1. Paharganj, March 2004. Just west of the New Delhi Train Station, this frenetic backpacker ghetto is a real assault on the senses, especially for the uninitiated. Wild street dogs, legless beggars, scampering shoeless children, relentless touts, shops, cafes, guesthouses, DVD shacks, mobile phone huts, restaurants, travel agencies, food stalls and Internet cafes; it was my first day in India and I didn’t know what had hit me.
2. Hare Krishna Guesthouse, March 2004. Aside from the unobtainable luxury of five star hotels, the very concept of boutique lodgings was very much in its infancy, while if you’d asked me what a flashpacker was, I’d have guessed it might be some kind of newfangled power torch. Flying into Delhi for what became a two-month trip, The Hare Krishna Guesthouse was my first taste of the country’s rough and ready accommodation scene. Located right in the heart of Paharganj, the Hare Krishna actually turned out to be one of the least horrific experiences of my trip.
3. The Red Fort (Lal Qila), March 2004. An essential part of any Delhi itinerary, this 17th century Mughal fortress, with its towering red sandstone walls, offers up plenty of old royal opulence and a real sense of the city’s rich history. An unexpected bonus was meeting Romeo and his merry gang, a friendly über-curious bunch of locals who helped make it an unforgettable experience.
4. Jama Masjid, March 2004. I’d been really looking forward to visiting this famous mosque, one of India’s largest. But when we got there, the atmosphere was far from welcoming. Arriving in the late afternoon, we bought our tickets from the rude attendant, only for the thug of a security guard to inform us it was closing early and we had to be out in ten minutes. Having sneered at our request for a refund, we could only rush around in a futile race against the clock. This is one of the few shots I managed to grab.
5. New Delhi Train Station, March 2004. It was absolute chaos when we arrived at the station for our train to Agra. The platform was literally overflowing with people, the more dedicated among them crowding around and even attaching themselves onto carriage doors in order to be the first to climb onboard.
For more on that magical, long ago trip, have a look at my other 5s from around India.
You can also check out my short story series Incidents in India, twelve tales from my travels around the country.