Delhi has changed so much in the six years since I’ve been here.
As our taxi driver put it, Delhi today is the opposite of how it used to be.
He said this by flipping his hand over to indicate the difference between the back of his hand and his palm.
When visiting big urban sprawls, your perception and individual experience completely depends on your frame of mind.
If you wish to, you can see the ugly side of a place, or you can find the charm and beauty of the place and select the kind of experiences you wish to have.
Big cities have and offer both kinds of experiences.
We haven already visited many of the beautiful historical sites of Delhi like the Red Fort, many of the gorgeous tombs and minarets, the monuments and neighborhoods, as well as spent time exploring the markets and the narrow lanes of old Delhi.
This time we chose to stay in Delhi for just a short time, because our objective was only to decompress from our long flight, get some things done, adjust to the new time zone and fly on to Dharamsala
From the moment we entered our luxurious hotel, the Leela Palace in the diplomatic enclave, I made an inner vow to see the charming side of Delhi.
Luckily, Delhi today is a city in which I did not need to stretch very far to feel the charm.
The service, food and quality of hospitality at our hotel was exceptionally good.
The staff was engaging and genuinely friendly.
Tipping individuals as you do in many hotels, was strongly discouraged.
If you wished to tip the staff, it was recommended that you leave the tip at the front desk in a sealed envelope at the end of your stay.
The money will be put into a till that will be equally divided among employees.
India has a side of elegance and luxury that many do not know about.
Some amazing and superbly luxurious hotels are situated around the country in beautiful historic towns filled with glorious forts, culture, traditional arts and crafts, good food and excellent service that will enchant your heart.
Some of those luxury hotels are actually converted palaces, and are exquisitely decorated with luxurious rooms, lavish lobbies and superb restaurants.
In preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which happened in 2010, the Delhi Indira Gandhi International airport had undergone a major renovation.
It is now clean, attractive and run efficiently.
The lines of taxis were orderly and no hustlers or touts accosted us or were seen anywhere on the airport’s grounds.
The Leela Palace hotel in Delhi, is the newest built luxury hotel in Delhi.
The standards of comfort and beauty are unparalleled.
We were presented with welcome drinks of pear juice, and a small tray of chocolate truffles, fruit and Indian sweets.
Breakfast is a beautiful feast of Indian and Western specialities served buffet style in an elegant dining room that features large glass walls with a creative ceiling that sprouts metallic sparkling clusters of chandeliers resembling large mushrooms.
The manicured grounds outside are visible beyond the glass walls and the place feels like an elegant island of serenity in an otherwise crowded city.
We wanted to fit our iPads with Indian sims.
I knew that there was a big Internet provider shop next to a place we wanted to visit, so we jumped into a taxi at the front of our hotel and asked to go to ‘Reliance Web World,’ at Green Park.
The taxi driver, as we encountered in other parts of India, did not just start driving in the direction of our chosen destination; he immediately asked:
“Why you want to go there?”
I knew what was going to come next, so I tried to be obscure in my answer, I said:
“We have something we need to do there.”
I knew that the reason he was asking was because he was like many shrewd drivers in India who were always trying to make deals or to get a cut of a deal, get a referral fee or find ways to be helpful, but at the same time get a small benefit from it.
I knew that he either had an uncle or knew someone who could give me what I wanted for a better deal….
This time the driver had another agenda.
Picking people up at our luxury hotel, taxis were clean and air conditioned with no meters.
If you got into the taxi, you paid 350 rupees for the first eight kilometers.
If he dropped us sooner, he could go back and get other passengers faster.
He suggested that there was another ‘Reliance’ store which was very near by.
I said we wished to go to this particular store, because it was located near an area we wanted to walk in and see after we ran our errands.
He shrugged his shoulders and reluctantly agreed to drive us there.
On the way, with a bit of a sour face, he pointed to the other ‘Reliance’ shop which was much closer to our hotel.
It was not an Internet shop at all but a grocery shop named ‘Reliance Fresh.’
It was too early in the morning for those shops which open at 11 am and stay open late into the evening, so we went for a walk into the Hauz Khas neighborhood which is located at the edge of Deer Park.
