Face-to-face with the appearance of change

What a surprise it was to experience Delhi this year.   The gleaming glass and chrome Indira Gandhi International Airport.  Long gone are the long lines through rambling corridors, dreary arrival hall, sticky floors, smoothering smells, the rush to stand at the luggage carousel hoping that your bags will finally arrive.   Everything now works like clockwork.  It is a beautiful architectural achievement,  amazing art on the walls,  sculpture of the Sun Saluation, a shopping mall…everything efficient and everyone dressed stunningly… only mismatched and dishevled appearances are on the western visitors coming and going.

Delhi is all about appearances.    There is great wealth and great poverty.    Little has changed for the poor, except that you dont see them  if you remain on the main thorough-fares from airport to five star hotels and the  business areas.

We visited an area called Chandni Chowk.   This is the oldest and businest shopping district… people,  shopping shoulder-to-shoulder  for everything from spices,  shoes, fancy stationary to building supplies.     We are shopping for lighting and power sockets, plumbing, and kitchen fixtures and heating appliances for the Badri ashram.   It is a fascinating area which has not changed in decades.   It is the district for buying wholesale.

We push through crowds of business owners, women in burkas shopping, children returning from school.   Many people moving on bicycle rickshaws along the alleys and busy streets.   At one point we find ourselves in a traffic jam, in a long line of rickshaws waiting for twenty minutes in queue.   I watch a man making fresh lavash a few steps away, another making cookies, long enough to enjoy both tasty treats.   Although I am fascinated by everyone, no one looks at me, except the groups of  laughing school girls.

Purchasing building supplies was surprisingly enjoyable.  No warehouse shopping or catelogs, all was done in small shops run by men with strong family resemblances.  It took all morning and most of the afternoon to complete the shopping list. But we feel pleased that we have made so much progress on deciding such things to finish off the apartments and Meditation Hall.   If only the building goes this smoothly next season!

Nothing here had changed I say.   Moments later…

We see the brand new Metro Station on the corner across the street.

We decide to go back to the hotel via the subway, so we climb over people, bicycles and push back the rickshaws that want to mow us down as we cross the street and enter the station.   We move through metal detectors and have our backpacks checked.   We are frisked.   A ticket is 8 rupees.   Probably the very best deal in Delhi.   The subway is bright and shiny and amazingly empty.   Placing the token at the gate, I press through the gate, look up and there right in front of me is a soldier, with a full-loaded, i assume, machine gun, pointed right at us.    The soldier looks as though he is ready to fire  when  necessary.    I blinked a few times.   I looked at Govindan.   He glanced back at me, we walked on to the trains.



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