Wednesday, February 11, 2009


As it turns out, I've walked right by the entrance to a Lodhi-era step well every time I go to the USIEF office on Hailey Road. After spending some time with the satellite image feature of Google maps last night, I figured out exactly where it was, and stopped by today to take some photos. You can see it pretty clearly to the upper-left of the red "A" marking Hailey Road in the satellite view:

You'd think this would be a peaceful place: a seldom-visited, centuries-old architectural ruin in the middle of the embassy neighborhood of New Delhi. But, no. For one thing, like most monuments in Delhi, the stepwell is where teenagers go when they don't want adult supervision. A lot of snuggling, a lot of giggling, a lot of horseplay. Added to the shrill sounds of boys and girls trying to impress one another was the tremendous racket made inside the well by pigeons and bats. The deeper you go, the louder it becomes, like two aliens humming different songs underground. I could have sat and listened to this weirdness for a long stretch of time, actually, but the stares of the teenagers began getting to me before I even started my descent into the well.

Also, just as you would expect, a local fellow was hanging around inside the gate when I arrived, and he instantly offered his services as a tour guide. When I told him I wanted to explore on my own, he said that wasn't allowed. I pointed out that no one else was with a guide. True, he admitted, but he could show me things they wouldn't be looking at. I demurred as politely as possible, but insisted that I didn't need a guide. When I came back up from the bottom of the well, he jumped up and tried to talk to me again. I just shook my head, took some photos of the attached mosque, and left. He actually followed me out through the gate, asking for "baksheesh" and "tip". Seriously? I have to pay you now to get you to leave me alone? Please. It's an ASI-protected monument. If they want to me to pay an admission fee, fine, I'll play by the rules. But I'm not paying you to not give me a guided tour of a staircase, okay?

Anyway, my photos are now available on flickr.

No comments: