Saturday, 20 January 2007
Stayin' Alive in Delhi
Seems like our Comments section are doing a lot better than we are: time we put up something new so they don't run out of stuff to comment on.
This one may be longer than our last as it's being done by the smoker in the family. Despite the occasional low point, Alison's persevering brilliantly in her new-found freedom, with the aid of a book by the late Dr Carr which takes up about half our luggage. I'm still planning to join her soon, even though she says it'll mean not even one of us will know where we're going or who's got the tickets.
In case you're wondering if the boys ever found the Dubai Snooker Club, we did and it's a lot like the King's Cross variety -- even down to same pictures on the wall -- except there's no guinness (or any other drink) and we were told off for talking. Then just as you're about to pot the black a very loud Call to Prayer comes over the PA and you're supposed to retire to the in-house mosque. But good quotes were to be had about disapproving attitudes to the game among good muslim mothers, so it was a promising start. Today, we duly tried Delhi's Gymkhana Club but were thrown out for wearing trainers. Could be in same situation when we try the Snooty Ooty Club tomorrow after flying down south -- though at least we're booked in to stay there as guests. Hope none of you have any formal invitations lined up for us...
I'll try to steer clear of both smoking and snooker henceforth for benefit of any non-fans of either topic...but all suggestions are welcome for a better title for the future sporting/sociological opus than the present one, provided by Kieran I believe, "Round the World in 80 Baize".
We were the only non-Indians on the flight to Delhi, which at least meant our tiny and still shiny backpacks were easily picked out from the huge boxes of electric goodies everyone else was bringing home from work in Dubai. A sharp fall was noted in standards of roads and other infrastructure as we moved from New First World to what despite some reports is still for the most part clearly Old Third. But there was a whole lot more to savour, i have to say, in terms of human life and local colour, and it felt very good to be back after all these years.
It would be nice to say we've been cruising round town these past few days with the ease and confidence of the Old Asia Hands that we indubitably are ... but we're a bit out of practice and in fact India's never been exactly part of our normal beat. Hence Tarquin's photo of us during a seven-minute attempt to cross Chandni Chowk -- seems you're meant to just hold out your hand and walk but we kept darting and retreating. We also managed to get befriended by our auto-rickshaw man Ravi, who kept saying Alison was just like his mother and took us to various shops run by various cousins which just happened to be on the way... One result is that our no-shopping rule has already been broken several times and we may soon have to buy another backpack (plus porter).
As for our lodging... No, I didn't book us onto the roof of the Ringo Guesthouse of fond 1973 memory this time. We've been staying instead with Anu and Tarquin in the vast, icey, dark and marble-encrusted flat which the bbc have seen fit to allot them for the last few weeks of Anu's posting here. All very reminiscent of the one we had in Peking -- and lifestyles pretty similar too. Anu's been flying in and out during our stay to do big stories in Bangalore and UP (the mass bathing) but keeps getting back to be faced by urgent demands from London for public reaction to things like gordon brown visiting and of course the Big Brother row (which no one we've met here seems remotely concerned about -- mildly amused if anything). Tarquin meanwhile, between bouts of writing his next book, has pointed us off on lots of good walks (the beautiful Lodi Gardens are right next door, with pink 15th century tombs and green parrots and stripey chipmunks; and we managed to meet up with Irene and Robin at the even more impressive Humayun's Tomb). Somehow the other A and T also manage to keep a blog too -- a proper one, too... if anyone cares to check it out it's at: www.sacredcows.typepad.com. In case anyone's been trying to text us, we have an Indian sim and the number here is: +91 9811 48 3726.
We've also been having some stupendous meals, as well as the odd suspect one. I'm evidently not as immune to such things as I always claim, but duncan did warn me. If you don't want to know any more stop reading here.
But as well as a giant fridge in the central hall that makes a constant noise like a helicopter, this flat is equipped with the noisiest bathrooms you ever heard. We'd already been warned about the flush in our own ensuite (complete with victorian bathtub) which sends violent, grinding shudders throughout the building, to the extent that the high court judge downstairs and the french diplomats above often complain about late-night use of said sanitary arrangements. So when the Delhi belly duly struck late on our second night, i pulled on my aforementioned black base-layer top and leggings, not to mention Lizzo's slipper-socks for the marble floors, and trekked off through the darkness to an alternative, far-distant bathroom, failing to make any of the 14 light switches in each room work as i went. Having ensconced myself in said bathroom for an hour or so, i attempted a quick quiet flush...only to discover this one was even louder if possible than ours. Even the normally soundly sleeping night watchman outside woke up, possibly thinking India had launched a few hundred of the missiles that have been brought into town for this week's Independence Day Parade. Meanwhile another of the flat's loos has mysteriously developed a serious blockage and a notice has gone up saying simply, "DON'T".