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Delhi's development and amusing culture to a Nairobian (Part II)


Gurgaon, New Delhi
This bit has been written months after the former bit. Sadly,  I have little medium and long term memory,  the omissions may be glaring. It is continued from part I

We got to Delhi at almost 2 AM in the thick of the night. Delhi is an expansive city, with lighting on and off,  a greater part of the city is illuminated,  and the main roads around the city can be mapped from the air. There’s also a good part of the city that remains unlit.

Indira Gandhi Airport itself could do with better lighting especially on the apron side (where planes are parked). There’s just barely enough light here. The airport here is quite large - Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is one of the smallest,  actually,  the smallest country airport I have been through.

At the airport,  a guard did stop our troupe of 5 black people,  inspected our tickets,  and our yellow fever booklets,  before letting us through. He did not bother inspecting any other person’s tickets or anything.

Walking out of the airport,  one can’t help noticing the hazy smoke that lazily hangs about the air,  prominent around lights. A glance at my phone showed that weather forecasts for a number of days would be haze. A further Google search showed that hazy weather was not peculiar, or anything in Delhi.

Been 4 AM,  traffic on the road was pretty moderate, with lots of multi-colour trucks. They reminded me of the images I had seen of Afghanistan, where the same multi-coloured and riveted trucks dominated.. Also, more than every other truck was a Tata.  The driving, even with the fewer vehicles on the road, was punctuated by hooting here and there, and an illegal (are common place things illegal?) here and there.

We did get to our hotel,  and turn in for our much needed sleep.

Part of Delhi's elevated Metro
I was to be woken up at 10:30 AM the next morning,  by the lady who wanted to clean up my room. The timing was perfect enough to make sure that I was hungry,  but breakfast was not available.

It would be a gruelling eternity before we sorted ourselves to go out for lunch. Given that we were staying in the diplomatic area,  a leafy suburb,  the view out of my permanently shut window was of trees,  and a few apartments.

My fellow travellers had a better view. From one of their rooms,  I could spot the elevated New Delhi metro, whose track is on a raised platform, with a train passing by above the trees every 15 or 30 minutes,  I couldn’t have been sure. Other than the metros, and the clear,  grey (yes,  not blue),  skies,  there was nothing much till lunch time.

The leafy diplomatic zone suburb with the metro in the background
About 1400 hrs, when I was almost dying of hunger(well,  very hungry), we decided to go look for lunch, and some shopping. We walked out into what felt like an oven - I never thought that temperatures anywhere in the world would be anywhere around 40, outside a desert!

And I found the temperatures a little bit too uncomfortable,  21 million New Delhi residents seemed to find them inhabitable. I was also told that temperatures can go all the way below 10 degrees, to about 5 degrees. The temperature difference is more than what Nairobi records as its highest temperature in an year.

The yellow cabs were fairly affordable (unfortunately,  I can’t remember the price,  but should have been below Ksh. 1,000 for 4 of us.) The cabs were air conditioned, of course. Now, one major problem here was that though English is an official language, most blue collar people seemed to have a hard time understanding our English. This included some of the cab drivers.

Cabbie Auto suggest

One thing though,  the drivers come with auto-suggest - a feature where the driver suggests that you visit a different place instead. The cabbie promised us that Khan market was unnecessarily exorbitant,  and he knew a better place. I convinced my friends that we try his suggestion.

He drove us to some market that was under a road,  sort of like the flyover at Globe,  but with a market under the elevated section of the road. Here they sold jewellery, and textiles including saris and suits. The prices were out of this world. Of course,  from each successful sale, the cabbies would get their cut. The cabbie had even upsold the tailors here, telling us that we could have executive suits measured,  tailored and delivered to the hotel!

Saris in one of the shops at Khan Market
We decided to proceed to Khan market, our original destination. Khan Market,  more than 50 years old,  is a collection of 2 floor buildings that hold a variety of  stores, from ATMS (you can withdraw with Visa/MasterCard), textile shops,  jewellery shops to electronic shops and eateries.

Been the hungry men we were,  we delved into an Italian eatery,  Amici. The menu looked reasonable, cheaper than you would fork in say,  Pizza Inn or Steers. It however bugged us,  why the waiters kept giving us higher food prices than was listed in the menu.

My friends ordered the fries, salads, while,  after a long,  unmanly, thought process,  I settled on one of the pizzas. The pizzas turned out to be heavenly,  being wood-oven baked. While the place had Wifi connectivity, this did not work. You should have seen how silence came over the six of us as we each fetched our smartphones and proceeded to bend our heads in worship of our mighty devices. On discovery of no WiFi, in succession, the phones returned to our pockets and chatter to our table.

