Sunday, 28 September 2014

Cooked like a Kebab

Our host family are amazing.  Their door is always open to everyone.  Every day our 'family' seems to grow.  Everyone is treated with kindness and respect.  The house seems full of love and laughter most of the day.

The tastiest food imaginable is brought from the kitchen at regular intervals.  I fear I may have to add another X to the label inside my clothes before I return home.  I am not always sure what I am trying but so far I have enjoyed every morsel.  My favourites have to be a vegetable rissole.  Crunchy on the outside and spicy in the middle.

Breakfast today was a leisurely affair with rice, omelette, a chilli dish, yoghurt, raw bean sprouts, sesame seeds, spinach parantha and some other little dishes.  A crane would have been useful to raise my rear from the seat.

Our chauffeur and bodyguard arrived to transport us to the Red Fort.  We had quite a carful.  Nine of us squeezed into the seven seater.  We appeared to have lots of room compared to some of the cars and buses we passed.  We drove along the road where all the embassies hid behind manicured lawns.

As we approached the centre, the roads became busier and busier until we reached standstill.  From that point on, it became a matter of whose horn beeped the loudest to create a space.  One young man on a scooter decided to perform a U-ey.  He hadn't taken into account the raised walkway in the middle and his scooter straddled the concrete with the wheels in mid-air.  However, a passing driver thrust his hand through his open window and pushed the scooter over the barrier.  Ah a little more space for us to cram into.

I was fascinated by the range of shops that spilled out onto the pavements.  How my daughter would have loved rummaging through the bizarre bazaar bookstall.  As for Mr S, we even spotted a popcorn machine shop.  He could extend his variety now!! 
My eyes were drawn to the Heavens.  I could hardly believe what I saw - some birds of prey that looked suspiciously like red kites.  I googled 'Delhi Birds' later and found that they were indeed Black Kites.  Another tick in my World of Birds Book!!  I would have posted a photo but every time they came close, I couldn't pull my pod from its pouch fast enough.

Eventually we arrived at the Red Fort.  The sun was beating down.  I was grateful that I had brought along my infamous flap hat, otherwise I would have shrivelled like a, like a...... Help someone.  I am having a senior moment.  Think my brain was frazzled by the sun.  What would you be frazzled like??

Our bodyguard went in search of tickets but on his return we had to join the snaking entrance queue.  It moved slowly, slowly.  One cheeky chappy tried to join us but he hadn't reckoned on N's reaction.  In a very assertive tone, she expressed her displeasure and he retreated in shame with his tail between his legs ( where else would it be?!)

At the fort entrance, we were segregated by sex and a brisk body search performed.  Hmm I rather liked the look of the frisking chap in the male queue but my lady was very pleasant and asked if I was having a nice day.  I wanted to say it would have been nicer if I had been in the other queue but thought better of it.
Inside the fort we employed the service of a guide to explain how it was created and what it was used for.  I will leave you to research that for yourselves but suffice to say I was most impressed by the mix of architectural styles.  I must admit to feeling a little uncomfortable when there was mention of the British and the word bloody. 

 N felt a little uncomfortable too when the sole of her shoe came adrift.  She decided to leave it on the path.  It was still there, looking very lonely, when we returned.  The bodyguard, not wanting it to suffer in the heat any longer, picked it up carefully and put it in a plastic bag.  Perhaps he will mend it later so Nandarella can go to the ball!

After our tour the younger element were hungry and I was ready for a drink.  The world seemed to be getting hotter and hotter.  As I special treat we popped to Kebab Express to sample the local fast food.  We obviously looked like VIPs as they brought out a guest book for us to sign.  Maybe they thought I was Judi Dench, just like on my last tour.

Both young and old were feeling the heat, so we asked the driver to take us home.  On our return, the youngsters introduced us to a traditional board game called Carron.  With the board in the middle of our bed ( I share with A) we squatted on the mattress and tried to knock counters into corner holes by finger flicking a white large counter.  It was a mixture of air hockey, snooker and shove halfpenny.  Never has a mattress seen such finger flicking.  Well mine hasn't for many a year.  I fear I must practice more often.  Perhaps Hubby will provide me with something round to practice on!!

I thought we were 'in' for the night but our generous host had other ideas.  The cars (note the plural) were summoned and we were taken to an exclusive residence used by the police when they were relocated.  Here I had a flashback to a Greek wedding.  Nibbles were passed around.  Ooohhh they were good and my host encouraged me to try more.  Had N not whispered in my ear that the main meal was yet to come, I would probably have had my sixth chicken piece.

After the nibbly bits the waiters brought around a cinnamon flavoured vegetable soup in a cup.  I loved it and turned to N for her opinion.  'It's not my cup of tea,' she said.  In unison A and I chortled and said, 'No, it's a cup of soup not tea!!'  Groan.  Laugh.

Eventually we were taken through to another room to select items from the buffet.  I don't know what I chose, but I liked it all and I ate it all.  Well, my Mum said you had to clear your plate.  My stomach was beginning to groan but I could not resist the cold rice pudding dessert.  I was assured it was Mr S's favourite.  If it was good enough for Popcorn Man, it was good enough for me.  And it was.

To conclude this grand repast, the waiters brought a tray bearing two items:- small pieces of sugar and fennel.  A teaspoon of each, pop it in your mouth and aniseed Heaven. Apparently it aids digestion too. 

We said goodbye to our Host's friends.  They informed me that I would be going there for lunch tomorrow.  They obviously think I am undernourished!!!!!  What an amazing day I have had.  Not only have I seen some amazing sights, I have made new friends and tasted new delights.  Time for home and the air-con.  Night all x 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Size-mic Shopping

Over the last three days, I have been introduced to the unique way of shopping at the Delhi markets.  Even the journey there was an experience.  We had our own escort and driver who brought the vehicle close to the entrance so we didn't have far to walk.  They had obviously heard about my delicate constitution and didn't want to tax me too much!!

