Reading Delhi with the Delhi Walla

Filed under: india — Tags: , , — thomas11 @ 11:47

A gori flipping through Raghu Rai’s coffee table book on Taj Mahal (Rs 3,000). She places the book back on the shelf and exits. Past the magazine stall, past the doggie shop, past Blanco, past the kebab corner, up the stairs, past Anokhi and into Market Café. More goras inside. One reading The Economist (Rs 150). The other working on his Apple notebook (Rs 50,000). No empty table.

7pm in Khan Market.

No one writes about Delhi like my friend Mayank, so I have to plug his blog once again. The occasion is two recent articles I consider to be among his best.

I have been to Garstin Bastion Road, the city’s red-light district, just next to New Delhi railway station (Ajmeri Gate), more than once.  […]

However, one evening, I gathered up courage, climbed the stairs, knocked at the door and walked into a kotha — and into a living room.

Feature – Talking Life in GB Road.


First gay parade in Delhi

Filed under: india — Tags: , , , — thomas11 @ 07:59

Wow, if you know anything about contemporary Indian culture with respect to sexuality and especially homosexuality, that will come as a surprise: The first Gay Pride parade in Delhi did not only take place at all, but was apparently a tremendous success. I have a lot of respect towards the people who organized that, despite being in danger of being attacked.

Interestingly enough, I can’t find any mention of this at Tehelka or the Times of India.

Update 2008-07-03: Still not much news coverage. The Guardian has an article, and has an interesting interview with movie director Deepa Mehta. She shocked India in 1996 with “Fire“, the story of a Lesbian couple, at a time when many believed homosexuality didn’t exist in India. (It’s a great movie, btw!) Years later, the movie still wasn’t shown in most cinemas. When I was in Delhi, I saw it in an open-air screening in the German embassy – behind closed doors.


Dilliwallas want to shop

Filed under: india — Tags: , , , , — thomas11 @ 19:44

I got myself a flickr pro account today. That means primarily that all photos I uploaded are there again, not just the latest 200.

My India photos have always been available via the custom thumbnail page I made for them on this blog, but now they are all back on flickr, and I can see their statistics. A rather bland photo of a shopping center has almost three times as many hits as the one ranked second. Funny. The second ranked also shows an area of Delhi known mainly for shopping (although the picture wouldn’t suggest it; the visitors come mostly from search engines, however). There seems to be a lack of Delhi shopping resources on the net!

Central Cottage Industries Emporium, Delhi Hauz Khas Village, Delhi


orkut – Augustus Adolf has sent you a friend request

Filed under: india — Tags: , , , , , — thomas11 @ 10:07

I just received this automatic mail from Orkut, the Google social network thingy:

Hi Thomas,

Augustus Adolf hitler ( has requested to be your friend on orkut.

To confirm or reject this request click […]

Wow.  So he still lives, and is in India, eh?  According to his profile, he looks for friends, activity partners and business networking.

Fake Hitler profile on Orkut

The two hitler groups on Orkut apparently have 1300 members combined.  Ouch.

Man, that’s something that had me stunned a couple of times in India, the veneration or at least frequent praise for Hitler.  This Orkut “profile”, prank or not, is not an isolated phenomenon.  The first reaction of several Indians I met when hearing that I’m German was something like “Oh, Hitler, great man!”.  Usually along with some mention of the Aryan race.  Other, more moderate and educated people argued that Hitler at least wasn’t all bad, and that the blame for WWII should be equally distributed due to the injustice of the Versailles treaty.  Just for the record, I believe the notion that even the most injust treaty or ruling could justify a world war with 60+ million victims is ridiculous, and that should go without saying, but I digress.

I can’t figure out where this widespread opinion in India comes from.  The term Aryan is actually still in use in science, for instance in linguistics, but this has nothing at all to do with the infamous “Aryan Race” concept that was invented in the 19th century and is nowadays known to be invalid, hate-inspiring bogus.  Also, the Germans were always rather India-friendly, especially of course during the Third Reich when Britain was a common enemy, but the pragmatic political reasons for this are obvious.

You could say that it’s simply the lack of education of the general Indian public, but shouldn’t then Hitler rather not exist at all in their world view?  He seemed to be the first association with Germany for some people, however.

Even Indian politics are not free from Nazi-adoring tendencies.  In 2006, there was a public outcry over school books which contained praise, but little criticism with regard to the Führer in the state of Gujarat, known for its right-wing voting behavior.

At least Hitler’s Cross restaurant in Mumbai was just a publicity stunt and has quickly been renamed.


Photo blog recommendation: Trivial Matters

Filed under: india — Tags: , , , , — thomas11 @ 08:34

I just have to share this photo blog about India I discovered yesterday with you.  Mumbai-based Akshay Mahajan writes Trivial Matters, and his photos are simply extraordinary.  Along with them go insightful and beautiful texts.  So, if you’re at all interested in India, that’s a blog to check out.


An unexpected shipment from India

Filed under: india — Tags: , , — thomas11 @ 15:15

Being an avid reader, I made  ample use of Delhi’s (and Leh’s!) great bookstores, especially given the low prices.  Of course, books are heavy and I couldn’t take them all back with me.  However, the Indian postal service offers ridiculously low prices for books-only packages to Europe: about 200 INR, if I recall correctly, that’s about 4 Euros. Damn, another spoiled attempt at avoiding attachment and practicing giving (to the Hostel reading room, for instance).

Book package from India

For this price, the packages are shipped by sea route, of course, so it takes time.  I didn’t quite expect how much time, however: last week, the second of my packages arrived, four months and a couple days after posting.  I had half forgotten about it, so it was a pleasant surprise! (Thanks, Ravi!)

Now my India+Buddhism+Indian spirituality space on my book shelves has considerably grown.  Some of the books are even still unread. I should write something here about the most interesting ones.  One of those days I’ll get to it…

My India/Spirituality books pt. 1 My India/Spirituality books pt. 2

Some hints for people attempting to do the same: At the time of writing, the maximum weight is 5 kg. The package has to be wrapped in cloth and stitched.  You will find a tailor who knows how to do it besides any larger post office.  To get the low books-only price, there must be only books in the package.  To check, the people at the office don’t hesitate to cut the package at one side.  You can (and should) avoid this to protect the books on the long journey.  Wrap the books in a transparent  foil, then have the tailor stitch it up. After stitching, have him carefully cut out a stripe of cloth wide enough to see the books along the complete side of the package, without breaking the foil. Allow plenty of time for both stitching and posting, as usual in India. And: don’t expect your books to arrive in perfect condition: the package will be tossed around and squeezed, and moisture might creep in.


Tushita Meditation Centre in Delhi

Filed under: india, religion — Tags: , , , , , , — thomas11 @ 11:56

My friend Mayank, author of the fabulous The Delhi Walla blog, pestered me with great endurance until I wrote a piece for him ;-)  It’s about Tushita Meditation Centre in Hauz Khas, Delhi, and it’s up here.

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