towards” Delhi railway station according to my hotel (but we were actually going in the other direction.) I managed to take the wrong road from the metro station so I had to walk about 3 times further than necessary but I did eventually make it. Old Delhi is an interesting place. The streets are completely full so although the fastest way through them is by scooter or bicycle, walking manages to beat every other type of transport. So eventually the mosque poked it’s head out from the Delhi smog but by the time I got there it was time for lunchtime prayers so I went off to a nearby restaurant to grab some food. Then I headed into the mosque itself and had a look around the fairly beautiful building before heading off on foot to the nearby Red Fort. This is a giant Mughal fort right in the centre of Old Delhi and it was a beautiful place to relax. As it wasn’t free to get in there were no touts which was relaxing. A woman walking down the stairs with a small child was very happy that I was prepared to wait and let them go down first.

There were some museums in the grounds as well but they weren’t very good. The grounds also included a museum on the history of British rule which was full of hatred for the British. It whined that we hung their people who failed to uprise against the British at various stages as well as complaining we weren’t fair on the poor and we didn’t educate them. As we behaved the same in our own country at that time I don’t really see the problem – obviously the killing of 1000 innocents by General Dyer just after WW1 was covered and that was one of the few genuine complaints mentioned. I’m sure if the museum had kept things in perspective it would have been great like the war museum in Sai Gon talking about the Viet Nam war and especially Agent Orange. I’m not totally sure on what most Indians feel about British Raj rule (though I’m sure they are glad to be independent) though clearly the government resents it a lot due to museums like this and the places that have had their names “de-Rajified” (I am more than happy to be corrected on this if the British really were terrible people to India and were worse than other rulers.)

After returning to my accommodation at Smyle Inn to be threatened about not using their tour company I changed my accommodation to somewhere else where I slept much better and the people running it were some of the few people in the tourist industry who were friendly like most other Indians seem to be.

The next day I headed off to New Delhi for the day. First I headed to the National Museum which looked like it had a lot of great stuff though the information was either inadequate or like a University essay and far too long and boring. It was also fairly dirty and dusty like the rest of the country. I wish they spent the money they gained from the tourists paying 10x higher entry fees (though I got on with student discount so only paid 1 rupee or £0.02 which gave me access 300x cheaper than other tourists.) on cleaning the museum up the as well as summerising the museum text better. Sadly though I suspect the extra money from tourists is mostly wasted.

Anyhow after that I walked to see the nearby India gate, along the day I was hassled by taxi drivers who I think were very surprised to see a white tourist walking. The gate is beautiful but was surrounded in fog/smog from the pollution. After seeing this I took an auto-rickshaw to Connaught Place where I tried to get into the park but wasn’t allowed due to having a camera but I still managed to see a lot from the outside. I also managed to get shit dropped on my shoes (the scam is that they rob you while cleaning it off -according to the Rough Guide and other Indians). I ran off so I didn’t lose anything and went to clean it off. After this I returned to my room for the night.

The next day I arranged to leave India earlier than expected and went to stay in a hostel in the embassy district away from most of my fellow travellers. This enabled me to have lots of conversations with Indian travellers staying there, all of whom were very friendly. I first talked with some students who were very surprised I didn’t know any Hindi. I suppose one of the issues is that it is expensive for Indians to travel abroad as well as difficult for them to get visas (apparently for the UK and the Shengen EU region they require an interview like you need for the US unless you are on visa waiver.) so they don’t see other perspectives on the world.

It is definitely great to get to talk to the locals here but it is sad that in the tourist areas that they always seem to want more than conversation. There are also a lot of travel shops and others claiming to be official government bodies. I think the Indians should invest in tourist police and street sweepers for these areas to clean them up to remove the worse of the scanners and make it more healthy to bring the standard up to that of other developing countries that I have visited.

It would enable them to charge more too as although the accommodation in Delhi is cheap it is also of poor quality given what it costs compared to other countries I have visited. This would also allow the shops and restaurants to be more overt with selling there wares as often it is difficult to find what is available as you are closed off. This reduces me to going to Western Restaurants even though I like Indian food. It also means I haven’t enjoyed myself in the tourist areas and it looks like most of the honest locals there resent that we are aloof and distant towards them as we can’t easily tell who is honest and who isn’t. it’s only been in the YHA away from most other foreigners and the scammers that I am able to interact with the interesting people around me. I am sad that I need to leave early as it is clearly a great country with a huge amount of great stuff to see (I think it is probably comparable to Italy if not more interesting.).

Hopefully with some work Delhi and probably other parts of the country could be more welcoming to tourists because if it doesn’t improve sadly I don’t think I will return.

PS Tomorrow I am off to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is) which looks like it’ll be a long day. I leave at 7am and return late in the evening.