My recent Trip to Delhi

by Ashwin Batish

I was in India a few months ago. Well, in May to be exact. I wanted to check out the local scene in Delhi. Visit some of the record shops and music stores and try make some connections for importing of Indian musical instruments. That was the plan but boy was it the wrong time to visit India.

Now I should have known about this. But I haven't been back for almost 25 years and this was a short 15 day trip and I figured it would not be so bad. Well the first shock I received was the swealtering heat! It was sizzling. I cannot imagine if I've ever been in this sort of weather before.

I remember arriving at Delhi airport. The customs people were real good considering I had heard all the nasty horror stories by some friends that travel regularly to India. I was expecting a full search and opening of my bags etc. None of this happened. They simply asked if I had anything to declare, I said yes and I showed them my TR-700 camcorder. They tagged it in my passport and that was it. They guys were actually really friendly and intrigued that I hadn't been back for such a long time. They welcomed me with a smile and wished me a good time in Delhi.

The airport was air-conditioned! So, I felt pretty good and I was ready to go meet my aunt and uncle who were coming to pick us up. Oh, did I forget to mention this? My mom was with me. So we both collected our stuff. A coolie came and helped us with a cart to pile the luggage on to, and we all headed out to the front exit.

This is where the fun began. As we vertured outwards, a gust of hot dusty breeze blew right into my face and I knew I had arrived onto my homeland. That special smell of Delhi that I had been carrying with me for over 25 years seem to confirm in my mind that it hadn't changed that much. It's a hard smell to describe. The closest I can come to it is that it had a mixture of car fumes, humans, luggage, cattle, and some food smells. But that could have been just my nose and pallette trying to anticipate what was to come.

I eagerly started to look for my relatives. Surely it would only be a matter of seconds and they would shout my name and we'd be reminiscing about old times. I was about 8 when I had last seen them.

We were outside the airport. We paid the coolie a few dollars for his help. The guy was ecstatic. I realised then I had tipped him according to American standard and to him it was a mini fortune. A dollar was equal to 40 rupees! Well, I had just made a friend! He said he'd wait till our family members arrived and help us load the stuff into the car.

It was then that I started to notice my surroundings. The weather was really hot. It was about 1 a.m. The night was very dark. The thing that quickly became apparent was that whereever I looked I saw some one staring at me! I shrugged the feeling away. A few seconds latter, I purposely looked up towards the crowd just ahead of me across form a rope barrier. There must have been about 200 people standing there. Perhaps waiting for their near and dear ones to arrive. But all I saw was their steely gaze looking at us. It was a bit disconcerting at first. Then, I relaxed as I felt [erhaps my relatives were part of the group. So I tried to eye the people myself in the hopes of finding a familiar face. After about 10 minutes of looking I gor\t really tired. I looked at my mother and declared, "I don't see them!" "Oh oh! " she exclaimed. "I wonder what could have happened. Maybe they got lost, or had car trouble or worse, I hope your uncle's high blood pressure is under control". That brought some chills down my spine.

It was about 1:30 a.m. I was starting to feel the heat dry my eyes and my shirt was showing signs of sweat. I looked at mom and said "we've got to do something instead of just standing here" she agreed as she started looking for a phone number in her purse. I saw a few dollars flash as things went churning around her fingers as her hand moved with desperate strokes.

Why is it that such a friendly pouch of worldly goodies that must carry some of the world's most precious cargo, that all moms love to tag along on their shoulder, turn into a garbage bag carrying a maze of in-coherent never before seen junk. The one thing that you really really need is no where to be found? Yes it becomes a mystery spot and mom was digging in deep. "It has to be here" she excliamed as I heard her mumble something colorful.

Now she was getting tired. Her bad knee was starting to act up. Although I think it was hurting all the while even in the plane. The journey was very long and her legs have a tendency to swell due to inactivity.

"I have to sit down somewhere" she said. I saw the tired look in her eyes. I quickly proceeded to talk to my coolie friend in Hindi. He showed dismay over mom's agony but said there is no place really to sit around here and we couldn't go back inside the terminal. So it is that I noticed this guy in what looked like a phone booth. He must have been sitting there watching us all this time. He was only about 20 feet away. I walked up to him and requested if I could borrow his chair for a few minutes. He got up and quickly offered it to me. I thanked him profusely and hurried over to mom.

more next time :)

Ashwin Batish

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