Our first destination from Kathmandu was Delhi, and our short stay there was mostly concerned with shopping – but not the carpets and souvenirs that tourists usually buy. Top of our shopping list was a new tablet – yes, yet another one! This time to replace the one that we brought from the UK that had first thrown a battery tantrum in Hua Hin, and threw another one the first night in Delhi. So it was off to the Samsung shop in Connaught for a Tab 4. However, it’s now over 2 months later and the Tab 2 is still working (it just won’t charge when turned on), so I’m carrying both.
So then we needed a case for it, and Mr V wanted a wrist strap for his GoPro, so we dived into the underworld confusion that is Palika market – a concentric maze of confusingly numbered little shops, where you just end up walking in circles trying to re-locate the place you saw a few minutes ago. Success on the case (a decent genuine Gooseperry one, unlike the street hawker knock-offs) but failure on the wrist strap.
Then we needed a SIM for it, and a new one for the Vodaphone dongle – but as we’d forgotten to take photos, a quick visit to Das Photography Studios was required before heading for the Vodaphone and Airtel shops.
The final purchase was a new skirt to replace the one I’d bought in Goa and modified (to make it shorter but the lining longer), which was now looking distinctly shabby. That meant scouring the length of Paharganj main bazaar to find the one skirt that neither trailed on the floor nor stopped way above the knees.
Then to Goa and back to our little flat in Chapora. I was so happy to be there – it really felt like coming home. And our 6 week stay involved very little that resembled a holiday. For the first 2 weeks we were back and forth to the dentist in Candolim every couple of days – 3 completed implants and a crown for Mr V and a replacement crown for me. I shudder to think how much trouble and money that one tooth has cost me – repeated fillings that kept falling out, an infection in India that necessitated a visit to the British consulate in Mumbai to get a dentist recommendation, a crown, then, after a night of the most excruciating toothache ever, 2 trips to Windsor for root canal treatment done privately (which meant drilling through my very costly 2 year old porcelain crown!). Now the backfilling from that was crumbling, so £100 for a brand new porcelain crown seemed like small change, and it actually fits better than the old one – there’s no gap along the gum line. Lessons learned:- 1) never let a dentist tell you that it’s OK to crown a cracked tooth unless you have a root canal job first and 2) if you can get a good recommendation, it’s worth having major work done in India.
Our neighbour Sal arrived from his summer home in Gujarat, so we had a few outings and lunches with him, including an excursion to Calangute to try to find me a sleeveless top that was a bit better than the tat available in Anjuna flea market or the beachside stalls. Fabindia did the job for that. I also had to look for some new walking sandals – one of my trusty Merrells fell apart after an accidental immersion in the sea (although they’d been in water plenty of times previously). I couldn’t really complain – they were 10 years old before we came away, and I’d worn them almost daily for a year. I was gutted though – they were so comfortable and the removable heel strap was a boon in Asia. As I expected, finding replacements was not easy – the best that Mapusa could offer were some clearly fake Addidas/Reebok/Nikes, for which I wasn’t prepared to pay £20 (knowing they were unlikely to last long), so I settled for some £3 ones from Bata in the hope that I could get better ones in Delhi.
Unfortunately we were then both incapacitated for the final 2 weeks. I stumbled on the road down into the village and badly grazed my knee. Luckily the chemist was open, and a prompt dousing in iodine pevented any infection, but it was very sore and I couldn’t swim until the scab fell off. Then the next day Mr V started to have problems with his knee – very painful and giving way. So we were largely confined to the flat and, for me, walks around the village, apart from yet another trip to Baga/Calangute in Nitin’s taxi to try to find a new swimsuit, as mine was starting to disintegrate from the chlorine.
That trip was even less fruitful than the hunt for sandals. Rather like the skirts in Delhi, it was one extreme or the other – skimpy bikinis, or Indian style modesty swimsuits with built in skirt and shorts. I did find one shop with a selection of normal one piece swimsuits, but they were all so short in the body that even an XXXL (which is actually about a 16 here!) wouldn’t fit. I eventually found one that kind of fitted and bought it out of desperation, even though it was really too small and had a halter neck, which always makes me feel I’m being strangled.
The 6 weeks went by way too quickly for my liking. A pizza with Alistair and Giselle, our lovely landlords, and a final jaunt with Sal to the funky Taverna Clandestina, an outdoor kitchen run by an Italian hippy in the garden of an unlicensed occasional nightclub in the middle of nowhere, where you take your own wine and sit at communal tables with other guests, the nightclub owner, his Russian wife, his small child, and his mother (who, contrary to all stereotypes of middle aged Indian women, walks around swigging beer from a bottle), and it was time to leave. I have decided that the rooftop of the apartment block in Chapora is my favourite place in the whole world, and I miss it already.
So it was back to Delhi this time to hunt for walking sandals and a swimsuit that actually fitted. We took the metro for the first time – fairly easy to understand with colour coded lines and station names in English as well as Hindi. Very frequent trains, no more crowded than the London underground, and a snip at 18p for a half hour journey involving one change. I struck lucky at the first mall I tried – there was a small Speedo shop that had a couple of styles that weren’t racer back (nigh impossible to put on unless you are skinny) and had proper foam support cups – not totally my cup of tea colour wise, but beggars can’t be choosers and at least it fits.
Sandals proved more problematic. Maybe December is not the best time to try, since it’s a bit cool by UK standards and evidently freezing cold by Delhi standards. The thermometer was reaching the low 20s in the afternoon, but we were the ony ones in short sleeves – the Delhi-ites were all swaddled in jumpers, jackets and shawls, with scarves wrapped around their heads. Stalls selling winter woollies near the Palika market were almost invisible behind the scrum of customers, and mobile vendors of hot baked sweet potatoes (eaten with starfruit and lemon juice) were doing a brisk trade.
However I suspect the season was irrelevant – walking for pleasure might be regarded as a harmless, if eccentric, pastime for men, but it’s not something that women are expected to do. Of three branches of Woodland, India’s poor cousin of Blacks and Cotswold Outdoor, only one had any women’s footwear at all, and then only up to size 37. Clarks was useless – they didn’t stock anything like the Wave or Springer range. Merrells are apparently only available in two places in India, Dehra Dun and Bangalore. Eventually I found a pair in Bata that at least have padded straps, adjustable heel strap, moulded soles and decent grip. Mr V’s experience suggests that they’ll only last 6 months, but at £8 what can you expect. It’s just the hassle of searching all over again that I could do without. Shopping in India can be a very frustrating experience.