Posted by: Carolyn ODonnell | September 14, 2012

India: Distributor of baked goods

Old Delhi: I love this wavy facade, rippling away above the traffic and the potholes

South Delhi is an interesting place. With modern roads and leafy, upmarket suburbs, you might think it was your usual capital. Apart from Old Delhi and all the tombs dotting this ‘city of graves’.

But even New Delhi has surprises. I am lucky enough to be staying in one of the leafy, upmarket suburbs, but less than ten minutes’ walk away there is a mass of tiny alleyways, roaming sheep, goats perched on buildings amidst a general Middles Ages ambiance that reminds you this is still an unusual metropolis.

The amount of meat being cooked on the street tells me this is a Muslim area, a hunch backed up by some lively mosques. The thoroughfares are very vibrant with huge piles of street food: samosas, parathas, bread pakora and more. After my stomach troubles though, I am content to admire from a distance.

Later that evening, ironically enough, I meet the documentary photographer Sephi Bergerson, who put together a glossy volume on Indian street food. He says he has a cast-iron stomach and ate everything he photographed for the book, but later on he’s not feeling so well … there has been much discussion of stomach problems amongst the residents of this particular apartment. ‘I’ve never been sick,’ says new friend Anna, ‘but I wash my hands a lot and I don’t put my fingers anywhere near my mouth.’

Anyway, I keep wandering amongst the animals and the carts and chat to a young man who runs a bakery. The cream roti, a cream puff where I come from, looks tempting but lack of refrigeration puts me off. The cookies look OK though, so I commit to some of those, thinking I’ll take them back to the gang to have after dinner. I forgot though that no one uses tongs in India. The server’s fingers are all over my coconut fancies, and after the many recent discussions about food hygiene I am reluctant to offer them to anyone Western.

However, there are begging women, hungry children, cheeky children, and children with no underpants who rock solid Indian innards and are happy to sample my goods.  A rickshaw driver looks dubious, but he approves once he tastes what I give him. ‘Atchaa!’ (tasty), he cries.

I am sorry when my bag is empty. I want to do this again … Maybe I have even found a new vocation: Biscuit Lady.

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