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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

What Do Monkeys Want? - Page 2

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Using Starwood points, I booked a room at the Maurya Sheraton in Delhi for our first three nights: The city looked like a construction site.  Roads were being torn up, buildings were coming down and going up.  It was all to prepare for the Commonwealth Games.  The hotel, located in Diplomatic Enclave, is a stunning refuge from the chaos of Delhi and has one of the world’s great restaurants, Bukhara, where I’d eaten several meals on the earlier trip.  It had an open tandoor oven, beautiful vegetables, rich dal (lentils) and amazing marinated lamb.

In the city, we spent time with Rafiq Wangnoo, a Kashmiri merchant, who sells carpets that belong in museums; did the Old Delhi motorbike rickshaw thing again; and visited an array of religious edifices: Jain, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim.  I do not have the religion gene, but the worshippers did, and from what I saw, the gene is dominant.

Flying north to Chandigarh was, however, an act of secular faith.  Security at Indian airports serves to heighten tension.  We had our passports checked numerous times and were groped periodically.  Once in the air, everything seemed OK.  That sense of things seeming OK (“I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m OK.”) lasted until we landed.

XL2J9407Then we were picked up and driven to Violet Hill.  Now if you Google to get directions from Chandigarh to Mashobra, you will find that it is approximately 72 miles distance and should take two hours and thirty minutes.  Hah!  What Google does not take into account is that the Indian infrastructure is among the world’s worst.

According to the World Economic Forum, India is ranked 89 out of 133 countries: “89th for road quality; 90th for ports, where the turnaround time for ships is 3.85 days, compared with 10 hours in Hong Kong; 65th for air transport; and 106th for quality of electricity supply. No Indian city receives water for 24 hours a day.”

Folks, it’s true.  The drive?  It took over five hours, and these five hours were not just spent in traffic or on dirt roads, but they took place beneath sagging cliffs, minor avalanches, hairpin turns, on the edge of precipices and, as a sort of grand finale lasting 30 minutes, through a thick fog and dense monsoon rain in which visibility was limited to perhaps 15 feet.

Sensibly, my wife covered her eyes until we veered off the paved road to the right and then up a narrow, dirt and stone avenue that led up towards the cottage.

XL2J9810The mood by then was informed by exhaustion and residual fear from the harrowing drive.  Hot tea and a brief tour by the property’s exceptionally pleasant owner improved matters, and by the time night fell and the shattering sound of locusts ceased, we were enjoying peace on the veranda.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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