March 12-15, 2009
From Dubai we caught another Emirates Air flight, heading to New Delhi. This was our second time in India, but our first time together. I visited India with our friend Jasmine a couple of years ago. Pnina spent two months in India about nine years ago – her first trip abroad (from Israel).
When we booked our round-the-world ticket we selected a bunch of flights in Africa, a bunch of flights for the return through the Pacific, but nothing in the middle. Delhi was the start of the nothing-in-the-middle section. Specifically, we gave ourselves about 5.5 months to somehow make our way overland from Delhi to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) for our next scheduled flight. It was nice to suddenly have all this flexibility, though we also imagined that we would need to be disciplined to keep from falling too far behind.
Something Missed – Holi
On the flight to Delhi we realized that we just missed the Hindu festival of color: Holi. What a bummer! Sounds like this is one of the most fun festivals – people build bonfires and run around tossing colorful powder on each other. Later we met a few Israelis who celebrated the festival in Pushkar, which I guess is supposed to be the place for Holi. Some of them said that it really was a blast. A few of the women said that there’s a bad side to the festival too: local men use the chaos as an opportunity to grope women, especially foreign women. We did see some remnants of the celebration: people and even dogs with leftover paint on their skin, hair, and fur.
Hanging Out with Ankush’s Family
Pnina and I have a few good Indian friends in Seattle. One of them, Ankush, is from New Delhi. His parents, Anju and Vinod, were our wonderful hosts for the first couple of days.
Anju is super-energetic, and she pours that energy into a few hobbies:
- designing fabric things (bags, table runners, bed-sets, etc.)
- designing flower arrangements
For her, Reiki is a public service. She visits hospitals and does her reiki treatment on sick patients, some of them friends/relatives and some strangers. Pnina and I are not the spiritual type, but from what we understand reiki can help people fall asleep, and sleep is one of the best medicines, so it sounds good to us.
As for the other two (fabrics and flowers), they fall somewhere between a hobby and a business. The Malhotra residence is full of buckets of flowers and arrangements in various stages of preparedness. It’s a beautiful place.
One of the days Anju took us along to the local flower market to stock up. The market was a very ad-hoc affair. The vendors spread their flowers on blankets and in baskets; there were no stands, let alone stores. Pnina and I worked as Anju’s assistants, running bunches of flowers to Anju’s driver, Telek, to store in the trunk. Eventually we filled the trunk completely, and if I recall correctly the tab was something like $22 – what a deal!
Pnina and I had already seen much of Delhi on our prior visits, so we weren’t in a rush to re-visit the same monuments. So, besides the flower market we just hung around with various people…
Another one of our Seattle friends, Priyanka, is actually from Bombay, but her mother Punam happened to be visiting some family in Delhi, so we stopped by.
Anju and Vinod had their in-laws visiting in Delhi (these are Ankush’s brother’s wife’s parents; got it?). We all went to an Indian-Chinese restaurants where the Malhotras are regulars.
One of the days Pnina and I went to the American Embassy to get some extra pages added to our passports. Surprisingly the process was relatively quick and free. Still, we had a few hours to kill in central Delhi while we waited for the passports, so we decided to walk around Delhi Gate and the nearby ministry buildings. Anju claimed that Delhi is one of the greenest cities in the world, which is a stretch by any measure (the smog!), but it did surprise us to see so many trees and flowers in this area; we didn’t remember this side of Delhi.
India solves every problem with manpower. No leaf blowers – just lots of women with simple brooms.
You can find modern cars in India and the ministers can surely afford them, but for some reason some keep sticking to these old style cars.
People in India play cricket everywhere. On this patch of grass there was a cricket game and a soccer game, simultaneously. Each time the soccer ball encroached on the cricket area, the game paused for a few seconds. Then it was game on.
One of the places Pnina missed on her last visit in Delhi is the Bahai Temple, also called the Lotus Temple. She missed it because she happened to come on the one day each week when its closed, Monday, and she was already scheduled to leave the city the next day. I already saw the temple, but I was happy to come back; it’s a beautiful place. If you’re keeping track, this is the third Bahai Temple of our trip (the first one was in Uganda, the second was in Israel).
Cherry and Madhu
We spent the last couple of days in Delhi with some other family friends, Cherry and Madhu.
The connection is this – Pnina’s mother, Arlene, was friends with Cherry way back in their Seattle days. Then Cherry met Madhu, they married, and they moved to Delhi. They’ve been here since. By now Cherry speaks Hindi fluently, though I guess with a Minnesota-like accent. It must be a strange thing for locals to see.
Anyhow, once again we didn’t do a whole lot on our days with Cherry and Madhu, which was perfect – we slept well and ate well, sat around and talked or watched TV. They have a beautiful home with a large yard where peacocks like to roam!
Cherry isn’t into visiting the touristy sights, so instead she took us to one of the not-so-visited mosques in her area.
By the way, sometime later Pnina and I picked up the book White Tiger, which we cover on our Reading List page. The book has a description of Delhi which is very apropos. It says that the well-off people in Delhi live in their own neighborhoods like Greater Kailash (where the Malhotras live) and Vasant Kunj (where Cherry and Madhu live). It also says that the street naming and house numbering systems in Delhi are completely insane, which is true. It’s perfectly normal to see house S12 followed by S65 then by S44. To find a house you need to just keep asking people along the way. The trouble is that people in Delhi often don’t know how to direct you, but it’s somehow against their culture to say “I don’t know”. So, instead they just give you some answer: “go straight and turn left”. What do they care? They’ll never see you again, and hey, they might actually be right. 🙂 It’s a mess.
Ah, traffic in Delhi…
And this is totally random. As we’re having dinner, Cherry asks if we’d like to try this energy drink she happens to have in the fridge, and she proceeds to pull this out:
That’s FUBAR, as in Fueled Up Beyond All Recognition.