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Delhi: Day 1

A month and a week after leaving in New York, I am finally in New Delhi. And the in-between has been a whirlwind. I packed up and left NYC on a dreary, rainy day- the weather befitting my mood as I tearily said goodbye to my friends, boyfriend and the city itself. A 12 hour flight later, I was in Delhi! But only long enough to drop off my suitcases, and re-pack for Belgrade where the family was reuniting.

From Belgrade I went to Rome, from Rome to Berlin, from Berlin to Paris, from Paris back to Belgrade, back to Delhi. phew! But this is it. No more traveling (indefinitely anyway), no more distractions, no more pit stops. I’m here for at least the next year, and today is the day I start to make Delhi my home.

I got in at 4 am and as I got out of the pressurized, sanitized, sterilized plane cabin, all my senses were attacked at the same time by the sights, sounds, and smells of Delhi. (And this is just the airport we’re talking about.) The lights were blurred by the haze of mosquitos swarming around them, the air smelled like disinfectant (undoubtedly to mask much more potent, rancid smells) and I was struck once again by the general ill-mannered nature of my countrymen. The pushing, the shoving, the blatant stares at a young woman passing by.

Some self-important airport employee ordered his lackeys to remove all the luggage off the conveyor belt and lay it on the ground. This caused much confusion and agitation as my fellow travelers who had been perfectly content to lift their own bags off the belt, all came around to the one side where the bags had been set to identify their own. We all squeezed by each other, everyone insisting on driving their trolleys through the too narrow space created by the bags on the floor. At some point, realizing that this clearly wasn’t working, the airport staff began putting the bags back on the conveyor belt.  Nothing about this whole situation made any sense. But, I did find my suitcase, found my ride, and made it home in one piece.

I went to bed, and when I woke up it was afternoon already, and my mind was racing as if to make up for time lost on sleep. Sim card, phone line, unlock iPhone, bank account, credit card, washing machine, unpack, whichbedroomdoItake?, call someone about the seepage problem, fix the kitchen cupboard, call friends, but how?..i don’t have a cellphone. I wanted everything to fall in place immediately but overwhelmed with the thoughts running through my head, I found myself at a standstill, not really able to do any of those things.

Finally accepting that I’d have to start small, I picked a bedroom (I had 2 choices), switched the beds out, and unpacked. Then, though I was both tired from the moving and jet lagged from the flight I decided to go for a run…not because I craved the exercise (because that never happens) but because I craved routine. So I dug out my running shoes, popped in my headphones and stepped out into the compound.

As soon as I started running, Merill Garbus egging me on with her throaty, larger than life voice,  I was overcome with a sense of reassurance. It didn’t matter whether it was my first day in Delhi or my 6th month in Delhi, I was just running. It was normal, it felt routine, like something one does in a life they are well settled into. And it made me feel like I can do this. Make a life for myself here just like I did in New York.

Mentally refreshed, I came back home, showered and met my friend Simrat at Hauz Khas Village which I like to think of as the Brooklyn of New Delhi- lots of artists, new restaurants, art galleries, rooftop art parties and the like. We went to this restaurant called Gunpowder, which I adore. It’s not easy to get to, but once you do, its well worth the less than scenic journey. You walk through this dark and narrow street which seems more suited for clandestine drug deals than hearty, wholesome South Indian food and keep your eyes peeled for the sign on an otherwise completely unremarkable building. Any reservations about the area you may have though, are forgotten when you finally reach this tucked away little gem. It feels more like you are in someone’s living room and balcony, and when you look out, you have an unbeatable view of Hauz Khas lake, which at night time, looks supremely serene.

Mother Dairy & Kwality Walls Ice Cream Carts

They serve up simple vegetarian and non-vegetarian South Indian fare that is bursting with taste in every bite. I got the chilli pork spare ribs, which literally melted in my mouth, and the chicken korma, which was delicious albeit not quite as remarkable. I ended my night with an “Orange bar”(an orange flavored popsicle) from a little roadside ice cream cart- a piece of my childhood that has survived all the change, and modernization that India has gone through in the past 18 years.

I’m back home now, in bed, ready to call it a night at 11:45 pm, even though its a Friday. The re-integration into Delhi life can resume tomorrow. I think I’ll be okay here.

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