Day One: April 6

I felt a surge of anticipation walking through the airport’s sliding glass doors and into the muggy air of Delhi.  Our early arrival began with a greeting from a fabulous prearranged driver who met us as we embarked because he somehow had special clearance from immigration.  Then he guided us to the “special assistance” immigration line and cut out about 30 mins of waiting in line.  It was a relief not to have to stand in a long line, but it was also rather awkward as everyone else in that line was old, frail, and in a wheel chair.  Our hotel is very clean, has working aircon, and has terrific service.  It is an older building and you feel that you are in a bygone era with, perhaps, bygone plumbing (a slight exaggeration, but it worked with the flow of the writing and offers an apt sense of where we are).

One cannot help but be swept away by the care of the staff at our hotel.  I mention this because it is not a 5-star hotel where one would assume a certain level of service.  I was consistently struck all day by how genuinely caring and interested people were in our well-being.  As an aside, I just about hugged the room attendant who asked if I had laundry, happily took Talia’s chewing-gum goopy pants (yes, some fool left gum on the plane, and she sat in it), and brought them back 10 mins. later in perfect condition.  They were drenched in some chemical scent, but as we have traveled “light,” we were thrilled to have the pants back and ready-to-use.

Together with Saima, we began the day by going next door to Kahn Market.  According to Saima it’s some of the most expensive storefront real estate in Asia.  It’s got lovely shops and it seems you can buy just about anything within the tiny spaces that house the merchandise.  The shops are hidden away behind narrow staircases, mangy dogs, and newly paved sidewalks littered with rubbish.  A stop at FabIndia got us ready for our foray into Old Delhi tomorrow.  Apparently, it’s quite a conservative area.  Many women wear burqas, so Sarah and I needed to be sure to have appropriate head covering.  We also bought shalwar kameez for all of us.  Saima said it was important for us not to wear Western clothing as a sign of respect and a genuine desire to partner.  We were all delighted to appease this direction from her and search through piles of beautiful cotton and silk.

A quick nap sustained us for an afternoon adventure to the India Gate.  Saima’s driver took us there for an hour while Saima had a meeting elsewhere. The drive down the long road between the President’s house and India Gate is obviously reminiscent of the mall in Washington, D.C. (or vice versa); however beyond the actual framing of the space, the similarity ends there.  Our stroll around India Gate was our first real experience with the complexities of daily life in India.  First of all, it’s hot here.  So our stroll outside gave us a sense of daily life in muggy, hot summers.  Additionally, this was an opportunity to begin introducing my children to the art of respecting while disengaging  from beggars as necessary. Ariana, being the smallest, was the most frequently solicited to purchase items, get henna tattoos, and engage in some way or another.  Sarah was wonderful about supporting Ariana as she navigated these moments, and I looked for the often necessary exit route to avoid walking into another opportunity to buy something else.  Suffice it to say, we were all ready to go back to the hotel and have a light dinner before knocking off to sleep.  And, that’s where this leaves off.  It’s 8:30 here, and I think I should join the sleepers. Tomorrow promises to need much more resilience than today.

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  • Jeannine Marston

    What a beautiful picture, and you certainly don’t show the signs of jetlag. What a colorful and different world you have entered. How important that we know about a country with a population so much greater than our own, and the world’s largest democracy. We will be thinking of the four of you. Please give my love to Saima, one of my very special students who showed such magnificent leadership potential when we were in IR together.

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