FIRST DAY in New Delhi
A quiet and restful sleep upon arrival at the Metropolitan Hotel and Spa. We are sheltered by the extremes of India, with air conditioning, and muffled sounds outdoors. Bottled water a plenty in our rooms, we start rehydrating.
The air here is heavy, grey with pollution. Thick hazy skies even last evening as we were departing the airport, a ring of grey air surrounded the lights.
This morning there are birds flying overhead giving life to the skies. A great view out the hotel window of the buildings on the block, and the swimming pool below. Workers outside sweeping with large long bristled brooms.
Sounds on the streets are louder than at home, planes overhead, banging of construction, honking of cars and activity everywhere.
We meet up in the cafe in the hotel for complimentary breakfast, and arrange to go for a walk around the city. I feel safe joining with some of the gals who ventured out yesterday …. Not because they know where we are going, but because the familiarity with the customs, somewhat, and because I love the company of others. We are 12 in total at the hotel, 11 venturing out together in the late morning, about 1045ish a.m. As the day progressed and individual interest shift, we are 6 coming home together walking.
We came upon a bangle market … Rows and rows of bright and vibrant colours, rings and rings of bangles to adorn. Metallics, and many made of glass. I spy and am happy to say, purchased a dozen wire wrapped bangles covered in very bright threads, sunny golds, navy blues, brick reds, forest greens.
So much of shopping is about the personality of the vendor. I noticed today that price for me is not as important. I want to purchase from a woman, although that is not always possible as most of the vendors and shop keepers – as well as business people I see on the street, are men. And then how attentive but not overbearing are they? Willing to negotiate a bit? Do they hear objections and ready to make alternative suggestions? A sale, any sale, seems to be based on the gentle scale leaning in favour of the first person able to make the connection with the person willing to part with precious rupees in exchange for a local trinket. Interesting to watch and observe how it all goes down.
Another stop for several of the women to get the henna tattoo initiation. Select a photo from a book, negotiate a price, and in a moment it is complete. Then waiting 10-15 minutes for the brown mixture to dry and set to the skin. Again, one woman and several men each with a little table and chairs scattered in an open space. Incense burning and little items of a personal nature the table. Surrounded by intense eyes, we are watched closely by locals.
I don’t feel unsafe, however I feel observed. I notice that eye contact is freely given and so the place has an air of friendliness to me, human connection not withheld. I feel welcome in this city and although there is a lot of street presence, people with hands out looking for money, they seem not to be ashamed. They welcome my eyes with smiles and friendly glances, eye to eye. I shake my head no to the ones who are more assertive with requests for hand outs, and the others, I feel a mutual exchange of NAMASTE. Sweet really, and unexpected.
Wandering in and out of crazy traffic we are guided to a shopping district. Clothes, handicrafts, foods …
Yesterday four of the travelling gals had located and scouted out a shop of fabric, silks, saris, and scarves. They were not sure they would find it again but had promised “Anita” they would bring “Pamela” to the shop …. By complete accident we find that same store!! Beautiful items to behold and bolts of the most exquisite silks.
Anita has a keen sense of colour and reading personality of the customer. She is certainly a sales person, and she is determined to find the right fit. I had on my list to have made a silk robe and pyjama bottom combo. She assures me this can be done and delivered to the hotel tomorrow evening so I can take it with me on the trip.
Silk is pulled off the shelves and draped on bodies, observed and enjoyed in the mirror. Tea is served, bottled water offered for me, and use of western style toilets are provided – to my relief. Selections are made. Some gals follow my lead and order for delivery. Some gals have other items made of a more practical nature, a pair of cotton pants and long tunic style shirt. Some purchase scarves off the shelf. And many of our group try on and learn to wear Sarees.
I love the experience. By then, 8 women from our group all touching fabric and feeling taken care of in this lovely store. When we leave there is fabric of the richest colours and textures ever to be enjoyed, strewn about the counters and many faces of store clerks watching as we go. Their job now to repackage the items left behind and get to work sewing and tailoring our new purchases for delivery tomorrow.
I feel fulfilled for a first day and relaxed about my great India adventure. I will seek mindful moments and human connection on this almost month long journey.
Thanks for joining me and NAMASTE from New Delhi, India!
FIRST DAY in New Delhi