Waking up in the morning and catching an early flight to Delhi is stressful enough. That too, to meet a person whom you have never met is almost terrifying with the weight of expectations, how much ever you try to control them. But I wasn’t really terrified - I was happy and excited with Madonna giving me brilliant company through the trip and FaceBook threads giving me enough entertainment as a distraction.
When I got down at the Terminal 1 of the Delhi airport, it was cold and overcast. I had to find a way to get to the new Terminal 3 (T3) - I found a free inter-terminal GVM bus which was rather convenient. At T3, however, as the time of arrival of my friend’s flight drew nearer, it started raining, it got really cold, and my anxiety was almost unbearable. His flight was slightly delayed and it took some time for him to clear immigration and get out. He couldn’t find me initially - and was wandering around the couple of exists for a few minutes until I saw him.
I called out for him and he turned around and we walked toward each other. He looked even more beautiful than I had expected him to be. He came over and we hugged each other. It was a surreal experience to have met someone so special within 7 weeks of meeting each other online. We took a cab to the hotel in the cold, rainy weather. Incredibly enough, the road leading from the airport to the city was lined by various things under construction and the rain made everything blur into a muddy mess.
However, the conversation was easy and smooth I felt at ease with his company. Our senses of humor were complementary – that is why we got interested in each other in the first place – and it was obvious that we made an excellent pair intellectually. And he was crazy and eccentric – just like the clown that I had grown used to on Skype.
For some reason or the other, the cab driver took us through one of the less beautiful roads of Delhi to the dirty Pahar Ganj area, a hub for cheap hotels. We were expecting the worst when the cabbie rode up a filthy side lane into a the Arakasan road leading up to our hotel. Our hotel looked a tad better than the rest of the other neighboring hotels and we were ushered into our “Premium” room. Despite it being late in the morning, we decided to have some breakfast and ordered in the complimentary breakfast.
After resting for an hour or so, we planned to head out to the streets. The room-boys told us that it was raining heavily outside – but we didn’t want to get stuck indoors. We took an autorickshaw to Connaught Place to check out the various state emporiums and showrooms of handicrafts along the Baba Kharak Singh Marg (NH8) and picked up a couple of umbrellas from a shop.
Connaught place was an incredible mess, with the rain spoiling everything. We took some time to find out an ATM and a currency exchange vendor before having a cup of average coffee at the Madras Coffee House at P-block. We asked around for Baba Kharak Sing Marg but we got confusing responses from the people that we asked. Finally, a boy pointed us out the right way.
We went and visited almost all the emporiums on the road. He wanted to take a look at silk scarves, bracelets, necklaces etc to see if he could make a reasonable wholesale purchase. It was incredible the way he interacted with the vendors. Cracking jokes, making them smile, and making them extremely friendly! They all loved him and he loved charming them! Although we didn’t buy anything, he got an idea about the various options that he had in Delhi (as compared to the open markets in Thailand, Bali, and Burma).
We then took the Metro from Rajiv Chowk to INA and went to Delhi Haat. By this time the weather had cleared up and it was a little warmer. Although we were greeted by a message at the ticket counter that some of the stalls are closed because allotment of stalls was taking place on that day, we weren’t all that disappointed. We walked in and found an incredible array of stalls featuring products such as silk scarves, pashminas, rugs, jewlery, paintings, paper work, puppets and more. There were some food stalls too – I took him to the Kerala Tourism Development’s stall where we had appam (which is apparently called “huppers” in Sri Lanka) and vegetable stew.
We bought a few scarves at a reasonable price and also bought a couple of hanging puppets for decorating his tents – he resells all these scarves/jewelry items in the US after setting up tents at various institutions, schools etc. We then took the train back to the New Delhi where we had to wait for half an hour to get platform tickets to cross to the other side of the station where our hotel was. That was the really annoying part of the entire trip.
After reaching back the hotel all exhausted, we relaxed for a bit before taking a shower and then venturing out for dinner. The most ironic thing is that there were hardly any good restaurants in Pahar Ganj where one can have a decent dinner with drinks. We found a recently opened restro bar called Delhi Den where we had a cocktail and tandoori chicken along with rotis and palak paneer. The food was delicious – that’s Delhi’s asset, the quality of the restaurants. And we called it a night after that.
I must confess that all through the day, I felt the most at ease that I had felt with anyone that I had met in a long time. It was almost as if we had known each other for years. That concludes day one of our adventure in Delhi.