My India – 5 of 7

There is so much to see in Delhi, we’re almost certain to run out of time before we are nowhere near done. Today is Sunday, which means we went looking for a Catholic Church, of which there is no scarcity in Delhi; unfortunately the scheduled Mass in English at 9:45 at St.Luke’s has been converted to a 9:30 Mass at Father Agnel School.

Of course, without Nihal we’d have no hope whatsoever to find any of these places, as the SIM I purchased yesterday on my way to the restaurant still does not work

Need mobile connectivity while in India? Voda’s roaming rates are not as gouging as in Russia, but still very, very high. Best solution, I figured, is to turn off data roaming on your phone and purchase a data only prepaid card for use on another device – in my case an iPad.

The process however is not that simple, you will need:

  1. your passport
  2. two passport-style pictures (don’t ask, I still do not know…)
  3. someone local’s mobile phone number

Little stores selling prepaid card are plentiful, and clerks do their best to understand. You buy the card (pay attention to the format, as they will sell you a full SIM, while your iPad only accepts a mini-SIM; ask them to cut it down to fit the iPad SIM tray.

My Airtel card with 3GB of traffic is 755 + 150 rupees of service charge.

Then be prepared to wait: 48 hours after my purchase, the SIM still does not work, but the clerk said monday it should.

Back to the Mass, luckily the starting time was not meant to be really precise, so even if we get there at almost 10, we still manage to attend the full service.

Then we need to go back to the mobile store, but before that, I need to have two pictures done; Nihal locates a photo studio for me which sells me the minimum package of 25 pics for 170 rupees; the cost is very low, so I do not argue, but who the hell needs 25 pictures (or more) for document use?

Anyway, once the SIM activation is sorted out (I mean, hoping it is…) we can start our visit and we select the Red Fort, a beautiful fortress-cum-imperial-palace.

At the entrance we discover there are three lines: one for indian men, one for indian women (shorter) and one for foreigners (shortest); in all our visit we see perhaps 10 westerners, which is amazing. Mirella’s platinum hair attracts quite an attention, to the point a family asks permission to be photographed in her company – in fact the cosmetics billboards leave no doubt that a fair skin and hair are highly desirable, which is sort of funny when you think how painstakingly we seek to achieve bronze-colored skin during our summers!

After an unceremonious McDonald’s quick lunch we head for our first market visit, at the so-called South Extension, one of the many sprawling commercial complexes dotting Delhi: we know what we are looking for, as we have received good info from both Cyrus and Nitin, the best saree place in town and maybe in India – Nalli’s. Shopping there is very easy and satisfying and we get a full load for all three ladies in the house; however, for reasons unknown, Nalli sells no petticoats, but give us the address of another store.

We walk out with this little card with what we think is the name of the store and start asking around – parking in these areas is nearly impossible, and Nihal needs to drop us where we want to go and leave immediately so we are on our own.

India may have the largest english speaking population in the word, but even if 500 million of its population were fluent, there are still another 800 million who are not: the first guy we ask point vaguely down the road and predicts 10 minutes walking. After almost twenty we ask another who directs us somewhere else and finally, a uniformed private guard pronounces the place too far, we need a taxi.

Once we get hold of Nihal again, we’re off to Central Market, which is only 3 kms away, but the traffic, well – in this area, with all the roadworks because of the Metro, there are no words to describe it. Walking is really no option: no sidewalks, broken roads, fumes and the deafening din of horns blaring all the time makes it really uncomfortable.

When we get there we discover that Laipat Nagar is not the name of store, but of road chock full of shops selling clothing; our first two forays are unsuccessful, and owners seem not able to even point us in the right direction. The third one however point us to Varuns, at 3-11 Central Market, Lajpat Nagar II. If you need a petticoat, they have a bazillion colors: bring your saree and they will find the perfect match.

I am surprised the other stores (literally around the corner) could ignore that this shop exist, as it seems to be quite unique, has an enormous range of just one article and therefore competes with no other, go figure.

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