Tea at the Imperial Hotel Delhi

Monday 3 o'clock in the afternoon in central Delhi, 9:30 AM Monday morning back home. We are perched in the tea room of one of the smartest hotels in Delhi. A tiny bit of equilibrium is just nudging me around the edges. Out there on the dusty, car beeping six lane road, ( lanes are inappropriate, it's just the wacky races), seven-year-olds are selling balloons and roses, beggars hold up their hands on the car windows and whole families to go by on mopeds. But in here there is the sound of silver spoons tinkling versus trickling fountains and somewhere down a cool marbled corridor the Blue Danube is playing. Lemon grass and masala teas are served by a waiter from Passage To India.

So why am I reeling? I knew coming here was going to be a culture shock. But I had to get here to feel it. Smell the pollution, see the child vendors dodging traffic, spot the woman in orange tearing up plastic with her teeth to add to her plastic roadside home. ( Inside the Imperial Hotel lemony aromas waft from my teacup and three tiers of cakes have arrived. ) I knew about the inequality and poverty here, but a lungful of sewage laden air, a blast of noise and acres of dereliction teeming with homeless people have brought me up short. I'm wondering how long I would last out here- would I get involved in changing the place or grow a pair of stony blind eyes. It would be impossible to be neutral.

Back to the tea and cakes. I've been in the Imperial Hotel for about an hour , Paul is tapping away and reading up on some philosophy. We've managed to find our B&B, get just enough sleep, worked out the ATMs, bought a cheap phone and SIM card, had a row, made up after the row, been whizzed along in a couple of auto rickshaws, breathed in a hot wedge of pollution, been brushed by twinkly sarees and crowds of teens in tight jeans , rhinestones and heels worthy of Liverpool , gazed at packs of starved street dogs, stepped over sleeping bodies(?), fled from touts, shoe shiners, agents, chatty young men and so so helpful gents……

Tomorrow we leave Delhi. Mr Jeet , a twenty nine year old Sikh and fixer of all things, has bought us tickets for the next journey to Agra.

 

Author: Ellen Watson

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