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View of Delhi from hotel rooftop - November 2008

Kismet Fate or destiny, a predetermined course of events.

Call it what you want but what brought me to Kashmir was a random chance meeting with a tour operator that started out in Delhi.  It was our first day of arrival in India and we had no plans apart from having checked into a room I had booked online while I was still in London.  Our definition of planning was to consult our Lonely Planet and Rough Guide for places to go once we got there.  We were pretty much winging it from there and hoping for the best.  The logic was that if there were no expectations, we wouldn’t be disappointed.  It lasted for about ten minutes after seeing the room.  As most online photos go, things can be very deceiving – case and point, photos on dating sites and Facebook profile pictures.

Paharganj, New Delhi

The description on the website said, “Hotel Raja, situated in the heart of a vibrant and accessible tourist area.  Next to cinema and just a few minutes away from Connaught Place where you can do your shopping and relax.  Rooms are clean and neat with aircon and own bathroom.”  In reality, it was situated in Paharganj which is more than vibrant.  It’s bustling with activity.  Maybe a bit too much activity since what they meant by accessible was that it was right by a train station and the main bazaar.  The room had poor ventilation and we swiftly found out that opening the window only let in the warm air from the outside along with the smell of exhaust fumes and frying oil and the constant hooting of the tuk-tuks.

Paharganj, New Delhi - November 2008

But, intrepid as we were, we were going to make the most of it and decided that this was not the time to be complaining.  We were in India and we knew what it was about.  It wasn’t always going to be smooth sailing and it was basically time to “rough and tumble” it out.  And that we did.

With guide books in hand, we were out on the street dodging rickshaws, dogs, tuk-tuks, people, cows… the works and I was loving it.  Crossing the railroad and not having any clue as to which direction we were headed apart from trying to get to Connaught Place, we hailed a tuk-tuk.  Whilst we haggled about the cost of getting there and looking like lost tourists, a passer by came to offer us some assistance.  “Where you go?” he asked us to which we were a bit wary to answer having been warned of numerous touts that conned tourists into taking bogus tour packages.  But we told him anyway that we were just looking for a tourist information center where we could get a map of Delhi with some must-see sites we could visit during our stay there.  All we wanted was a tourist map of the city.  What we got instead was a package tour…