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The one-kilometer stretch from Connaught place to Gole Market is one-way for the traffic. Once in a month I have to make a trip between these two places and I love the walk back.

In spite of being at the heart of the national capital New Delhi, traffic on this way is scanty and the well-defined footpath (it's hardly so in most part of the city).

My latest walk back on this road was at about 11 o'clock last Monday. The morning TV news bulletin said it was going to be one of the coldest days with the possibility of mercury touching the ZERO mark! I was enjoying sunrays playing hide and seek through the road side tree leaves.

" Can you tell me the way to Baba Kharak Sing Marg?"
" What are you looking for?"
" The state government emporiums."
" A little ahead on the way, but we have to take a right byline. I am on that way only."

Paul Bremer was from Sydney. This was his second visit to India and first time in New Delhi. He was in Kerala two years back.

Amidst conversations Paul turned to his Lonely Planet traveler guide. I was trying to help him to crack our location on the map when a voice behind us suggested that we were not on the right way.

Paul looked back and yelled, "I have been saying, I do not need your guidance. Thanx. You be on your way." Irritation apparent on his face showed he was trying to avoid the follower (must be a commission agent) for a long time.

But after a few steps only our follower crossed over us and stood in front as a hurdle, this time the target was I. Talking to me in Hindi he warned me that I was driving away his customer and it will be dangerous for me. When he found me unmoved by his threats, he turned on his best English jargon and tried to convey the message that I was just another commission agent trying to mislead the traveler.

Paul turned to me with suspicious eyes. It was time for me to be baffled. "It's too much," I read my mind waves.

"Look Paul, it's up to you to decide whom you wanted to believe. I have no interest and time to be caught in these. If you think you need my help you are welcome."

I took to my way. After a little heated up arguments I heard Paul's heavy footsteps behind me. We were walking again.

I was overwhelmed and have no idea how to say that I was feeling sorry about the whole episode.

"I faced situations like these last time also when I was here. The best thing about traveling is that you get the power to judge people after you travel a lot. Adverse situations teach you so much that you look at one's face and you can make out the man inside. I am confident now that no one can fool me. Things becomes a little easier when you have a guide like Lonely Planet with you," Paul was talking as if he was feeling sorry for the situation that was created.

I was curious to know what Lonely Planet says about my country. But we were there in front of the government run state emporiums that sell products from the various states all over the country.

On reaching office, I checked the onlineLonely Planet to know its view of India.

"Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you. India is a litmus test for many travellers - some are only too happy to leave, while others stay for a lifetime."

In the next few days Paul is going to face more incidents like this that will just make him one of the takers of Lonely Planet's claim.

But is that all about India?


anangbhai said…
Wow. Nice post. You've described Delhi beautifully.
I hope that's not all India is about. That's like describing new york city as a place where you shouldn't walk at night. But I think getting to know India asks more from people than say a trip to the Bahamas or Hawaii or Yellowstone National Park. People actually live in Delhi and its not based upon Tourism for its existence, and I think American tourists especially seem to either ignore or be naive of this fact. India asks more from you than just a trip to the Red Fort and maybe a 10 rupee bill in the outstretched hand of a roadside beggar. If you're there just for the curries and the shopping and some fake religion you'll get what you're looking for.
Soumyadip said…
Now the tourism department is attempting to bring back the old belief 'athiti deva bhawa.' A welcome effort, but will we ever learn? It seems that we are. The other day I boarded an autorickshaw which proudly displayed the 'Athiti Deva Bhawa' sticker (though upside down) and surprisingly he didn't attempt to overcharge me. In fact due to a traffic jam we had to take a long detour, yet he didn't ask for the 'extra.'
Soumyadip said…
And Lonely Planet is a great help. Even for us Indians travelling to other parts of the country. I discovered many things about my own city from Lonely Planet.
A Lonely Planet guide to me is the closest one can come to a good friend who will show you the way. Of course, it is no substitute for hard experience.

No, India I dont think can be caputured within the covers of a Tourist book. There are so many Indias (as Rushdie says in "Midnight's Children, which is about another Indian city, Bombay), that one cannot put it all down that's why tourist guides (including Lonely Planet I'm afraid) resort to indistinct language to describe in totality the reality that is India.
Rita said…
Good post! I've seen similar incidents on the road and it is not always nice! but I hope that the atithi devo bhave campaign helps! :D
aklanta said…
Yes I have heard about 'Athiti Deva Bhawa' first hand experience of it yet...Really a great idea.
jac said…
It may be true, but this doesn't happen all over India.
I have been to Kerala and enjoyed the humourous welcome right from the airport..

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