The Hauz Khas area is an historical marvel with a man made watering pond that is also called a water tank built in the 1200’s and renovated again in the 1300’s.
The grounds had a very serene feeling.
Beautiful old stone domes engraved with Islamic symbols and script, stood serene in a large garden edged with a large stone wall, with the green pond glistening beyond it.
The old mosque was closed for renovations but we could see and roam into the beautiful Madrassa/ old school.
On the day we visited, a school of art students were sprawled around the place, each drawing the grounds or the architecture on their big drawing pads.
The area around the water tank, had been revived in the past few years, and many
small entrepreneurial young businesses like small cafes and eateries and small gift shops, had mushroomed in the nearby streets.
The streets are still narrow and very crowded with rickshas, scooters, people and cars, but it still made for a very enjoyable walk and photo taking delight.
Back at the Reliance Web World shop, we tried to get Internet sims fitted into our iPads.
We made copies of our driver’s licenses, passports and Indian visas, as was required by the young lady who would not look me in the eye.
i had a feeling this would not get done, but I followed along with all she required.
After providing all the documents along with our passport photos, we were told that we also needed a local reference.
Not just a name, address and phone number, but also that person’s passport photo and signature.
We admitted defeat and made our way to the long taxi line across the street, to hire a taxi back to our hotel.
We had a lot of faith that the concierge of our hotel would be able to get this done for us with more ease than we could.
A young skinny man followed us to the taxi line and said that he overheard our predicament, and that he was willing to be our local reference.
He refused my offer of a large amount of money in return, and said that all he wanted was copies of our passports.
He said he needed the copies of our passports just in case we might be involved in some criminal activity.
I have well developed protective instincts, and even without thinking it over, I refused his offer.
Jules seemed so willing to go with the moment and to take this young man’s offer.
His body language was indicating that he was more than willing to follow this man back into the shop.
I held Jules’ hand to prevent him from following the young man back into the shop, and thanked the young man for his offer and said that I do not feel comfortable offering copies of our passports to someone we do not know.
After the man left, Jules said he did not look like a criminal or a scammer, he looked like he was just trying to help….
I had my doubts and still felt that giving him copies of our passport simply was not the right thing to do.
I did not like being suspicious of my fellow human beings, my brothers and sisters in the world, but I posed a question to myself…..if we were not in India, but back home in the US or in NZ, would I have agreed to hand over copies of our passports to someone I did not know and that did not work at the Internet shop?
The answer was definitely not!
On our taxi back to the hotel, I had a flash of realization that felt true to me.
This young man could not really protect his interests if we were to be involved in a criminal activity, simply by having copies of our passports.
On the other hand, I had to admit that he did not have the vibes of a scammer that could be involved in identity theft or selling our information to scammers.
I had a strong feeling that the reason he wanted our passport copies, was because he needed references to get a visa to the USA.
In many parts of the world, people require a sponsor living in the USA, in order to get a visa to the USA.
Anyone wanting to visit or move to America, could make up a fictitious sponsor by pulling a name and address from the white pages, and with millions of applications worldwide, the embassies has no time or budget to verify if those sponsors were real.
If someone has passport copies of US citizens, it is proof enough that they have some connection to them, and so that is all that would be required on a visa application.
I may be totally wrong in assuming that those were the young man’s motives, but I had a distinct feeling that this was the case.
Back at our hotel, we sat and sipped highly priced peach iced tea in the elegant lobby, while our concierge effortlessly arranged for two micro sim cards to be put in our iPads.
Our Internet plans cost exactly the same as the Reliance shop quoted us… the concierge did not even add any commission or fee, he simply asked me to fill out the hotel’s service comment card if I were satisfied with his services.
There is a saying that the Great Spirit’s answer to ALL things, is always some form of peace and ease.
Sometimes the simple, elegant and effortless solution IS the right solution….
Sometimes if things seem to be difficult or hard to do, maybe spirit is guiding us to a more graceful path by indicating that the way we attempt to get things done, might not be the BEST path to take.