13
Feb
10

The real Delhi at last.

The last night at the office was fairly uneventful. Training deviated off the path due to technical difficulties and I spent the balance of my time  just fielding questions. I also had that phone meeting that I mentioned in the last blog post. The guy was basically asking me how we should go about building out a consulting business around the in-house experts on my products. I explained to him that there aren’t any in-house experts in our organization any more because they’ve all been fired over the last two years, and I haven’t fully ramped up. Not to mention that I have absolutely no room in my schedule to take on one more responsibility right now. I have bigger fish to fry. He seemed to be cool with my answers and appreciative that I was being frank with him.

I had dinner with some of the corporate managers from the site. They wanted to know what I thought about the team. I told them that there were a few standout individuals and the rest are too green to comment on…but there’s potential. I didn’t launch into all the things I want to see fixed. I need to frame that better before I hand it to anyone, and I’ll probably run it up the ladder a bit on our side. I just don’t have the weight to make demands.

I made plans to connect with some of the agents the following day, er, later that day rather. I caught a few hours sleep at the hotel, then got up and checked out. I hired a cab to Noida and checked into my hotel there. The drive over was full of all kinds of sights and sounds. It was my first significant trip across the Delhi area in the daytime. Honestly there’s just too much to name here. Literally every second I was seeing something completely foreign and fascinating.

The new hotel is a bit less posh, but that’s fine. It’s still a luxury hotel and they still treat you like a king. After check-in, they led me to the Indian restaurant in the hotel where I was treated to a multi-course lunch. Every bite was better than the best indian food I’ve had in the states. After stuffing myself silly, I retired to my room, texted my friends from the call center to let them know that I had confirmed my room number, and took a 15 minute nap. One of my friends called to let me know he was on the way over and asked what I’d like to see. I chose to see CP, which is the main market in Delhi. It’s a huge circular drive ringed with old British era buildings and shops. They have everything from designer brand shops to black market books and software. But first, I had to get there.

We hopped on my friend’s yamaha 150 and rode from Noida to CP. He’s a pretty small guy, so I was sitting way up high and looking over him as we dipped and dived between cars, busses, taxis, rickshaws, other motorcycles, bikes, people, cows and dogs. It was one of those harrowing, yet life-affirming experiences. If you don’t do something a little dangerous every once in a while, you’re just not living.

We arrived safely at CP and met another friend, then proceeded to walk around the shops. I took lots of blurry pictures in the fading sunlight. I refuse to use a flash. It just looks like hell and it’s too conspicuous. I’m going to cut the rest of this post short because there’s just too much to say and I need to get some rest. We took a metro train to another part of Delhi after circling the CP market. We emerged in what they call Old Delhi and spent most of the rest of the evening in tiny back alleys filled with shops overflowing with beads and fabrics and jewelry. I didn’t buy anything. My friends literally refused to allow me to spend a dime. I felt a little guilty, but they insisted.

They treated me to dinner at a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop that served various kinds of a fried Indian pancakes whose name escapes me at the moment. The shop was established in the late 1800’s and has the photos on the wall to prove it. They also had an Italian-restaurant-style “who’s who” gallery of famous patrons that featured the first and second Prime Ministers of India as well as Indira Gandhi. The food was fabulous. Mind you, I’m still stuffed from lunch just a couple hours earlier. From there we walked down more dark, twisting and crowded alleys.

I can’t describe this place, but it’s exactly as you’d imagine. All of your senses are tingling with stimuli from every direction. It’s complete chaos and yet I felt comforable and reasonably safe the whole time, though I did try to walk in front of a couple careening vehicles. The women are beautifully dressed in flowing brightly colored saris and scarves bedecked with glittering bits. There are people shouting in every direction, conducting commerce. Horns are honking constantly. Dogs are everywhere. Cows too. Today, I travelled by taxi, motorcycle, subway, rickshaw, a motorized tricycle taxi thing, and a car. Half of those are present in the tiny alleyways of the market. There are new smells every second; earthy dirty smells, sandalwood, cardamom, flowery perfumes, heavy curries, smoke, exhaust, animals, people. We stopped in a couple shops to browse, but we had another item on the agenda and didn’t stay long. Another friend from the call center had invited me over to his house for drinks and dinner with his family.

We returned in a roundabout way to the place where we’d parked the motorcycle. I hopped on and we rode a couple miles to where my next host was waiting. He drove me back toward Gurgaon where he lives in a modest apartment with his wife. They have very few possessions, but seem to be lacking nothing. It was a good reminder of how basic the basics are, when you really think about it. They offered me a multi-course dinner. Mind you, I’m still stuffed from dessert, dinner and lunch. Are you seeing a theme yet? The food is amazing once again and I can’t resist their hospitality. After dinner their son returns from a visit with his grandmother. He’s 1 year old and adorable. Looks just like his mother. We talk, eat and make a few plans for what to do tomorrow.

They drive me back to Noida by way of the city center. This is the capital, so I get to see their version of the White House, along with a huge arch called the India gate, that’s a monument to the freedom fighters who won India’s independence. It’s late at night now, but there are tons of people around the gate. There are vendors selling all sorts of glowing gadgets suitable for rave parties. A few of the people there are wearing red plastic devil horns that are glowing from internal LEDs. I don’t know if there’s a significance to those or if they’re just cute.

The family and I stop for ice cream. I get some kind of nutty buddy thing and get almost finished before I realize that those are cashews. Dammit. My mouth is itching and my throat nearly swells shut. I need to start carrying an allergy pen thingy. It’s getting worse. I may not be able to breath next time this happens. At any rate, it’s not critical and I know the effects wear off pretty quickly. We head back to Noida through heavy traffic, and now you’re pretty much caught up.

Tomorrow’s plans are still TBD, but will probably include more Delhi shopping with the gang from today. I might pick up a musical instrument of some sort. How I’d ship it home is anyone’s guess. I have a souvenir motorcycle helmet now. I’m sure it doesn’t pass US safety standards, but it’ll do a good job of holding memories.

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