A facelift and a bad fall

A facelift and a bad fall

It’s a pale sunny Monday morning.  Morning assembly from my local school is blaring out over the loudspeakers. “Left, right. Left, right. Left, left, right.” Gill and Alan have just left for 4 days in Rajasthan, so it’s time to settle down with my 2nd coffee of the day –  Yoda sent the first one flying – and catch up on the last hectic weekend.

I think I left you at the Marine Corps Ball, so as to speak. It was a first time for me, and huge fun.  A nice dose of pageantry as we celebrated the 234th birthday of the Marine Corps, which included the ceremonial cutting of the birthday cake with a sword – it really is a birthday party.

What I loved the best were the frocks.  Lots and lots of lovely dresses – and a few horrors, but that’s all part of the fun –  and the men all looking impossibly smart in DJs or dress uniforms.  Great music, too.

Early Sunday morning saw me on a guided heritage walk through Chandni Chowk, led by Sunil Raman who, as I have mentioned in an earlier blog, is hugely knowledgeable about Delhi and her history, and shares it with enthusiasm.

Old Delhi is – like so much in India – a study in contradictions.  How people can accept to live in such ramshackle conditions, with filth and totally inadequate municipal infrastructure, is unimaginable –  and yet the vibrancy and vitality of the area is extraordinary. Even though a lot of the shops were closed on a Sunday, there were many informal markets going on, with people milling about all over. Rather than drive, park, and then take the Metro, I decided to drive all the way to Chandni Chowk to meet my fellow walkers –  and just the drive there was a revelation.

South Delhi and Lutyens Delhi were virtually deserted at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but the minute I crossed over into Old Delhi it was unbelievably crowded. In Paharganj there was a huge, busy vegetable market taking up most of the road – and I remind you that it was seven o’clock in the morning. A little further north (opposite the Red Fort) there was what I can only describe as  the biggest and most bustling market I have ever seen. Piles of clothes and shoes – some on handcarts but many literally just heaped up on the roadside – and surrounded by more shoppers than you could shake the proverbial stick at.

Our walk with Sunil took us in search of vestiges of the area’s colourful history, but sadly so many of the havelis and buildings are in a dreadful, delapidated condition. Vestiges of what once must have been a beautiful elegant building could occasionally be made out, but much of the visual history has been covered up by modern construction.

Hate to sound like the archetypal whingeing Pom, but India is shockingly careless about its fabulous history. Buildings that would be treasured and protected overseas, are treated with a degree of neglect that borders on contempt.  I shall try and be sanguine about it, and hope that the upcoming much-fanfared Commonwealth Games will lead to a surge in awareness of the need to protect the city’s history.

But I must be fair. Not all is doom and gloom on the conservation front, as witnessed by this wonderful headline in today’s “Times of India”:

mud pack

Literally, a covering of mud is put on the facade, to absorb impurities. I shall go and try and photograph it for you.

Winter weekend afternoons in Delhi mean one thing and one thing only – polo.  Yesterday was the finals of the Indian Open, and a more dramatic match you could not wish to see. The game went into a thrilling 7th chukker, and was settled by a golden goal, but sadly a horse broke its leg which was a horrific moment. Seeing the horse limping off the polo field was chilling.  The prognosis wasn’t good last night, but I haven’t yet heard what happened to the poor animal.

I have been catching up over the last few days on the local news I missed while on my travels, and I have to say that for a seeker after the weird and wonderful, there is absolutely no contest between the British press and the Indian press. The latter wins hands down all the time.  From articles about what your Bollywood caller ring tune says about your personality, to an analysis of the long term effects of the devastating Naxal insurgency on the country’s development, everything is covered. Which leads me (sort of) to my word of the day.sleuths

Now, I ask you, isn’t “sleuth” a much nicer words than policeman or detective ?  It has an elegant Sherlock Holmes-iness about it. I suppose, in my search for good articles for you, I am also a bit of a sleuth myself. Both these headlines are from today, by the way, so I am not dredging up old vocabulary !

And, since so much happened yesterday, several photos of the day for you. Two of the drama at the polo match :_MG_0960

_MG_0962

And, from earlier in the day, some of the wonderful things you can buy on the streets of Old Delhi :_MG_0826

And last, but not least, no heritage walk would be complete without it – another cream-puff-wala._MG_0838

2 Comments

  1. anjulie

    for the fellow horse-lovers out there, an update on manwar: she had an operation yeseterday, then this morning while being loaded onto the truck to go home fell. obviously that could have been disastrous, but between the 3 of them who were there, they actually lifted her up so she didn’t have to put weight on the broken leg. she is now back in her stable and will hopefully recover 🙂 according to aby, it will take about a year for her to be back to normal.

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