Arrival in Delhi was predictably a little fraught. Delhi itself has changed dramatically since James was there in the 1980s and I was there in the 1990s: I kept telling Jeremy and Zoë about looking out through a glass door at an unending sea of faces and being too scared to walk through the door at 2 a.m.—until I decided to trust the man signaling to me that he was there (on Lobsang’s behalf) to pick me up. This time, the airport was much more like any major airport, with traffic swarming by. James tried to organize a taxi, but the plan faltered when the minivan was (almost) too small to hold us and all our stuff, and five men glommed on to helping move the loaded trolleys to the van, and then all wanted tips. James objected, but to little effect; in the end, we took Zoë’s small stash of $20 to pay them. I wish we had a photo of that overloaded van, with Jeremy on my lap and James and Zoë sharing the front passenger seat.
That night, I emailed JP to see about meeting up the next day. He rang at 9 a.m. the next morning, waking me from a deep sleep, and then said he would call back. We all kept sleeping until he called again around noon, and suggested that we go and visit citizen services at the US Embassy between 2 and 4 p.m. This meant a taxi ride, a long wait outside the embassy for an escort through the security system (plus dropping off cell phones at a stand across the road), more of a wait inside, and then a conversation through a glass barrier with a U.S. embassy staff member who didn’t seem to understand what we were doing there. “We mostly just try to disabuse people of their fantasies about support for U.S. citizens abroad,” she said. “We aren’t going to send the in Marines. Don’t do anything illegal. Really don’t do anything illegal.” Uh, we weren’t planning on it… Another taxi ride back to the hotel. Traffic in Delhi really moves on the basis of vehicles operating as an extension of the driver’s body: there is a constant jostling with little more than an inch to spare—but remarkably few accidents in our (limited) experience.
In the early evening, Jeremy, Zoë and I checked out the pool—or rather, the seating by the pool—while James napped. Does life get any more luxurious than this?
Then we had dinner in the hotel restaurant: the most luscious saag paneer any of us had ever had. The hotel was quite lovely in many ways, but the airconditioning vent was growing black mold, and even when I asked them to come and clean it, we could smell mold circulating through the room. Ah! Humidity. This was perhaps an omen of things to come.