Friday, January 4, 2008

India: Day One (Arrival)

It’s just about to strike midnight. I hesitate to call today day one, since I’ve been traveling for a lengthy stretch across time zones, countries, days, nights, depressants, and accelerants on very few hours of sleep caught during a few spots of daylight, such that what is here called “Indian Stretchable Time” (IST) is not as unaccommodating as one might expect. I left my apartment too early the morning of December 31st for a noon flight to Chicago, and having arrived at the airport three hours in advance, was put on a plane departing earlier. Nevertheless, when I landed, after having slept an hour across the three seats of my empty row, I already had two semi-frantic telephone messages from my mother, and a third message from her via an email from my father to my blackberry, wondering where I was. I found her at our departure gate for the flight together to London (she had come from San Francisco, and had left her own house at four that morning, far worse off than I was), and with three hours to kill before boarding, we went in search of the bar.

O’Hare has a surprisingly parsimonious bar scene, featuring only a muzac-filled mall-like food court that offers Budweiser Draft and a small selection of spirits along with burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, fried salads, and Chinese. I had my first of many Sapphire and tonics to come (if I needed that refreshment in snowy but thus overheated Chicago, imagine the quenching that would be required in India, where one is told by every person not to even touch the water to the exterior of one’s lip, lest a revenge worse than Montezuma’s strike you); mom had a Heineken, and we both got a wee bit tippy, it being barely past noon and neither of us heavy-weight champs in the liquor circus. Soon enough we were loaded onto the over-crowded Boeing, and after a grand fiasco of seat switching, found ourselves seated together in a window/aisle combination, watching movies on our small personal screens. She might have snatched an hour or two of sleep, but when the plane landed at Heathrow at six am London (I do believe it was finally around bedtime for me), I had consumed two films, a short novel, an additional gin and tonic, a dinner (it was my second, after the Chinese), a breakfast, a snack, and a few cups of coffee, I hadn’t so much as closed my eyes. It was still dark out.

Getting to our friend’s house at six am the morning of January first (our flight for Delhi didn’t leave until the following night) required taking the underground from Heathrow to her local station. First I found an ATM and procured pounds; it was easy enough. It became even easier to spend them. Shockingly enough, a yogurt (I needed to break a note for change for the payphone; my blackberry isn’t fitted for international use) cost £2 ($4), the phone call (local!) £1 ($2) and each of our tickets to a tube station only a few stops away (London uses a zone system unlike New York) £3 (totaling $12). There went practically $20 in less than ten minutes with almost nothing accomplished. Thanks to holiday-related “incidents” on the tube, we had to wait upwards of three quarters of an hour for a train; when we finally arrived at the station, our friend realized that she ought to have just picked us up directly from the airport, in which case we would have been sleeping already. We went home and had some rather breakfasty food for dinner (tea and toast for me; I was too blind with exhaustion to register what mom ate), and then sat up chatting in a very after-dinner sort of way for a few hours before I could help myself no longer, and stumbled up to bed.

I had planned to sleep three or four hours, so that I could see a bit of London in the afternoon and evening (it’s hardly my first time there, but still) but I slept a sweaty dreamless sleep, and woke up to darkness outside. It was past dinnertime, but my mom soon woke up as well, and we had some rather dinnery foods for breakfast (salad, bread with mushroom paté, cottage cheese, and tea again). We stayed up chattering again, looking at snaps our friend had taken on her many trips to India, and my mother’s anxiety mounted as she worried whether the driver hired by the Indian travel agent to collect us from the airport would arrive, whether our digestive systems would be disabled by the food, whether we would be able to tolerate the poverty, the dirt, the culture shock, the what-have-you, whether we would contract malaria, tuberculosis, or any other disease against which we were not prepared, and so forth. I snuck off to bed around midnight; my mom didn’t fall asleep until one, and then woke up at two, and then went back to bed at three, and so forth, such that I woke up with relative ease at eight the next morning (it was still dark out), and caught up on my movie and book-related blog entries while she slept in until ten. I also coordinated our online check-in for the night’s flight to Delhi, and printed boarding passes so that we could whiz through security right up to the gate. Eventually mom woke up, we had a breakfast of fried eggs, cheese, toast, yogurt, coffee, and so forth, and went off to Knightsbridge for shopping. I had planned to buy nothing, since the GBP is thrashing the dollar so devastatingly, but thanks to post-holiday sales, I managed to spend $500 rather quickly on a pair of wool trousers, a satin blouse, a silk dress, and leather boots, three of the four which came from a shop that has a branch five blocks from my apartment in New York. Globalization: sigh (did I mention the omni-present HSBC ads, which pair two pictures, and show them in duplicate with two paired words, swapped? They were in New York, in Chicago, and now in London; soon enough they would be found in Delhi as well).

