The bus deposits me the opposite side of Delhi from where Rohit and Atul live.
Rather than face a two hour traffic jam, I decide to take the metro. And I am a big fan of the Delhi metro – it’s cheap, efficient, clean, and safe (passing through security is a must, and all bags go through xray machines too). Best of all, it’s air conditioned. And all for the price of a 50 cent token!
I have 22 stops to take and as I sit there, dusty backpack at my feet, probably looking a little the worse for wear, I know I’m the object of much curiosity although (it should be said) no hostility. It doesn’t surprise me – I’m a western woman, clearly not here on business and clearly unaccompanied – no brother, no father, and no husband in sight. .I’m sure everyone’s dying to ask me exactly what I’m doing here in the land where anything’s possible, but I’m exhausted. Whilst I’d normally see this as an opportunity to start up a dialogue with the locals, I’m just too drained. And so I resort to some polite smiling, and periodic eye-shutting, partly to for rest and partly to avoid the constant staring.
And soon I’m at my stop, and Atul is standing at the barrier. I’m so relieved to see him…all I want now is a shower, a cup of tea and a bed with clean sheets. Within half an hour ‘veI have all three and before my head hits the pillow I am asleep.
When, finally, I awake, night has fallen. I’ve realise I’ve slept 9 hours straight. Rohit grins as I walk into the living room, disoriented and rubbing my eyes.
“Hungry?” he laughs. And then his mother appears, out of nowhere, with a tray of chappatis and a delectable vegetable curry. Actually, I am starving (even the hardiest girl cannot live by Pistachio cornettos alone!) and tuck in.
Afterwards, we go for a stroll in the neighborhood, which is far away both from Delhi’s brightlights and endless tourists. I feel much more comfortable out, as opposed to in the touristy centre, even though I’m somewhat more conspicuous, as a white-skinned European. I realise, yet again, how staying in a hotel really can isolate you from the locals, however hard you try not to let it happen. Rohit introduces me to different friends we meet along the way…at a cool 25 degrees, a post-dinner stroll is de rigeur it seems.
Later, the two of us sit and partake of espressos at one of Delhi’s new coffee house chains – “Cafe Coffee Day. It’s colourful and glitzy, very western in design and shockingly expensive by Indian standards. I’m guessing they’re aiming at the middle-class student market, a kind of “Classy and Worth It” strategy. I guess it’s the Delhi equivalent of taking afternoon tea at The Ritz (without the tea dance of course). Whilst I’m glad of the chance to drink what is my first coffee in weeks, I have my doubts about their business model, not just cost-wise but because this is a land where people live and die for chai…
I fall back asleep, content, having supped a wonderful coffee in the land of chai.