Saturday, 21 January 2012

Daytime in Delhi

It's 2:17 p.m. in Delhi, which means it's about 1 a.m. in Canada and about 8 a.m. in London (I think!). The usual crazy traffic coming in from the airport, horns constant, no one in their lane, pedestrians rushing out to tap on windows for money or to sell something, military everywhere, ie. young men in uniforms every hundred feet or so on the middle boulevard, holding rifles, road work that looks like it will never end at the pace workers are tapping with pick-axes at giant chunks of concrete.

I'm sad to say that I got hoodwinked immediately, as soon as I stepped out of the airport to catch my cab. No real harm done, except it annoyed me. I'd been told to get a pre-paid taxi at the Delhi Traffic Police stands. That way you can avoid getting taken to someone's uncle's hotel, etc. No one warned me to watch out for the police. He told me it would be 320 rupees, so I gave him a 500 rupee note. Then he asked me how much luggage and how many traveling. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back he said,"That's 320 rupees" as if I hadn't understood the first time, then he handed me back a 100 rupee note. I said, "Oh what did I give you?" which of course was what he intended, that I would think I had made a mistake. I didn't clue in until I'd got in the taxi (with a very nice and honest driver). Argh! It kind of put me off my first experience of Delhi. You shouldn't annoy an Irish woman. She gets kind of testy. (but to put it in perspective, it was about an $8 rip-off)

And I hate to be the kind of tourist who is always thinking someone's trying to rip her off. Indian people are also very kind and have a gracious hospitality like nowhere I've ever been. Before this, I hadn't experienced the rip-off paranoia at all.  But it may be because I've been with locals, and also everyone says Bangalore is much more easygoing. So, I clearly need to pay more attention. The north is much more touristy than the south, so the fine art of the scam has obviously been perfected.

On the brighter side, my colleague, Divya, is from Delhi. She kindly lent me her India phone (which has come in handy a few times) and while I was in the taxi, the phone rang (to my surprise) and it was Divya's Delhi relative welcoming me and asking if everything was okay. He'll meet me tomorrow  before I go on my tour. Very nice to have a local contact.

I almost forgot to mention the Waterstones 11 event on Thursday night. That was the reason I interrupted the India trip to go to London. Shelter has been chosen as one of the best UK debut novels of 2012 by the Waterstones bookstore chain. We were under strict "embargo" until after the gala on Thursday night. During the day we went to a photo shoot of the eleven authors, then later to a reception at their flagship London store (4 levels, and a restaurant on the 5th) where the list was announced and wine and champagne flowed. This morning I picked up the Guardian in the airport. Leonard Cohen was on the front page and there was an affectionate three-page story about him and his new album. And on another page was the story about the list of Waterstones 11. I was honoured to have my name in the same newspaper as Leonard!

P.S The first person I met in this hotel is a woman from Kelowna who in a former Okanagan College instructor. Funny. She now lives in Saudi Arabia.

P.P.S I think that wireless will be harder to come by from now on, so the postings may be sparse for a bit.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Pressed the wrong button -- that's the reason for the deletion (hey, almost a poem!!)

  2. Well, Francie, even in Kelowna, one can experience that ripped-off/hoodwinked scenario :) & it's not the amount of money it's the whole immoral underpining of the event that pisses one off (even if he/she is not Irish). But glad you have a local contact -- hope the rest of your time in India is stellar. By the way, who was the former OC instructor you met? and last, but not least, congratulations on being one of the Waterstones 11!! -- and being in the same paper as Leonard!!! You rock, girl :)
    ~ Mary Ellen