Delhi in Hindsight

Our tour of Delhi was good as far as tours go.  Most of what we saw you can see in any guide book, so I won’t bore you with the details of the mosques, temples, and memorials we visited.  Our main challenge was to make it through the tour without dozing off.  The eleven and a half hour time zone difference and twenty-three hours of travel was laying heavy on our enthusiasm.  I, on the other hand, kept worrying about where I was going to find the next restroom.  Even having limited myself to one cup of coffee wasn’t enough to give me comfort for long, and Delhi is not long on public toilet facilities.

I think the highlight was our bicycle rickshaw ride through the rat maze of old Delhi.  I’ll try to include some pics, because words can’t do it justice.  Much has been made of the poverty and beggars of India, and we did see and experience both, but it wasn’t nearly as pervasive as I’d thought.  The little kids did rip your heart out though.  They were cute, clever, persistent, polite, sometimes humorous, and probably needy.   Our guide, Sunny, had warned us off making random donations.
I’d told Sunny early on that I had to be back at the hotel by 3:00 for a meeting, and he was clearly a little miffed.  Guides world wide, at least the good ones, have their own agenda of what they think you need to see, and if you don’t want to see or don’t want to take the time, they get a little insulted and sulk.  We saved the day by telling Sunny that we’d be back in Delhi for another couple of days at the end of our trip.  That seemed to satisfy him.
At three I met Anil A. for coffee and experienced one of the new generation of Indian entrepreneurs.  He was amazing.  He started out as a barman in the Taj Hotel at seventeen.  Through family connections, he wound up selling shoe uppers to manufacturers in Moscow, then electronic components, then color picture tubes from South Korea to the Europeans.  Now he’s in real estate, oil and gas and technology having founded one of the hot Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies in Delhi.  High growth rate and high margins are a great combination.  He and a partner have also bought a UK shoe company and will be opening a retail outlet in Victory Plaza in Dallas.  Go figure.
We’re off to Agra now.  More later.

Voila…We Made It

I’m now sitting in the Deco Suite of the Imperial Hotel New Delhi signed on to their wireless network as if I were anywhere in the world.  But I’m not.  I’m in Delhi, India.  4028 miles from Paris, and approximately 9012 miles and several civilizations away from Lyday Farms, Honey Grove, Texas.

As you might imagine, it’s already Monday here while it’s still yesterday there.  Hmmm.  As much as I’ve traveled over the years, I still can’t quite get my mind around the concept of it being a different day in a different geography.  As I’m typing this, I’m looking out the window of the hotel room at a fairly grey sunrise, but into the midst of a tranquil art deco garden with influences of the Raj and the mugal empires, and then I notice a male peacock calmly strutting by oblivious to all.
S. is still resting as we didn’t arrive here and get settled in our room until about 1:00 am.  We both indulged in little yellow pills thinking that we’d need them for any sleep at all.  But the twenty-four hours of non-stop travel had worked it’s toll, and I suspect we could have slept with no artificial aid.
We’re scheduled for a guide/driver led tour of the high spots of Delhi today and I’m having drinks with the founder of a call center company here this afternoon before we move on to Agra tomorrow.  We’re hoping for a fairly relaxing day.
Just a note on the cultural differences that we anticipated but didn’t fully appreciate.  In arranging for a meeting with the founder of the company, I had talked to his assisstant in the US before leaving.  He mentioned that he’d like to have someone meet us at the airport to help with “arrangements”.  I thanked him saying that we were already well taken care of through the service that arranged our tour.  However, as we stepped out of the jetway, there was a young man holding a sign with our names on it.  I was momentarily confused, but he grabbed our hand baggage while introducing himself as a representative of iIntelligence….the company I was going to meet with later in the trip.  He took off at a near trot, brushing aside the mass of humanity moving towards gigantic queues in the immigration hall, and went to a small desk at the end of the hall marked “handlers”.  We were whisked through by the immigration official before we had collected our wits and were onward to baggage claim.
Miracle of miracles, our luggage all made it in a fraction of the time that it would take at DFW and we were now led by our “handler” who had been joined by a colleague towards the parking facility.  I hesitated and said we were being met by our service and needed to look for them.  Handler man said, “no Mr. Gary, we have official car for you,” and thrust a cell phone into my hand.  The chap on the line was a higher level assisstant of Mr. Anil A., of iIntelligence welcoming me to Delhi and explaining that their “official car” was ready to meet my every need.  I explained we were being met by a prearranged service, and said, “ok, my people will stay with you until you are situated.”
After some confusion finding my service, and more than a little pressure to take their “official car” a polite tug of war ensued over taking care of us.  We finally wound up in the hands of the agents of our travel service and had an uneventful trip to the hotel, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the two “handlers” from iIntelligence following us to the hotel.
It’s time to try to rouse S. and our first Indian breakfast.

New Delhi at First Blush

I found my way to the breakfast facility without difficulty with the Delhi Times and guide book in hand, thinking to get the lay of the land while S. had a continental breakfast in the room.  That’s just one of the small ways we accommodate one another while traveling.  The waiters were all in turbans and uniforms of the Raj and women in saris gave me the sense of being somewhere different.  The buffet did not.  Pretty standard stuff, but well done and extraordinary service in a lovely setting.

As I was cutting into my two over easy I saw Ron Gidwitz from Chicago who had recently run and lost for the governorship of Illinois.  I’ve known Ron from our joint service on the Board of Governors of Boys and Girls Club of America.  He’s recently retired as CEO of Estee Lauder and has become more and more politically active.  His wife is the heir to one of the largest insurance empires in America….and a quite nice guy to boot.  He joined me for a cup of tea and to exchange thoughts on India.  He was at the end of a trip through Dubai (ostentatious in the extreme with no cultural foundation), Mumbai (where he had business contacts from the old days), Ranthambore (saw no tigers), Agra, Jaipur, and Udaipur.  Pretty much our same itenerary.  He said Jaipur and Udaipur were the highlights.  I asked if they could join us for dinner tonight, but he had to decline as they were already committed to a private dinner with the Minister Of Energy whom he had known for many years.  We agreed to meet for breakfast tomorrow before they left for London.  As I was in mid-conversation with Ron, I was tapped on the shoulder by Bill and Susan Montgomery from Dallas.  Small world, what…..we’re meeting them for drinks tonight.
More later…..of on our first tour of the trip.
OK, I know they speak English as well as twelve other official languages and forty-seven dialects, but I’ll be damned if I can understand them.  Case in point.  Last night, or yesterday, or whenever it was as we were crossing continents and time zones, I got up to stretch my legs after having cat napped for too long.  I asked one of the stewards (more in an effort to speak to someone than for information), What’s our ETA?”  Those of you in the know will know that I meant estimated time of arrival.  He replied, “at 7:00 or in about forty minutes.”  I thought how great, we’ll be early and we’ll have more time to make our connection, and said, “we must have had some great tail winds.” and went back to my seat to put my stuff together to deboard.  I thought it odd that we didn’t seem to be descending until about five minutes after they started serving breakfast.  Then it dawned on me, he thought I’d asked, “what time do we EAT?”   ETA,  EAT not a lot of difference, but pretty important if communication is the goal.  And he was French.  It’s only worse here where it sounds like they’re speaking english, but you can only understand every fifth word, and then out of context….Maybe our ears will adjust.