Dawdling in Delhi
Landing in Delhi is, as always, full of minor challenges. The officials question our mathematical prowess again, the exchange guy is asleep, the taxi driver doesnít want to take us to the Starview, but weíre pros now and I rather enjoy the game!
We pull into the Starview and, wonder of wonders, there is Baboo, patiently awaiting our return. We exchange a greeting with Baboo, but then decide to check into the air-conditioned Metropolis Hotel across the road; the temperature hovers just below 40. I fear we are becoming a little weary of aimless wandering, and unfortunately Delhi in the heat does not have much to offer, especially for the kids. After a sleepless night in a frosty room, we decide to check out the old YMCA hotel downtown, where Don and I stayed last time. The hotel is far more expensive, and not as nice, but it does have a pool, so the kids should be happier. A quick phone call confirms that thereís room, and the pool is operational (never assume anything in India!), so we pile into Babooís rickshaw for a ride. Baboo tries to keep us in this neighborhood, so he visits a few closer hotels first, but weíre hot and bothered and after much insistence, end up at the Y.
The usual hassles of checking in are soon underway and we are shown to the same grotty room Don and I occupied a year ago! The kids head to the pool, and spend a few great hours, so I guess the hassle of moving is worthwhile. Connaught Circle is the center of business in Delhi and, wonder of wonders, we find a Pizza Hut...the kids are ecstatic! The pizza is not quite like home, but the entertainment is great, the waiters sing and dance; like everything here they take it to the extreme! Picture happy birthday sung like "Achy Breaky Heart" by a bunch of Indians clad in cowboy attire.
The next day we head to the pool, only to be told that the pool is "on holiday today"! Dazed and confused we head back to our dungeon of a room to regroup. Today is our last in India. We decide to go shopping and spend a lovely few hours bargaining for trinkets on Janpath Street, which is kind of like a permanent flea market. Early to bed tonight, as we must catch a taxi at 4 a.m.
Bleary-eyed, we race through the pre-dawn blackness of Delhi, again with no headlights, and still itís spooky. The airport is its usual disorganized self, but we are soon in the check in line for our flight to London. The last few days in Delhi have been wearing, so we look forward to getting home, hopefully for Easter dinner, complete with ham and lots of chocolate! Sadly the flight is completely overbooked, and before long weíre in another taxi headed back to the Starview. Apparently the flights for the next few weeks are all overbooked! I know, I know...the flight attendant in London had warned me.
We spent a few hours deciding what we would do if we had to split up. Although I have the credit card, Don canít face leaving me here in India with Roddy, so heíll stay with Liam if there are only two seats. Finally giving in to "westernism", we allow the kids about six hours straight of the "Cartoon Network" on cable as we read and snooze.
When we were last here, we giggled at a poster advertising a water park, I mean if the water rarely comes out of the taps in Delhi...whatís a water park like? With the temperature hovering in the nigh 30s, we make arrangements to go tomorrow. The kids are excited, but they arenít expecting much. Liam wonders if itíll be a puddle with a hundred or so people fanning it to create waves... sounds entirely possible.
Off to the water park, and actually itís clean and quite O.K., not in the league of the parks at home, but itíll do. Again, like every seemingly routine activity here in India, there are a few humorous twists. Indians are not "big" on swimming, nor are they prone to exposing much skin. The bathing suits they rent here (thankfully we have our own) are a riot. The menís suits are boxer-style, but they dangle below the knees, utilitarian at best, fashioned out of heavy black cotton. The womenís suits are made from the same fabric, but resemble those Victorian swim dresses of years gone by, covering every possible bit of skin. Most of the natives cannot swim and are screeching with delight (or fear) as they brave the "Lazy River", which drifts by slowly at an astounding 3-foot depth. Taking matters to a Monty Pythonish height are the Sikhs. Turbans are not allowed in the water so, bright blue bathing caps have been specially designed for the Sikhs. The bathing caps have a large pouch on top to accommodate the long tresses; the end result comes amazingly close to reducing the regal Sikhs to "Smurfdom". I keep expecting to hear the "Smurfs" break into song in ear piercingly high squeaky voices.
On what is to be our last night in Delhi we dine at the dilapidated "Lordís Cafe"; it is misnamed. This semi-basement eatery is swarming with vermin, of the two-legged and four-legged variety. The four-legged ones are not as interesting or as intimidating as the two-legged ones. The conversation here revolves around the black market and the lucrative businesses of passport forgery, and narcotics wholesaling. We just eat quietly and try to keep the kids from commenting. I understand from snippets of conversation that this laid-back, droopy-eyed bunch is from Nigeria...but they seem very "at home". Weíve ordered the kids a quarter roast chicken, the first time weíve seen such a plain olí food on a menu. When it arrives, I fear the poor bird died of starvation, a pile of charred bones, shrouded in crisp skin, no meat to be found. Don and I eat our last "Thali", that wonderful bottomless dish of lentils, rice, curried whatever and bread.
Back at the Starview for our last night, we crouch on the stoop and are entertained by a small girl and boy. The boy plays a tabla, a two-sided drum, like a bongo, while his sister performs the most amazing contortions. The gir