THE QUAINT OLD CITY OF DELHI
Wherever the viceroy may hold court, wherever the government may sit, Delhi always has been and always will be the capital of India, for have not the prophets foretold that the gilded marble palaces of the Moguls will stand forever? Although Benares and Lucknow have a larger population, Delhi is regarded as the metropolis of Northern India, and in commerce and manufactures stands fourth in the list of cities, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras only surpassing it in wealth, industry and trade. If you will look at the map for a moment you will notice its unusually favorable location, both from a commercial and military standpoint. It occupies a central place in northern India, has railway connections with the frontier and is equidistant from Bombay and Calcutta, the principal ports of the empire. It receives raw materials from the northern provinces and from mysterious regions beyond the boundary. Its cunning artisans convert them into finished products and ship them to all the markets of the world. Being of great strategic importance, a large military garrison is maintained there, and the walls of an ancient fort shelter arsenals filled with guns and magazines filled with ammunition, which may be promptly distributed by railway throughout the empire on demand. It is the capital of one of the richest and most productive provinces, the headquarters of various departments of the government, the residence of a large foreign colony, civil, military and commercial; it has the most learned native pundits in India; it has extensive missionary stations and educational institutions, and is the center and focus of learning and all forms of activity. It is a pity and a disgrace that Delhi has no good hotels. There are two or three indifferent ones, badly built and badly kept. They are about as good as the average in India, but ought to be a great deal better, for if travelers could find comfortable places to stop Delhi might be made a popular resort.
Travelers complain also of the pestiferous peddlers who pursue them beyond the limit of patience. We were advised by people who know India not to buy anything until we reached Delhi, because that city has the best shops and the best bazaars and produces the most attractive fabrics, jewelry and other articles which tourists like to take home to their friends. And we found within a few moments after our appearance there that we would have no difficulty in obtaining as many things as we wanted. We arrived late at night, and when we opened the doors of our chambers the next morning we found a crowd of clamoring merchants in the corridor waiting to seize us as we came out. And wherever we went - in temples, palaces, parks and in the streets - they followed us with their wares tied up in bundles and slung over their backs. When we drove out to "The Ridge," where the great battles took place during the mutiny of 1857, to see a monument erected in memory of the victims of Indian treachery, two enterprising merchants followed us in a carriage and interrupted our meditations by offering silks, embroideries and brass work at prices which they said were 20 per cent lower than we would have to pay in the city. When we went into the dining-room of the hotel we always had to pass through a throng of these cormorants, who thrust jewelry, ivory carvings, photographs, embroideries, cashmere shawls, silks and other goods in our faces and begged us to buy them. As we rode through the streets they actually ran at the sides of the carriage, keeping pace with the horses until we drove them off by brandishing parasols, umbrellas and similar weapons of defense. We could not go to a mosque or the museum without finding them lying in wait for us, until we became so exasperated that homicide would have been justifiable. That is the experience of every traveler, especially Americans, who are supposed to be millionaires, and many of our fellow countrymen spend their money so freely as to excite the avarice of the Delhi tradesmen. And indeed it is true that their goods are the most attractive, although their prices are higher than you have to pay in the smaller towns of India, where there is less demand.
The principal business section, called Chandni Chauk, which means Silver street, has been frequently described as one of the most picturesque and fascinating streets in the world. It is about a mile long and seventy-five feet broad. In the center are two rows of trees, between which for several hundred years was an aqueduct, but it is now filled and its banks are used as a pathway, the principal promenade of the town. But a stranger cannot walk there in peace, for within five minutes he is hemmed in and his way is blocked by merchants, who rush out from the shops on both sides with their hands filled with samples of goods and business cards and in pigeon English entreat him to stop and see what they have for sale. Sometimes it is amusing when rival merchants grapple with each other in their frantic efforts to secure customers, but such unwelcome attentions impair the pleasure of a visit to Delhi.