Most people pass through Delhi as quickly as possible but if you have to be there for some time it can be rather OK. The people are quick witted and funny and there’s plenty to see. I’ve been there a couple of dozen times over 35 years and not always enjoyed it - but the air quality is now much better than in the eighties and the metro is a new and wonderful way to get around. The traffic can be awful, except on Sundays when New Delhi is delightful. For a different take altogether, Sunday’s the day to watch the cricket and mix with the families around India Gate.


Some highlights, mostly in New Delhi:


The area around the Qutb Minar;

Safjardangs Tomb - like all the green spaces in New Delhi, the gardens are where young couples go for some intimacy away from the eyes of the family.

Close by, the delightful Lodi Gardens are another place for young couples and also a great place to watch people jogging and performing their early morning yoga excercises, a great place to relax.

Another great old monument and relaxing green area is the Purana Qila.

Opposite, on Bhairon Marg, is the wonderful, but hardly known, Craft Museum. The Craft Museum has large displays of many traditional crafts from all over India and a magnificent textile collection with brilliant saris from every corner of the country, there’s also an outdoor auditorium for performance of dance and music. The textiles are breathtaking and very moving. There are people selling decent craft things in the courtyard but the government craft shop by the entrance is depressing and well worth a miss.

The other government craft shop to avoid is the huge CCIC on Janpath. Instead, head over to Baba Kharak Singh Marg and the State Emporiums. They too are mostly staffed with people gathering dust but there is some good stuff in some of them.

A highlight is the upmarket ‘Tribes’ and the couple of newer adjacent shops. This is also the location of the colourful and chaotic 6am daily wholesale flower market.


One consistently great little shop with wonderful textiles is The Shop in Regal Buildings on Parliament Street, sometimes called Sansad Marg, almost at Connaught circus. It’s next door to the Kwality restaurant, Godin’s sitar shop and a great air conditioned coffee bar. The dark and ponderous Regal Hotel in the same block is where Ghandi’s killers met and planned their assassination.


Also on Parliament Street, a couple of hundred yards further out from Connaught Circus and almost opposite the Park Hotel is the impressive and visually delightful Jantar Mantar, the red and white 16th century astronomical observatory.

Just beyond is a road reserved for political protest. The rural poor are the main petitioners, although they’re largely ignored by the government. I’m always moved by the journeys they’ve made to be here and that they have a platform for their opinion. Even if they are ignored.


In Old Delhi, for the authentic feel of the location of Sujit Saraf’s wonderful book The Peacock Throne, take the metro to Chawri Bazar and walk east along Chawri Bazaar road through the bustle of the paper, brass, bathroom fittings and ironmongery wholesale shops towards the Jama Masjid. The Red Fort is just beyond. At night those balconies over the shopfronts become Delhi’s red light district. Walk in the other direction from Chawri Bazar metro north west down Lalkuan Bazar Road to the west end of Chandni Chowk, turn left and try and find the Khori Baoli spice market with its sacks of chillis; try and sneak up the spiral stairs for great views from the rooftops down Chandni Chowk towards the Red Fort. Expect to sneeze from the chilli dust.


In the opposite drection, at the very south end of Delhi are the sprawling remains of Tughlaqabad. You could take the metro and then get a rickshaw but the drivers may not know of it. Probably better to get a taxi in the centre, that way the drivers can pool their knowledge as to where to go. There’s just a few ruins but a sense of openness and the size of the city.


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