Upon reaching our luxurious hotel in Delhi, I practically sprinted for the area I know best, the backpacker district…Pahar Ganj Main Bazaar. This one stop shopping/lodging/dining/etc. paradise for budget travelers was the first place I planted my feet and bags during my India visit last year, thinking this would be the perfect launching point for both the mountains as well as the iconic Taj and Ganges stops. Surrounded by fellow, like-minded vagabonds, I figured I’d be in good company.
Instead, I befriended a shop owner on the street, while looking ever-so confused during a roti purchase, who convinced me to go on my incredible Kashmir trek. With this connection, I experienced an enlightened perspective on Pahar Ganj and India in general that surpassed what I could have wrangled from a late night conversation in a hostel’s rooftop restaurant.
And so, with our arrival to Delhi, I made an effort to find my old friend and reminisce in the comfortable squalor of the Main Bazaar, which is the main drag where one could buy fruit, internet minutes, a new cheap wardrobe, lodging for $1.50 per night, and I’m certain a slew of unspeakable things. Immediately, I received a cold drink, a quality lunch, and all the insider information I could hope for.
In a place like Delhi (and tourist India in general), it truly pays to know someone without an agenda. To get anywhere or anything in this country, one must understand the art of the haggle, know who to ask for recommendations for anything, and realize (and accept) that everyone has connections for potential commissions on their end. An unbiased opinion hardly exists.
Enter local friend. Making a local friend with no personal agenda is a treasure to pamper, enjoy, and maintain for years to come. I credit my comfort with India to befriending these people who want you to know the real charm of their complex country.