OnPoint by Keith Ng


D5: Delhi to Tibet on three wheels

I've been a pretty bad tourist. Instead of taking in the sights and sounds of India, I've been holed up in an internet cafe finishing a project I'm doing for a multinational advertising agency. Yes sir, I'm working for the sweet, flickering tongue of global capitalism. I've interviewed a dozen regional heads in the last month, which is quite an amazing insight into the heart of the beast. I can't write anything about it, of course, what with the blood-sealed contract, the ninja-lawyers and the explosive collar they made me wear (it itches).

But I'm all done, so my soul should be returned to me... anytime now...

5 days in Delhi, and my adamantium belly remains undefeated, despite street vendor after inadvisable street vendor. There was the jelebi - fried batter filled (not soaked, *filled*) with syrup; then there was the Tibetan gyuma - fried sausages that were held together with fat; and then there was this local potato dish, where this guy in a cart chopped the potatos up into small chunks, then - get this - *fried* them and just served them with salt. Crazy.

The Tibetan dumplings and noodles were great, though. The butter tea, much to my surprise, was really butter tea. Like, butter in water.

After the second night in the youth hostel with the cold showers and loud snoring men, I checked into a real hotel for an exuberant $12/night. It's located in the Tibetan colony in Delhi - a bit far away, but an absolute oasis from the rest of Delhi. It's about three blocks wide, and if you peeked out the side roads, you can see the usual mix of dirt, poverty and traffic on the main road. On the other side were subsistance farmers with their tiny plots by the river.

In between, men sit around playing this cross between pool and air hockey and rosy-cheeked kids run around. Every third person you see is a monk, and every shop carry a photo of the Dalai Lama. Every white person here seems to be either looking for Buddha or telling everyone about Jesus (as in actual missionaries, but disguised as teenage American girls). The whole place is full of hotels and guesthouses, though, so presumably this is the homebase for Tibetan pilgrams in India.

I'll be starting a 30-odd-hour train ride down to Chennai tonight. With Delhi's freakish cold spell (it was 3 degrees this morning), I'm pretty glad to move down to warmer climes. On my arrival, I'll be starting work at The Hindu, an English paper with a long-history. It's what's brought me here - the Asia:NZ Foundation is sponsoring me to do a stint at The Hindu, to figure out what the hell is going on here, and to bring some useful connections back, etc. So, thanks Asia:NZ!

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