Learn more about our guides around the globe — everything from what makes the perfect day in their city, to how they landed in tourism, to why they love working with Urban Adventures.
My family is from southern India but I was born and raised in Delhi. Being the capital city, Delhi has always been a promised land for everyone in terms of employment and growth opportunity. That’s why my parents moved from a small village in Kerala to Delhi around 34 years ago.
In a city like Delhi, an average day is waking up in the morning, taking a cup of chai (Indian tea), and getting ready for work. Taking a fully packed but comfortable metro (or bus) and then experiencing the same busy and fast life. But my life as a tour leader is quite exciting. I wake up early and go cycling near the New Delhi area, as it is very quiet in the morning, and then I go to lead my Urban Adventures tours. My days are interesting — meeting new people and making them experience my city is quite amazing. Being a tour guide is quite different from the average life of Delhiites.
There are a lot of stereotypes about India and its people. One stereotype which I feel is totally false is that we are a little backward. The people of India have moved forward towards development by preserving our rich cultural heritage. Over the years, India has changed a lot. Indians are known for their great hospitality and friendly nature. Indians believe in respecting different cultures and their guests around the globe. In India we say “atithi devo bhava,” a quote which says that guests are gods.
One other stereotype about Indians and which is actually true is that we are very superstitious. There are some reasons behind this superstitiousness. People follow some beliefs blindly because they care about their family and they always want their families to stay safe and blessed, and so, for us it’s just to avoid any kind of mishap or danger. Prevention is always better than cure.
In a busy city like Delhi, having a population of approximately 25 million and more than 2.7 million cars and 6 million other vehicles on the roads, it is quite surprising for travellers to see how traffic works. When I guide tours, I’m always asked what time of the day is peak time, to which I reply, every time is a peak time in Delhi. It’s also surprising to travellers how people are so relaxed here. The traffic is always crazy and there is honking all the time — another surprise is that some people just honk for fun. Drivers are quite patient and they don’t react much even if they are stuck in traffic for hours.
For me, guiding and working with Urban Adventures never feels like a job. I like showing people around. For me, it is an opportunity to learn and to also help other people learn about my city. I am enthusiastic, humorous, fun-loving, and I love what I do, which I think makes a big difference. I don’t treat my guests as tourists. It always feels like I am out with a bunch of friends (but their safety is always in the back of my mind). And if my work ever feels like a job, I will quit and go to the Himalayas and do yoga.
India has 29 states and each state has its own festival, rituals, culture, and way of life. Delhi, being the capital, has people from all over India. Delhi is a good amalgamation of India and gives you a glimpse into the whole country. When people talk about India (or Delhi), three important things that come up are food, religion, and history. Being born in a country of different religions and variety of cultures, we have always learned to be tolerant and respectful to everything. India is a place that has something for every kind of traveller, whether you are a nomad backpacker, adventure seeker, business traveller, or a student on your gap year. Travellers coming to India (especially Delhi) should come with an open and broad mind, because Delhi will give you many memories to cherish for life. Only an open mind will help travellers to really see, welcome, and experience our different culture.
Paharganj is the neighbourhood I like the most in Delhi. It’s so colourful and vibrant, and always mesmerises me. I think each colour has its own energy. Paharganj is also a backpacker’s destination. The place welcomes travellers from all around the globe, and in the evenings, you’ll see travellers blending in with locals and roaming the streets in their own colourful clothes.
Second place on my list is Majnu ka Tilla — it’s a Tibetan refugee colony. Way back when Tibet came under China, lot of Tibetan people fled to other places. Many came to India in search of refuge and the Indian people welcomed them with an open arms (as always). Soon they mixed with Indian culture like sugar mixes with milk — and they sweetened India more. Majnu ka Tilla is now a colony with of lot Tibetan restaurants, cafés, and small eateries. This place is also very colourful. Once you enter Majnu ka Tilla, it seems like you are in a different place altogether.
Lastly, because I really like greenery and I love cycling, I ride in an area that is not too crowded and is very peaceful, quiet, and calm. The Delhi Cantonment army headquarters is the area that attracts me most for riding. There is no traffic, and it’s away from all hustle and bustle. It’s also very clean and gives my mind a lot of peace.
Being a foodie, it is very difficult for me to choose one specific thing, as I have a big list of favourite foods. But my favourite place to eat is Old Delhi, which offers lots of mouthwatering food. You walk into the alleys and every lane has an amazing aroma — it’s so appealing that you end up eating a lot! One alley worth mentioning is the famous ‘Paranthe wali gali’ (where you find the famous bread of Delhi stuffed with a variety of things like bananas, dried fruits, okra, and what not). Then, walking into the other alleys you can find amazing samosas and desserts like stick kulfi (Indian ice cream) and yummy gajar ka halwa (a pudding made from carrots, lots of ghee, and different dried fruits). The list is endless. (Pssst… you can try some of Jeswin’s favourite foods on our Delhi Food Walk tour.)
Hauz Khas Village. It is a 14th-century madrassa (Muslim college) with ruins and a beautiful lake behind it. It’s been built up and broken down. It’s a great place to sit, read, write, and chat with friends. It is popular among youngsters for just hanging around. Just adjacent to the madrassa ruins, the village has a plethora of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and so much more. Wonderful mixture of old and new. And I think it is the most happening spot in the city, which is awake until 1am.
Whenever I have a holiday, I spend time watching movies (a lot of them), or go for cultural fests, or take my friends to try some different foods. I attend a lot of debates where different schools of thought meets. This helps me to broaden my own horizon. I always prefer to go places that are unknown to many and still unexplored.
There are a bunch of places like Vrindavan, Neemrana Fort, Agra (Taj Mahal), Alwar, etc., that can be covered in one day. But being a traveller, I never go to a place for just a day. I spend at least three to four days, because I go to a place to live there, experience it, learn its culture, and understand its true vibe, not just to see. I believe every place in India has a story to tell.
Every three months, I go to one new place in India. I believe being an Urban Adventures guide means travellers see India through my eyes, so I should have a better understanding of my country, its culture, and its traditions. So travelling to a new place is homework for me — but homework that I like!
To visit Delhi is to treat and torture your senses both at the same time. With so much going on in this chaotic, explosive city, a local guide should almost be a requirement. Join a local on one of our tours in Delhi to see the sights, taste the bites, and discover just what it is that makes the incredible city of New Delhi tick.