First Impressions of India

First impressions of India… Florence and Arthur were waiting for Barb and I at customs, courtesy of their diplomatic status so we whisked through everything. The airport is brand new and really lovely with huge copper discs and giant hands arranged in traditional poses over the arrivals hall. We were then funneled into this massive scrum all waiting to have our luggage scanned in order to leave airport. Personal space definitely means something different here. I thought it would take us at least an hour to clear through but security must have taken a good look at the numbers because they just opened the gates and allowed us all to just leave. What is the point of having security if they just waive it when they have a large crowd? Mind you we did benefit for that laxity so I can’t complain really.
The air pollution is incredible, and the smell of wood smoke is very pervasive. The power keeps going off, but this seems to be a regular occurance and not worthy of comment. Flo and Arthur’s apartment (hah – more like a two level house & huge) is stunning with incredible art works from around the world. As they have been posted to China, Kenya and India in the last 10 years alone it isn’t surprising. I’m feeling like a very provincial Canadian indeed. Everyone here – including Lorenz and Teodore (age 11 & 5 respectively) speaks at least German, French, English, Spanish and of course you have to throw in some Mandarin, Swahili and Hindi!  On top of that Arthur serenaded us for about 3/4 of an hour on the piano!
We had a leisurely breakfast and drove into New Delhi proper to take a look at some of the sights and have a late lunch.
 Yesterday was the conclusion of the Republic Day celebrations so there were viewing stands being dismantled all over the place from the parades and flowers everywhere.We parked behind Connaught Place – Arthur says you can see it from space – a massive circular arrangement of colonial era white buildings and a park in the middle. You can see some semblance of its former glory but despite – apparently – alot of work done  on it for the Commonwealth games it is rather ramshackle and falling apart. We parked on the backside and threaded our way through some appalling underbelly crap and corruption. People digging through garbage, reeking open sewers and mangy dogs everywhere. then around the corner to the Connaught and a different world. There are still beggars and dogs but most people look happy and reasonably prosperous and all out for Sunday strolls and shopping.
All the usual shops – McDonald’s, Bata Shoes, Levi’s Jeans etc. plus a few uniquely Indian. I ALMOST bought a Sari – completely seduced by the gorgeous fabrics and colours – but pulled back from the brink by the realization that 1. I haven’t a clue how to arrange and wear one and 2. I would look quite silly wearing one even if I could solve #1. I definitely think you have to learn to move with a certain more elegant carrige to carry it off! I did however buy a silk tunic and trousers in lovely shades of green and gold and blue for the princely price of about $60.
We had lunch in the Union Cafe which has been in Connaught Place for over 70 years – the doorman was most imposing and elegant in his jewelled turban, fierce moustaches and brocade jacket. Unfortunately in my jet lag fog I forgot both my camera and my iphone so no pictures today!
It will be a quiet evening at home and then off touring around Old Delhi tomorrow in a rickshaw & I shall bring a camera!

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