None of this may seem relevant to day one, it being sort of day T-1, but the set-up will hopefully lull you into my own mindset upon reentering Heathrow, not as early as we ought to have been for our flight (one hour, fifteen minutes—about forty-five short for international; then again, I’d already checked in). We did a lengthy walk in search of gate information (all screens confirmed our flight and the appropriate check-in area, but none the gate), eventually found a line for security, and were sent back to the check-in area upon finding that we were only allowed one carry-on item (including a handbag!). The item could be immense, but it could only be one. Mom and I each had a small wheeling suitcase (small enough to be allowed as carry-on for our trans-Atlantic flight) along with what, in the US, we call a “personal item:” hers a totebag (purse inside) and mine a backpack (purse and laptop inside). We redid the lengthy walk to the check-in area and checked our suitcases, noticing a sign that gave directions to the prayer area (Mom thought the concept was lovely; I found it annoying—I don’t personally pray, and I don’t know whether she does, but I do deign to dictate to others where they ought to pray, and that where is everywhere—particularly in non-designated areas—so long as it is all kept within one’s head and heart, invisible to the exterior world). Our flight was nearly through boarding after we completed the mile-long (I exaggerate not) walk to the gate, and we settled into a similar window/aisle combination seat, again with personal television screens, but this time with far more options (it being the brilliant Virgin Atlantic). I consumed a dinner, a gin and tonic (free, unlike the one on the other flight), two movies, zero pages of my next book, half of my mother’s dinner, a breakfast, half of my mother’s breakfast, one and then another Advil Cold & Sinus pill for my headache, sleepiness, and general discomfort, a few cups of coffee to wash them down, a juice a few bottles of water, and an amazing treat that we don’t yet have in the US called a GuPuds, which was a tiny pot of extraordinarily rich orange-flavored chocolate cream.

Though it was the longest (clocking in at eight hours, and again, no sleep for me) of the flights, it was the easiest; perhaps I’m getting better at this. We deplaned to a gate filled with more HSBC ads and a pervasive, strange-smelling dust in the air. I had seen this yellow dust blanketing Delhi from above, and it was now clotting in our throats. My mother had more trouble than I did. In the customs line, I amused myself by looking at the people who had been on our plane. One British family featured a white mum with blond and hot-pink dreadlocks in a pony-tail down to her waist, but the sides of her head had been shaved to show black and hot-pink leopard spots tattooed onto her scalp. She wore a floor-length black and hot-pink leopard-print dress, had a husband (also white) with Zulu-like fixings through his earlobes and stunning silver jewelry on his wrists, a daughter of about 10, also blond, and wearing a sky blue dress with pants and scarf, in makeshift Indian style, and a bi-racial daughter of about three, who had screamed throughout the entire flight. There were other interesting outfits—saris, turbans, pyjamas, whatnots—but they paled in comparison. Our customs clerk stamped our passports without speaking to us (although we did clearly state the perfunctory “hello” and “thank you,” and we continued on to locate our checked luggage, buy liquor at the duty-free (my mom was concerned about her state of mind, having begun to want to cancel the trip from the moment I met her in Chicago, though the trip had been originally her idea, and in the making for the past nine months (and the past thirty-five years in her hopes)), find an ATM (I’ve still yet to locate one), and find our driver. We began with ease, and things got more difficult as we went along. The luggage seemed to appear magically just as we walked up, and the liquor was affordable and purchased with leftover dollars. An ATM was nowhere to be found, so I settled on changing $100 more leftover dollars into 3,860 Indian Rupees (INR). We then went through the final customs exit (where I saw my first Indian give an official a bribe, which was to let him through with his loaded cart of sacks without having their contents examined), and looked for our driver.

