Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Warning: Another long post.

Credit: Post title is a word stolen from Marginalien

I left Heathrow on a rainy day. The skies had been grey and overcast for days and the drizzly Chinese torture water droplets were more a heavy mist than actual rain. The continuous ‘mist’ had left my spirits dampened – why couldn’t the skies open up and the rain fall in sheets – avoiding the endless mist and clearing the skies in quick time. My conversation with my father in Delhi while we waited impatiently for the crew to arrive was mainly about whether my mum suspected anything and what the weather was like. He assured me that my mum had no clue and that the sun was shining, “afternoons a bit too hot, but the evenings are lovely and cool”. Spirits lifted and we were on our hilarious way.

Of course, as with most things in my life, Murphy’s Law applies to trips back home. Our flight landed at Indira Gandhi International at 3am in pouring rain. A covered walkway took us to the carpark and the smell of the wet ground too me back in time. I have to admit here that the smell of rain on mitti is one of the nicest but I was so looking forward to clear skies that I did not really enjoy this as much as I should have.

My first 4 days in Delhi – the Friday to Tuesday preceding Holi on the 15th of March – were wet wet wet with the exception of Sunday. All good because Sunday was my mum’s birthday and I got into the whole rain thing within 15 minutes. I loved watching the big fat raindrops pelt everything in sight, the skies turn black-blue with threads of silver lining running through and the tremendous boom of thunder.

Despite the initially torrents of rain I went out each and everyday (and thankfully the last four days were bright and sunny). Neither mum nor dad could take time off from work so I spent my days trawling the city with a dear friend (who is also V’s sister-in-laws sister), my mums trusty driver and our dinky Maruti 800. The first thing I noticed was the increased number of cars on the road. Where once the shiny Maruti 800’s threatened to dwarf the mighty white ambassador, today the maruti is outnumbered by a huge range of newer, bigger, more powerful cars. In fact the number of cars has increased so substantially (even since my last trip in July last year) that pedestrian sidewalks within suburban colonies are overrun by 2nd and 3rd cars that every family seems to ‘need’. My parents have neighbours who have 4 cars for two adults and two children – unhealthy display of wealth or necessity to ferry each member of the family to a different destination simultaneously? Hmmm.

The endless flyovers that circle Ring Road make driving smoother but the huge population of cars will soon make even those mighty constructions congested. Braving the crowds we went to a few of the Malls in Gurgaon on what is jokingly known as Mall Road. Nobody seemed to know its real name. It’s end to end Malls with the gaps between being overrun by construction sites that you can just see will turn out to be hideous buildings. It’s as if all architectural principles and aesthetic design have been abandoned to the whims of insane builders. So the road is basically a higgledy piggledy of buildings competing for the ‘most ugly mall‘ title. Walked around two of the bigger malls and admired all the ‘firang’ shops such as Tommy Hilfiger. Couldn’t see many people buying things although browsing seemed a popular sport. Large groups of quite young teens roamed the malls in groups wearing scant clothes, high heels and toting mobile phones while deciding which horribly expensive restaurant they were going to lunch at. Do their parents know where they are?

Another day we walked around Ansal Plaza, just window shopping. I could not find anything tempting enough to buy and carry back. Connaught Place was a day well spent, looking at the emporia on Baba Kharak Singh Marg and generally enjoying the buzz that it brings. Bought loads of small gifts for people (and subsequently left the whole lot behind by mistake!).

Lajpat Nagar was the best shopping experience because I managed to buy some beautiful cloth to give for bespoke stitching. Also window shopped the beautiful furnishings and small stuff that is available in the maze of shops that gets me hopelessly lost. Everything from bobby pins to rubber bands to garbage bags by the kilo to flowing tissue curtains. Looked at the mounds of namkeen and mithai at the halwai’s dukan with longing and ate a few shakar para’s for good measure.

The main day, and decidedly the best, was the 12th. It was my mum and the Niks birthday. Niks being baby brother who my father claims as the renewable birthday gift he gave my mother 24 years ago. The Niks was in Bristol and it was because he decided not to come to London to celebrate that I decided to surprise my mum at the last minute. Anyway back to the day. As a special favour the weather gods gave us a break in the rain. A bright sunny Sunday and we made a slow start. Got to Vasant Vihar in time for lunch and ate enormous portions of food at TGIF. Then spent an hour at Om Book shop buying 10 books for my mum and 5 for myself. An afternoon cup of tea in the sun while fawning over the books and chatting about life in London and Delhi. All dressed up for the evening and a short trip to my uncle’s house. Watched the world record chase by South Africa on big screen TV – fabulously exciting till the very last minute. Then we went to dinner with two of my mum’s cousins. A wonderful Chinese meal crowned the evening and my mum declared it had been one of her better birthdays – she now feels a young 19!

It was a short but full trip. I’m now terrified about the speed and density of traffic – being run over or squashed. On the other hand I’m over my initial (and utterly irrational) fear of ceiling fans. Short explanation: There was a year between moving to London and my first trip back to India. And with no ceiling fans in London (infact little need for any sort of fan) I was terrified that the whirling ceiling fan would unhinge and fall on me while I slept. Completely ridiculous notion that had me cringing in the corner of the bed closest the walls and with the fan on its slowest strength so in case it did come down it would be slow and cause less damage). All done with now. Thankfully.

The memories I have brought back from Delhi this time are very simple: Spent a lot of quality time sitting around and yacking with my parents, did a minimum of socialising (if you are reading this and I did meet you YAY; if not then I am sorry), spent a lot of time sitting in the car, gazing at endless shop windows, did almost no actual shopping, and ate nearly every meal out (that’s the topic of my next post!).

My time in my beloved city was simple and joyful. The urgency of my initial visits from London seems to have dissipated. I seem to have found other ways (beside retail therapy) of dealing with my homesickness (lots of Indian authors is one way) and also seem to have made my peace with living in someone else’s country (for the moment). The need (and its required energy) of shopping till I drop and meeting every relative, friend and acquaintance ever made seems to have given way to a more relaxed holiday-taking style. I’m enjoying this new mantra.

And it is this slower pace, the more acute observations and distinctly important memories of my time in Delhi that will be my fill till my next trip.
Mitti: Ground
Firang: Foreign
Namkeen: savoury snacks
Mithai: traditional desserts or sweets
Shakar para:tasty sweet made of flour
Halwai's dukan: Shop owned by maker sweet desserts


  1. I've been hooked onto Celine Dion's 'I'm Alive' song and looks like the song suits you more.

    Cheers for a neat lil holiday. I'll drink to that.

  2. Anonymous2:22 AM

    glad that "K" had a good bday. I thought Nik was your mom's gift to your dad!!! 40in2006