Sunday, April 09, 2006

Subtle Hints

I have finally applied for, and received, my Pakistani visa and now have my sights set on the border and the adventures beyond. Not before time too, as India is letting me know in various subtle, and some not so subtle, ways that I am beginning to outstay my welcome. First of all I was robbed; and by somebody I knew and trusted nonetheless.

"This is to introduce Mr Erik Jelinek holder of British passport no. ... issued by ... Mr Jelinek has stated that he wishes to travel to Pakistan for tourism purposes. I would be grateful if you would give his visa application due consideration."

That is a verbatim copy of the "letter of introduction" that my embassy charged me £41 (at £1 per word it cost me more than my average weekly budget for India) for, and which the Pakistani embassy insisted upon. What arcane, bureaucratic ritual it is required for is completely beyond me. Then, whilst sightseeing here in Delhi, I was shoved out of a local bus. It would have been OK if it wasn't moving at the time, but, as it was, I got a nasty graze on my arm (pretty lucky considering it could have been considerably worse) and significant blackening of my mood for the day. And the touts and rickshaw-wallahs are more rapacious here than anywhere else, mainly because Delhi is the point of entry for many people and so they are generally less wise to their ways. And then there's the heat. Of late the thermometer has been pushing into the 40 degree mark sucking the enthusiasm and drive to do anything out of me. So the mountains of Pakistan will be a welcome and fresh change for me. But it hasn't been all bad. Delhi has its fair share of informative museums and old, historic wossnames to keep you busy for some time. My highlight, however, was neither of these, but instead a modern building, possibly the most beautiful post-war construction that I know of: the Baha'i lotus temple. Although the Baha'i religion is relatively new and unknown to many people they certainly have made their mark with this exquisite masterpiece.

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