By Suchita S.

What if I told you that I spent a Friday morning with a bunch of strangers, going from Connaught Place, through Chandni Chowk, all the way to Civil Lines…. and back…. on a cycle?

By virtue of being a part of Little Black Book, Delhi, I’ve had a chance to meet the most amazing people and explore extraordinary places in Delhi. Had someone told me to go on yet another walk through Chandni Chowk, I would’ve definitely passed on the offer- at some point in our lives, we all have photographed the streets of Old Delhi or binged at Karim’s and paranthey-waali gali. But when I heard about the ‘Shahjahanabad Tour’ Delhi ByCycle has to offer, I knew this was going to be so much more than just the same old Dilli darshan. And I can say this- though it isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in Delhi.

I set the alarm for 5.30 am so I could reach our meeting point, Delite Cinema in Connaught Place, on time. I hadn’t cycled in over 10 years, I have terrible road rage and I don’t even drive. That I was worried about surviving the streets goes without saying. ‘Two words woman- balance, focus..’ I reassured myself. I checked with our  guide, Arpita, about first-aid kits, blocked all morbid thoughts from my mind, and set out on one incredible journey around Old Delhi.

It started with big and broad partially crowded streets {traffic at 6.45 am.. seriously, Delhi?!}, but as we cycled on, the roads became lanes, cars were replaced by Old-Delhiwaalas- some walking and some cycling through the streets, and of course there were cows and dogs.. lots of dogs. I was just about managing to stay steady on the cycle without dropping the usual ‘shit.. mother…. bhaiya hato!’ But with my morning coffee kicking in and the spell of purani dilli taking over, I pedaled safely to our first stop- Fatehpur Masjid. A little trivia on the mosque, and Arpita had us moving forward towards Spice Market or Khari Baoli, where we climbed to the rooftop and saw the sun making its way up above Delhi-6. I got chatting with two German ladies, who were surprised by an Indian being a part of the tour. ‘We assumed you come to these places often. Haven’t you explored your own city?’ On a bicycle, at 6.30 in the morning… Nope, never.

Back on our bikes, we made our way through the Madras Colony, all the way up to Civil Lines, where we made a pitstop for a cuppa steaming tea at a local chai-waala behind Oberoi Maidens. ‘You’re doing a great job!’ Aprita offered her support, and once we refueled on cookies and tea we hopped back on to the bikes and cycled our way back to Chandni Chowk with one final stop- breakfast at Karim’s! 9 am and the place was packed with families, couples, friends and us, gorging on plates of tandoori roti, daal and meat. Conversations ensued and it was amazing to see how 3 Americans, 2 Germans and 2 Indians could have so much in common- one of them being general astonishment that despite innumerable screw ups and falls, losing my way and wobbling on the bike ever-so-often, I was still up and about! ‘You’re really doing a great job!’ One of the Americans cajoled me. ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?’ Satiated with good food and good morning chatter, we hopped back on to our bikes for the final leg of the tour- the ride back to Delite Cinemas.

To say that the Shahjahanbad Tour was amazing would be an understatement. But it’s more than just a trip on a bike around town. Living in our homes, driving to work and back, spending countless evenings in restaurants and cafe’s, we sometimes lose touch with reality and lives the majority of people in our city lead. That restless, relentless, vibrant spirit… It might be dirty and crowded, and it isn’t for everyone, but there’s a charm about Old Delhi that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. And cycling through those meandering lanes on a bicycle, just like everyone else {apart from the truckers of course}, there’s a deeper connect to life in Delhi 6. Cycling… that’s something else altogether. It’s actually spiritual in a lot of ways, because through all that traffic, mayhem and chaos, you somehow find your balance and make your way to places undiscovered, unexplored and then back to where you started. In Delhi, life truly seems to come full circle.

Notes in our Little Black Book |