Sunday, July 25, 2010

From Bangkok to New Delhi

Arriving in India 25th July 2010

From Bangkok, to New Delhi.

Only a short 90minutes to transit in Bangkok’s impressive modern airport thoroughfare to Thai New Delhi flight TG323, seeking gate E10. Incongruous to the modern surroundings, the signage for initial directions for flight gates was on one board at the end of the corridor that fed our plane’s human cargo into the airport’s interior. Many passing travellers congregated around the board, attempting to interpret the codes and general direction of their departure gate.

Gate E10 was a long walk from the transit bottleneck security check. Fortunately, travelators abound to lessen the time and ease the distance.
As I was flying in business-class comfort, courtesy of unused CME conference allowance, I arrived in New Delhi rested and relaxed.

India remains India, immediately different but now like an old friend to me. That familiarity reassures me as we fly in and land at New Delhi’s Indira Ghandi international airport. The pervading greyness, the tumbling green vegetation, ramshackle fencing around the newly constructed international airport almost complete, not yet open, men on bikes riding around the vicinity of the new airport, a group of men sitting/squatting in the shade of the new terminus, brown suited and large bellied security guard strolling around his tin shelter, wiping his arms and face with a very large handkerchief in the heat of the 10am morning sun. The pace is slowed and the vista is unnaturally empty in this airport world between new and old terminals. Large tracts of land have been cleared (what was there before?) around the new terminus. I wondered if it would be complete in 75 days when the 2010 Commonwealth games begin. I think that will be a common thought as Delhi races to the finish line with major constructions including subway and accommodation for visitors, still far from complete.

First task after collecting luggage and clearing customs, (very simple processes both) - pass through the gauntlet of taxi finding. A little unsure if Hotel Parkland would send a cab, I can’t help searching the placards in the hope that I will be met. I always find it difficult to pass through the anonymous scrutiny of strangers waiting outside the Indian air-conditioned airport to meet their family or their passenger. I found the pre-paid taxi stall, located just before you go outside the airport, received my ‘paid’ voucher and walked outside to find the yellow and black ambassador cab. Two men appeared from nowhere and ‘helped’ me get my bags into the cab requesting 50 rupees for their unsolicited and unrequited services.

My taxi driver was from Haryana, he and his family moved to Delhi only recently, after floods ruined their village and farms, he told me. He was shocked at the price of my hotel in Green Park and offered to take me to any number of more reasonably priced hotels nearer to the airport. He works 24 hours shifts and rests for 24 hours. I was his first customer of the shift. I tried to find out where he and his family live, whether there is new housing for the poor, being built in Delhi, as part of the improvements for the Games, but he did not seem to understand my question. The drive into Delhi is now on a new-looking motorway and being Sunday, traffic was quiet. In India, road travel has a sense of excitement and an amusement park quality with motorbikes and cars weaving around each other and people ready with a smile and wave.
I chose to stay at Hotel Parkland as it is near AIIMS, the hospital where the Indian Association of Palliative Care conference was held in 2009. I had stayed at Parkland at that time also. The construction of the subway which was going on at in front of the hotel in 2009 is still going on although not night and day as it was then. The road immediately outside the hotel is full of rubble and tin-fenced off. I had hoped to visit the palliative care service at AIIMS but unfortunately, my visit fell during the three days in July when Dr Sushma was out of Delhi.
My plans to go out and explore (read ‘shop’) were put paid to by the need to rest so I spent the day sleeping, setting up my new camera, contacting family and Dr Vinod in Patna, reading and catching up on emails. I had trouble working out how to upload another blog, being a blog novice, so this is being written in word to copy and paste when I am more blog-savvy.

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