Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Namaste

The first thing I noticed as we walked off our Emirates flight and into Indira Gandhi International Airport was the smell – it still smelled exactly like Delhi. This may sound like an obvious statement or an insult to India, but it’s neither. Delhi smells like humidity, slightly stale polluted air, and something unique that I’ve never been able to pin down. If it were ever bottled, it wouldn’t sell very well as a perfume but anyone who had ever walked into the blinding heat of this city would be able to identify it immediately.

That scent was one of the few things we recognized during our two-week stay. The hotel we stayed at and several of the restaurants we visited were familiar haunts but much has changed in the three years since we moved away.

Hubby had promised me back in May that he would take me to see the new Harry Potter film while we were in Delhi. We always loved going to the movies in Delhi because it’s inexpensive and there’s an intermission - an innovation I’ve only ever seen in India. During our first full weekend in Delhi, Hubby made good on his promise and we hopped into a taxi to a pedestrian mall about thirty minutes away.

We used to go to Saket every so often when we lived here so you can imagine our jaw dropping shock when we pulled up to a huge modern mall. We asked our taxi driver if this was the right place and he pointed to the sign in a rather insulted fashion. Gone were the uneven pavestones and outdoor bookseller who could always be counted on for inexpensive used books. In its place was a series of four two-storey malls that boasted at least two separate movie theatre complexes, a Hard Rock Café, great shops, and even underground parking. We were in shock.

Saket wasn’t the only thing that had changed. Construction was evident almost everywhere we turned. Our former local shops at Khan Market had also undergone a transformation: gone were the Bengali Sweet Shop and affordable stores, and in their place were dozens of restaurants and high-end shops. One of the few vendors I still recognized was the Soup Nazi and I was in such shock I completely forgot to visit and drive him crazy.

I don’t know why we thought things would be exactly as we left them. We’re not naïve – after all Toronto has changed more since I left than it did the entire time I grew up there. From the newly completed flyovers to the myriad of new faces at our old haunts it appeared that Delhi had moved on without us. Which is, I suppose, as it should be.

34 comments:

Louise said...

India! Lucky girl! And I know exactly what you mean about the smell! We used to have an office in Delhi, and when they sent me proofs the smell would waft out when I opened the box. A stowaway gift, the essence of India!

Wenbren Explains It All said...

wow!amazing! If only I knew what the smell's like. I have a friend who's husbands from India I should ask her. I love hearing your travel adventure stories:)

Betty said...

Yeah, I guess we like to remember things as they were, don´t we. Then when we go back and see they are not like that anymore, it´s a little disappointing. But I´m sure you enjoyed this new India too, right? :)

Protege said...

I think I can relate to the sentiment of a scent of a place. I remember once walking into a school I used to go to, about a decade later and the scent that hit me right after entrance made me feel like not a day has passed since I was sitting in the school bench...
I also know about progress, how things can change and not always for the better. I feel this each time I visit Prague.
xoxo

Susie said...

I love how you experience things with all your senses!

Return to Norway said...

Fascinating post! Loved it!

BLOGitse said...

Tasty posting!
Never been to Delhi but been to Bombay and Goa. India has a special, unique smell, you're right...

Peter H said...

Not exactly sure when you were there but May through July remind me of the tropics in most of Asia, but hotter.

Luckily I usually was there when the weather was better, as I could pick when I went down to Delhi from Bhutan.

Gaston Studio said...

Back in the late 80s, Cairo's cinemas also had intermission; loved it!

Love your photos and stories.

American in Norway said...

You do realize how lucky you are... right?

We used to sail into India... & it was always the SMELL.. we knew we had arrived even before we dropped anchor..

Melissa B. said...

And how HOT was it while you were there? I visited India only once, and still remember 2 distinct sensations all these years later...the smell and the heat!

cat said...

I know for sure now why I should not immediately go to India - I am smell sensitive - it would get to me. As Istanbul did.

Live.Love.Eat said...

It's amazing all the wonderful things you're experiencing!!!

I wanted to come by and say thank you for sharing in my SITS day last week!!!

Reluctant Housewife said...

It's amazing how quickly things change! I'm not sure all these changes sound like they're for the better, though. Giant shopping malls might be more convenient, but they are so much less interesting!

Did you still get to see the movie?

No soup for you!

Anonymous said...

We still want to go to India! Well, maybe, soon...after all those other countries!
merthyrmum

Katherine Aucoin said...

I know what you mean about smells. The idea of intermission at the movies sounds like a luxury. Seems like they want to pack them in and out so fast here to make a buck.

Nicole said...

Sometimes change is good, sometimes it's just.... sad....

the ungourmet said...

That's too bad! I hate when the charm and old world feel is lost to shopping malls and McDonalds! :0(

The Blonde Duck said...

I always wish places stayed the same...when you come back, it's like it's trying to re-do your memories...

elvira pajarola said...

.....you brought beautiful memories back to me...I went often to India; but it's now quiet a little while since I have been there...I was always for work there...but had often enough time to discover thousand things!
great remembering!!!
ciao elvira
As soon as my sons get a little older I would love to bring them there...

staceyjwarner said...

sometimes newer is not better...hopefully with the "economic crises" more will not be built on.

much love

Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

It sure is a bittersweet feeling to go somewhere, expecting it to be the same and finding so much advancement.

Love, love, love reading about your travels...

Surferwife
*blog still on temp shut down due to security isses* :(

Robynn's Ravings said...

What an exciting life you lead! Wow! I will live through you! No pressure. :)

Thanks so much for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment!

sprinkles said...

I can see the need for change sometimes but it can be sad to think of the culture that's lost because of it.

Thanks for sharing your stories.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I think smell can trigger memory more than any other sense! C

Yaya said...

How interesting that a place has a distinct smell! That's how I feel about New York City.

Hi! I'm Janola. said...

You know, I forgot that we were just in India earlier this year! Sad how fast all that wonderful experience just fades away. I totally remember the smells of Delhi. Did they manage to get rid of all the beggars? That was in the works when we were there.

*sigh* you are so right about shopping in India. I wish I had bought more things- clothing, shoes, and black pearl jewelry.

blueviolet said...

I love hearing of your travels!

Sharon said...

Wow, that's incredible that things could change so much in three years. I would have asked the taxi driver too!

The only movie I've ever been to (in the US) that had an intermission was Ghandi... It was a LONG movie though, so I think it made sense.

In Scotland, the showed about 45 minutes of previews before the movie started - and they sold candy in the little boxes that girls carried around their necks! I thought that was so charming!

LadyFi said...

India must be one of the countries that is changing the fastest!

As for that smell - amazing how we can be fond of them when they bring back memories of places we like.

Bluefish said...

Lovely pictures! You're so lucky to travel around the world, I wish I have a job that allows me to do so.

Miss Dot said...

I love your description of the smells of the places you've been. What a unique sense to describe! Usually people concentrate on the sight and sometimes the sound but scent, now that's fun!

Sandy said...

You live such an interesting life!!

Hi! I'm Janola. said...

I would have to add that one cannot travel to India and NOT describe the smell. India is a multi-sensory experience. XD