More of the elevated metro with a station
What looks like the dominant brand of water here is Tata water, which comes in pink labelled bottles,  and is slightly salty!

The Tax Shock

The bill was brought shortly after our meal, and together with it, a bout of silence. It is then we realised why the waiters kept giving higher prices than was in the menu. Service charges and taxes increased the bill by about 30 percent,  or simply put,  for every Ksh. 1,000 we thought we had spent,  we had actually spent KSh 1,300. With a bill of about 2,300 without taxes,  our total bill came to more than Ksh. 3,000! Luckily,  we were in a better position to stomach the shock.

Folded side mirrors as seen in a select sample of Delhi drivers
We then proceeded to go shopping, where luckily, the taxes were factored in final prices. Earrings started at Ksh. 200,  while one could get saris at between Ksh. 500 and Ksh. 1,000 depending on bargaining power. There’s also silk scarves and silver and gold jewellery. Again,  in some shops,the attendants couldn’t speak English, and we had to deal with the shop owner.

Shopping - Khan Market 

Surprisingly, while Wikipedia says Khan market is the most expensive market in New Delhi,  we found it to be quite affordable, and even a bargain,  by Nairobi standards.

Electronic heaven at Khan Market
For electronics, there was a shop that stocks stereo systems, sound systems and headphones and earphones. Brands here range from House of Marley, to JBL and its high end sister brand, Harman Kardon to Sennheiser. The shop also stocks smartphones including Micromax and Karbon,  which are homemade Indian brands rivalling Samsung. You can also get Nokia Lumias here. Electronics and some other items are required by law to have a price sticker showing that maximum retail price (MRP), though you can negotiate lower,  but can’t get cheated! I did end up buying a pair of Sennheiser earphones.

Also, at a stall around Khan market,  one could change their dollars into rupees. The rates weren’t far off. They also offered SIM cards,  but you need to register for this and it takes something like 19 hours or so to have them activated after registration. The lats it stopped us from buying the SIM cards.

More of the sound store
We then returned to our hotel - this time,  we took tuktuks. Luckily,  we were in an area which did not have heavy in traffic,  so no weaving in and out. If my mind doesn’t fail me, they should have cost us less than Ksh. 200 each.

An interesting thing we observed in traffic,  we noticed that a good number of drivers drove with one, or both of their side mirrors folded. The driving was punctuated by hooting here and there, and occasional angry shouts and throwing of hands. From my observation,  it seems that this the hooting and shouting were really unnecessary, more of something that people had come to see as part of driving.

Later that evening,  we ventured out in search of a club. We were lucky that one of my fellow travellers,  knew some Indian, who happened to be in Delhi and in a club. We were later to learn that clubbing in this city is difficult - you have to have a lady with you (some clubs say married), and have to make reservations.


Being a Wednesday, there were even fewer clubs that had some action. Thanks to our host, we were able to go to the Turquoise Cottage(TC) in Adichini, New Delhi. It was a smoky place, lots of cigarette smoke, and with lots of people  - but not crowded in the manner Nairobians love their clubs.
On the wall,  was a board which was written in coloured chalk,  that's was somehow luminous in the low light. The board showed each days special,  and listed the club’s BlackBerry PIN(BlackBerry is a defunct, early smartphone which appeared years before the iPhone, and used its own software also known as BlackBerry). Apparently, once could make reservations via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

Indian beer is pale of look, taste and alcohol content - though they
do have double strength beers
Indian beer is a pale ale, very light of taste. We drank Kingfisher Premium, which claimed to be somewhere between 3 and 5 percent. It also came as keg at TC,  and was sold in pitchers. We emptied pitcher after pitcher, but our sobriety prevailed. We even ran out of cash,  (we hadn’t carried much), but I assured guys that I would take care of that,  thanks to my debit card(of course this was to repaid once we got to JKIA).

Again, in addition to our premium priced drinks, were taxes in the order of 30 percent. Our only saviour here was that it was a buy-one-get-one-free. Our bill of 5,060 rupees for 6 pitchers of alcohol-less beer and 4 tots of red label (the price of each drink can be arrived at by the equation 6X + 4Y  - there’s a real life opportunity to use algebra,  you can now stop complaining you never get to use it. ). Yes,  our 5060 rupees bill was reduced to 2030 rupees 5060 rupees is a sober Ksh. 7,045 amongst 5 of us

I love infrastructure, which we lack for in here
Surprisingly,  for no additional cost - the taxis driver had waited for us through the night,  as we attempted to drink ourselves silly,  only to walk out sober. The prospect of each extra coin must be quite important to the old man.