Before leaving the US, we had sent our itinerary to Sanjay, the Indian travel agent arranging bookings for our conference, so that he could arrange for a driver to pick us up at the airport and take us to our lodgings. We had actually sent it multiple times, requesting confirmation. We had sent it twice again from London, again requesting confirmation. Confirmation was made in the form of an email saying “your pick-up is confirmed,” which, to me, as an Executive Assistant who sends an executive absolutely nowhere without a confirmation number and contact telephone number, was absurd. I hadn’t expected that a driver would be there for us, but I looked for one wholeheartedly. The air was filled with dust, and was thick and hot, and while perhaps one hundred men wandered around offering their services as taxi drivers, only five or ten held signs with names, and none of those names were ours. It was a bit tricky to discern this at first, because the drivers had a habit of holding their signs at their sides, facing into their body, rather than up in the air where a person might see it. But still, I scoured each of the exits seeking said driver, while my mom waited apprehensively near a phone booth, and did not find him. Because I somehow expected this, I was armed with the address of our lodging and suggested taking an authorized taxi, but my mom insisted on holding the ever-elusive Sanjay to his promise, and, armed with his mobile number, a pen, and a roll of my rupees, we went to the phone booth. This was manned by a very kind and helpful attendant (the first time in any of my world travels using a phone has been so easy); I showed him the number, and he dialed, handing the receiver to me once the connection was made. Sanjay told me that our driver was there at the airport, and gave me his mobile number. The attendant dialed said mobile number, but it was busy. He dialed Sanjay again, and Sanjay gave us another mobile number. This one did not work either.

Seven phone calls in total were made before Sanjay promised us that the driver would arrive in 15 minutes, and I gave the attendant thirty rupees and told him to keep the change, imagining we would need his services again soon. I was right; my mom went to the bathroom while I classified the varying forms of dress for Indian men at the airport (who outnumbered women four to one); there were those in white pyjama pants and dresses, with little white box hats and short beards, those in dark suits with turbans and long beards, those in cheap and ill-fitting polyester pants with leather bomber or members-only jackets who also had short beards, and those, mostly younger, in the louder “Western” clothes one might also see on younger Russian men in parts of Brooklyn—baggy jeans with loud painted-on designs and brightly colored brand-advertising shirts and sweaters. She came back and we waited some more; I could hear the sound of running water all this time, as if someone had only turned the shower half-off in the room next door, which I soon realized was a wall-mounted water fountain at which drivers kept coming to refill bottles and cups. Mostly, a lot of local men appeared to be milling about somewhat aimlessly; I imagine they were looking for a fare. Twenty minutes passed by and my mother called Sanjay again a few times. Near-blind with sleeplessness, I stayed in my seat with the luggage, and neglected to notice the passage of time, while dust clotted more thickly in my throat. Then, my mother walked up with a short man in a red sweatshirt in tow: our driver had arrived. We followed him at a fast clip out of the airport into the dustier parking lot. I was wearing leggings with boots, a perfectly normal outfit for New York or London, but one which picked up quite a lot of masculine gazes as we made the long way to the car. I wouldn’t have noticed had my mother not pointed it out, because there was no malice, greed, or rage in the gazes that one might encounter elsewhere. I would classify it more as a harmless gawking, and I was neither offended nor complimented. Indeed, I was too busy gawking at my own surroundings, amongst which I retrospectively imagine I must have looked rather odd.

