Delhi Never Looked So Good

Two and a half days in Varanasi has given me a totally different outlook on Delhi – I’m actually glad to be here.  (Anything, anywhere – just get me out of Varanasi!)  Sure, everyone still tries to rip you off.  And sure, the weather is always horrible (in this case, cold and wet). But I have a new appreciation for a once-hated city. 

Mark and I went to Varanasi to attend the 7th International AIDS Conference from 4 to 6 February 2007.  Far from being a gathering of scientists and NGOs dealing with the latest technologies and thinking on HIV and AIDS, it was a poorly-run showcase of the grand-standing Academic Committee of Kashi Vidyapeeth (renamed Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth), the “second” university in Varanasi.  Mark paid a little bit more attention to the proceedings on the first day of the conference and wrote this scathing report.  I nodded off during most of the presentations that day.  The next day, we only attended one session in the afternoon and skipped the final day all together, breathing a sign of relief when we got to the airport and saw our first plane.  (I was a little nervous on the way to the airport because there were no signs of activity anywhere near the vicinity of the airport.)

Ordinarily, one derives pleasure from playing hookey.  However, we had no better alternative to missing the conference proceedings than staying in our dingy hotel room.  There was no guilty fun to be had.  Varanasi is unappetizingly poor, dusty and unsanitary.

It gave us no small comfort that we were flying to Delhi.  But once we landed, we were thrilled to be here (or was it just that we were thrilled NOT to be in Varanasi?) and willing, for a few days, to pay the price (in more ways than one) of being in the capital city.

Boy, Delhi is expensive.  Transportation alone, if you are anywhere in Delhi that is not covered by the Metro (subway), can run you over U.S. $10 a day.  That’s a lot of rupees.  Not to mention the food.  There are very few options for travelers besides high-priced restaurants in strip mall settings.

OK, ok – you caught us.  We’ve become mall rats.  Why?  Internet access.  Delhi is comparable to Los Angeles in terms of its spread.  Multi-lane freeways ring the city and there are no services within walking distance of anywhere you might stay or visit.  (Hence the high transportation costs – you have to take an auto rickshaw or taxi everywhere if you don’t know the bus routes.)  Much of the city real estate is taken up by government buildings, consulates, high commissions, and parliamentary and state bungalows, mansions, and palaces.  Much of the housing spreads low and wide.  So, all the services are concentrated in area “markets” (e.g. N-Block Market, Vasant Kunj) or the equivalent of strip malls (e.g. PVR Priya Cinema Complex, Vasant Vihar or South Extension Parts I and II).  When we are not in meetings trying to advance our Friends Without Borders project, you will find us at a Reliance World, in the Broadband section, in one strip mall or another.


1 Response to “Delhi Never Looked So Good”

  1. 1 jayanta December 4, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    its really sympathic attitude to live and visit big cities forgetting the real india go to kanpur, patna ,calcutta, meerat, the same scene. thats true india

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