Our press event was the following day at our hotel, in a chilling room a 18 degrees celsius, where we spent most of our day.

That night, a cocktail in a green,  well manicured lawn(cliche!) rewarded our efforts. What was shocking was at 9 pm,  temperatures were still above 30 degrees centigrade. The whole of 2013, I only remember two days when Nairobi was either 30 or 31 degrees celsius in temperature, no more. Delhi appeared not to put up a sweat achieving such temperatures. They even kept spraying water from the verandah ceiling to cool us down.

The beers were light. An Italian took the liberty to introduce me to the beers of Perroni. There were also a bunch of Indian journalists, who actually write in their mother tongue for their local papers!

The bus's content were clearly labelled, in case we got
lost, or presented strange habits
The following day saw us get onto a humongous and rare Volvo bus - probably an executive tourist kind,  to travel across the city for a show. The bus, being Swedish (Volvo cars are now Chinese after a short stint of them being US) seemed quite expensive. Delhi has few European cars or foreign makes, probably due to taxes. There are lots of Jaguars,  but Jaguar LandRover is owned by Indian Tata.

Traffic across the city did move, with few traffic stops, and a longer stop at the traffic in a toll station that had 20 or so stations, but it was better than Mombasa Road or City Centre traffic on  Friday at 5 pm.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Meena

The trip took us to an Indian theme park,  the Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon, designed in the form of a temple. Here, we were ushered into a Bollywood musical,  Jhumroo, which is an exceptional experience. It is like a real life movie, with real life street scenes,  and a “car” that was a wire frame. The car would drive around as projectors cast scenery of moving streets in the background.

The story here was about Meena, and the underdog who was trying to woo Meena. A sub plot revolved around Maruti Suzuki’s  India’s Got Talent, complete with a controversial judge. For a stage prop,  there was a real Maruti Suzuki moped!  

Entrance to the Kingdom of Dreams
Well, they did not allow photography,  and there were lots of ladies whose job was to make sure that we did not take photos, despite the insistence of some Spanish(this is just a guess) journalist seated in front of me to take photos with is camera - he was one of those guys who pretend to be the best,  but you can tell are arsehole (despite most people not doing so).

After the play,  the exit was through sort of theme shop, with a fake sky (reminiscent of one in Jo’burg at MonteCasino).

Reverse bungee jumping? No thanks, we will stick with our lions
Outside,  was reverse bungee jumping. They put you in some contraption, and it is spring vaulted into the sky,  and it bounces between 2 poles. Not stuff for Africans, we’ll stick to the familiar lions.

From the Kingdom of Dreams, our long bus drove us to a mall in Gurgaon (same district as Kingdom of Dreams) - The mall, Ambience Mall, is a large affluent,  air conditioned mall. In the mall,  were lots of top and designer outlets, including large retail stores.

On one side, Reliance, a supermarket much in the line of Nakumatt occupied three floors. This is also from the same family that owns Reliance Metro (train),  though the businesses are owned between the two brothers,  who it s said don’t see face to face. Like the two businesses here are each owned by the two brothers.

Again, the metro, with a view of how it approaches the station in
the background
The mall itself was a disappointing experience for me,  nothing much to be done here - Khan Market was quite the place.

We left for the hotel. Our flight back was 4 AM,  meaning we had to be at the airport at 2 AM. due to difficulty communicating (calling was expensive), my pals went on to leave me in the hotel as they went to a pub,  which I understand was below expectations. Attempts at finding one myself were futile - one had to make a reservation,  and besides that,  one had to be a couple.

The Return Flight

The flight off Indira Gandhi Airport was delayed for almost half an hour to an hour as we waited for one person. The delay meant that we missed our morning landing spot in Doha,  which saw us do some circling around the city was we waited for a landing spot.

By the time we landed, our Nairobi flight was boarding! The Qatar Airways staff were quite helpful,  and they do have express security counters for those one a short connecting flight.

Public transport in Delhi
This time round, we saved 30 minutes by taking a shorter route(allegedly through Somalia,  rather than a rounder route through Ethiopia). The landing descent was a steep one though, with the notion of a free fall - it felt as if the plane was literally dropping out of the sky.

Inside the Kingdom of Dreams shopping areas, note the interior fake
sky, which will trick you to spend a whole day here,
with little sense of time

Our huge Swedish bus


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