Wednesday, 17 January 2007

The New Delhi

I am sure I was sorely missed and what not. My excuse is that I was in a small-ish trip to Delhi, for some form of work-related thing. I was sorely depressed through the weekend at the prospect, assuming, as a pessimist is wont to, that all flights would be late and I would languish in various airports in a zombie-like state drinking expensive Nescafe and reading that book on temples in tamilnadu.

Surprise! Surprise! Both my flights were more or less on time. My morning one at 6 am (meant waking up at 4 am) was nice, took a nap, (though I found a hair in the Poha), saw a spectacular sun-rise, and landed in Delhi fully secure and warm in my thick winter coat and scarf.

Discussion on spitting in taxi – young fellow, that lilting hindi of the north, spat once. Pounced on him and discussed at length the issue. Tobacco and Paan-chewing are to blame he said. We stopped an old man to ask for directions. See, the old man, one foot in the grave, chewing tobacco. Of course he will spit, said my taxi driver friend. I launched into my tirade, it is our country, see the beautiful roads we have managed to make, look, see ahead of you, what a pleasure it must be drive your wonderful taxi here, and then, if we spit then it is tantamount to dirtying our own house built out of our hard-earned money, is it not? He agreed. Tried to dismiss it all by saying India can never be clean and free of spit and so on. I promptly disagreed and said, no, it is our India and it is up to us to think positively on this matter too. It is possible. There are trash cans everywhere. You can carry a bag to spit in if necessary. We can have spittoons put up if necessary. We can do it. Come on! He got all charged up, after all, he is a very optimistic guy I found. His voice rich and strong, full of hope and energy. I almost felt bad that we had reached my destination. As I got off and entered a building with security in full regalia I tossed this over – why don’t you tell five people today to not spit? I didn’t wait for his response but could hear his laugh follow me as I stepped in between the rifles and boots.

Did I mention that my flight back was also on time, and I reached home just in time for dinner? Well, it was not as simple as that. I was on a later flight but as my work finished earlier than expected, I found myself in the airport some three hours ahead of flight time. So the friendly Jet Airways lady wait-listed me on the earlier flight and asked me to hang around. Half an hour before the flight was to take off, the distracted Jet Airways lady read out names of people on the wait-list who could get on the flight. My! My! I have never seen a crowd of people so eager for their names to be called! I felt like I did when I was waiting to hear the names of people selected in those coveted jobs on campus long years ago. A mixture of excitement and anticipation, and voices in the head planning for the ‘what if my name is not called’ scenario.

So the trip was good in terms of comfort (despite waking at 4 am), I saw some nice birds and enjoyed smooth roads, saw a beautiful sunrise and a magnificent sunset, and yes, met some influential people talking to whom made work seem more meaningful, but I killed the environment. Two flights (kilograms of pollutants); three taxi rides and one auto ride all alone in cavernous interiors (milligrams of pollutants). And the worst is that I did not even THINK of checking out the pride of the country – the Delhi Metro.

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