The travelling lifestyle…. Forget putting on mascara and straightening my hair, showering under a cold tap, hand washing my clothes in buckets and dowsing myself in mosquito spray have become my new daily rituals. It is actually quite nice to be free from all the preening involved in London life and when you step outside onto the streets of Delhi you realise,what to us would seem like basic living is relative luxury to a lot of people that spend their days sleeping by the roadside and begging from passing traffic.
The Gandhi Peace Foundation has been a wonderful base for my first few days in India. It has been taken over by Ekta Parishad for Janadesh and subsequently has been a hive of activity, guests from all over the world have been coming to show their support to the peoples land movement. Meals are communal at set times throughout the day so this is always a good time to meet new faces. There are some really interesting people staying here, professors, students, activists…..it's wonderful being in a place with so many inspiring people that have so much energy for life.
The foundation itself, as you have probably gathered, is fairly basic; rooms have three beds, two tables and a bathroom. I suppose by western standards the rooms are a bit shabby, peeling paint on the walls and torn curtains, but once filled with all your stuff it soon becomes a home from home.
The food is really good here and is included when you stay so there is no chance of going hungry. 'Bed tea' is brought to your room at about 6.30. This is chai tea boiled with spices and sugar and served with milk…it looks like builders but tastes quite different (I got a bit of a shock on my first morning!). Then breakfast can be a number of things but is often Dosa, a flat chickpea flour crepe served with a small dish of curry and some kind of coconut paste (I'm not sure what it's called) - traditionally this is a south Indian dish. On my first morning here I was a bit unsure of the prospect of eating curry for breakfast but it's amazing how quickly this becomes normal and bran flakes are a thing of the past! Lunch and dinner are often fairly similar a small dish of curry and dahl served with rice and a kind of bread, either chapatti or puri which are like small fried flat bread.
I have had the chance to eat out of the foundation a couple of times at the nearby Bengali market. On Sunday it was the Dussehra festival which commemorates Rama's victory over Ravana (basically good conquering over evil) so there were a lot of parades and things going on across Delhi and a lot of very loud fireworks! Because of the festival the kitchen had a (rare) afternoon off and a group of us headed out to eat. We went to a local Pujabi Dhaba (pujabi restaurant/snack stop) it was quite exciting to go to a back street restaurant that I would never have found on my own and probably wouldn't have gone to on my own. Most of the group were Indian and I was only women not only in the group but in the whole restaurant! It was quite a weird experience as it was clearly a place that just men went to,I got a few stares at first which was a bit disconcerting but I was forgotton about soon enough. We ate fresh chapattis that were made in clay kilns just on the roadside (if I ever manage to download some photos I have a picture of them making them) with dahl and masala curry with paneer (curd cheese). Afterwards we walked back via the sweet shops of the Bengali market and brought some Jalebi (jally bee) thin round circles of deep fried batter filled with a sugary syrup, they are the street sweets of India as they are the cheapest to make and apart from being incredibly sweet they are really quite tasty. The nearest tasting western dish I could think of was something like the crispy crust of a treacle pudding (without the custard of course).
So as you can tell I am not going hungry and in fact have eaten more fried food in six days than I have in the last year! This is probably a good thing though as I am joining the Janadesh march tomorrow and will be walking the last 50km into Delhi over the following 5 days. I have heard so much about the march since I arrived I am really looking forward to joining the walkers….I think it's going to be quite incredible. I will write again after I come back to let you know how it goes….
Namaste and Danyavaad (thank you - I thought I would try to include a few words of Hindi as I learn them!)