How not to look like a tourist in Delhi

If you are a women who likes to travel, then have you ever considered how the way you dress might affect the people who live in the place you are visiting? A lot of times, people will walk into my neighborhood and I can almost always tell if they are tourists by the way they are dressed. I live in a very conservative Muslim neighborhood and the standard rule for women is that you have to cover your bottom, chest, and shoulders. This means that it is not a good idea to walk around in shorts and a tank top.
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This is what I normally wear when I go into the basti

Because of the strict rule about clothing here, when I go out, I normally wear a long shirt or dress that covers my bottom, jeans or leggings, and a scarf that covers my chest. When I go into the basti, my clothes are slightly different, but still very similar. I normally wear what I would wear in the neighborhood minus the jeans. For covering my chest, I wear a dupatta which I drape across my chest and wrap around my head.
Muslim women will often wear a salwar kameez with a dupatta or sometimes if they are more conservative, they will wear a burkha.
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This is a Indian woman in a burkha

The reason I have mainly talked about the clothes women should wear is because there are only a few rules for men on what they can wear. The only rules I know of are that men and boys have to cover their elbows, and when they are at the dargah, they have to cover their head, which for them means that they wear a small, normally white hat called a prayer cap. Other than that, I think they can pretty much wear whatever they want. Most of the time, the clothes I see men and boys wearing are T-shirts, shorts, and
the occasional tank top.
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He is wearing a prayer cap

Another type of clothing that some men and boys wear is the kurta pajama. The kurta pajama consists of a kurta very similar to the kurtas women wear, except less decorative and colorful, and pants. Unlike the women’s kurtas, the mens’ kurtas are normally made up of a solid fabric, which means that the fabric doesn’t have any patterns on it.
Now I am no expert on clothing rules for Muslims (or any of the Muslim culture for that matter), but this is what my experience living in India has shown me. The rules are probably different depending on where you go in India, but I think they are probably generally the same. I hope you visit India because it is a bright, colorful and beautiful place.

Where old meets new in Delhi; Agrasen Ki Baoli

Located near the fairly new Connaught Place is something centuries older. However, while it is old, Agrasen Ki Baoli is not the oldest stepwell in Delhi. It is however, one of the last step wells in Delhi. Built during the Mahabharat era, this centuries old step well was constructed by Maharaja Agrasen, and later rebuilt by the Agrawal community during the 14th century.

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A picture of the arches lining the stairs

Descending down into the red stone step well are roughly 103 steps with small arches lining the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs is a small room with a hallway leading further into the step well. The hallway is blocked off, as is the rest of the well farther in the building. However, the stairs and the room at the beginning of the hallway are open to visitors. An interesting fact about this old baoli is that it is believed to be the home of ghosts. However, when my family visited this baoli, the only inhabitants we found were hundreds of shrieking bats.

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These are the stairs leading down to the hallway

I’ve seen bats before, but normally it’s at night, and so all I see is some black shadows flitting around in the dark. When I first heard the bats, I thought they were birds. But when my dad and I went closer, we saw that the “birds” were actually hundreds, maybe thousands, of screeching bats hanging from the roof. Bats that also tended to leave their droppings in places where people were likely to step. That was something I didn’t expect.

Something that was fascinating to me was that Agrasen Ki Baoli had been built in the 14th century, so about 700 years ago, and it is still in pretty good condition. I thought it would be more run down. But the gate, courtyard, and stairs looked in good condition despite having been built hundreds of years before. It was really cool seeing something so old right in the middle of something so new.

All in all, it was a interesting place. Sure, it was crowded. But my family had a good time there. I thought it was fascinating that Agrasen ki Baoli was built in the 14th century and is still in pretty good condition. I was able to shoot some pretty good pictures of the step well too. My family and I enjoyed our visit there, and if you go, I hope you have a good time. Agrasen Ki Baoli is an fascinating place. Just avoid the bat poop!

5 types of animals in Delhi not see on most streets

Animals make up a large part of Delhi’s population. Wandering the streets are goats, cows, dogs, donkeys, horses, and sometimes an elephant or camel. These are the animals seen every day all over Delhi.