The car next to us was a beautiful, ancient, eggshell-colored vehicle that looked something like a Volvo from the 1930s or 40s, only larger. Inside, were eight or ten Indians, men and women, adults and children, sitting knee-to-knee, gawking out their windows at me as I gawked in at them. It was very open, very non-judgmental gawking. We got into our driver’s old van and gawked some more out the window while he drove us to our lodging. First I remarked on the beauty of the old vehicles, whose colors were faded from the sun, and whose shapes were oddly out sync with those to which I’m accustomed. I commented on the beauty of the auto-rickshaws, little three-wheeled mobiles, green on the bottom, yellow on top, which embodied completely the third-world aesthetic. I’ve always found aesthetic pleasure in post-industrial and urban wastelands, and it was more the machinery than the people I was admiring. My mother seemed a bit dazed at first, but as we saw more and more poverty, she got angry, and accused people of romanticizing and aestheticizing poverty. We saw an old man with long white hair in a mid-calf dirty white shirt carrying a bundle of long sticks on his shoulder across an empty rocky wasteland; it was a picture, but I was too busy gawking to take any. We saw a small boy, six or so, press his face to our window with flowers for sale in his hand; he was filthy and had huge bright eyes and dirt in his mouth. My mom was angry. She accused the government of corruption. The sides of the two-lane highway were spread with make-shift tents spread from mismatched dirty cloths strung on half-dead shrubs. A little girl ran through the spaces between the cars in the road, asking for money perhaps, and all of her hair was matted into one pigtail; she, too, had big, bright eyes and a filthy face. It was like one of Morgan Fairchild’s infomercials. My mom was angry. Inside of me, I felt no anger or pity or anything, really, other than a kind of curiosity. My mom said she was angry. I opened my mouth to say that I wasn’t, that I was only thankful, but as I said, “I’m just tha-” my eyes burst with wetness and a quite unexpected choke came into my throat. I think she was too dazed to notice as I sat there, tears streaming down my face, as my insides bubbled up with thankfulness that, in this random soup of human creation, I was born in the city and country where I was born, to the parents to whom I was born, and in the time that I was born. I was virtually flooding with gratefulness, more than I had ever felt during any meal, holiday, massage, kiss, purchase, conversation, or sight. I felt like the pits of my stomach were the caverns of a geyser, up out of which an unstoppable, wet ebullience was exploding. Every sucking, wanting, empty, longing, needing American should come here and feel this. It is a simple and potent cure for wealth’s concomitant ennui.

Arriving at and then exploring our lodgings has been the most surreal part of the trip thus far. I have continued to refer to them as “lodgings” rather than “hotel” because we have been booked a “cottage” on a colonial compound called the Delhi Gymkhana club, which is a private institution at which one cannot stay for all the rupees in the world unless one is introduced and invited by a member (or so I have been told; I have a feeling that rupees solve most differences in this country, in the same way that money is a shared language all around the world). The club, couched between a variety of embassies in what appears to be the official part of town, is situated on 17 (mostly unused) acres, and consists of a number of white, airy, high-ceilinged buildings that, I’m certain, were quite lavish in their day. This is where, under English rule, the wealthy expatriate whites would play badminton and bridge, swim, dine, dance, and sip gin and tonics served by the coolies. Not having been managed by the English since their departure sixty years ago, the deferred maintenance has begun to show itself not only in cracks (hairlines in the stucco walls, chips in the monogrammed china), but in the accumulation of the filth that can no longer be washed away. Our “cottage” (actually a room in one of three or four divided, one-story stucco buildings skirting the central hall, which locks by padlock slipped through a metal loop fitted to a slide-bolt outside the door) has been “renovated,” which means that the floor is continuous linoleum tile from the entry, where a couch is faced by a desk and reading lamp, through the room, where two twin beds are divided by a nightstand and a robin’s egg blue refrigerator stands in the corner, through the dressing area, where there are cheap wooden wardrobes and a mirror that reminisce of a Catholic retreat center built circa 1970, into the bathroom, which is surprisingly large, and features a toilet, a sink, and a showerhead (no stall or curtain, only a two inch depression in the floor to separate the shower from the rest of the room). Upon walking in, we were of course disappointed (this room costs nearly INR 6,000 a night, roughly $150, and India is meant to be cheap, no?), but I have seen even more distressing accommodations, and don’t doubt that even further distressing accommodations exist. Sanjay had wanted me to pay for our six nights’ accommodation here in advance, but I had refused; I’ve never been comfortable with being tied to one situation unless I have extreme familiarity with it. Upon arrival, the men in the office had pushed me to sign a form guaranteeing my payment for the six nights’ stay before I saw the room, and I again refused. Once we were shown the room, the register again was placed in front of me for signature, despite my attempts to communicate my dissatisfaction. I asked for five minutes of privacy to converse with my mother, promising to come back to the office to sign afterward, but the man with the register stood a step outside our door and continued to push for me to sign. Upon expressing dismay to the office, we were shown two other rooms that were similar, and chose the best of the three to stay for one night. I went back to the office, expressed my distaste, and filled in the form and signed myself to paying for one night, making certain they understood my plans to check out the next day.

