So, with quite a wrench, we left Kolkata on Friday morning & flew to Delhi. I have heard on UK radio, again and again, how terribly polluted Delhi is. Checking the weather on my smartphone when in London, I saw descriptions such as “Fog”, “Smoke”, and fully expected to land in a right pea-souper an’ no mistake, Mary Poppins. Wrong again. The day we landed was clear & balmy. The sky was blue and the air, compared to London seemed, well, the same. Does this mean that pollution in London too, and our acceptance of it, has got beyond a choke?
Next morning, I could see what they meant. Delhi, in the early morning, looks like this:
Sure, looks grim, but to my London nose it FELT perfectly fine. I’ve never had so panoramic a view over London at that time in the morning. How do I know it doesn’t look just the same? I do know that, on cold, low pressure mornings, I smell soot & petrol in the semi-basement of my East London flat. Like I said, beyond a choke, and we have no reason, as far as I can see, to be smug.
As we drove from airport to hotel we met other strange echoes of England. Addresses like Connaught Square. New Delhi is a thoroughly modern city with sky-scrapers which could be anywhere, chain restaurants which are everywhere. Our driver pointed out the Presidential Palace, home to the President of the largest democracy in the world. It is impressive, designed by Lutyens, and is as British a lump of Victoriana as you could ever hope to see. Pausing at stop-lights, junctions, young men in skinny jeans, with angular haircuts and hipster beards chat with young women in jeans and tee-shirts. Pausing alongside a beautiful, tree-studded park, our driver indicated a group of small, grey, furry animals. Squirrels? No, monkeys.
We checked in and, after a nap, walked to a vast shopping mall, searched for food. We had an Indian.
Tomorrow is my first day’s work at the Khatakar International StorytellingFestival.