India Gate (Delhi, India)

India Gate
(Delhi, India)

I arrived in Delhi on a beautiful sunny day. My destination was India Gate and it provided a wonderfully inviting welcome to the capital city. Wide avenues filtering into a gigantic roundabout that encompasses the grounds surrounding the India Gate memorial to fallen soldiers. It was impressive and made a great first impression.

Pre-Dawali Poker with the Ladies (Delhi, India)

Pre-Dawali Poker with the Ladies
(Delhi, India)

Things only got better when I arrived at the house of Tina Sharma and her family. In what was becoming the standard super level of Indian hospitality was immediately provided to the weary traveller. I was made to feel at home immediately, feed and pretty much waited on hand and foot by Tina’s Mum, Usha. It didn’t stop there as Tina had a party for us to attend on the Saturday evening. A pre-dawali gambling party which I called friendly gambling (as its officially illegal). Here I meet a bunch of her friends as the innocent looking local ladies took me to the cleaners at the poker table. So much for the Indian hospitality, as it didn’t extend to going easy on the new boy. Wisely I stayed away from the gentlemen’s table as I’d probably we walking back to London now. Everybody was super friendly and my hosts Divyamanu and Priyanka were fantastic.

Backyard Cricket at the Sharma International Cricket Stadium (Delhi, India)

Backyard Cricket at the Sharma International Cricket Stadium
(Delhi, India)

The action kept coming. Sunday afternoon backyard cricket followed a late brunch. The battle on the cricket pitch was fierce as I went up against the best and brightest of India’s young talent. Tina’s son’s Jai and Dev and there friends were pretty handy for five and six years of age! It’s easy to see why India has a production line of great cricketers. The game is in their blood. Very much similar to the way rugby is for New Zealanders.

Action at the T20 Champions League Final (Delhi, India)

Action at the T20 Champions League Final
(Delhi, India)

Watching the action at the cricket with Tina and Tim (Delhi, India)

Watching the action at the cricket with Tina and Tim
(Delhi, India)

That evening I was lucky enough to go to the final of the champions league T20 cricket final between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals. It was a privilege to watch the great Sachin Tendulker and Rahul Dravid’s final T20 games. It was a great atmosphere in the Delhi stadium and our seats were perfectly placed on square leg. There were vintage shots, huge hits, great catches and a win for the Mumbai Indians providing a fairytale farewell for Tendulker. A superb evening out at a big Indian cricket match. It’s something I recommend everybody to try if they get the chance. The atmosphere is brilliant as the Indians go crazy for the cricketing hero’s!!

The Team at Lakozy Motors (Delhi, India)

The Team at Lakozy Motors
(Delhi, India)

Monday was Boris’ turn for some TLC. The great mechanics at Lakozy motors were the recommended experts and they went of to work giving Boris a good servicing. Unfortunately they didn’t finish the same day so I had to come back the following day to pick him up. However he got the all clear and hopefully is now ready for the rest of the journey home.

Over the next few days I slowly got to know the Sharma-Tiwari family. TIna’s mum Usha took the role of constantly try of fatten me up and made sure there was always plenty of food for me to eat. I chatted with Tina’s dad Rakesh about this travels and work with the Indian customs department. He had a fascinating career that included undercover work in Hong Kong and time spent in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, where he once met Saddam Hussein.

Walking Tour with the Salaam Balaak Trust (Delhi, India)

Walking Tour with the Salaam Baalak Trust
(Delhi, India)

Salaam Balaak Trust (Delhi, India)

Salaam Baalak Trust
(Delhi, India)

One day I went to Pahar Ganj to join the local walk conducted by former homeless kids. I met up with Tim Rossiter, a kiwi volunteering with the Salaam Baalak trust. He introduced me to Noor (tour leader for the day) & Shivram (his assistant). The tour is run every day at 10am outside Rail Reservation Centre, which is 100m to the left as you head outside the main Delhi railway station entrance.

The Salaam Baalak Trust runs a shelter home for young homeless boys and girls. They give them a place to stay off the street, help them gain an education and often inspire many to follow their dreams. From the first contact point, most often at the main Delhi railway station they get food, access to a doctors, and education sessions between 10-2pm each day. All while the Government child welfare committee decides where children go. The Trust in Delhi currently looks after 300 boys (3 shelter homes) and 100 girls (2 shelter homes). There are some real success stories, with many completing studies to a university level and gaining a much coveted government job, which comes with benefits including housing.

