destination india

Thursday, September 30, 2004

dealings with new delhi

The visit to Delhi in 1986-87 will remain etched in my memory forever because of a number of reasons.

I had just earned a promotion a few months earlier and was suddenly deputed to participate in an investigation at an Air Force base near Delhi. A Russian specialist would do the investigation; my role was that of a co-coordinator. In those days there used to be a direct flight from Nasik to Bombay – hardly a half an hour flight in a turboprop aircraft. I was authorized to escort the Russian specialist right from Nasik to Delhi and back. I was given to understand that it would be a couple of day’s affair. So, I dumped an additional set of clothes in my attaché and boarded the aero plane. We left Nasik at around 11 in the morning, had our lunch in Bombay and arrived at New Delhi airport in the evening at around eight. It was the middle of summer and 8 pm in Delhi in summer is difficult to tolerate. However, a car was waiting to pick us up. Dropping the Russian at his Hotel Vikram, I went to our Guest House in the Asiad village.

Next morning I picked up my companion from his hotel and, we went to the Air Headquarters for the necessary discussions with Air Force Officers before proceeding to the bases for actual on-the-spot studies. The discussions went on for the better part of the day – as a result, the planned visit to the base did not materialize on the first day. We just drew up an action plan, obtained our entry passes (since we would be entering restricted areas) and dispersed.
The next day, after breakfast, I picked up the specialist and left for Hindon. Situated on the outskirts of New Delhi, it was about an hour’s journey. The car we were traveling in was driven by a young man around twenty years of age. In his enthusiasm to, reach Hindon as early as possible, his foot was always pressed hard on the accelerator and, in order to get the right of way, he would put on the headlights whenever he wanted to overtake the car ahead! All this was too much for my companion. He was terrified. He implored me in broken English to request the driver to control his urge to over speed. ‘I have a little daughter at home,’ he said. ‘I want to go back to her in one piece!’ I relayed his sentiments to the driver who nodded and, did lower the speed – but, only for a few minutes. Again his feet trod on the accelerator….

In this fashion we were forced to spend nearly one month at Delhi shuttling between the Air Force bases at Hindon and Chandigarh and back to Air Headquarters.

My condition was miserable. With only two sets of clothes at my disposal, I was compelled to send one set to the cleaners daily since, the summers in Delhi are noted for perspiration also!! I also ran out of money and had to borrow from our Liaison office, to be adjusted against my final traveling expenses. By the time the investigations were over and we landed back in Bombay, we were both famished. We had some light refreshments at the airport and took a cab straight to our township.

Subsequently, I have visited Delhi a number of times – mostly in January to attend meetings with our Russian counterparts. During these visits, I took time off to take advantage of the local tours conducted by thr Tourism development Corporation. But, the memories of that first visit will never be erased from my memory. I still hear the trembling voice of the Russian – ‘I have a little daughter at home,’ he said. ‘I want to go back to her in one piece!’


  • At 6:41 PM, Blogger Joann said…

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