Pahar Ganj

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Main Bazaar from a rooftop café.
Main Bazaar from a rooftop café.

Pahar Ganj is an exciting place to sit and watch the world go by. What an assortment of characters make up this little sub-city of Delhi!

Pahar Ganj
Pahar Ganj

The street that runs through Pahar Ganj is called Main Bazaar, and it is lined with shops, cheap accommodations, cafés, carts selling everything from cold drinks and cigarettes to small pictures of Shiva or Vishnu, street vendors without carts, beggars, cows and stray dogs. Here you can buy bananas, books, clothing, fans made from peacock feathers, jewelry, toothpaste, and whips (Whips? Is this a normal souvenir item?). You can have henna painted on your hands, hail a rickshaw or taxi, have your shoes repaired, buy a rug, or – of course – have chai.

The traffic on Main Bazaar is an assortment of foot traffic, motorcycles, rickshaws (auto and bicycle), small cars, larger cars, a few way-too-big delivery trucks, and plenty of cows interspersed throughout. As we sat in the little café across the street for dinner last night, no fewer than five elephants passed by! (Sadly, I was in too much shock to pull my camera out. Next time.)

There is a restaurant down the street that has steak on its menu. This confuses me a little, since even McDonalds serves only chicken.

Pahar Ganj suffers from regular power outages.
Pahar Ganj suffers from regular power outages.

The café/restaurant in the lobby of Ajay Guest House has a bizarre selection of food on the menu (and, weirdly, a waiter who looks like the Indian version of Patrick Swayze). The breakfasts are quite good, although the Chow Mein we had for dinner the first night was a little lacking. A few nights ago, however, we were rewarded for our adventurism when we discovered the veg lasagna, and the ambiguously named “cottage cheese sizzler” which turned out to be French fries, vegetables and paneer, all dipped in copious amounts of oil and served sizzling on a hot fajita-style pan. I have not yet mustered the courage to try any of their sandwiches (the last one I ordered promised “Italian Veg on Foccacia Bread” and ended up being vegetable curry served sandwich-style).

It is surprisingly refreshing to drink a cup of hot chai in an open-air café in 85-degree weather. I still haven’t quite figured out why this is. Of course, our selection of cold drinks is limited if we want to be picky about ice (and we do). Sodas are always a good bet, as they are served chilled, in bottles. Blended-ice smoothies minus the ice are lukewarm milkshakes that are a little too thick. I miss cold coffee. The chai is fantastic, though. Even the make-your-own varieties, with Tetley tea bags, are served with sugar and warm milk. And it is available everywhere, at any time, for 5-20 rupees (10-50 cents).

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