After we left the secure complex, the lane system didnot seem to exist.  Cars, cycles and tuck-tucks darted around,  peeping their horns as they narrowly missed each other.  Surprisingly, most of the vehicles appeared undamaged, which only proved how skilful the drivers were.  Even the local cows seemed unperturbed.  

Our driver stopped in a random place close to the market and we alighted ??(alit??). got out.  Accompanied by our elegant, turbaned bodyguard ( who was a dead ringer for Capt Nemo in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) kept a few paces behind as we surged forward into the melee of colour and sound.

Our first stop was a shoe stall/shop.  One had to be careful where one stood here.  One's head was likely to be crowned by boxes which hurtled from a hole in the ceiling.  A secret shoe stash was stored here.  The downstairs staff shouted up for different sizes and colours.  Within seconds a hand appeared from above, clutching a box or a bag.  Time to duck as the Hand took aim and flung the shoes to the waiting assistant.

Using said system, N had soon acquired a large pile of shoes and sandals.  They seemed very reasonably priced to me.  However, N demonstrated the art of haggling with aplomb.  We left the store with the owner wondering exactly what had hit him......and N with a smile on her face as she passed the bags (note the plural) for our bodyguard to carry happily.

Capt Nemo guided us through the next section and the crowds parted before his confident, elegant stride.  I scuttled behind keeping a firm eye on his colourful turban.

Onwards to the main quest of the days - saree shopping.  There were so many shops and stalls to choose from.  I think Capt Nemo took pity on my beet root-coloured face as he guided us into an air-conditioned shop with comfy benches.  The walls were stacked high with every colour imaginable.  As we requested certain colours, the young assistants would leap around selecting sarees.  With a flourish they would be unravelled along the counter, so that we could test them for quality.  I soon got into the swing of tossing them aside and waiting for the next one to take its place.  Occasionally we found a 'possible'.  If we really liked it, we asked the male assistant to drape it on his body.

Then there were the occasions when we really, really liked something. These times we would allow the assistant to drape it around us!!  He strapped me into a thick, elastic belt (ah, instant weight loss!). With deft fingers, he manhandled my material - stop laughing Mr S, that is not a euphemism!!  I was instantly transformed into - just me in a very elegant saree.  I added my solo contribution to the ever-increasing mountain of material before my eyes.  As with all shopping, these were our 'starter for ten'.  After careful thought we reduced the pile - by one.

N went into action once more.  We soon had a reduction of over thirty per cent.  She wasn't stopping there.  The owner was soon quaking in his boots and under her magic spell.  Not only had he discounted further, she had persuaded him to remove the blouse piece and add necessary stitching for free.  Wonder Woman or what??

Further adventures in the market led to the acquisition of beads, bangles and bows ( well, not bows but I wanted a little alliteration ).  Capt Nemo guided us back to our waiting vehicle and we headed for home, pleased with our day's shopping.

Friday, 26 September 2014

PJ flies again!!

Have you ever seen those airport programmes and wondered how stupid the passengers are who arrive with seconds to spare for their flight?  From now on, I will not refer to them in derogatory tones, for I have experienced the thrill and excitement of just such an occasion. Let me rewind to the early morning of our departure.  Everyone was awake; bags were packed; and a luxurious Mercedes waited to whisk us away to the airport.  All started well with clear roads and high spirits.  Then we hit the traffic.  No matter which way we tried - and we did try several - the traffic Gods conspired to place so many obstacles in our path and move the hands on our watches faster, that it soon became apparent our chances of flying were very slim.  Our eagle-eyed driver spotted a Park and Ride train station. Swiftly he changed direction and headed for a possible solution.  As soon as we stopped, nimble A jumped out to check train times pursued by her Mum.  I loaded myself up like the proverbial bag lady, hobbling along as fast as my little legs would take me.  In my haste, I failed to notice the 'lift' sign and began a climb as arduous for me as climbing Everest.  At each step my breath became shallow and faster.  My face looked like a beet root on a bad day ( or should that be a good day?). I had almost reached the summit when a shout from A revealed that the train would not arrive on time!  Going down was almost as difficult as I feared the mass of the bags might bring me down sooner than intended.  Thank goodness Hubby was there for a soft landing.  

So it was back to the car and yet another decision as to which route to follow.  I fear it was my choice which may have led to yet another problem - more traffic!! N phoned the airport and pleaded with them to hold the arrivals gate open.  Our driver performed some amazing and astonishing manoeuvres on (and off) the road in his attempt to get rid of us for three weeks.  Did I see desperation in his eyes.??  Well I saw something - and I will keep his deep, dark secret forever in my mind, unless, of course, someone crosses my palm with silver.  My lips are sealed Mr S !!  

With three minutes to spare, we screeched into the car park.  Once again, A sprinted ahead, doing a fine impersonation of Usain Bolt.  This time, I managed to break the world record for the 800 metre dash for the ladies of a certain age with damaged Achilles.  We reached the gate with 30 seconds to spare.  The attendant looked at her watch, smiled and said 'Oh, you made it then!'  

Yes, we made it and congratulations had to go to Mr S for his steering technique and Mr C for his navigation prowess in the final moments of the journey.  Without further ado, we bid the male contingent a swift, but fond, farewell.  They both looked relieved to see us ascending the moving staircase.  Our gate was open and we didn't have to wait long before boarding.

I hoped my New Zealand PJ's would have a pleasant trip in their over-large suitcase and that we would be reunited in Delhi.  What a way to start our holiday!!