If I was ever unsure about wanting to be a celebrity – I’m extremely sure now!
We had quite a predicament getting rickshaws to go all the way to the Red Fort. We had a few pulled over to the side of the road (as there were 8 of us and only three fit in one) and they were all conspiring against us. Rajiv – one of our program coordinators who I’d guess to be in his fifties, described rickshaw drivers to have ‘greediness in their blood’. This is why they all give hugely inflated rates and scam us… right.
We did finally sort out the rickshaws, us going ‘who cares’ and getting in was what settled it. We were arguing over a dollar – 50 rupees. It’s really quite pathetic – but you get into it! About 55 rupees is one Canadian dollar – the whole trip was 150 rupees and took us from South Delhi to Old Delhi, about a half hour ride! Could you ever imagine such cheap transport at home?!
Sidenote: The Delhi Metro is fairly new (about 10 years) and they’re still expanding it now. It already goes WAY more places that Vancouver’s skytrain. It MAKES MONEY. It is one of the only metros in the world that makes money; it and Hong Kong I’ve been told. It costs 15 rupees to ride….
On arriving at the Red Fort we have to cross a street. Now crossing a street in downtown Delhi is much like trying to walk through a Kindergarten class with a handful of ice cream cones. It’s insane. There are cars, rickshaws, buses, motorcycles, bikes and beggars everywhere, going in every direction. You have to dodge into the traffic – generally right behind an India who seems to know what they’re doing and stop and go with them. There’s no straight cross, it’s all watching and running and stopping with about a million horns going off all around you and rickshaws and bike carriers trying to pick you up. Once you finally get to the other side of the road (narrowly missing being hit by a bus), you breathe a sigh of relief and are then attacked by bike carriers wanting to take you around Old Delhi for a tour. We are the most popular as we are white – everyone wants us on their bike to show us off.
The overwhelming attention doesn’t stop once we’ve walked into the tourist attraction. We make the mistake of thinking it’s funny at first when people ask to have a photo with us. We giggle and shake hands (touching a white person is clearly some sort of feat for them) and pose with a big grin. We have small children and teenage boys asking at this point. Once we’re through the initial market and into the actual fort we start to have a crowd around us. We cannot pose for a photo without having Indians jump into the photo with us so their friends can take a shot, or just have a paparazzi of Indian tourists surrounding whichever one of us is taking the photo, so they can also take the photo.
We ended up with about 30 people surrounding us at one point and decided to take off in a speed walk. We tried to get away but we couldn’t. It was unreal. More and more kept joining the crowd of fans. We were walking fast, we had to sternly ask people to get away so we could get a photo. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
We left after about an hour to head to Chandi Chowk…..