Journey to work – with a difference

On Tuesday morning I had a journey into work with a difference. I had the foresight to put on a raincoat and flip-flops and carry my shoes in a bag, as it was raining heavily when I set off from the apartment at Chiragh Enclave, Nehru Place. It’s only a 5 minute walk over to the office by the Park Royal Intercontinental Hotel, but the roads become flooded very quickly – this particular morning saw me paddling through a flooded stretch of road in my flip-flops, with skirt hitched up round my knees and generally amused.

On my way to work Wednesday morning I was in the middle of handing in some laundry at the cleaners when my chest started to heave. A swift exit outside to vomit before returning to continue handing in my washing. Business as usual.

Ekta and Deepti took me to Delhi Haat for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I really didn’t want or need any more shopping but came away with 2 [more] pashminas; 2 x wooden picture frames; silver elephant silk-paintings; small square elephant silk-paintings; big oblong elephant silk-paintings, a leather bag… Hmmmm. Bartering is just too addictive. Especially when the stall-holders are struggling for custom due to the rains…

delhi-belly

I became well acquainted with my toilet on Saturday 21st August – Delhi belly finally set in. Returned to Lajpat Nagar market on Sunday afternoon (didn’t eat all day in order that I could go out) with Ekta for more shopping frolics: bought a fourth pair of shoes (a gift this time) and a patterned skirt and top from the Rajasthan Emporium. It rained all afternoon making the market muddy and full of pools but as it was humid, the rain wasn’t unwelcome.

end of first week in Delhi – part 2

I showered and got ready at speed so that I could take some photos of myself in my new clothes as requested, before the taxi arrived. The camera battery was fully charged and the memory card almost empty so I thought nothing of leaving the spare cards and battery pack behind.

The wedding party was held at the Seven Seas Banquet (somewhere in the region of the Hyatt Hotel and Delhi Cantt). The moment I went to take a photo of Deepti and her family, the camera gave a ‘card failure’ error message and that was that. The memories of this day will have to remain in my head. In addition to the amazing bharat costumes, some of the traditions or rituals which intrigued me the most included: the groom arriving on a white horse amidst a crowd playing music with all sisters dancing at the lead; the sisters blockading the entrance way preventing the groom from entering the hall until sufficient money had been thrown at them; the entrance of the bride under a blanket of flowers (shows she’s to be pampered) and the exchanging of garlands. The garlands are dense with petals and are clearly very heavy. The bride must reach up and place the garland over the groom’s head, yet the groom’s head is substantially higher than usual due to the white, ornate turban worn. Custom states that if the groom bends his head to aid her place the garland on him, he will bend his back to her throughout the marriage. Naturally, the groom stands as tall and upright as possible causing a problem for the shorter bride.

End of first week in Delhi

Situated quite high in the International Trade Tower at Nehru Place, the KMC office has great views of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) land stretching out towards the Lotus Temple. Roads are slowly being built across this land and peasant people live on it, some breaking up rocks to be used in the road’s foundations. Their homes are shelters erected like tents, constructed skilfully from all kinds of materials and secured with plastic sheeting to give protection against the monsoon rains.

I idled across this land last Sunday – Independence Day – on my way to the Lotus Temple. Whilst it wasn’t particularly sunny, the heat was oppressive due to the humidity – I was dripping within minutes of going outside. People were laid out resting, some on low narrow walls, others under the shade of trees. Naked children were running around and I was quickly conscious of the locals’ stares. Having only arrived in Delhi the previous night and now finding myself clambering across scrub land (and human waste) I was apprehensive whether this was the most appropriate way for me to immerse myself back into Indian life, but I wasn’t about to turn back. Playing children would stop dead in their tracks as I neared them: if I smiled or waved, they giggled and returned the gesture excitedly. These people seemed happy and it amazed me how content they appeared.

The afternoon of Thursday 19th August saw a really heavy rainfall which was great to watch from the dry comfort of the KMC office. Whilst the adults on the DDA land battled against the winds securing plastic sheeting, moving objects into tents, channelling the water away and taking shelter themselves, the children splashed in quickly forming pools. A bunch of small boys dragged a bathtub from somewhere and looked to be having the time of their lives, seesawing on its rim while it filled with rain in which they could splash. It could almost have been a film-set for a Grapes of Wrath movie.

As I left the International Trade Tower that evening on my way to the health club, I passed an empty office (not just empty of people but the internal construction wasn’t finished yet) where sparks and explosions were ripping across the ceiling. Slightly panicked, it seemed that an electrical fire was about to start at any second but I was relieved to see it burn out instantly. An hour or so later, lying alone in the steam room in a comfortably hot, dazed and truly relaxed state, the explosions erupted again: a loud burst of hissing and even closer this time. I left the steam room more speedily and less relaxed than I had entered!

The following morning, Friday, the office was without power and the network was down.

On Friday morning, Deepti invited me to join her at her cousin’s wedding that evening. I was really thrilled especially when I realised it would entail a shopping spree for local dress wear. That afternoon, Poonam, Ekta and I took an auto-rickshaw to Central Market, Lajpat Nagar, a nearby market which caters for locals, not tourists…

The first shop we visited, Libas Fashions Pvt Ltd (using the company legal name of course, alias Libas ;O)) sold the widest range of suits and saris in all colours and patterns. The shop assistant pulled dozens of them out for me and laid them all out, all over the counter. Nothing seemed like too much trouble. Thanks to Poonam and Ekta, we narrowed the selection down to a number I could realistically try on in our limited time for a mad-dash-shopping-spree. Exit Libas Fashions, one contented customer with a beautiful orange suit comprising a top embroidered with a leaf pattern, beads and tiny sequins and pants and shawl in a two-tone orange tie-dye pattern. Next stop was shoes (glittery heels from First Step) and then jewellery (bindis, bangles, earrings and necklace set, hair clips). This was such a great market – I was disappointed to have forgotten my camera in the haste. Note first lack of photos. Our final stop was a shoe shop belonging to a friend of Ekta’s called Shyam Footwear, selling all kinds of Punjabi jutti and chappal which are exported all over the world. There’s a range of hand-crafted leather shoes (flat mules) with a variety of stitching patterns and a range of exquisitely embroidered and patterned shoes too. They were so comfortable, I took a pair of each type.

It was around this point that Deepti texted us to make sure we’d been able to find some appropriate dress wear. My immediate reaction was to draft a reply enthusing over my new purchases, but then my mischievous side got the better of me: Deepti was led to believe that I’d been unable to find any clothes and would be wearing the office clothes I’d had on all day…