Annalea Beattie (an Australian teacher) and I had some time to kill so we took the airport express metro into downtown New Delhi and walked to the India Gate before returning.
It’s actually kind of a challenge to walk around in New Delhi, although there are rewards too. The challenges include: It’s hot and sunny, sidewalks are often broken up, obstructed or nonexistent, and there’s a lot of fast traffic coming at you from the “wrong” direction, if you’re American. But the biggest challenge is that lots of people will come up to you and involve themselves in what you’re doing. They will be very persistent, and not take “no” for an answer. They will want to know where you’re going, where you’re from, how long you have been in town, how long you intend to stay. They may walk with you for some distance to show you the way. They may argue that your plan isn’t a good one, that the place you want to go to is closed, or in the wrong direction, or that it’s too far. Some want to drive you in their taxis, jitneys or rickshaws. Some want to bring you to a shop. Some are just nice middle class Indians who honestly want to help and have no desire to take money from you, but it’s not always easy to tell at first. But nobody, absolutely nobody, approves of two westerners walking somewhere in New Delhi. You’re supposed to get driven.
But, outside the tourist areas with shops the pressure on you eases a bit. We went to the India Gate, which is India’s equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the the Monumento de la Revolucion in Mexico. It’s very impressive, and people were setting up for the Independence Day festivities next week. Families were there, and couples were meeting in the park.
The real refuge from heat and people is, surprisingly, the metro. It’s air conditioned, efficient, inexpensive, and easy to learn how to use. The airport express line that we mostly took is totally clean and modern and fast and very lightly used, and even the regular line was at least as nice as the New York City or Boston subways, or BART, at least on this Sunday.