November 21, 2014

Days in Delhi

Continuation from Part 1 - Dimapur

I have visited Delhi on several trips in the past. Having seen most of the usual tourist sights, I was definitely keen to see more of the city. I was lucky enough to have two friends who lived in the city and in close proximity to my office and with whom I got to see more of the city.

We reached Delhi late. We spent the 3 hour transit time in the airport (and even parts of the flight) working on the final presentation. We were blessed to be part of a service at a church the next morning. The music worship session was so uplifting as was the rest of the service. It was such a warm and inviting congregation. We presented an overview of the project to the team and the church members who wanted to listen. We followed it with a more detailed discussion later. Thankfully it was received positively.

I got to visit Hauz Khas village on the first two evenings. To me it seemed like Delhi's version of the Galle Fort in Sri Lanka - historical architecture plus the quaint alleyways of fashion boutiques, tea cafes and vintage art galleries and all that hipster vibe!

The Hauz Khas monuments consist of many different 13th century structures- mosques, tombs and pavilions all built around a lake. We didn't get to spend much time exploring and we had to weave in and out of dozens of canoodling couples to get a few pictures.

Walking through the narrow streets (definitely no setback rules at all here!) it's so tempting to peek into every store. If I lived here, I would spend many evenings wandering in and out of them. This kind of window shopping is actually fun. So much variety of art in so many forms from hand painted clothes to leather suitcases, wooden chests to psychedelic coasters, retro movie posters and bonsai plants. Loved the random strange graffiti all over the place and was pleased that I found a funky stationary store to buy a bright orange notebook. 

We stopped at the famous Elma's bakery for cake. The cafe was spread over three levels with a narrow atrium connecting them. I love cafe's like this one - quirky decor, soft jazz music, extensive menus and good cake with lots of cream!

We had the team debriefing session and the had our final dinner at a Hyderabadi restaurant. I won't forget the facial expressions of everyone as they tried my jal jeera drink for the first time. It was like those videos that people make of giving lime to babies!

It was quite sad when our team started becoming smaller, but we had new fun people at the office to bond with. I really enjoyed the work setting - starting the day with music and prayer, continuing to work on the project by putting together what we had already worked on and drawing up the designs, a fun lunch break when the little kids dropped by and board games over dinner. It really felt like a big office family. 

I've been looking forward to food in Delhi so much. Having been in Sri Lanka the past year, I had to satisfy all the cravings for north Indian food in these two trips. I relished all the yummy meals from the tiffins at work to the chaat, fried momos, kulfi and jelebi, aam panna, the paneer in various forms, the dhal makhani and kadhi pakoda, the channa bhatura and everything else too. 

We went to Old Delhi one morning. The Jama Masjid was beautiful despite having to hop around barefoot on the burning hot ground. We walked down the bustling Chandni Chowk with so many "tour guides" stalking us (was bound to happen with the non-Indians in the group) towards the Spice Market at Khari Baoli. Countless wholesale stores with piles of dried fruit, nuts,  and sacks full of dried chilli, pepper, corriander seeds. We were all in tears, coughing and sneezing. Struggled to see and breathe, but it was quite an experience with the smells and colours and all our sinus' were completely cleared out by the end of it. 

It's so easy to travel around in Delhi. The metro connects everything and it's cheap and convenient and air conditioned! Another evening, I went to Dilli Haat which is a cultural and handicrafts market. Lots of interesting things to look at. I especially love how the whole place is lit up at night. There are food court too with each stall representing a different state. 

There is a lot to see in Delhi and I realised that I barely covered anything in my short stay. I did a lot of walking around, but it's such a vast city and every area is so different in terms of the residential units and market places. In spite of being in Delhi for work, I tried to see as much of the city in the evenings and over the weekend. The heat was quite torturous - dry scorching heat. One afternoon, it hit a maximum of 45. Almost died!

Delhi is full of interesting architecture. Sadly didn't see as much as I wished. American architect, Joseph Allen Stein has designed many in the central city. His most notable being the Indian Habitat centre. I read up a lot about his style and work. I visited another of his - Triveni Kala Sangam. The galleries overlooking a central amphitheatre was a perfect setting for the art exhibitions that were going on.

The Lodhi area of Delhi is beautiful. A large garden (also by Stein) is designed around a number of ancient tombs and mosques. Wish I had more time to cover the whole area.

May in Delhi was great fun even though I didn't arrive there with any plans besides work. It was more fun this way, experiencing the city a little bit at a time. 

It was sad that I was only part of the office for such a short time but exciting to see that the work for the project would be complete soon. I'm sure I'll be back sometime in the future. Until next time... 

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