The alarm was set for 8.30am to try and force adjust any potential jet lagging and so it was that we fell asleep around 6am. The breakfast room was just outside the bedroom and the smells and laughter crept under our door and a guy pushing a cart in the street outside, a very colourful cart of fruit, hailed his wares to the neighbourhood. I even found myself sing the line, ‘who will buy my wonderful roses’.
Breakfast was a veggie omelette, mango’s and bananas (the bananas actually tasted of bananas unlike the hint of banana found in picked unripened, UK supermarket bananas), orange juice and coffee.
The owner, Ashwari, came and introduced himself and led me to the lounge to give me the Delhi lowdown and to indulge me in one of my favourite pastimes which is sitting bent over maps and pointing. His English, as it would turn out, would be the best we heard on the whole trip and was only matched by the hotelier in Jaipur on our last day, still over 3 weeks away. I quickly learned that essentially Delhi is closed for two days, this being a Sunday and tomorrow there being a big festival called ‘Holi’ which is where everyone throws and rubs paint powder over you. Some do it daintily from beside you, others throw paint bombs from roofs and passing motorbikes or just run up to you in the street. I immediately decided we’d avoid this festival. I asked Ashwari as to which part of Dehli this takes place in exactly and he said, ‘the whole of India, everywhere’.
He left me with some very useful maps and information and it was decided that for the first day in India we would head to ‘Gandhi Smriti’ – Smriti literally meaning ‘that which is remembered- and in Delhi it is the house where Mahatma Gandhi spent the last 144 days on Earth, with a beautiful garden where the saint was shot and killed.
It felt fitting to pay homage to the man that saved India, and in many ways, its spiritual heart at the onset of our tour. But first one had to get the Metro.
The Tree of Life was in the beautiful southern Delhi suburb of Saket and Saket has its own metro station situated on Line 2. With directions for the 5 minute stroll to the nearby Metro in my head, we set off. 45 minutes and suffering several completely and utterly incorrect directions later, we arrived. We were 50 yards away at one point, we later discovered, when we asked a policeman ‘Metro?’ and he sent us scurrying ’10 minutes’ in the totally opposite direction. We passed him three times, the latter two I wore my best scowl!
The Metro is very easy to use and has a three day tourist card to go anywhere and everywhere as often as you can tolerate for just Rs3oo (£3). It is indeed very much like London’s only much, much, much busier.
The doors here even close on the throngs as they are still attempting to get off or on – something that is done at the same time. Being English polite here and saying ‘after you’ simply doesn’t work as the doors will close on your politeness leaving you with it on the platform for what could be days, so the result of all this is a sort of stoic, free for all where train pulls in, doors open, throngs rush forward to get on as throngs rush forward to get off, the doors close leaving most people where they started except for a lone westerner who had no intention of getting off but he accidentally caught the wave, leaving his now lone, aghast faced partner accelerating away to another part of Delhi.
I was weighing our options and knew the only way was to crowd surf but the other members of our party of three were not amused so we thronged instead and once on we were stood so tight, so sardined, that when I put my hand into my pocket to check for my wallet I thought I’d lost the feeling in my right leg until the look on the face of the guy next to me told me that I had inadvertently put my hand into his pocket.
He nodded a look of regular experience and I had nowhere to turn – literally.
The train pulled into the Racecourse station leaving just a 5 minute walk to Gandhi Smriti…..