I was fortunately to be able to interview Poonam Sharma the communications coordinator at the shelter and learn about the great things they are doing. I was then asked to share my story with her staff. It was cool to give my first presentation to a group of strangers, and hopefully I inspired some young people to follow their dreams. It was fascinating insight to the Trust and how it helps the young homeless people of Delhi. If you would like to learn more check out their website: www.salaambaalaktrust.com

Salaam Balaak Trust Acheivements (Delhi, India)

Salaam Baalak Trust Acheivements
(Delhi, India)

Salaam Balaak Trust Kids (Delhi, India)

Salaam Baalak Trust Kids
(Delhi, India)

Later in the week Tina’s husband Manishi returned from a work trip and we had the chance to chat. He is a former social worker for Oxfam International and now an aspiring politician. It was interesting to hear first hand from someone involved in the murky world of Indian politics. He faces a tough challenge to get elected as he isn’t prepared to take the corrupt favours for favours route that appears so prevalent in India. I had to admit it’s an admirable stance that he is taking and he definitely has his work cut out to make it to an elected position. Good luck to him, I think he may need a little.

Chatting to Tina was fascinating, interesting and entertaining too. She is a journalist and currently a lead anchor for the most popular TV news channel in India, Times Now. Sensationalist news presentation is their specialty and it comes across like an American TV network (with an air of a serious Jerry Springer format about it). Each evening the main host holds the country in his spell as he goes to town on the topic of the day, with up to 6 guests involved all at the same time. While I was watching (strangely fixated) there was conflict on the Line of Control with Pakistan. So of course they would have a mixture of India officials and even a couple of Pakistani ones too!! The Pakistani’s got continually harassed for supposedly supporting terrorists active in India. I thought it was amazing that they would come on the show in the first place!! (I found out later they were probably paid to come on the show and get abused). Incredible really given that India and Pakistan are basically at war over the Kashmir/Jummu region.

Indian Fashion Week (Delhi, India)

Indian Fashion Week
(Delhi, India)

The fabulous Tina Sharma at Indian Fashion week (Delhi, India)

The fabulous Tina Sharma at Indian Fashion week
(Delhi, India)

The Designers & Bollywood star at Indian Fashion week (Delhi, India)

The Designers & Bollywood star at Indian Fashion week
(Delhi, India)

Tina and I got the chance to attend a catwalk show during the Indian fashion week that was presented by close friends of hers. It was my first experience of haute couture. The show last all of 5 minutes and then it was over. Still it was fun to get dressed up for 45 minutes.

India Gate Views (Delhi, India)

India Gate Views
(Delhi, India)

Another day I went for a lovely walk around India Gate, down the Rajpath and to the National museum. The national museum was interesting but I ended up having a nap in the cinema theatre. It was just so comfy and cool, once the lights went out so did I. 🙂 That day the news of the great Sachin Tendulker’s upcoming retirement sent the country into a spin. Media went crazy and Tina’s day at the office went mental!!

Farewell Sachin (Delhi, India)

Farewell Sachin
(Delhi, India)

When I first arrived in Delhi I made a couple of rather outlandish requests of Tina. One of these was to find me a dance troupe that could help me produce a Bollywood dance video. Well a couple of calls later and I had my dance troupe. Amazing!! So on Friday afternoon I made my way to south Delhi to meet up with the Urban Dance Centre team. It was a chance to meet them, see them in action and talk to them about the Indian dance scene. On the side I was also able to film a Bollywood dance video (including myself) as a wedding gift for two weddings (in London and Mexico) that I was going to miss the following weekend. The UDC team were brilliant professionals and even managed to make me look o.k based on only 5 minutes training. I’d like to say it was because of my great dance ability, but it was more likely down to my great dance teachers. You can check out the video here.

The UDC team warming up (Delhi, India)

The UDC team warming up
(Delhi, India)

The UDC Team work their magic (Delhi, India)

The UDC Team work their magic
(Delhi, India)

After the high-octane dance work out I had the chance to go out for dinner on my last night with Tina and her husband Manishi. They were fantastic hosts and wonderfully entertaining. Only a couple of weeks earlier I hadn’t even heard of them before. Through my friend Sasha in London I was introduced and they opened their house to a crazy traveller. It was a privilege to be able to spend a week with a local Indian family and learn more about the Indian culture and political landscape. I left Delhi with a bunch of new friends and experiences. Ones that I would never forget.

Summary

Delhi was a fantastic place to spend a week. There are markets, shops, historic sites and great architecture. There is so much to see and do. It has a real mix of all the good and the bad bits of India within the city limits. It’s almost as if there a multiple cities within one. It has the modern social attitudes, good infrastructure and lifestyle options common in most capital cities. Yet if you look closely there is the familiar undercurrent of seediness and poverty hidden in its dark corners. That won’t stop you from having a great time in the big city. You’ll probably be too busy to see the seedier side anyway.

One Response to “Delhi – Gambling, Cricket, Fashion and a bit of Bollywood”

  1. AH in Delhi, Jon has indeed been lucky- He has lived in the fast lane , followed his favourite game and played it too,nursed back Boris to top form,met with the underprivileged, and literally danced his way to his next destination,Could anyone ask for more????:-))

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