Chai and Spice in Old Delhi

Greg_MG_4157January 16, 2013

5 years ago–almost to the day– I walked into my first real post-collegiate job and found myself sharing an office with G–quite possibly the funniest, most patient, most comprehensible, and most encouraging IT person I’ll ever meet–as well as definitely one of the best human beings on the entire planet. G is a Drupal genius–who spends all of his spare time coding websites for non-profits free of charge and who has, for the last ten years, been running his own soup kitchen providing meals to the homeless of Washington D.C.

I loved sharing an office with G and hanging out with him and our other friends on the weekends. When Chris and I got married, he was there. When we left for China he was who I consulted about VPNs. And then we actually left for China and basically lost contact for 3 years.

Until Tuesday night when Greg sent me a Facebook message. He’d come down with a stomach bug and had a minor car accident in Udaipur and had to skip the rest of his ambitious India travel itinerary to fly to Europe from Delhi instead. Did I know of a decent hostel near the airport where he might be able to get a room?

Which was how we ended up getting to bust out the fancy “guest soap,” hanging out until 11pm talking about Japanese stationary, science fiction novels and what our dream iPad apps would be, nearly poisoning tree-nut-allergic G with our homemade walnut banana bread and- oh yea– showing him around our little corner of Delhi.

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Chris and I have always dreamed of living in a city that our friends might actually have a layover in. Delhi is a far cry from Paris but it was fun to be able to show G some hospitality while he stayed with us for two nights before his flight out this morning.

I’d been meaning to check out the spice market in Old Delhi for months now but with G in town, I finally felt comfortable leaving Will at home with our housekeeper for a few hours (I’d heard the spices could be a bit overwhelming for little kids) to take G for a rickshaw tour of Old Delhi organized by another friend here.

Cycle rickshaws were one of those seemingly medieval contraptions I just didn’t understand very well until I visited Old Delhi for the first time. The alleyways of Old Delhi are impossibly narrow and winding, too narrow and winding for cars and most motorcycles. Unless you really know the area well and you know exactly where you are trying to get to, the only way to get anywhere is in the cab of a cycle rickshaw who knows exactly which way to go.

I’ve walked through Old Delhi before on my own and with friends, but the tour was really useful for helping me to get my bearings over a larger area.

Next time I’ll skip rickshaw and just walk in order to get some of the amazing shots we saw as we bumped and bumbled our way through streets full of sparkly ribbons and eyeglass, balloon vendors and men carrying stacks of bricks on top of their heads.

On this trip I took a few requisite pictures of my favorite subject: chai wallahs. Oh and puppies playing amidst bags of chilly peppers. Because really, really? Seriously India, sometimes it feels like every breath this country takes is a photo op.

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I have a few more Old Delhi shots to share in another post soon hopefully but, until then, thanks G for putting up with our tree-nuts and coming to visit. Hopefully its not another 3 years before we get to hang out again!


15 thoughts on “Chai and Spice in Old Delhi

  1. Company rocks! Especially dear friends from what feels like past lives at times. Despite your attempt to off him, it sounds like you had a wonderful visit. Can’t wait for more pictures and descriptions of the spice market – and when you learn to make a great cup of chai latte, please share the recipe!

    • I love company, I love being able to welcome people and overseas, especially in a place like India, its so much fun to be able to take hospitality to a whole new level (car and driver to get around town, tours, markets, shopping guides). It’s a lot of fun. Our housekeeper makes a mean cup of chai and she has been instructing me in the fine art–I’m learning! Will have to do a photo-tutorial one day.

      • We felt the same way being able to show family and friends around Beijing. I think that Delhi, like Beijing, has a million nooks and crannies to discover that could take years if ever even possible.

        And a chai tutorial? YAY! I will be looking out for that one!

      • Definitely, its so much fun seeing friends get excited to have an experience totally unlike anything they’ve ever had before. I’ll work on the chai tutorial, might take awhile but at hte very least before we leave India!

  2. Some of the photos on here are amazing (well, they’re all good, but some are amazing!). I especially love the black and white action shots. They’re all so candid and natural looking.

    • Thanks! I was so glad those ones turned out! Clearly I have a problem with chai wallahs, i need somethign to do with all of these photos! 🙂

  3. I adore checking out your photos. Are these (aside from the B/W) SOC or do you use editing software? Especially those bottom 2…I’d love to know what settings you used or if/how they were edited 🙂 Keep em coming!

    • Hi Tracy, thank so much! These shots are not soc, but I try to keep my edits pretty limited mostly because I don’t have the patience! I shoot in manual whenever I’m out (it’s just easier for me on my Rebel than trying to make any of the presets work for me) and sometimes when I come home I need to make a few contrast and exposure adjustments. This is where shooting in RAW instead of jpegs can make a huge difference. There’s something about editing a jpeg file that makes even the most minor adjustments look a bit unnatural somehow, whereas in RAW, subtle changes are just that–subtle. Similarly, I recently upgraded from iphoto to Lightroom for my editing. While I’m not making any changes to my photos in Lightroom that I couldn’t make in iphoto, the effects just seem vastly more subtle and natural.

      The only other tips I have really pertain more to shooting. People look better slightly overexposed, places look better just slightly underexposed and that’s what I aim for when shooting around town. If I convert an image to black and white I always amp up the contrast and the exposure far more than I would for a color shot in order to mimic the look and feel of a black and white film camera–which still do B&W far better than a digital can. Hope this helps!!

  4. Oh my word. What an amazing place. Thanks to you, I now *have* to visit India. And rickshaw or no rickshaw, your pictures are amazing! I can sense the smells and the noise and the commotion. The ones of the puppies melt my heart. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Ana! Jakarta may not be on anyone’s itinerary but man, your guests should be so lucky to have you as their host! I can’t think of anyone who knows that city better and all of the interesting things to do there!

  5. I love the Delhi Spice Market and am glad to hear you made the visit. We didn’t see any puppies while there, but I definitely plan to go back on a future trip through Delhi and will keep an eye out! Great photos.

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