Monday, September 10, 2007

25 Hours & 25 Years Later

The plane from ABQ was only a half hour late taking off, and the one from Chicago was only an hour. But we had great tailwinds, so that the 15 hour flight was only 13 and a half.

It is more than bizarre to get on a plane in Chicago and get off in India. And it being a new 777 we each had a little screen in front of us. Which, since all the movies, etc., were completely awful, I kept tuned into the little flight map. So as the hours dragged by, I saw us go across Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, Moscow, the Aral Sea, Uzbekistan and Kabul. We were seated in the middle of the giant wing, so I didn't actually get to SEE any of that...

And we also went across 12 time zones, so that we landed, pretty much zonked out, at around 8 pm Delhi time.

Things had improved a bit in the 25 years since I had last been here. There was now A/C at the baggage carousel. Customs gave us a perfunctory wave through. And I don't know whtether it was because it was Sunday night, but hardly anyone bothered us once we got out of the terminal.

It was about 22 km to our hotel, and most of it was through the leafy, not too bad avenues of New Delhi. Then all of a sudden it became Old Delhi, with the garbage and the crappy old buildings. The guy found our hotel, they actually had a room, and the room was surprisingly pretty good: A/C, marble floor, clean bed, tv with 86 channels, water that became pretty warm after only a few minutes. We took a whole lot of melatonin, etc., and totally zonked out.

Monday morning we awoke bright and early and had a kind of cute breakfast buffet. Then we set off to reconnoiteur Delhi.

At 9:30 the streets weren't too crowded and the weather wasn't too dreadful. Just to acclimate, we walked the mile and a half through the grungy tourist hotel area to Connaught Place, the circular 'downtown' of New Delhi.

Since it had always been the most 'modern' shopping area 30 years ago, I expected it to be at least modestly upscale now. Uh uh. In fact, in certain ways it was now less so. I assume that that's because all the action has moved out to the suburbs...

Anyway, once we had walked around and found the McDonald's (mostly vegetarian) and the Pizza Hut, it was now about noon and getting very hot and humid. So we hopped on the brand new subway and went a few stops up to downtown Old Delhi.

Which was hot and humid and also not as interesting as I had remembered. Something about them curring down on the number of bullock carts allowed within the city. And not only that, but the Red Fort, Delhi's main tourist attraction, was closed today.

So we got an autorickshaw and went out to Shaktinagar, an area of Delhi where I had stayed at my guru's ashram way back in 1970. Now after he had 'left the physical plane' in 1974 his assistant had 'assigned' the guruship to someone who really didn't seem to fit the part (although Shania Twain is a dixciple). Anyway, it appears like he's dead now, since there was a billboard outside with some younger guy's face on it.

And I don't know where he is right now, but the ashram itself was virtually deserted, with just a few old guys in torn t-shirts lounging around. I know that you can't go home again, but this was ridiculous.

So we took another autorickshaw back to the train station, where I booked a couple of tickets to Shimla for 6 am tomorrow morning.

And then back to the hotel, and early to sleep.


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