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26 December 2007

TRAVEL TALES : Nightmare after Christmas in New Delhi

WINTER CAN be the nicest time of the year: peppy fashion goes in overdrive, hot food is good, and holiday décor is always cheerful to behold. Early yesterday morning, however, the joyfulness of winter was farthest from my mind.

'Twas the night (morning, actually) after Christmas in Gurgaon (outside New Delhi) . . . and I was preparing to travel back to Kolkata on a 6:00 AM flight. At the guest house I checked in, the water taps in the bathroom were defective—and I realized this only when the hot water I was showering with automatically transformed into the Arctic sea. At 4:15 AM. In the wee small hours of winter morning. Oh yes, ouch.

Bones and teeth rattling nonstop, I managed to dress up under two minutes—not because I was running after time, but because I was quickly petrifying from the cold. Moments later, at exactly 4:30 AM, I was at the foyer of the guest house, waiting for the rental car to pick me up for the airport. The warm woolen muffler tied around my neck pacified my rattling bones and teeth. I was eager to fly back home to Kolkata.

Except that the rental car never showed up. The driver, of course, was also missing in action—he wasn't picking up my frantic calls on his mobile phone.

So what's a man to do when he has a plane to catch and no time left in the wee small hours of a frozen winter morning? Walk to the highway and pray for a cab to show up. My sense of humor was quickly freezing with my patience. See, in Gurgaon, the most posh place in northern India, everyone owns and drives at least one car (read: no one needs cabs in this place). To top that, I wasn't sure how long I'd survive the five-degree temperature at the open highway.

After what seemed like eternity, I found a cab two kilometers away from the guest house. Never mind if its dusty seat dirtied my white jacket and trousers and made me look like a shivering refugee from the Cambodian war; I was just ecstatic to get my shaking bones and teeth out of the cold and zoom like crazy to the airport.

I reached my flight in the nick of time, and vowed to make the holiday season miserable for whoever was responsible for the cab not showing up. Fortunately for that person, I was too sleepy in the morning to exact any form of misery. Ah, the thought of my warm Kolkata bed still gives me bliss . . .

TRAVEL TALES : New Delhi's Connaught Place at night

Christmas at Connaught Place, New Delhi, India
Image source: Paul Ancheta

CONNAUGHT PLACE is the grand, sprawling traffic circle at the heart of New Delhi. On Christmas Day, it was a natural hub for Delhiites, with its park at the center and lofty colonnades housing some of the trendiest restaurants in northern India. Without a map, I still get disoriented with the place, since the buildings look almost the same and the radiating streets that divide the circle into seven blocks are not properly marked. Nevertheless, I had fun taking photos of the place on the night of Chrismas Day . . . and never mind if I got lost in the crowd!

25 December 2007

TRAVEL TALES : Christmas Day at the Bahá'í Temple in Delhi

Visitors at the Bahá'í House of Worship, New Delhi, India
Image source: Paul Ancheta

IT'S CHRISTMAS Day, and India is on holiday mode. I thought I should take this precious opportunity to travel to New Delhi, visit the Bahá'í House of Worship, and perform my spiritual duties of worship.

New Delhi is chilly to the bone. It's a fabulous time to be fashionably dressed in layers (and in Delhi, those lovely northerners do know how to dress for winter). At the temple grounds, it seemed that half of the city were here: how encouraging to see hordes of visitors waiting to be admitted into the temple this afternoon! Children, parents, and friends in various attires filled the pathways; an inner entrance had to be used to accommodate the long queues. Later, an Australian Bahá'í youth volunteer told me that 4,000 visitors logged in today.

The late afternoon fog shrouded the temple and made its petals look so surreal. Inside, as I looked up the domed ceiling with its gleaming skylights, I wondered how the architect—Fariborz Sahba—designed a rain-proof (and fog-proof) building without compromising on the natural air conditioning and lighting. I could only marvel at his genius.

24 December 2007

The night before Christmas

A Christmas tree in New Delhi

A Christmas tree in New Delhi
Image source: Paul Ancheta

THANK YOU very much for being with me in 2007. I truly appreciate that you spend time to visit this blog.

It has been a most eventful year for me, one filled with milestones, new discoveries, and renewal of family and friendly ties. I regret that I have not been able to spend more time blogging since moving to Kolkata (my alibi: work immmersion and incredibly poor connectivity). In case there have been any of you besides my sisters who have been checking the blog here and finding nothing new, I truly apologize.

Here's wishing you and your family a happy holiday season and a new year of health, wealth, and joy. I look forward to being with your through my blog and sharing the excitement that 2008 will bring!

17 December 2007

TRAVEL TALES : Sunday in the park with Gujus

VADODARA HAS some of the widest tree-lined streets that I have seen in India. Still called by its old name—Baroda—the city, with its universities and museums, is dubbed the cultural capital of the state of Gujarat (north of Maharashtra).

I was here on a one-day business travel, and with a late Sunday afternoon to spare, I thought I should visit the lush, green Sayaji Barg as recommended strongly by my driver. The place is a sprawling park housing a zoo, a planetarium, an old toy train, and the imposing Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery. I had a glimpse of how lazy a Sunday afternoon could get at this otherwise bustling industrial city: Gujarati families gathered together for picnics, couples were napping on the grass, young adults played tag. Tag! this is the first time in a very long time that I saw adults playing tag.

The sights that afternoon weren't exactly rural, but they seemed taken from a 1970s movie scene. Charming.