Delhi

Greater Kailash

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GK01Or GK, as referred to by locals, is a popular residential neighborhood located in South Delhi home to some of the most affluent families in town. Divided into GK 1 & GK 2, the area’s most popular clothing stores, restaurants, and specialty shops are found here. Highly recommended by a colleague of the AIG, the liveliness of the markets and wide variety of shops certainly lived up to the hype. Many thanks Tanu!

Happy Diwali!

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DiwaliThe AIG spent it’s first Diwali on the rooftop oohing and aahing at the incredible fireworks display put on by what seemed to be every person in Delhi. Felt a bit like a surreal tennis match as we looked left, then right, then back again enjoying our panoramic view from atop our home. Reports said that fireworks sales were down this Diwali, the AIG would beg to differ.

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Diwali Eve

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LightsAnxiously awaiting Diwali along with the rest of Delhi, the AIG managed to stop by a local market on the way back from the office and pick up a few holiday items. Apparently we were not the only ones with the idea of doing a bit of last minute shopping as the streets were filled with eager customers picking up flowers, gifts, and sweets.

FlowersLoosely translated to “row of lamps”, Diwali supporters often light small handmade clay pots signifying the triumph of good over evil. In addition to the lamps, homes and store fronts are often meticulously decorated with strings of lights, breathing a festive energy into the streets once the sun begins to set. This time of night is usually when the fireworks make their first appearance. Beware light sleepers, as they have a knack for running into the wee hours of the morning.

Lajpat Nagar

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When you’re looking for clothes or fabric in New Delhi (and who isn’t with Diwali just around the corner) there is only one place to go, Lajpat Nagar Central Market.LajpatNagar

Named for Lala Lajpat Rai (the Lion of Punjab) Lajpat Nagar is an affluent suburb of South Delhi and is probably best known for its Central Market. Lajpat Nagar Market is a very large and crowded market with numerous lanes of shops and stalls selling a range of goods from traditional Indian clothing, jewellery crockery and even trending Western clothing.

Each lane of shops will sell within a focused type of goods, such as costume jewellery ranging from small earrings, “jhumkas”, wedding costume jewellery and bangles of all sorts. Other lanes will focus on traditional Indian attire with intricate saris, salwar kameez, sherwani and more. If a shopper is looking for more diversity, trending and designer western style clothing is also available by simply turning down the proper lane of shops.

Mehndiwalas (appliers of Henna) are very famous in the market and people love to get their hands tinted in the traditional Indian patterns.

Although overflowing with options and treats, Lajpat Nagar market is a place of high bargaining. Be ready to haggle, but remember, the more you buy the better the deal.

Darkest Days

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Blackout-01One exercise in patience that everyone who visits India must get used to is the occasional absence of power.  What a few weeks of this exercise imparts on you is a rather serene acceptance to the situation.  Yesterday the AIG jointly experienced an eight hour blackout along with 300 million others as most of the north of India lost juice. Stop and ask yourself what chaos would unfold if the entire United States (excluding Alabama and North Carolina) went dark?  Here in India, a few commuters were a bit late for work and the newspaper headlines read: “India wins Bronze in the 10m air rifle”.

Update: Today we experienced a cut that affected 600 million people.  Some traffic jams were observed in central Delhi and we had a rather unexpected wait at the cafe for lunch.  

The Bicycle Rickshaw

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BRAll over Delhi, from the busiest freeways to the most crowded markets you can see bicycle rickshaws plying their trade.  This type of rickshaw has many benefits over other forms of Delhi transport not least the serene nature of the journey itself which brings involuntary smiles to the passengers.  Always wanting to reach a deeper level of understanding the AIG sent Kiwi out to investigate further which resulted in an ecstatic rickshaw owner finding himself being peddled around the market by what he could only assume was an insane tourist.  The verdict “this is a bloody hard job”.

The Smallest Market in the World

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img_8485Throughout Delhi, wherever you look capitalism reigns. The most notable evidence of this to western eyes is easily the street stall markets that seem to be everywhere you look.  A combination of small sheds, tables and wheeled trolleys using the sidewalk (or road) for their shop space. What really surprises you  is the diversity of shop that is represented in these markets; hairdressers, stationers, electronics and even small manufacturers. AIG have been using a local market printer who’s shed is taken up almost entirely with a large floor standing colour laser printer.  To give you some context of the size of his shop, when he has to replace the paper in Tray 1, he has to step outside.

One off the bucket list

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The local watering hole near the office is now the team’s favorite bar in the world. We learned a few things about this Caribbean beach themed blues bar last night. Decor consists of cut-out Styrofoam fish, tiki awnings and Halloween decorations. The reggae imagery adorned menu features Indian, Mexican and Italian food and includes one dish named “the chef’s sister’s recommendation combo.” King Fishers all around!

Fortunately, we arrived on Karaoke night. There was a table Indian business men singing their hearts out to a mixture of Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, System of a Down and, of course, Coldplay. The regulars, who may or may not be part of a hair band, know how to put on a good show too. Now we can all cross “Eat Italian in a Caribbean themed blues bar while listening to Indian business men singing heavy metal” off the bucket list.

Delhi and the Future

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Construction-01Delhi is one of the fastest emerging cities on the Indian subcontinent with an average yearly economic growth rate of over 10% per year for the last five years. Because of this, any time spent in the metropolis leaves you with the feeling that you have somehow arrived a little too early and that the city isn’t quite finished. Wherever you look there is construction, apartment buildings, metro lines, hotels and shopping complexes, all covered in scaffolding and buzzing with workers.  Construction work in Delhi is often a family affair with groups living in the building they work on during the day. After dusk most of the sites in the Defense Colony are alive with temporary wood fired stoves cooking chapattis for the workers and setting up for the night. If the Defense Colony is a bellwether for the Indian economy as a whole then the future looks bright and undoubtedly different. All the AIG hopes is that they will get a chance to come back and see their old neighborhood in a few years time.

The Taj Mahal

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About 120 miles south of Delhi lies the town of Agra and one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, the Taj Mahal.  With the new Delhi-Agra expressway due to open up within a week the AIG decided to chance the old road and head for the world heritage site while the journey was still part of the experience.  Forty five degree heat (113f), camels, cows, twelve person rickshaws, painted trucks with musical horns and all manner of overloaded vehicles crowd the road, horns blaring, jostling for a gap.  Four hours later (yes four) we arrived and quickly moved through the impressive Great Gate with its red stone facade that would alone be a noteworthy monument were it not for the absolute beauty of the landmark it protects.  Standing at the end of manicured gardens and reflecting pools the worlds most well known mausoleum is truly breathtaking to view up close.  Its white marble shimmers as it reflects the hot sun and its towering minarets dwarf you as you pass into the cool interior.  Inside, every surface is ornately carved or adorned with floral inlays of semi precious stones. The Taj is a true work of art, with a magnificence that is impossible to capture in words or pictures.  If you are ever in the Agra area or even just near India be sure not to miss this.  As for the journey, I would probably try the new expressway.