North of Connaught Place and directly west of New Delhi railway station, Paharganj, centred around Main Bazaar, provides the first experience of the Subcontinent for many budget travellers. Packed with cheap hotels, restaurants, cafés and dhabas, and with a busy fruit and vegetable market halfway along, it’s also a paradise for shoestring shoppers seeking psychedelic clothing, joss sticks, bags and oils of patchouli or sandalwood.
There is also a less-visible underside to life in Paharganj, in the shape of the street children. Most are runaways who’ve left difficult homes, often hundreds of kilometres away, and the majority sleep on the streets and inhale solvents to numb their pain. The Salaam Baalak Trust (whttp://www.salaambaalaktrust.com), a local NGO working to help them, organizes walking tours of Paharganj conducted by former street children. Tours last two hours, usually start at 10am and cost Rs200. Proceeds go towards providing shelter, education and healthcare for the area’s street children.