Amritsar: first impressions (day) #DelhiDisey

The chaos of the night is replicated in daytime Amritsar. The road is crowded with pedestrians and drivers in all kinds of vehicles, including horse and carts and tractors. The missing footpaths force pedestrians to take their chances walking along the sides of shoulderless roads. The air is clear and cool, but dusty.

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I’ve brought my running gear, thinking that the only difficulties I’d encounter would be contending with the odd stare or two. Missing footpaths, uneven roads, dodging vehicles and avoiding rubbish takes the concept of “difficulty” to a whole new level. I won’t be running until the infrastructure looks more conducive. Who knew footpaths would be such a taken for granted piece of infrastructure in my world view?

As I walk out of my hotel towards a park (that I’ve been advised by hotel staff is safe for running), I’m struck by the sheer volumes of people on the roads. It reminds me of Vietnam, but more chaotic and not as nearly as neat. I am openly stared at by men driving or cycling past. A few shout out: Hello!

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Some shops are open, but many are closed. When I return to the hotel and enquire about opening hours, I’m advised that they usually open around 10am. In my eyes, buildings look old and tired, even the newer multi-storied malls. Rubbish is strewn along the road, and stray dogs nose through it, picking out morsels. I notice that some parts of the road have been newly swept: I can make out the brushstrokes of a broom in the dust.

Every few metres I am passed by taxis—both motorised and pedal powered—that slow and check to see if I am in need of a ride. I tell the drivers no with a shake of my head and a wave of my hand and they continue on their way, unperturbed. This morning, I was tailed by two kids who were begging, their eyes bright with anticipation as they held out their bowls. They would have been around five or six years of age. I ignored them and lost them in the traffic because I had the feeling that if I gave them money, I would be rushed by more kids.

I made it to the park, and was disappointed to see that it wasn’t somewhere I could easily run. Walls had tumbled down, and broken bricks were piled up along the fence line. I couldn’t see a path on which to run. I have now resigned myself to the fact that I may not run until I get to Delhi in a few days time, and even then I might not be able to.

IMG_4377-0I walk back up toward Lawrence Road, the main shopping strip near my hotel. Shopfronts are narrow and (to my eyes) uninviting, but there is also a variety of commerce activities occurring on the streets: barbers, fruit and vegetables, food stalls. Many men, but only a few women that I could see. Of the women that I do see, some are dressed in brightly coloured shalwar kameezes, others are dressed in the ubiquitous costume of the west: jeans, shirts, tee-shirts and ballet flats.

IMG_4385For all the chaos, the food is delicious. Breakfast at the hotel is simple, and the choice limited, but that is no matter. Fresh pineapple and papaya, boiled eggs, toast, curried chickpeas, pancakes, omelettes, bread. Lunch has been equally delicious: yesterday I had yoghurt marinated cauliflower and potatoes filled with nuts, fruit and cottage cheese. Today I had black Dahl, naan and fruit. I haven’t had meat in days, but I haven’t missed it.

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