I’m a big fan of my legs.They aren’t the prettiest, but they’ve performed more than ably when put to the test against Delhi’s less than perfect pavements.
Delhi’s weather is made for walking in late winter and early spring. As spring turns to summer and the heat and then the humidity builds, fewer people go walking for pleasure. In the summer and monsoon it’s only the odd, like me, that like to go for a good, long walk.
Whenever I explore Delhi by foot (or on my shiny new bike) I make sure I prepared for the adventure ahead. Here’s what I take along with me and why.
Sensible shoes – It goes without saying, so I’ll say it anyway. Strong, sturdy footwear is what sensible wanders wear. Delhi has a couple of good pavements, but in most places the pavements – if they exist – are in pretty poor condition.
A marvelous map – I like getting lost, but sometimes it’s a good idea to know where you’re going.
Google maps is great, but when it comes to finding my way around give me a good, old fashioned, paper map.Does Delhi has a publication showing everything street by street? Boy. You bet it does.
The people at Eicher have achieved the impossible. They’ve pulled together an amazing map that covers everything; every street, gali, level crossing, mosque, temple, shopping area and Jhuggi Jhompri Cluster. It even marks and numbers every milk booth in the city. I know. Incredible.
Noida, Greater Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad all get the Eicher treatment too. Most good books shops will sell you a copy. I bought mine from Faqir Chand & Sons Bookshop, No-15-A,Khan Market, New Delhi-110003.
Watch out! For everything – Delhi isn’t pedestrian friendly but walking is far from a no no. I’ve learned to keep an eye look out for the unexpected. I always come to a complete stop when talking on my mobile and readings messages or emails.
Why? Well, Delhi’s traffic follows its own rules. Cars, buses and any other mode of motorised, animal or pedal powered transport does what it wants to do, when it wants to do it. The fact that you may be in the way doesn’t matter. As a pedestrian you are expected to move – quickly.
I also need to look where I’m stepping. So far I’ve managed to avoid falling down the many uncovered man holes or into an open sewer. I have trod in the odd cow pat or two though.
Take plenty of small change – A wallet full of 2000 INR or 500 INR notes won’t go down well with dilliwalahs.I always carry hundreds, fifties, twenties and tens. Coins are helpful too – especially at public conveniences and when paying folk for looking after my shoes at the temple.
Drink a lot (of water) – Keeping hydrated is critical. I don’t carry water for long before I’m guzzling it down.
Bottled water is the only way. There are plenty of places to pick up a litre or two. Kinley, Aquafina, Bisleri and Catch are some of the brands I have confidence in. I always check the seal to make sure its secure and what’s in the bottle is what I expect.
Keeping salt and sugar levels up is important too. I sweat a lot. My wife tells me I’m revolting. Sadly, I have to agree.
Metro Card – The metro is fab. It’s ridiculously cheap too. The metro’s five lines fan their way across the NCR (soon there will be more).
Modern and air conditioned, it’s a fine way to travel. The ladies have a luxury of a women only carriage that always far less crowded. A fetching pink sign on the platform points out where it is.
I always pre-load my metro card with plenty of cash at quiet stations. This means I don’t have to queue to top it up at a crowded stations. Queues at metro stations can go on and on and on…….
Pack a smile – People stop and stare. I’m frequently stopped by folk wanting a chat or a selfie.
Foreigners are still novel. At 6ft 6in I’m a big man by European standards. In India, I’m a giant. I find the attention nice, but I know that some people find posing for photographs a bit of a bind.
Dilliwalahs that are trying to make a living also tend to flock my way. They try to sell me some tat or tap me up for cash. I’ve found people are very persistent, but not aggressive. I have always felt safe. The only thing that’s warmer than the sun in Delhi is the warmth of the people.
Packing a smile and interacting with people on the street with my less than perfect Hindi is one of my biggest pleasures.