Thursday, 9th August. Old Delhi

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Thursday, 9th August

The flight from Leh arrives late morning and we get picked up and taken to the Park Hotel on Parliament Street, Connaught Circus. It’s a good location opposite the Jantar Mantar (the 16th century astronomical observatory which the hotel maintains) and just yards from one on our favourite soft furnishing shops, called The Shop. Next door to The Shop is the Kwality Restaurant which hasn’t changed since I first came here in 1978. Twenty yards away is Godin’s sitar, piano and guitar shop and round the corner is the Regal Cinema.

In the afternoon we take the excellent metro to Chowri Bazaar in Old Delhi to walk round the outside of the Jama Masjid and then through the old wholesale bazaars past merchants of paper, metal, toilets, brass statues and kites, and the rest. These streets are the setting for Sujit Saraf‘s superb book The Peacock Throne. Although I feel quite familiar with this part of Delhi, reading this book made me realise how little I knew of the lives being lived here. Sanitation stores by day, brothels by night. A depressing but essential read for any lover of modern India, recommended! We take a rickshaw to Kaoli Bowri, the wholesale spice market said to be the biggest in Asia. This area of Old Delhi is a dereliction of once fine buildings, the upper floors are  warehouse jumbles of machine parts, bathroom ceramics, chemicals and everything that gets piled in warehouses the world over. Once beautiful balconies are in ruins.

We slip through the dark alleys of Kaoli Bowri sneezing from the chilli dust seeping from the hundreds of sacks, full to bursting, that fill every corner. An aggressive dog almost prevents us exploring the staircases to the roof with it’s fine views down Chandni Chowk towards the Red Fort.

I can’t attempt to describe this place - read The Peacock Throne!

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