The club’s website, and Sanjay as well, had boasted amenities such as pool, library, health club, and restaurant, so we left our bags in our room (I would not leave my laptop) and set out to find these things. Our guidebook had made a point of explaining that, when in India, a tourist should never ask a yes-or-no question, since Indians would never say “no” to a tourist, and would rather lie (though out of a kind of screwball deference, rather than any malice). I had mentioned this to my friend Brendon, who lived a few years in Bangladesh, and he had corroborated, adding that Indians, rather than shaking their head up and down for yes and left to right for no shook their heads gently from side to side in a sort of meaningless gesture of impotent acquiescence. It did not take long for me to experience this gesture. I decided sooner than my mom (both of us cranky from travel and lack of sleep) that asking anyone any question was a complete waste of time and would only lead to frustration. I set out to explore the dusty grounds, scattered with palm trees and another kind of great, wide tree with thick, leafy greenery and smooth, gummy bark, my mother following at ten paces behind and complaining that she didn’t want to wander without knowing where she was going. We walked through a huge outdoor seating area, whose lawn had gone to brown seed long ago, and which was strung overhead by knotted ropes for the canopies that countless Indians seemed to be both putting up and taking down in a never-ending dance of labor. On the far end of the courtyard was another building and courtyard, into which I poked my face; it was a faded children’s playground and emptied children’s pool, soiled by soot, faded by the sun, and painted over with melancholy. To the left was a larger white stucco building, which housed another pool (this one filled with water that appeared to be rather clean). The ceiling was glass, peaked, and dirty, but must have been lovely in its bygone era. The room reminded me of drawings I had seen of San Francisco’s Sutro Baths, near Ocean Beach, which are now just uninterpretable ruins, or of the old bathhouse at Coney Island I’d seen pictured in some old movies at the Film Forum. We couldn’t find the health club, but did see an ancient ping pong table, and walked on into the main hall. This central building is square, and has a large, hardwood dance floor in its center (never, it seems, used any longer for dancing). Around the floor are three tiers of steps leading up to a higher level, in which each of four corners is a fireplace whose mantle is hung by a dreadful English genre painting, around which old Victorian-style couches and chairs are scattered, and where people collect in small knots for tea or snacks. These two levels are gently separated by columns. Another row of loosely-strewn columns separates the top tier from the walkway, which leads all around the building. Inside, the dance floor can be seen, and to the other side are doors opening to rooms: The Blue Room (empty and dusty, with robin’s egg blue walls painted with soot), the Billiard Room (two tables, one being used), the Bridge Room (rather full), the Dining Room (empty, but we would eat there later, and it would be at half capacity), a bar, and so forth. Everything evoked the colonialist’s bygone era, and I felt myself in an Evelyn Waugh novel, or a set piece for a Wes Andersen film. Everywhere, wealthy Indians frolicked, taking pleasure in what appeared to them to be something rather luxurious and exclusive.

Still desperately seeking a wireless connection for my laptop, we finally found the library (another very dusty vestige of colonialism past, with a strange and seemingly random selection of portraits including Gandhi and President Eisenhower) and the adjacent “cyber center,” a row of three carrels with computer monitors of various ages and degrees of clarity. Only two of the three machines work. I was able to log on long enough to see that no one had sent me email, and then the connection, already slow, went bust. I was told I could not connect my laptop, because all three computers shared one wired connection, which could not be interrupted (I was later told that I could plug my laptop into the broken computer’s connection). I didn’t have my power cord and the internet was dead anyway, so I didn’t bother to try. We decided to go back to our room, consult our guide book for some alternative lodging for the next five days, and come back to try the internet again. We did this, and I made a list of five hotels that seemed promising; shockingly, the five star hotels in Delhi would cost, according to the guidebook, between $300-400 per night. We stopped into the café for a cup of tea; my mom wanted bottled water but didn’t trust that it was safe, so purchased it and didn’t drink it. I had two cups of intensely strong Assam tea with sugar, and began to feel a concern-inducing nausea, probably due to the fact that my stomach contained nothing but Advil Cold & Sinus and now some very strong tea. Espresso here costs INR 16, about a 1:1,000 ratio to the cost of a night at a four-star hotel. The observer in me could not stop marveling over this ratio for the better part of an hour; the ratio in the US is probably closer to 1:10 or 20, depending on the city. Either hotels are shockingly overpriced, or coffee is absurdly cheap, and, espresso beans not being native to India, I will propose that the oddity lies in the hotel prices.

