Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Darjeeling Limited... now I get it.

New Delhi, India. When I first watched the film The Royal Tenenbaums, I thought director Wes Anderson (and co-screenplay writer Owen Wilson) did a brilliant job of capturing the quirky and bizarre characters that really do inhabit New York City. This time Anderson went even further, by taking those similarly strange characters and sending them on a spiritual journey to India in the Darjeeling Limited. I always enjoyed this off-beat comedy, but when I watched it again, crashed out in our hotel room in New Delhi (in between bathroom runs), I gained new appreciation for the writers and picked up on many little nuances I would have otherwise missed, like: sweet lime, Jack running barefoot to catch the train, the funky auto rickshaws, 3-persons crammed on a 150cc Honda motorbike, savory snacks, and not to mention the vast array of pharmaceuticals that are readily available without a prescription (which I myself have been been procuring from the local chemist). The charm is in the details, when you're like: "oh yeah, now I understand what that was all about." It reaffirmed everything that I enjoy about traveling.

Even so, the movie missed a few things that I got to experience first hand. When we went out to Hotel Imperial the other night; arguably the swankiest hotel in Delhi-- all I had to wear was grungy backpacker apparel (hardly the attire required for an evening at the Imperial's exclusive Spice Route Restaurant). To remedy the situation, I put together an outfit in record time. I purchased a crisp, blue linen shirt for 300 INR ($6.30 USD) in Main Bazaar, and had a pair of white linen pants tailor-made for me in Paharganj (down the road from our hotel) in about 4 hours for 850 INR ($17.85 USD). For less than $25... you can't get that kind of service in North America.

It's our 4th week in India and Delhi has become our transient home. Locals know us by now as we walk down familiar streets and flag down rickshaw wallahs-- the most efficient form of urban transport in the city. Delhi has some very tasty food, but my stomach is having a hard time adjusting. There's lots of interesting shops to keep us busy though. We've spent some down time doing our fair share of browsing for regional hand-made crafts, paintings by local artists and even picked up a Kashmiri carpet which looks like it sells for at least twice as much in NYC. The other day we went to a local movie theater and watched the new, smash-hit Bollywood crime-comedy called '99'- in Hindi. It's like a Guy Ritchie flick, but filmed mostly in New Delhi. Seeing all the places we've been to in the movie was kind of neat and made us feel like Delhi was our current home.


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