Now that our time in India is coming to a close, I think we’re just beginning to really work effectively as a team when dealing with the large variety of predators that are encountered on the streets here. Shopkeepers are easy, just keep walking… or if inside and not going well… leave. Beggars…. ignore them, they do not exist. No eye contact whatsoever. I don’t care if they’re doing back flips, I don’t see them. Of course we know better than to take a picture of any random person on the street, but better not take one of them even if they ask. They’ll pull that trick too: “Take my picture, Take my picture!” Then hand’s out immediately for rupies. Fell for that once with a little girl that stalked us for a while in Agra Fort. She latched on to Martha and then (among the legit picture frenzy of college kids wanting pictures with us) she asked us to take a picture with her. That’s when the mom descended with a couple other haggard flea-bitten kids asking for money. That girl stalked us for maybe an hour for that little bit of change. Last time I fall for that though. Yesterday when we were at the Lotus Temple, we had a couple of the nicely dressed college-type kids that made small talk, practiced their English and maybe took a picture with us. I was surprised at how permissive the security was being with my camera, so I busted out the tripod completely and went down to the pool to take my time framing up a nice shot. I’m totally focused on that when a couple kids come up and make some curious small talk, no big deal. Then, as I’m putting my stuff up this kid (who looked just like the last group) starts asking about a picture. He had a cell phone and was well dressed, so I said sure, let me put my camera up and we can take one. “No, take a picture of me.” ….”ummm, no man.” He then snaps a few pics of me. A little irritating, but kinda the usual here. Then, the little bastard holds out his hand and says “some rupies please sir.” I think the most likely visible rage that instantly boiled over my face combined with “For taking a picture of ME?! Have you lost your mind?!” set him aback a little. Some of these guys really have some nerve.
We’ve also gotten pretty good (by necessity) at losing tails when we’re on foot. I try to make a habit of looking around randomly and noting people behind us. If the same person is following for more than a block or two, Martha and I will usually do something totally random like suddenly cross the street and stop there in our tracks, observing their behavior after we do this. When I was certain we were being followed by a young guy in Agra, we did this at a point where the other side of the street had all manner of construction debris and pieces of bricks and stuff. I just dare you to come over and invade our space. What this guy did though was stop on the other side of the street and just kind of loiter around like he had wanted to randomly stop too. What I found though was that if you combine your random action with a hard stare that is unmistakably directed at them, they’ll walk on. They’ll look at you, they’ll avert their eyes, they’ll look again and see you still staring HARD at them, and then they’ll hurriedly walk away. That approach worked good today in Delhi as well.
I think the hardest tout to deal with though is the “helpful” tout. You walk out of a subway station and as you’re getting your bearings…. hmmm left or right to the market/monument?….. up comes some oh so friendly guy “Where are you going sir?” If your reply is: “—- monument” or god forbid “which way to —- monument?” They’ll happily answer and then it’s rupie hand-out time. You have to ALWAYS know where you’re going. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, you do know where you’re going. When someone comes up and starts the helpful routine… you finish their sentence like you’re giving THEM directions. Whatever it is, we already know it. We know everything. There isn’t a single, even tiny piece of helpful information that we require. What’s that? You’re going to give us helpful information anyway. Sorry, we can’t hear you and we didn’t need to know that anyway. Today, as we’re headed to the metro this guy starts walking with us and trying to start up small talk. We’re mostly ignoring him or placating with dismissive pleasantries. It’s clear that this guy is some kind of predator, he just hasn’t played his hand yet. Then, suddenly this badass tall muscled up Sikh police officer (BTW, Sikh’s almost always look like they can unleash some whoopass…. and most likely whoopass with a sword) comes up and grabs the guy by the wrist and drags him across a busy road through traffic without a word or explanation. Awesome! Just as he was starting to get annoying!
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m really not though. There’s honestly some satisfaction to be had in the whole cat-and-mouse game here as a tourist once you get a feel for it. It’s part of the adventure getting around India. Today we saw two out of the three UNESCO “World Heritage” sites in Delhi: Qutub Minar, and Humayun’s Tomb. Qutub Minar is a huge Islamic monument built around some mosques from like 1190-1300′s. The main thing is a minaret (giant, phallic tower) that is actually the largest in the world. I agree, it was large. Humayun’s Tomb was really cool. It was actually the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, and was built as a monument from a grieving wife for her dead husband (instead of the reverse at the Taj). You can really see how the Taj Mahal was derivitive of this structure in many details on the building and surrounding gardens and fountains. We also did a little shopping at Dilli Haat bazaar (kind of like an India expo at EPCOT, if they had one) which was really clean and hassle free. We weren’t lame today like in Agra and we got some real Indian food. Every time we do…. it just feels like rolling the dice. Everything’s good so far with that though.
Tomorrow is our last full day here and we’re gonna check out the Red Fort and Jama Masjid. Here’s a couple pics from today: