A hop skip and a jump from London and we arrive in New Delhi International Airport, 11am.
Unsurprisingly, having escaped from hibernating through the English summer our first meet and greet is with the rather prolific Indian climate – 5 degrees in London to 40 in Delhi resulted in the dramatic loss of layers and dare I say it, a glossy film over our excited and expectant faces.
People have been known to brand India “ An assault on all the senses”. Well I guess I have to agree but “assault” seems to me a bit negative and these intense encounters are what is essentially the essence of India. Its beauty and its blemishes side by side, on top of each other and merging unforgivingly into one.
Our love affair with this sensory overload began immediately, as soon as we hit the road in fact. We had been picked up by our hotel driver and began the 45-minute drive into Delhi. Our first experience of driving in India can only be described as a rollercoaster on tracks that randomly crossed, hit and weaved around, over and through each other.
This coupled with the incessant blowing of horns and bizarre traffic regulation that allows cars pulling on to roundabouts right of way and trust me they do not even pause to look at the herd of trucks coming from their right. It’s a head down charge into the circle of doom at top speed, prompting current brave roundabout participants to slam on, whilst narrowly missing 5 car bumpers, 12 tuk tuks and 37 bicycles.
PURE, UTTER, UNADULTERATED MADNESS.
After checking in at our hotel, the lovely Ahuja Residency in Golf Links, we headed out into Delhi. Markets were our first priority and with mum gripped to my arm we delved in. Markets in India are a bit like driving, only with people and being fair skinned we attracted the human traffic from our first step. The intensely colorful stalls and street sellers were championed by enthusiastic, at times personal space invading locals. From quilts, jewelry and artifacts to books, flowers and leather goods.
Food stalls filled the air with mouth and eye watering spices and fought against the pungent yet ever presence aroma of waste and filth that we walked around and over. Smiling yet desperate faces at every turn and even the slightest bit of interest from our part created a frenzy of “good price” offers and “special” deals. We came away with a pair of floral trousers and 2 copies of Shantaram – overpriced, but for our first encounter we were happy and satisfied with our lesson in Indian haggling.
To further increase the contrast of Indian worlds we headed to the Imperial Hotel to meet Roger, a friend of my brothers. The Imperial is one of Delhi’s gems and considered to be the most elite. Whilst providing an alternative and unrealistic view on Indian life it was thoroughly breathtaking. We sipped cocktails in plush gardens with every whim attended to at brake neck speed. Nibbles and chitchat complemented the sanctuary, heightening the diversity of culture as we passed through the gates and returned to the road and reality. Not for the first time in 12 hours, mum and I took a pause to acknowledge how lucky we were and the extent of the poverty in India that sprawls and encompasses every city, village and colony nationwide. For our drinks bill we could provide food for one family for months.