Lovely lovely

Some idle time on my hands, sitting in a cab in Delhi traffic, it seems an appropriate point to update on the antics of the last weekend. So four of us from the previous trip decided to pay a visit to the friendly Punjabi, Aman, whom we had lunch with in Mussoorie last weekend. He lives with his wife and son, sister, parents & grandparents, in the affluent city of Chandigarh.

About 240km north of Delhi, it is a 6 hour train ride from Old Delhi station. We went straight from the office, organizing for a cab to pick us up from our respective offices in Gurgaon at 6. The train scheduled to depart Old Delhi at 21:40, we left ample time to accommodate for the commuter traffic back to Delhi. Experience suggested otherwise. Leaving Gurgaon on time, we didn’t arrive at the station until gone 21:50. Dispiriting hours spent in jams and frustration at the driver for stopping for gas which he should have done before the pickup. As the traffic grew thicker and our departure time came and went, we made plans for an evening in Delhi. In any case, we went to the station just in case. Fortunately for us the train was still in the station, delayed by some 40 minutes, so we jumped on.

I suspect that the driver took a protracted route to stack up the km and thus the cab fare. Either that or he didn’t know the way. As is normal, he wound down the window at various points to ask directions from an adjacent driver. That’s a major problem with the cabs and rickshaws here, you can never rely on them to know the way.

The train journey would have been smooth had we not fallen asleep and missed our stop. We were in sleeper class. Not the luxury of AC or comfortable seats, but at least we could lie down and doze off. Distinguishing the stations proved an arduous task and by the time we were close to our stop no one was keeping track, and we missed it. Nevertheless, we got off at the next stop, which wasn’t far, and Aman was kind enough to drive there to meet us.

Arriving in Chandigarh in the small hours, the family were all awake to greet us. We sat down and talked over a hot drink before being shown two bedrooms where we could catch up on some much-wanted sleep before the morning. Such hospitality.

We awoke on Saturday to be treated to a plateful of sandwiches and bread for breakfast. “Grandpa” talked about all the great countries he has traveled during his career with the Indian High Commission. India is the favorite by far. For the rest of the day we drove around the city with Aman and his wife and son, stopping off at various spots. A shopping mall, a rock garden, an outdoor gathering place where the city congregates in the evening. The city is much cooler and cleaner than Gurgaon. Aaman says the laws are more strictly enforced here, hence the traffic seems much more ordered. The roads are better built and more spacious. The humidity is much lighter. Many of the leading Indian education institutions are based here; Aman’s son, Joy, attends an all-ages specialist school twinned with Cambridge University.

Later in the evening, while the girls were preparing dinner in the kitchen, I went for a drive with Aman to pick up some food. We talked about various things including his dealings in the stock market and the apparel factory he owns. He trades a lot and gets extraordinarily high returns on the market. This is the growing educated middle class of India we hear so much about.

When we return, “Uncle” and “Cousin” invite me into a separate room for a drink of whisky and paneer snacks. Man time. This is a special treat they have prepared for me, as I mentioned earlier when questioned about my drink preferences that I enjoyed the occasional scotch on the rocks. Uncle and Cousin spoke next to no English, but it wasn’t necessary. We just sat there, enjoying our drinks and food, exchanging looks and occasionally remarking what seemed to be Uncle’s favorite english phrase, “lovely lovely.”

Full up on whisky and paneer, Uncle, Cousin and I move to the lounge when dinner is ready. It looks fantastic. I stand up to get a plate and help myself like everyone else, but Cousin promptly tells me to sit down. I am a man. I should wait to be served. Yasmine is kind enough to serve me my portion, and I don’t move a muscle for the rest of the evening. I do love Punjabi culture.

Sunday morning is slow while Aman is putting on his turban. It takes a long time to prepare. Eventually we get off and visit a local market where the girls indulge in some traditional Sikh suits. With little time to spare before our train departs, we head back to the house for lunch. A final goodbye to Grandad and the family, they have been so hospitable. Aman takes us to the airport and we bid him, his wife and son goodbye. It feels like we are old friends. Unexpectedly, the train pulls away bang on schedule and we are forced to jog alongside it before jumping on. Six hours and we are back in Delhi. A bit of commotion in the station as someone tries to take stuff from my bag. But nothing out of the ordinary.

What a memorable weekend it was. Not a traveling weekend as such, Chandigarh doesn’t have much to offer the backpacker. But how insightful to stay with a Punjabi family and be welcomed as old friends. I am sure a return visit is on the cards in the not so distant future.


1 Response to “Lovely lovely”

  1. 1 Rohan September 2, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    sounds awesome hope everything is going well for you.

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