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This is a goat in the basti

In America, probably the most common animals people have as pets are dogs or cats. But in India, goats are probably the most common animal for a pet. Even better, these unusual pets wear clothes! There are lots of goats wandering the basti’s streets wearing T-shirts, pants, tank tops, and even blazers! My Indian friend Zareena had a goat that would wear a blazer in the wintertime, and I have seen lots of goats wearing tank tops.

A lot of times, elephants are seen on grasslands in Africa. But believe it or not, there are elephants in Asia too! They are rather scarce in Delhi, but there are even more in other parts of India. However, even though there are not many in Delhi, my family and I have seen a couple walking down the street in front of Khan Market.

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A painted elephant

Camels are about as scarce as elephants in this city, but every so often they do appear on Delhi’s streets. However, as with elephants and horses, they are never without a rider. If you meet one, you might want to be careful around them because I have heard they spit. I have never gotten close enough to find out, and nor do I want to. And if you ever are considering taking a ride on one, just remember that riding a camel can be very bumpy and will probably make you sore. My dad has ridden one once, and after he dismounted the camel he said it was really bumpy and made him really sore.

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A man riding a camel

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A camel up close

Another unusual animal seen on Delhi’s streets is a cow. Although in America cows are normally found on farms, here they are found on the street. Cows might make up the largest portion of Delhi’s animal population. One time, we were driving through a neighborhood here in Delhi and my brother and I counted up to fifty cows. The reason for this is because India’s population is mostly Hindu, and cows are sacred to Hindus. Because they are sacred animals, it is illegal in Delhi and in many other Indian states for anybody to kill a cow for any purpose. They eat trash, and whatever grass they can find, and sometimes people will milk them.

Another animal that is rather common in India is a monkey. Monkeys are often thought to be cute and nice, but in India, they are the exact opposite. They can be very nasty and naughty and if you’ve ever gotten close enough to see how cute it is, then it’s probably already doing something nasty to you. I have had at least two close calls with monkeys at two different times. However, the first time wasn’t actually in India, but in Nepal at the Monkey Temple. The second time, the monkey just frightened my mom and I. We were at my dentist’s office waiting for our taxi to come, and at one point I heard shouting and yelling inside the gate. Then all of a sudden, I saw something furry fly past my feet. At first I thought it was a dog, but then I realized it was a monkey. Thankfully, it ignored me and didn’t touch my mom or I, but just ran down the road to some trees nearby. My mom shrieked when she saw it, but when it passed, she and I started laughing.

The countries of the world are full of thousands of different species and animals. India is no exception. There are peacocks and parakeets, donkeys and horses, and so many other species. These are just a few of the animals I see in Delhi every day.

Nizammuddin’s busiest market

Just down the street from our house is a neighborhood known as the Nizamuddin Basti, which is a very large and crowded neighborhood.Like many small neighborhoods in Delhi and India as well, animals wander freely, motorbikes speed past with just a loud horn blast for a warning and at all times noises and various smells fill the air. When I go with my mom sometimes I have to pay very close attention so I don’t lose sight of her among all the people rushing around, even if she is one tall white person among hundreds of smaller, dark skinned people.

Here is a picture of some cows, goats, and a boy in front of some houses in the basti 

 Every Monday in this neighborhood is a market that is famous in Delhi and is commonly known just Peer Baazaar or Monday Market. One can buy everything from bangles and bras to diapers and dishes, and of course prices are always negotiable.
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This is the basti on Monday

People are everywhere, and stalls are flooded with wares everywhere you look. The air is full of people shouting, people either buying or selling, you are being shoved and pushed from all sides, and everything is bright and colorful. Including the people.

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Here are some people in front of a bangle stand 

Sometimes the market is less crowded, but if it is, then it is either early in the morning when it is just opening, or a holiday. Other than that, there is probably no other time when Monday Market is not filled to the brim with people.

 

Sound like a place you want to visit? It goes without saying that it is very different from Amsterdam or Innsbruck or some of the other places I’ve written about.  It is crowded, noisy, and you do need to pay attention as you walk, both to the ground and in front of you, however the fact that it is probably not like any other place you’ve visited or seen makes it even more special. The basti is a place all it’s own.