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    All These Colors Tour: India Part 46

    Monday, October 29, 2012
    Delhi, India

    A jam-packed crowd enjoys the Hindu Valmiki Jayanti festival on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road in Paharganj, Delhi, India.

    Around 5:45 pm, I ventured out on a one-mile trek over to the Parsi Anjuman Hall to catch a Dances of India performance. After walking East down the side of a seriously long, dusty, traffic-choked road called Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, I finally arrived at Delhi Gate, where I was supposed to hang a right, according to the photo of a map I had on my camera. As I walked South, I was greeted by nothing but long, dark, fenced-off buildings, followed by a seemingly never-ending eight-foot high plywood wall that blocked the view of some kind of massive Metro (subway) construction. A half-mile later–an hour after I left the hotel–I reached a gigantic, incredibly congested intersection. After crossing one side of it, I decided to give up on finding the dance venue, and just turned around. I ended up waiting a full 10 minutes to cross the other street. Right when I asked a policeman if the light was broken, another officer halted traffic so the mounting crowd of pedestrians could cross.

    A short while later, as I hung a left back up at Delhi Gate, I jumped on a random bus that appeared to be heading back toward Paharganj, the area where the Hotel Krishna is located. After a minute, I thought it made a wrong turn, so I jumped off, got confused, then boarded another bus when I thought I had my directions sorted out. A few minutes later, I didn’t recognize my surroundings anymore and got off. At that point, I was totally lost. A middle-aged Indian man wearing a black turban saw me looking around, then led me over to a taxi stand and offered to have one of his drivers give me a ride for the outrageous sum of 200 rupees, but I refused because they clammed up when I demanded that they use a meter. Then I asked another policeman which direction the New Delhi train station was, and he sent me waddling off in the right direction.

    A parade float passes by during the Hindu Valmiki Jayanti festival on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road in Paharganj, Delhi, India.

    On the way, one of my worst nightmares about traveling in India came true: a stray dog silently snuck up behind me and gnawed at the back of my ankle. Luckily, I was wearing thick, high-top hiking boots, or I would have been infected with rabies, for sure! As the dog bit me, I instinctively swung around the large water bottle I was holding in my right hand and hit it. Luckily, it scampered off, and when I picked up the bottle, I noticed my right middle finger was bleeding. While I continued to walk, more blood kept pouring out. I thought one of the dog’s teeth had somehow broken the skin. “Damn it!” I thought, “I’m going to have to go to the hospital and get rabies shots!” As I walked back toward the hotel, I had to mentally calm myself down. After a few minutes, I remembered to pour some water over the wound to clean it out. Back in my room, I read up on rabies on the web and washed off my finger really good. It was just a slight abrasion, or graze wound, and the more I looked at it after it was clean, the less likely it seemed that a dog’s tooth could have been responsible for it. A tooth would more likely create a puncture wound.

    So, I grabbed the water bottle to re-enact my swinging motion. That’s when I noticed a small, sharp lip just under the nozzle. When I swung the bottle, I saw that this sharp lip dug into my finger at the precise location of the abrasion. Whew! So, it wasn’t a dog bite after all! I started to feel a lot better when I realized I wouldn’t have to get shots or fly home early and lose the $700 airline ticket home that I already had booked for November 5. I hadn’t eaten all day, so I went up to the rooftop cafe to order some dinner. While I was up there, I heard some serious commotion going on down on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road. I asked the waiter about it, and he explained it was a festival called Valmiki Jayanti, an official national holiday in India that celebrates the life of Valmiki, the author of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. While I waited for my food, I walked down the block to check out the action. A blanket of people lined both sides of the Northbound lane–including a three-foot high, five-foot wide median.

    A parade float passes by during the Hindu Valmiki Jayanti festival on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road in Paharganj, Delhi, India.

    I walked along the median, clicking photos and video clips whenever there was an opening among the bodies. Some people seemed amused to see a foreigner take an interest in the proceedings, which consisted of some high school marching band-type outfits trundling along and a crazily colorful parade of floats bearing people all dolled up as various characters from the Ramayana. At one point, I noticed a little space on a crossing over the median and stepped up there. Right then, several teenage boys and some other people also joined me and a bustle ensued. A few minutes later, I noticed my wallet, which is always in my front left pocket, was missing. “Maybe I left it in my hotel room,” I thought. As I walked back down the street, I became enveloped in an absolute hurricane of sounds–traffic horns, cacophonous live music and recorded music, blaring announcements, shouting, obnoxiously belching generators and on and on. I didn’t want to leave, but I figured I better check on my wallet and stuff my face before my food got cold.

    As I quickly rifled through everything in my room, my heart sank as the fact sunk in that my wallet was gone. The thing that’s lame is that up to this point, I always zipped my wallet inside my messenger bag or stuck my hands inside my pockets whenever I entered a really crowded area. But, this was one of the few times I let down my guard, and the thief got me. On the bright side, all I kept in it was a day’s worth of spending money–in this case, around 700 rupees (roughly $14.00). The only sketchy part is, there were two or three business cards in there from my bank (including its contact info), on which I had scrawled my account balances. But, at least I only included three digits from each account number. I also had a business card in there with my name on it. Hopefully, the thief won’t be able to do anything with that info. I had meant to put those cards in my money belt at the beginning of the trip, but forgot about it, and kept procrastinating. Rest assured, my passport, driver’s license, debit cards, traveler’s checks and main cash are still in my money belt that I always keep under my pants.

    A parade float passes by during the Hindu Valmiki Jayanti festival on Desh Bandhu Gupta Road in Paharganj, Delhi, India.

    So, I definitely got a dose of the unpredictable side of India today–more than my fair share, actually. I wanted to see the Dances of India, but got Valmiki Jayanti instead. I had planned for a nice, short walk, but Delhi swallowed me up and bewildered me with its vast, dusty avenues and horrendous, traffic-choked intersections instead. And, like a menacing land shark, a completely silent dog attacked me from behind. Then a thief picked my front pocket! I’m laughing as I type this. After all, way worse things happen to tourists. Hell, I should be happy, because I got off easy. I had hoped to make it through this country without hitting any major snags, but in true India fashion, I didn’t get what I wanted or expected. As many people have written before, India is the most surprising, multi-dimensional country on Earth. Even though I like it, dislike it, love it and hate it all at the same time, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone should make it a point to visit India at least once.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

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