Cross posted from my blog: http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com
Am blogging while drinking coffee at Cafe Coffee Day in Connaught Place, New Delhi (yes, technology makes it possible!). It is bone chilling cold. A cold wave is going on the temperatures are hovering around -2 degree C, close to freezing. "Wear four layers," a friend had said, "Carry sweaters, mufflers, gloves, monkey caps, wollens, anything that will keep you warm." I am wearing all these and am still cold. I think I am not used to the cold.
Rail Yatri Niwas, where I am staying, turned out to be a disappointment. But at Rs 450 a night with breakfast what did you expect? The door doesn't have a handle, paint is peeling in patches, the curtain rod has been torn off and hangs bent crookedly, the bulb in the bathroom hangs by the wire, the electrical sockets do not work (I had to hunt around for a socket that did, which is down below a table, so, good exercise for my lazy bones), and there is only some slim glass windows shielding me from the cold outside. So it is as if I am in the open, well, almost.
At night I can't sleep as I am close to New Delhi railway station and the hooting wakes me up in a dither, frenzied. Last night my leg had grown so cold it was numb, so I had to get up and walk around. There is no hot water so the precious liquid without which I can't take a bath has to be fetched by the attendant, who is as lazy as they come. I have a habit of oiling my hair before a bath, but the coconut oil has frozen, and no amount of coaxing would make it yield. So I cut the neck with a knife, my trusted swiss knife, and had to rub the oil in my palm to transform it from a goeey paste to something remotely resembling oil.
I first travelled to Delhi in 1982, on business, of course. I was working for Chemical Age of India and being the man-who-dons-many-hats I was sent off to supervise the printing of our magazine, which for economic reasons was in Delhi. I was raw and my boss was so worried that he insisted that I phone him first thing after I reached Delhi, and had the press owner come and see if I was comfortable. I loved working in CAI, it was as if I was a member of the boss's family. Until today the very word "boss" evokes memories of JPdS. Don't know where he is or what he is doing now. Forget, as I do most disturbing things, long story which I might write about sometime.
A lot has changed about Connaught Place. Brand showrooms have replaced the quaint shops selling shawls and saris. Yesterday I walked around Palika Bazar which is all glitzy, the touts are still there, and bargaining is a dream! You can get away with quoting half of their price, and can get away, too. People are much more well dressed than before. There is money, don't know where it comes from but there is a lot of greenbacks out there. There are many discount sales of winter wear, and I regret buying a jacket from Bombay. There is such a wide variety available here, and cheaper, too.
Delhi girls are still beautiful, though a bit filled out. I don't mind. I guess the cold makes them eat more and the calories stick to them more than in a humid city like Bombay. The roads are a dream come true! So what if the driving is a bit aggressive. Scooterists come at you on the sidewalk where they aren't supposed to be. Delhi people are much more polite and civilized than Bombay denizens. Don't crucify me for this, dear Bombayites, but I am yet to hear a sister... mother... or sistermother... profanity.
Attended a karaoke at Turquose Cottage organized by Subbu and Asheeth Manu. Mostly ryze.com member turned up. Garima, Smita, Sachin, Bobbin, Umesh, Shalin, Shashi, Richa, Bohemian Rhapsody, besides Asheeth and a lot of others turned up, and a good time was had by all. I sang "Breakout to the Other Side" and "Wonderful Tonight," my first karaoke experience.
Makes me wonder whether online communities are THE trend of the future. I can't imagine a website programed and hosted in the US can make all this happen. Amazing! More in future instalments.