Raju the rickshaw driver then led me down the road to show me the CCCI supermarket. On the way, he showed me small photographs of his 6-year old son and 4-year old daughter. I asked where he was from.
Nevertheless, I walked into the government tourist office and was instantly overwhelmed -- by relief at entering an air-conditioned room, and by several young guys apparently delighted to find their long-lost friend. I explained I wanted to go to Ladakh and after being transferred among several consultants finally ended up talking with Ahmad. Ahmad liked me instantly, even before knowing anything about me. Very quickly he told me how my attitude reminded me of his grandfather, a wonderful man who had taken Ahmad off the street (Ahmad was an orphan) and raised him. Within ten minutes he'd shaken my hand several times; eventually he explained how, when his family felt comfortable with someone, they hug them three times, and he embraced me and delivered three bear hugs.
He planned an itinerary, quickly and in minute detail but insisting everything was flexible. The usual stuff: houseboat in Srinagar, trekking with 'gypsies', homestays, etc. In fact, he said, he'd be trekking in the area at the same time, with his fiance, an American yoga teacher who, by selling yoga mats, raised tens of thousands of dollars to support the orphanages Ahmad was setting up in three regions of India. Jennifer would be happy to have a complete stranger from New Zealand join them on their month-long trek, he insisted.
I spoke with the man whisking the floor of the main tomb.
Later I asked if I might photograph him with his broom. He head-wobbled, picked up his broom, whisked a few strokes, looked at me -- glowered would be a better term but I think his expression arose from anxiety about whether he was posing correctly -- and whisked a little more.
Then he took me over to the grating in the wall and pointed out the Sikh temple gleaming in the distance, and I understood he meant me to frame the temple in one of the gaps in the grating. I obliged. When I thanked him and turned to leave, he said something -- something about 'something', then, 'teep'. Fair enough, so I gave him a small tip and left him to his whisking.
1. This is just a selection to give a flavour of life in this part of Delhi. Much more has happened, but you'll have to wait for the book (ha ha!)
2. Please excuse any errors of formatting -- I'm trying to produce this on an android tablet and don't want to waste time trying (probably unsuccessfully) to deal with the idiosyncracies of an operating system obviously designed to 'consume' rather than create.
3. I'm also worried about the quality of the photographs, which, try as I might with the only android app that processes RAW files, seem to fall well short of the quality of those I process back in New Zealand in Lightroom on my Windows desktop. In particular, they seem consistently unsharp, although the originals are definitely up to scratch. Sorry.
1 & 3. The tomb-whisker.
2. One of the other monuments at the Humayun's Tomb complex.
3. The view at night from the rooftop restaurant.
Photos and original text © 2014 Pete McGregor