We went back to the library and found the computers back online. A fifteen year old girl was working there on a school project, and while I looked at hotel websites, we started a conversation, and she made recommendations. Her family have a membership at the club, and she was surprised that the accommodations were not to our liking, but she also spoke near-impeccable English, did not wobble her head side to side, and answered each of our frank questions directly, something which no one in India had done thus far. My mother asked her about the extreme poverty and she immediately admitted that there is an extreme amount of corruption in the government. She told us about her school and her upcoming board exams, and also explained that the Gymkhana club was actually quite posh, although the members tend toward the geriatric. While I continued to try and find an affordable (less than $300 per night) five-star hotel near our conference center that wasn’t fully booked (it is, apparently, high season), she took my mom to see the health club. When she came back, my research was done, and she disappeared to play with her cousins and my mom and I went back to our room to take a nap before dinner, since it was only seven o’clock, and the dining room wouldn’t open until eight. We crashed immediately and I woke up at nine, and repeated “Mom—mom—mom!” again and again until she finally opened our eyes. I was shaking with cold. We put on our jackets and ran through the cold (but still stiflingly dusty) air to the dining room.

We had both forgotten our glasses, and my mother approached the menu with more than her usual trepidations. I looked at what other people were eating. She ordered minestrone soup; I ordered Shasi Paneer (cubed of cheese in hot tomato sauce; I’d had it with spinach rather than tomato in various Indian restaurants in New York and always liked it), Dal (a boiled lentil concoction), rice, and a Nan (a toasty, chewy flat bread). The menu did offer continental food, but I though it was a better choice to eat Indian in India, for both quality and health reasons (the dishes I chose would have been boiled for ages, such that no bacteria could have survived). We declined an offer of water, and instead ordered hot tea with our meal, receiving a poorly-masked odd look from our waiter. As I would have expected, mom’s soup was dreadful and she only ate a few spoons and a tiny dinner roll that accompanied it. The Paneer and Dal were decent, neither better nor worse than Indian food I’d had in New York, but the Nan was absolutely delightful and the tea was strong. We ate mostly in silence, still half asleep. I ate more than mom, who found the food too spicy. The bill came, after conversion, to three or four dollars.

Instead of going directly back to our room, we stopped at the bar, which was now choked with laughing people and cigarette smoke, to try and procure tonic water. This, I have discovered, is refrigerated and packaged, and the safest way to remain hydrated in this country (tea, coffee, and alcoholic drinks are all dehydrating, though safe as well). I bought two bottles and we retired out of the bar to one of the fireplaces to drink them. Eventually, I left to find a bathroom (no digestive discomfort yet, I’m happy to report), and when I came back with another two tonics, my mother had been joined by a man in early middle age who, it turns out, though of Indian heritage, was raised between Canada and Ireland, and was staying with his father at the club for a two week holiday, thanks to knowing a friend of a friend of a member. They, too, spoke highly of the club, and recommended against our leaving for a hotel. They told us that we were in one of the safest, cleanest spots in Delhi, and had the added benefit of being somewhere where we would be able to meet and talk to local people. They also told us that the staff here would be much more helpful than in a hotel. This all seems suspicious and distressing if true, but we are holding fast to our plans to spend tomorrow with a driver, visiting four hotels and asking to see rooms and facilities before we decide what to do about lodgings. I continue to believe that there is simply a dramatic cultural difference in expectations and standards between Americans and Indians (there’s even a dramatic difference of such between the US and Europe, so why wouldn’t that difference be more marked in India), and said, to my mom, as we walked back to our room and she asked what I though about everything we had been told, “different strokes for different folks.” The concierge, for example, had laughed when we said that the beds were hard (when you sit on them, there is no give at all), and probably wouldn’t like a softer mattress. I have stayed in equally uncomfortable accommodations (a hut in Costa Rica that was completely pervious to insects of all kinds, for example), and so the convenience of already being here, when augmented by the surreal crumbling colonial aesthetic might be enough to convince me to rough it here, without wifi and down bedding, except that I cannot help feeling extremely isolated. Perhaps living in Manhattan, where commerce and people and transport are steps away from one’s door, has spoiled me, but particularly when traveling, I prefer to stay somewhere central, surrounded by the city. Delhi is immense, but I have no concept of what it is, other than the airport and this isolated compound, and the view of the roadside between the two. One of the hotels we’ll see tomorrow is located in Connaught Place, a shopping district I am hoping will be more accessible. I need to be able to walk out of my hotel and walk around the city, exploring Delhi rather than these crumbling remains of domination and isolationism.

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