Vantage point

Saturday, May 10, 2003

This whole North India tour has been a great learning experience. I have learnt a lot about travelling unreserved, in buses, rickshaws, tempos in the not-so-plush areas of the country. I have learnt how to haggle about even the most basic things like mineral water, oranges and rickshaw fare. And I have learnt how to decode the Haryanvi accent. :-P

Firstly, let me say that Delhi has let me down a bit. I don't know why but I was expecting to be a very efficient and fast-moving city like Mumbai. But I have realised that the only thing that moves fast here are the cars belonging to the rich and infamous. The public transport sucks bigtime and the people aren't as helpful as Mumbaikars. And the rickshawwallahs!!! They are so dishonest and exploitative that it is a wonder they are driving rickshaws and aren't in the parliament storming the well of the house. In Mumbai and Pune, rickshaws have meters, and a fixed rate by which you pay them. So there is no bargaining or anything. You sit in the rick, he turns the knob of the meter, and when you stop, he looks at the rate card and you pay him accordingly. Very efficient.

In Delhi, the experience is like shopping in fashion Street. You tell him "Vasant Kunj". he will say "120 rupees". As you splutter out your laughter he will say "Okay, make it 70". You suggest "Why not go by the meter?". You see, Delhi rickshaws have more sophisticated meters than those in Mum-Pune. These are digital.......Douglas Adams would've approved. But if you find a rickshawwallah who voluntary flicks it on, you better take down his name and nominate him for a Bharat-Ratna. You haggle and end up paying through your nose.

Then there is the fact that Delhi believes in "early to bed" philosophy. The city just closes down at 9:30. I came back from Panipat yesterday at about 10, and I could not get a bus. All the buses were headed back to depots. I had to take a rickshaw and ended up parting with half my kingdom.

The roads in Delhi are wide, the buildings nice and there is a lot of greenery in some parts. Other than this, I don't see any reason Delhi should qualify to be a metropolis. At best it can be called a "very big city".